Helikon-Tex UTP Ripstop Pant (gen 3)

 

UTP  Ripstop Pant (Gen 3)

Background   

While Polish-based company Helikon-Tex’s can trace its history as far back to 1983, its most relatable beginnings was as a MILSurp supply operation that began shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. During this time there was huge demand in European market for US, German and British surplus and the presence of NATO forces from the West provided a steady flow of gear, clothing and equipment; it was the ‘Golden age’ of surplus imports in Europe.

This would all change with the signing of the Treaty of Accession in 2003 between the then-EU members and the ten acceding countries (including Poland). The resulting free trade along with gradual withdrawal of the US Forces from the European theater, saw that the largest source of the western surplus gear disappear and with it iconic garments such as the M65 field jacket which by now were becoming extremely rare.

By the mid 2000’s the “tactical revolution” was in full swing,  with brands such as 5.11 greatly increasing their product offerings to include non-camouflage, yet tactically oriented clothing and kit.

It was during this time, in around 2009 that Helikon-Tex launched their first “tactical” garment ; their patented Urban Tactical Pants (UTP). Helikon-Tex’s designs are the direct result of their in-house R&D team,  probably the most notable of whom is recently retired JW GROM combat medic with almost 20 years of service and multiple combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

We, at SPEAR Tactical are always on the look out for “up-and-comers” and what new brands bring to the table thought we would see what all the buzz was all about.

I first heard about Helikon-Tex through the folks over at CTOMS,  a company whose reputation has been built on over 11 years of putting their extensive military experience  and knowledge to use providing tactical medical training to law enforcement and military  agencies around the world.  I recently chatted with Craig over at CTOMS, who had nothing but great things to say about Helikon-Tex products. He informed me that while CTOMS was training with the Polish elite unit, JW GROM he noted that Helikon-Tex products were widely used by their operators as well as by various members of the Polish army. CTOMS actually loved Helikon-Tex so much that they have made them the official uniform for their staff and trainers.

The first Helikon-Tex product we had an opportunity to checkout was their UTP Ripstop Pant.

Materials and sizing – The UTP Ripstop is a mid weight fabric that uses a 6.14oz, 4-way stretch , 60% Cotton Ripstop, 37% Polyester, 3% Spandex blend which provides a great balance between elasticity, weight reduction and is much more durable than pure cotton fabrics. The UTP material is designed to meet the specifications of the Polish Military and provides a significant improvement in overall breath-ability and flexibility over the standard issued BDU pant while maintaining the tear-resistant properties to withstand heavy use.

They are available in a large variety of subdued colors and patterns; including Camogrom (which looks similar to multicam;  and is the official disruptive pattern used by the JW GROM), The Mud Brown (shown here) is similar to Coyote Brown but with a bit more red.

The UTP Ripstop comes in  small to  XXL waist sizes, and is true sizing. I usually wear a size 32/30 jean and I am wearing a size medium/ regular (32/32) UTP Ripstop pant. It is normal to expect a bit of shrinkage after washing so I measured the pant just before throwing it into the wash and after. Prior to washing the UTP Ripstop waist measured exactly 32” and after they measured just a fraction under.

Feature Highlights:

  • Elastic waist with Velcro tab – the elastic section at the back of the pants provides just enough wiggle room if you are in between sizes and not to be restrictive while sitting or squatting. For those using IWB holsters, there should be no need to go a size up. While I like the quick and easy donning and doffing the velcro tab closure provides it can be too loud if you are on patrol.
  • Carabineer Compatible Key loops –I don’t really see myself using these but they are there for those who find the need for it.
  • Two angled 8″ x  6 “front pockets with strengthened edges for gear clips – I like this feature and that reinforced edge material they used is not too thick that they catch on some stiffer gear clips.
  • Two open top 7 3/8″ x 6.5” back pockets  -while I tend to avoid putting anything but the slimmest items in back pockets, they are great for use as a dump pouch.
  • Two 2.5″ x 4 3/8″ slim back pockets – I use this pocket for my Gerber multi-tool and I like that it is sewn off to the side just enough that it is not uncomfortable when sitting.
  • Two 2.5″ x 3″ angled, internal waistband pockets– these pockets are designed for holding pistol mags discreetly which is a great compliment to an IWB holster, though I wish they made these with an elastic material similar to the ones used by BFG on their Helium Whisper triple mag shingles so that they held a pistol mag a bit more snugly.
  •  Two 5 7/8” x 6 5/8” cargo pockets – The low-profile of these pockets are achieved by incorporating an ‘inset design’  where a pattern matching the outline of the pocket is cut out and the pocket is sewn on the inside of the leg as opposed to sewing the pockets on on the outside of the pant. The zippers on the pockets have color matched fabric zipper pulls which aids in tactile usage while wearing gloves.
  • Two 5” x 3 1/8” Velcro flapped thigh pockets – Perfect for keeping your Smartphone or AR magazines secure and accessible. This pocket will fit smaller smart phones like the iPhone 5 and the smaller 6 but is too small for some of the larger phones like the Galaxy or the HTC touch.
  • ‘Jean-style’ neck cut – the UTP Ripstrop pant is designed to hug the wearers hips and the back of the waistband is about 1.5″ higher than the front. This prevents any unwanted rear end exposure when kneeling or bending over.
  • Profiled leg design – The leg is partitioned and then connected with profiling pleat under the knee creating a natural bend at the knee for added comfort and mobility.
  • Gusseted crotch – The UTP pant uses a crescent gusseted crotch that is bar tacked at the stress points which is meant to provide more mobility and reduce the risk of blown seams. In my opinion, the UTP pant could have benefited far more by using a wider, diamond gusseted seam design particularly one that extends back further toward the seat which has been shown to be much more effective at distributing the stress across a greater area.
  •  Reinforced knees with internal knee pad compartments – these kneepad pockets are designed for the Helikon-Tex protective inserts but will also accommodate any kneepads that are no larger than 10 3/8” x 5 1/8”. I tried both the Arc’teryx LEAF and the Crye Precision knee pads, both of which fit just fine. I am curious though how the stitched pleats (which are slightly raised) at the front of the knee area will stand up to the abrasion over time particularly while wearing padded inserts.
  • Cuffs with chord channels-while I don’t see myself ever makeing use of this feature, I particularly appreciated the UTP pants wider cuff openings. They purposely wider to accommodate boots, and to better conceal a back-up weapon/ankle holster.

 

Insights and Conclusion:

One thing I really liked about the UTP pant is the pocket configuration. The roomy back pockets are nice to have but I personally find anything other than the flattest items in back pockets very uncomfortable when sitting. I also like to keep valuables up front and away from pick pockets especially when traveling overseas. I did find the smaller pocket divider useful as holster for my muti-tool. A hidden Passport pocket like the one on the Blackhawk Tactical Pant would have been a nice addition in my opinion, to keep a small wallet or passport.

The 8” x 6” front pockets are angled enough for easy access while keeping its contents from falling out the sides while sitting. I was happy to see reinforced edges on these pockets as well, as I have had more than a few pants ruined from the constant abrasion from my knife clip. The thigh pockets are sized to fit 2 x 30-round M4 magazines and I like thier placement which keeps its contents accessible while seated such as when in a vehicle. Keep in mind that most thigh rigs and holsters will likely render this zippered pocket useless. Alternatively, for day to day use, I like to use the zippered pocket to keep my wallet/ID and other smaller frequently used items. I use the Velcro thigh pocket for my iPhone and upper angled front pocket for my folding knife, keys and thumb drive.

Triple belt loops at the back put the extra support right where they are needed and are wide enough accommodate any 2” belts (I wear a Blackhawk riggers belt which is just shy of 2” wide) The belt loops are spaced to allow belt mounted gear and holsters. I haven’t found the need to use the key loops but for those who choose to utilize this option, a parachord lanyard could be attached to a small carabiner and then attached to this loop to leash a key ring or small flashlight to.

The UTP Ripstop pant has a relatively straighter cut than alot of Tactical pants with only about a 2.5” taper and I like that the cuffs are wide enough to hang down even over some thicker ankle boots without having to constantly readjust them. These pants are not as baggy as a lot of US issued BDU pants yet they also aren’t too slim for guys like me who have thicker legs.

I wore these pants on a recent back country trek in hills in 70+deg weather and I managed to stay quite cool, which says a lot as I have a tendency to over heat easily. I will be heading to Texas next week and I am interested to see how they do in the desert climate. At the range, I worked through various firing positions paying close attention to any points of impingement or discomfort. I found them very comfortable, non-restrictive and not overly stuffy and that the double knee design seemed to hold up to the abuse and be fairly stain resistant.

Where these pants sadly lose some considerable points with me is the quality of manufacturing, as I couldn’t help but notice quite a few lose threads and less than perfect stitching (mostly on the inside of the pant). If I had to compare these pants with something folks might be more familiar with, I would say that in my opinion the quality and feel of the UTP Ripstop fabric and construction is comparable to TruSpec, Proper, and some 5.11 products. The UTP Ripstop is really is a great looking pant, with a feature rich design and is a great value for their price point. They aren’t overly “Tactical- looking” giving it an ability to adapt to lo-vis work while still providing all the utilitarian features one would expect from a duty pant. I love the aggressive styling of the Helikon-Tex’s UTP Ripstop pant. Their US patented design is well thought out and has a lot of potential, though I feel that, Helikon-Tex could benefit greatly by being a bit more selective when choosing a factory to implement their design, perhaps one with experience manufacturing similar products for some of the more established brands in the industry.

(Photos below show a color comparison between the UTP in mud brown next to the Kelty  Falcon 66 in Coyote Brown and Arc’teryx LEAF Jacket in Crocodile)

Company Contact Info:

Helikon-Tex Ltd
Zachodnia 9 Street, Błonie
55-330 Miękinia
POLAND

 

NOTE: the product featured in this review was graciously provided to us by Helicon-Tex Ltd.
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