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- Price 72.99 EUR (Approx $81.10) on varusteleka.com
- Material 96% polyester / 4% elastane
- Fabric Weight 270 g/m2.
- Made in China
While I've been reviewing a good selection of military-inspired outfits, often referred to as techwear, I like to review actual outfits made for the military when I can.
Varusteleka has repeatedly provided me the opportunity to review such goods. Varus-what? Yep, I still can’t remember how to say it without reading. Varusteleka (pronounced [Where’s the liquor?]) is an army and outdoor store from Helsinki, Finland. While their brick and mortar is exclusively in Helsinki, they offer their goods online worldwide.
What does this Varusteleka mean? Varusteleka is obviously Finnish and comes from “varuste”, which means equipment, and “leka” which stands for, among other things, a sledgehammer or a bottle of booze. Established in 2003, the store has now become the biggest in Europe.
They are just not military-inspired, they are military. I've reviewed some of their products, from military surplus like British Patrol Backpack to their original products like the Särmä Merino T-Shirt and Särmä Merino Hoodie. They are either products actually used in military or based on the design of actual military gear.
The Softshell Jacket is also one of those original products. I've had many good experiences with outerwear that is not just windproof, but full-on waterproof like Outlier's Shelter from the Storm and Tilak Vega SD. I'm excited to see how this compares.
I'm ashamed to call myself a minimalist at times looking at my collection of jackets. I have a lot of jackets. As I only wear black, most of them are completely black and make use of technical fabrics. So, they often fall into a certain category of look commonly (within the niche that is) referred to as “techwear”.
The Särmä Softshell Jacket does naturally fit into the category. Especially since it comes in one color and the only color I need, black.
The jacket comes in a loose fit, typical of military jackets to allow for easy layering. I got my usual size that I usually do with American-branded jackets, a size large, and it was perfect for me as I like my jackets slightly baggier for easy layering. Along with the baggier fit, the longer hem and generous hood size contributes well to the overall fit.
Despite the oversized cut, several features are included to let you adjust to your body size. For the hood, it comes with a velcro to adjust. You also can remove it completely should you prefer a less casual look. There are also velcro straps at the sleeve holes to reduce the size of the openings.
On the upper part of both sleeves, there's a velcro patch on each for you to put on your favorite patch. This is commonly found on military-style goods like the GORUCK GR1. On both sleeves, under the velcro patch, there are flat pockets for you to put quick-access items.
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In my experience, the Särmä line has a history of lower quality cuts, where parts of the jacket would be cut too large or small. While not obvious on an all-black jacket, you would notice some details here and there that would show the lack of workmanship pretty obviously.
While it lacks the attention to details that would put it on the same level (and price) as brands like Arc'teryx Veilance or Outlier, I'm satisfied with how edgy it looks.
As with any piece of garment that's made to protect you from the elements, the material might be the single most important factor that would make or break the experience.
The material is composed of 96% polyester and 4% elastane, which is chosen to keep out wind and keep you waterproof up to 5000mm (which translates to complete protection from light rain).
On the insides, a smooth polyester weave is used for comfort and structure. Yet, with such protection against the elements, it's breathable of up to 3000 g/m2/24 h, which means its not a plastic bag nor is it a cool summer fabric like linen. It's somewhere in between. The smooth polyester was also selected as it's able to slip over lower layers easily, which is something I appreciate given how easy it is to just throw this on.
While it's light rainproof, the seams are not taped, which means water will seep through them when they can.
The jacket is made in China. As Varusteleka so eloquently put it, “There's good quality to be found in the PRC, as long as you don't choose the lowest bidder.”. I found this to be true as many of my favorite products are made in China. It all comes down to quality management, and Varusteleka has done a fair job here.
There are a total of seven pockets. Two on the sleeves, two on the chest and two below those. There is also a connecting pocket across the lower back. Each pocket is as large as the available fabric face allows.
I designed a thing.
I found a 100 year old company that would create these heirloom quality canisters for me. They are handmade and will keep your tea leaves, coffee beans or anything that you need dry for years to come.
or read review
I love these lower back pockets. I often take advantage of oversized jacket pockets to get past airlines' carryon weight limits. These back pockets can even fit footwear without problems.
It's also nice that those pockets aren't obvious at a glance, with the zips hidden for a stealthy look.
You can zip the jacket up to your neck, but personally I wish it would be about an inch higher to be able to keep your entire neck warm. Right now, it kind of opens up so it doesn't contribute so much in terms of warmth.
For the price, this is an extremely hard-wearing piece of garment. I've used this in light storms and it has kept me dry so far. I'm still not sure if the water-resistance will stand up the test of time, and will update this post as I test it more.
The jacket is, of course, not waterproof. I wouldn't recommend wearing this in heavy showers and expect to stay dry.
As described, the jacket is oversized by design. This makes it easy as something to just throw on. You won't have to baby it seeing it's durable as it is and it's relatively low price.
It is as warm as it looks. It has kept me reasonably warm and I haven't found the need to layer this during spring or autumn. When I move around a lot, my body temperature fluctuates a lot. Thankfully, there are ventilation zippers at the armpits that let you unzip to regulate temperature in case unzipping the front isn't enough. While I could just take it off, I dislike the hassle of having to keep it in the bag and taking it out again when I need it.
Once again, Varusteleka has done what they do best; provide high-quality technical garments at an extremely affordable price.
The Särmä Softshell Jacket is no different. It's subtly edgy yet so versatile as something you can simply throw on.