The Best Jacket for Bushcraft – Part 2. (With Images)

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Jaeger

Full Member
Dec 3, 2014
670
20
United Kingdom
Aye Up All,

With reference to the comments made in - The Best Jacket for Bushcraft Part 1. Here is a review of a garment that may fit the bill. Remember – that it fits into the layered clothing system as the outer-layer and not the shell.

Austrian Combat Suit (Jacket) issue 2003 (BH KA03 – BundesHeer Kampf Anzug (Jacke 2003)

Dependent on the length that you choose it can be almost a blouson style jacket. The material is 65/35 polycotton, medium weight, in stone grey. The sleeve/shoulder is akin to a kimono type design but made from a separate piece to the body. Front closure is by way of a robust, two-way, nylon coil zip, hem to neck, with a weather flap and hidden buttons. The collar is generously cut, double thickness and can be worn open/flat or zipped up to over the chin and tightened with a draw cord at the rear. The cuffs are tab and button with a choice of three positions. There are adjustable, toggle lock, elasticated draw cords at the waist and hemline.

It has seven pockets in total - Two externally accessible but hidden, zipped Napoleon chest pockets; left and right; Two buttoned internal chest pockets immediately behind the former; Two coil zipped external slash pockets lower front; One external coil zipped pocket on left upper arm.

It's a military jacket and so there are the derigueur name tape and Tac patch Velcro strips and a rank slide.

In Use:

Over several years I have used this and a number of different jackets (on a weekly basis – year round) each for the same purposes (a combination of hunting, self reliance training and bushcraft) and have compared their advantages and limitations.

For me the KA03 is the clear winner on comfort; durability; configuration; features; use-ability; initial outlay and above all value for money. (The other jackets are the FJ N08 smock; a Ventile smock; and a Barbour Durham (lined).

The activities to which the garments were subjected to are identified within the following comments about the KA03.

The sleeve/shoulder design means there's no demarked (set-in) shoulder seam thereby allowing for a variation in shoulder widths and avoiding conflict with garments worn beneath, thus making the jacket more comfortable.

I much prefer the quicker/easier zip open/closed main closer for venting and the quick zip on/off ability to change layers beneath - both aspects particularly relevant when moving cross country with a pack-load, changing layers when in a confined space and/or whilst carrying out prone observations (think wildlife obs).

The two way aspect of the main front zip is useful when adjusting clothing beneath/accessing waist belt items without having to unzip the jacket completely from the top. (Again think prone obs and/or confines of a shelter – and short walks away from camp with a shovel!).

The nature of the KA03 material is hard wearing and it is not easily scagged (think moving through/living in hawthorn; gorse; bramble; dragging timber around etc). It is also fairly rustle free (think stalking) and it lends itself well to making it water repellent (very much so if using Fabsil Gold!). I proof the shoulders and arms only, leaving the rest as breathable as possible. If it does become damp it's no worse than single Ventile but doesn't stiffen in the same way and it dries out fairly quickly.

My clothing often gets 'down and dirty' - knees/elbows seat etc and the KA03 is very easy to clean with little fear of damaging the material, no taped seams, no laminations etc to worry about just bung it in the washer! Plus - the polycotton is less susceptible to fire sparks than a pure synthetic as well as to abrasion burns/damage from shoulder straps, waist belts etc. (I use it over a softie thermal sat around any open wood burning). Notably with the KA03 I’m not constantly worrying about damaging it unlike I have been with the Ventile and the FJ!

If you like to avoid generic camouflage patterns, the stein-grau colour of the BH material is excellent at disappearing you especially in woodland and on a par with the FJ tarmac and olive No8 jacket colours and the FJ Barents trousers, though I have yet to test that aspect head-to/head. There is a slight sheen to the (new) material of the KA03 as I have noticed since recently buying a non-issued one, but from experience with my original I know that this will change with use.

The (casual?) style of the KA03 (combat) jacket also strangely gives off a less military appearance than a standard four patch/bellowed pocket type, another plus if being discreet for whatever reason whilst you are out and about is one of your goals.

The front of the jacket is quite wind proof due to the almost triple layer construction due to the aforementioned chest pockets design.
The rear is less wind resistant due to single layer design but therefore highly breathable - designed no doubt with carriage of rucksack and tabbing in mind. It does wet-out during a long bimble with a heavy pack and exertion but so has every other jacket that I’ve used. The single layer does dry out quite quickly though.

With seven pockets, item stowage is superb - chest pockets can easily hold a folded A4 sized OS map. Lower pockets are large enough to take a gloved hand. (The lack of a cover flap hasn't been an issue).
The (flat) internal pockets are hand sized – useful for a number of items.
The arm pocket is slightly bigger than iphone6 and would take e.g. a small notebook and pen (what it was designed for!) I use it for that and a whistle plus a set of mobi earbuds!

I find the coil spring zips better than the solid plastic tooth type as they are less prone to breakage and to a degree 'self healing'. Some might challenge that prone obs would better suggest use of a smock type garment to avoid mud/forest floor debris ingress to the main zip but the cover flap on the KA03 takes good care of that.

The high, adjustable collar has proven its value not just re weather and wind protection but mostly to keeping overhead debris from falling inside the clothing at the neck when moving through dense woodland, bramble/gorse/fern etc.

I tend to use only the bottom hem draw cord tensioned and leave the waist one loose as I find that most comfortable when not on the move. (When I am, I've always got a rucksack with waist belt which tightens the middle of the jacket anyway).
Some might argue that an elasticated cuff would be better than buttoned, I prefer the latter both for comfort and venting. (Plus I can roll the sleeves back if required). Again, when I'm on the move my GPS (Garmin 401) plus my hand-wear seal the sleeve wrists anyway.

So you might wonder why only almost the best jacket for BC? Well, that’s because I haven’t quite completed the upgrades that I think will tick the final boxes –
Addition of pit-zips (already underway on the new jacket) so that I can vent even better whilst on the move;
Addition of a low volume, button-on hood to give slightly improved wind protection to the back of the head/side of the face;
Addition of a groin strap to prevent the jacket riding up during prone rearward movement (think stalking).
Addition of water-proof material elbow pads (think prone obs with binos).

I’m also toying with the creation of a fully waterproof cape-let a là Danish M84 issue combat jacket style (a shoulder cover IMO) – obviously in the stein-grau colour. If you have never seen one of these think of the shoulder yoke on a Barbour Durham wax cotton but as a separate item. The M84 version is completely removable, folds up small but is very effective at adding temporary waterproofing to the shoulder, upper back and upper chest of the jacket without seriously compromising the breathability of the rest of the jacket.

Sizing:
Refer back to Part 1. for the theory plus I’ve converted a size guide chart from the Austrian to English relating to the sizing label in the collar of the jackets and included an image. By rights at 5ft 11½, chest 45ins and shoulder width 25ins (64cms) I should take a 112-116 V/VI but either a 104-108 V/VI or a 104-108 III/IV suits me better. The one in the images is the 104-108 V/VI.

Where to get them –

Availability of these jackets in the UK appears to be dwindling especially across the size range and you might have to search the i-net in Europe but my start point would be Surplus & Outdoors in Kidderminster (no commercial connection). I know that they have recently had a batch in as well as the KA03 trousers (in the heavier material version as per the jacket, not the lightweight ripstop type – perhaps also a useful BC garment). It’s worth noting that an almost identical jacket was in production pre 2003 the only differences being that the arm pocket was top buttoned not side zipped, the Velcro patches were located differently and the material colour was slightly more olive. In either version the colour and the material shine fades favourably with use. I paid £25 for my original three years ago and pleasingly the same a gain recently for latest.
If you are prepared to pay for a brand new one – about £50 (and IMHO still well worth that price) try army-warehouse.at for an Austrian supplier.

To summarise:

Comfortable
Robust
Water resistant (with treatment)
Breathable
Wind proof
Spark proof
Rural Colour
Multiple Secure pockets
Easily cleaned
Value for money - difficult to beat.

BHJkt(i).jpg BHJkt(ii).jpg BHJkt(iii).jpg BHJkt(iv).jpg BHJkt(v).jpg BHJkt(vi).jpg BHJkt(vii).jpg BHJkt(viii).jpg BHJkt(ix).jpg
 

MikeLA

Full Member
May 17, 2011
1,607
132
Northumberland
Nice but I think the old 94 or 95 patttern British Smock is just as good and also has 7 pockets, good collar velco cuff ties etc.
 

Jaeger

Full Member
Dec 3, 2014
670
20
United Kingdom
Aye Up MikeLA,

Specific jacket favouritism aside, if you get the chance, view a KA03 up close - the quality is on a par with the 'old' British plain olive combats issued up to the early 70's and of which the first Brit DPM combats were a continuation of. It's a slightly heavier material than Soldier '95 kit. Notably the colour and design of the KA03 makes it not readily appear military.
 

John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
22,082
1,628
63
Pembrokeshire
For me the Old Style (60's) SAS Smock was almost ideal for my needs.
I have had jackets based on this Smock in Ventile and made my own variants in "Almost Ventile" and Waxed Cotton.
DSCF4978 (2015_01_01 06_41_25 UTC).jpg
002 (2014_12_26 19_57_08 UTC).jpg
 

Jaeger

Full Member
Dec 3, 2014
670
20
United Kingdom
Yes those smocks were really good - 'cept mine didn't have a zip it was pullover style with a large pocket across the chest and two smaller ones just below waist height. (I too have a Ventile one and an Eta-proof version - ever heard of that?)

I recently tried to go back to that formula with the FJ No8 but missed the zip and wasn't overly impressed with G1000 or the effectiveness of the waxing protection. It worked to a degree but is probably more suited to dry-cold Scandy than wet-cold UK weather - hence back to a tough outer-layer and a water-shedding shell when needed.
 

Chiseller

Bushcrafter through and through
Oct 5, 2011
6,176
2
West Riding
eta proof ? does that mean you are never responsible for being early or late ?

i know.....I'll get my best bushcraft coat and leave ;>

Sent from my SM-G920F using Tapatalk
 

John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
22,082
1,628
63
Pembrokeshire
Yes those smocks were really good - 'cept mine didn't have a zip it was pullover style with a large pocket across the chest and two smaller ones just below waist height. (I too have a Ventile one and an Eta-proof version - ever heard of that?)

I recently tried to go back to that formula with the FJ No8 but missed the zip and wasn't overly impressed with G1000 or the effectiveness of the waxing protection. It worked to a degree but is probably more suited to dry-cold Scandy than wet-cold UK weather - hence back to a tough outer-layer and a water-shedding shell when needed.

Eta - thats the European licensed Ventile clone I think...
 

Jaeger

Full Member
Dec 3, 2014
670
20
United Kingdom
Yes, my Eta proof jacket is Swiss made.

There may be no difference to Brit made Ventile but from the outset the material felt softer to the touch. It was originally DWR coated but as that wore off the outer wetted out and did its thing.
 

John Fenna

Lifetime Member & Maker
Oct 7, 2006
22,082
1,628
63
Pembrokeshire
Whats that you are wearing in your avatar Mr Fenna? That looks the part.

That is my blanket Hoody Bushshirt - made from a Dutch Army blanket. A basic "Iron Age" top pattern with a laced front and simple hood added, plus extra long, fold back sleeves to offer hand protection. The "Bonnet" is made from blanket off cuts, lined with silk and with a canvas headband for itch free comfort.
It is a bit warm for working in but is great winter camp wear :)
 

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