You can find the german version of this review in the Tacticalforum.
If you have been in the outdoor and “tactical” community for some time, you will know the name Claw Gear. At the same time some of you might attribute something negative to it, that there were some quality issues in the early 2000s and that the company was know for rip offs of high profile companies in the industry.
Why do I mention this in my introduction?
As a matter of fact today’s Claw Gear has nothing to do anymore with the old company that became infamous for the above mentioned problems.
Sometime after 2011 the trademark was taken over by TMH Trading GmbH, which is based in Steyr-Gleink/Austria, and was completely refurbished. Acting in concert with a second office in Switzerland, all of the products are being developed in-house. Because of that the company is marketing itself explicitly as “swiss engineering”, since design, cuts, materials and test are being worked on within the company.
Under the name Armamat, TMH Trading GmbH is not only selling their Claw Gear Trademark but also products of severall well known companies like Arc’teryx, Brügger & Thomet, Crye Precision, Magpul, 5.11 Tactical etc.
The fleece jacket which is presented to you here is called “Milvago” and was kindly given to me for the purpose of this review. Since the last days were pretty warm I could only recently start wearing it during the outdoor meeting of the german Tacticalforum last weekend. And now I am ready to give you my take on this jacket.
Two additional remarks before we start:
- A thorough review about the Claw Gear “Harpagus” softshell was presented by Green Ant in the Tacticalforum recently.
- Also a little backgrounder: The Milvago belongs to the family of the Falconidae (birds of prey) – insofar the reference to the company’s name “Claw Gear” is quite nice.
With the Milvago modell Claw Gear is offering a fleece jacket which not only can be used as a base layer but also as a top layer. In doing so the jacket is supposed to be designed as
- wind proof
- fast drying
- moisture wicking
Also the arrangement of the pockets should allow the wearer to reach them even while carrying a backpack or chest rig. These are the requirements the jacket is supposed to fulfill. If it is able to do so and if this goals of Claw Gear were reached we will see in the coming section of the review.
A short information to the materials used:
The fleece is made out of 100% Polyester, the threads are made by ‘Coats’ and the zippers are YKK.
The jacket features four pockets. One on each upper arm and two at the front of the belly.
The upper arm pockets feature a one way YKK zipper and have no internal organisation or loops. Right above a velcro area can be found for attaching patches/insignia/IR.
The front pockets feature a two way YKK Zipper. As already mentioned by Green Ant in his Harpagus Review, the zipper pulls are only attached to the upper zipper. It would be nice to have pulls on each zipper or only at the lower one.
Through the inner side of the pocket one has access to a shock cord which can be used to adjust the waistband. Via metal grommets the cord is being passed to the outside where it is secured with cord locks.
Other features would be a loop in the neck area to secure cables or other items. Also there is a small velcro loop area between the shoulders at the outer back. I suppose this is meant for IR Patches.
The hood is equipped with a tie string and becomes much more civil looking that way. The opening for the face is brought to the absolute minimum when zipper is completely closed. Almost like a mummy sleeping bag.
Feel and Manufacture:
At first glance I thought that the jacket was basically looking like a Loden material. It wasn’t only me who thought this, but also some friends at the meeting of the Austrian group of the Tacticalforum. I had to answer many curious questions about the jacket.
The jacket does not only look like a heavy quality, it definitely is. The material is very thick and soft with a milled loden appearance on the outside and a roughened surface on the inside – just like a teddy bear fur.
The manufacture is incredible except some minor threads which are cut off easily. I am not able to go into that much detail like Green Ant since I do not sew on a professional level but I can assure you that the hemming was done very clean and the stress points are carefully strengthened.
Finally another company with European sizes! There are no misunderstandings and insecurities about international sizes like Medium and Large and how they are interpreted anew. Size Large is a European size 52 like it is supposed to be and therefore the jacket fits me perfectly. Thank you for that! Seriously!
I am 1,80m with a weight of 75kg, with gorilla long arms but the jacket fits me perfectly. The Milvago has a typical athletic cut but is not too fitted and slightly loose.
As mentioned before it was too warm for a fleece jacket the last few days and so I was not able to wear it that much. One particular experience from the last few days is worth mentioning though:
If you understand “comfort” by definition in the way that while wearing an item you are not getting too hot or too cold, while having some sort of breathability, then I can offer you the following observation:
In regard of the requirement to be moisture wicking:
As I was sitting in the subway recently, I decided not to take off the fleece jacket. Under it I was only wearing a polo shirt made out of 80% cotton and 20% viscose. I felt pretty warm but not too hot to feel forced to take the jacket off. The heat balance was nicely regulated through the breathability of the fleece. At the same time I made an fascinating observation which I have not witnessed before: As I was leaving the subway, the backrest of the seat was covered in with a fine layer of condensed water. My back inside of the fleece jacket was dry though – so what happened? Physics!
Because of my body heat, air humidity and my own body transpiration, my sweat produced because of the warming fleece was effectively transported to the outside in the form of water vapor. At the same time the jacket prevented the condensed water to be pushed back inside which explains why my back was staying dry at the same time. Insofar the requirement of a moisture wicking ability is more than achieved in my opinion.
How does the jacket fulfil the other requirements it is supposed to fulfill?
Wind proof: Let’s say wind resistant up to 90%. That is a subjective value but I was wearing the jacket here in Vienna the other day and it was very chilly and windy. Underneath I was only wearing a polo shirt and therefore I was able to feel the wind at the sleeves a little bit. Fleece is fleece and not comparable to a soft- or hard shells. Either way, the jacket is very highly wind resistant.
Quick drying: I tested it this way: I put the jacket into the washing machine, after that turned on another cycle of the hydro extraction and hung it to dry afterwards. The jacket was still wet thoroughly. After 6 hours the fleece was nearly dry only with some humid parts in the pocket areas. After 9 hours it was completely dry.
To give you an comparative idea: Other apparel items need up to 24h to dry in the same environment.
Warming: Heat is a subjective feeling. In that regard I can only agree with Green Ants explanations. I for myself rank myself in the middle field with an average sensation for warmth and cold. In doing so I would say that the Milvago is a really warm jacket! The roughened surface in the interior of the fleece is doing a great job to capture the body heat. The rest of the construction is doing the same.
Moisture wicking: please see the above mentioned anekdote.
Tough: This aspect is too soon to answer with good judgement.
Backpack/Chest Rig compatibility: The straps of a backpack are situated on the torso in a way that they are not getting in the way of the front pockets of the Milvago jacket.
This is not the case with chest rigs. As you can see in the following pictures, the access to the pockets is not possible even if you ride the rig very high on the chest. It may be possible with plate carriers, but I did not have one to make a test.
Besides the already mentioned aspects I witnessed the following annoying things:
The frontal ykk zipper has massive problems closing. It takes quite a while for the teeth of the zipper to lock into each other to close the jacket. I am hoping that this is only the case with my model and that it is an exception to the otherwise superb quality of the jacket. In the meantime I have found out how to force the zipper teeth into position but it still takes away some of the joy for this cool jacket. (you have to insert the zipper and push the pull upwards with a little bit of force.)
A second critical observation would be the missing pit zips. Especially for a jacket that warm, which is also meant as a top layer I would like to have an additional possibility to vent body heat. The breathability of the jacket can be only that good to a certain point and after that point a pit zip would be very much welcome.
Taking all into account the Milvago is a high quality fleece jacket, available at a very competitive price. Cut and look are very convincing and the manufacture is top notch. Until now I received only positive compliments on the jacket.
Especially women seem to like the jacket very much because of the fuzzy appearance and feel. I would highly suggest to Claw Gear that they offer a female cut for this jacket!
The jacket is not only practical for the tactical scene (as much as this word may seem to be excessively used) but also for the civil every day use. The combination of the different color variants and the tie strings of the hood are giving the jacket a pleasant civil look. A very convincing balancing act in my opinion.
Coming to an end I would like to thank you for reading, and give my sincere thanks to Armamat aka Claw Gear aka TMH Trading Gmbh for giving me the chance for this review.
Here is a link to their site: http://www.armamat.com/
Also I would like to thank N. for helping me the pictures, and B. and F. for lending me the chest rigs.
If you are buying this jacket, please feel free to let the shops know it was me you gave you the idea.