Helikon-Tex M65 Jacket: Bringing Back Retro

Introduced circa 2017, the M65 Jacket by Helikon-Tex is a remake of the iconic M-1965 field jacket issued to US soldiers during the Vietnam conflict. Today, the M65 revitalizes its predecessor by adhering to many of the same design features that made the original so popular, but provides a modern take on material.

With an outer chassis made from Nyco Sateen (a type of blended 50/50 nylon and cotton that is known for its high thread count, raw material treatment, and maintains its sheen over time), the M65 also includes a 65/36 removable jacket liner that can be worn for added insulation. Maintaining a modest adherence to the original design, the M65 includes a number of features.

At its top front, the M65 has a high collar roll that can be fully secured (via hook-and-loop tab) and provides moderate comfort against wind, while protecting the neck from chafe caused be rifle slings or other shoulder straps. Additionally a stowable hood is secured around the collar via brass zipper line. Epaulettes draw down from the collar line to the shoulders, and are a traditional nod to the previous generations of the M-1965 jacket.

Just below that, four envelope-style pockets (two at the breast and two at the waist) allow for easy reach and extensive storage of smaller items and accessories. Each pocket is secured via a snap button-over flap.

The front of the M65 Jacket is secured via an oversized brass zipper with a nylon pull tab that provides closure of the jacket, from neck to below the waistline. Additionally, snap-buttons reinforce the zipper line to ensure it remains closed when desired, or to be used independently.

Both sleeves on the M65 ends with an adjustable hook-and-loop cuff at the wrist to adjust the enclosure around the wrist. Additionally, each cuff has an extension (secured inside the cuff via hook-and-loop) that when desired can extend the sleeve coverage to over the top of the hand.

The removable lining of the M65 Jacket is secured to the inside of the jacket via buttons that parallel the front zipper line and at the rear collar. Elastic cuffs for the liner assist to minimize any cold or wind from penetrating into the interior. Additionally, the interior liner can be worn and secured independently from the M65 Jacket itself if so desired.

A drawstring on the bottom interior allows for custom tapering of the jacket’s waist to provide a more contoured fit.

The M65 Jacket comes in OD Green (featured) Black, and M81 Woodland, and is available in sizes Small to 2XL.

Product Evaluation Scores:

  • Cost – Good (4/5): With an MSRP of $109 USD, the M65 Jacket is part of Helikon-Tex’s Surplus line of outdoor apparel, and a throwback to a well-established moment in military history. Its nylon-cotton materials draw upon military attire issued during the Vietnam War and carried on in fashion industry ever since. With its removable liner, and multiple pockets, the M65 can be flexible in any temperate or environment. Market alternatives to the M65 would be the Softshell M-65 Jacket ($129) by Rothco, the M-65 Coat ($99) by Propper, the M-65 Combat Jacket ($476.74) from Buzz Rickson, or the M-65 Field Jacket Shell ($400) by Triple Aught Design. And while other inexpensive jackets do exist, ultimately they have differences in the design, materials, or features as the M-65 Jacket from Helikon-Tex. So, among its peers, the M65 variant from Helikon- Tex was at a good price point to the consumer for what is included in the jacket’s design and function, while maintaining adherence to the original design.
  • Comfort – Good (4/5): Just as with the original M-1965 jacket, the reviewed M65 Sateen version by Helikon-Tex was very flexible, thick, warm, and maintained a comfortable core temperature for the early winter weather of Missouri (around the upper 30-degree range with modest humidity). The original issued M-1965 was rated to temperatures down to 50-degrees (although the liner came as a separate issued item). The M-1965 could also be used for colder temperatures with sufficient layering. Thus, it was likely the M65 by Helikon-Tex would also maintain a warmer temperature in colder winter weather (snow/wind) given its thick chassis and liner – however additional base layer items (gloves, neck gaiter, etc.) would be recommended. But in the early winter temperatures, the reviewed M65 performed nicely. The arm length and chest ran true-to-length (for the average torso) sizing, and the adjustable cuff flaps allotted for those with longer arms or larger chest (such as the reviewer) to adjust for a comfortable length. The only negative aspect of the M65 was the brass zipper as the interlocking teeth occasionally bound up due to the rigidity of the metal zipper. But at no point did the zipper become seized or cross-fed, and the button enclosures up the front also doubled as an alternative means of securing the jacket. This was also an issue noted in the original M-1965 so something the end-user should be aware of.
  • Durability – Good (4/5): From a durability aspect, the multi-layer, nylon-cotton materials on the M65 Jacket could serve as a completely stand-alone shell, or as a stand-alone nylon liner, but when combined gave the end-user the ability to meet a wide range of environments. It was observed that the pocket snap buttons had a stiff hold and gave the pockets a secure closure. The exterior itself held a very good level of abrasion resistance against vegetation, brush, and gear. Stitching lines and reinforcement threading (double lines, bartack, etc.) were noted throughout and at key stress points to add reinforcement to the overall jacket. Stitching was clean, straight, and properly tapered. The nylon liner itself did not snag nor tear on equipment or gear. One notable issue from a durability aspect was the placement of the interior tag to the jacket that initially appears off-center, but its placement is purposeful so as not to interfere with the pleating. In addition, the stashed hood itself had a very thin and almost ancillary design, with a thin layer of fabric that provided little moisture or wind protection and could be an element of recommended improvement for Helikon-Tex in the future.
  • Functionality – Good (4/5): Functionally, as a temperate and cold weather jacket, the M65 performed as intended, keeping the upper torso warm despite ever-changing early winter temperatures and/or moisture. Light rain and moisture did bead and roll off the exterior, although it is likely that under persistent rain the untreated fabric of the M65 (like most fabrics) would eventually become saturated. The large-to-fit jacket was sufficient enough to have adequate range of motion in the shoulders and elbows without being too cumbersome or bulky. While the hood was not removable, the ability to roll and pack the hood away did provide a functional “high” collar that protected the neck from chafing against a rifle sling. When separated, the nylon liner still provided a comfortable and effective light, fleece-style covering that was ideal for more temperate settings or inside a tent out of the wind and maintaining a comfortable core temperature. The cinch drawstrings also aided in minimizing wind penetration while on the range or on the trail. Overall, the M-65 did maintain a good adherence to the original design, if anything more was inclusive to more modern fabrics.
  • Weight – Average (3/5): Outerwear can vary in weight wildly based on any combination of materials, layers, design and hardware. The M65 (with the liner attached) by Helikon-Tex weighed in at 4.9 pounds (for a Large) which, given its thick Sateen blend and removable liner, resulted in a very comfortable and modest weight on the torso that was neither notably bulky or cumbersome. The original M-1965 issued to soldiers weighed approximately 4.0 pounds (with the liner provided as separately issued item). In contrast to the alternative jackets noted above; the Softshell M-65 Jacket (2.25 pounds and w/o removable liner) by Rothco, the M-65 Coat (4.97 pounds) by Propper, the M-65 Combat Jacket (1.81 pounds and w/o removable liner) from Buzz Rickson, or the M-65 Field Jacket Shell (3.1 pounds and w/o removable liner) by Triple Aught Design all demonstrate that the M65 by Helikon-Tex was at the lower end of weight in comparison, but still an appropriate (or average) weight for the volume and type of material used.

 Overall Rating – Above Average (19/25)

Product Link: https://www.helikon-tex.com/en_usd/ku-m65-ny-m65-jacket-nyco-sateen.html

I am reviewing this product as a courtesy to the manufacturer and via High Ground Media, LLC, so that I can evaluate it and provide my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give positive reviews. All views are my own, and based off my personal experience with the product.

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