Review: Pitchfork Systems – Vodnik Softshell
Until now, I hadn’t had a chance to look at Pitchfork Systems, but what better start than by writing about one of their jackets, the Vodnik softshell? Decent jackets for dynamic movements are always interesting for those employed in more active environments. And with so many companies offering their take on a tactical softshell, it’s easy to get lost. So let’s take a look at how the Vodnik fits into all of this.
Before we start, let’s take a quick look at the company. Pitchfork Systems is part of MLE Trading GmbH, which has several pillars focusing on the military, outdoor, and airsoft communities through different online shops. They are situated in Vorarlberg, Austria, bordering Switzerland. Pitchfork Systems is a specific brand created to provide military and law enforcement personnel with quality equipment. The aim of the company is to provide “functionality through simplicity” following the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). This, in combination with the use of high-quality materials and a high level of manufacture, makes for a strong aspiration.
The Vodnik Softshell by Pitchfork Systems
At first glance, the Vodnik Softshell bears similarity to the classic tactical softshell, which was pioneered by Triple Aught Design in the late 2000s. The concept was such a success that it resulted in several companies adapting it, including Condor or Helikon-Tex, which is one of the well-known iterations of this kind of softshell.
So what makes the Vodnik softshell different, and what is similar?
When it comes to pockets and features, the user gets what they are already expecting: side pockets to the front, a large pocket on the back with zippered access from the left and right, upper arm pockets, a smaller zippered pocket at the end of the sleeve of the left arm, as well as small zippered pockets on the inside. So 8 pockets in total.
The side pockets are lined with a soft material and not just mesh, as in other softshells. Other than that, you will find a cable port as well as a D-Ring in both the left and right side pocket. Both upper arm pockets are not only roomy, but also feature the same cable ports but no D-Rings. On the outside, you will also notice that Pitchfork System took an individual approach to the Velcro areas. They are not only larger but also separated by a vertical angled cut, making them more flexible around the biceps.
The pocket on the back is lined with the same soft material as well, replacing the mesh fabric that you often find here.
Looking at the hood, one will notice a big change: it is not only stowable within the collar, but one can remove it entirely to get rid of the bulky collar. Other than that, you will find the usual adjustment options with shock cord: on the sides to close up the opening and on the backside of the hood, to adjust it tighter around the head, to make the hood move with your head. A small Velcro area keeps the hood close to the jacket when on the outside.
Other than that, you have the large zipper on the front to completely open the jacket, zippers under the armpits for better ventilation, and the usual shock cord at the bottom to adjust the jacket around the hip. The zipper to the front has a chin guard to protect you from catching skin, and the zippers from the pockets and armpits also hide under zipper garages. A light fleece is used as the lining of the whole jacket to provide extra warmth.
The cuffs are elastic, as well as adjustable by Velcro closures. Those of you with larger arms and wrists will appreciate the jacket, as it has wide sleeves and openings for the hands. It also features the obligatory reinforcement at the elbow.
To sum up some of the differences:
- fabric lining, instead of mesh
- larger, two-piece velcro area
- fully detachable hood
- different cut/layout (side pockets)
Following up on the last bullet point: You will notice that the shoulder area is designed/cut a bit differently than other softshells, with seams being placed on the chest and the shoulder, giving the jacket somewhat of a raglan style.
Another difference is that the side pockets are placed lower, making them easier to access, if you just want to put your hands in them to warm up. Most “tactical” softshell feature the angular side pockets that supposedly provide access even when wearing plate carriers etc. but only few actually manage to pull that off.
Level of manufacture
The Vodnik softshell is decently made. The quality reflects the price range it is in and even surpasses it a bit. The materials used are of a very good quality and the manufacture looks clean, with the occasional loose thread.
Using branded seam tape and zipper pulls, as well as the logos on the softshell fabric itself elevate that clean design look.
The Vodnik Softshell in use
Especially in the cool mornings of spring that turn into warmer situations during the day, the Vodnik Softshell proved to be a reliable companion. It provided enough warmth for me to be able to leave a sweater at home and is easy to regulate with the armpit zippers.
Speaking of the zippers: these really run nicely and especially under the armpits the do not fight against the user as other jackets do.
The cut is true to size and roomy, so you can order your regular size and not worry about layering. Especially users who need a straighter cut to conceal carry or to wear light body armor, will find the Vodnik softshell interesting because of its cut.
It is wind and water resistant and works very well in light rains. As it is no hardshell, one can expect that water will find its way through the seams at one point. Breathability is very comfortable, even when being warm in the jacket, I did not have the feeling of being in a heat trap. Other jackets in this price range need to “break in” in that regard, so that is a huge plus for the Vodnik.
Regarding the durability of the Vodnik Softshell, it has held up well during my testing period. The fabric does not show any signs of wear and tear yet, and the seams still look good. The zippers are still functioning smoothly, and the velcro is still holding up well.
However, keep in mind that I have only been using it for a short period of time, so I cannot give a long-term evaluation. That being said, considering the quality of the materials and the level of manufacture, I expect the Vodnik Softshell to last for a decent amount of time, especially with proper care.
In conclusion, the Pitchfork Systems Vodnik Softshell is a well-made and functional jacket that provides ample storage options and good protection against wind and light rain. The detachable hood and adjustable cuffs add to its versatility, and the raglan-style shoulder design and lower-placed side pockets make it stand out from other tactical softshells. The use of different lining material instead of mesh, make for better insulation, as well as overall cleaner look.
While the Vodnik Softshell of Pitchfork Systems might look like just another softshell, it does have several different approaches to design features that make it very interesting for users in military & law enforcement as well as the civilian world. It is also a great option for those who need a jacket with a roomy and straight cut for concealed carry or to wear light body armor.
In the middle-price segment of softshells, the Vodnik certainly found its place when it comes to a very good bang for the buck factor.
With that being said, I want to thank Tacstore for making it possible for me to give you this review!
Many thanks for reading!
As always, feel free to donate, if you want to support the blog!
You can post first response comment.