Wednesday, February 18, 2015

French Surplus Gore Tex Parka

The  German surplus flecktarn camoflage Sympatex parka with a that I’ve used for several years as a rough-use waterproof outer layer was in need of replacement.  The last time I wore it I got wet. While I might be able to revive its water repellency, a few weeks ago I ordered a French surplus Gore-Tex parka in the “CCE” camo pattern from CTD to replace it.

Note: The parka isn’t, as far as I know, made with actual Gore-Tex. Rather, it’s a similar moisture vapor permeable membrane.

The parka I received was made in 2005 and is in unissued condition.

The French CCE camo is obviously based on the American Woodland camo pattern, which in turn was based on the earlier M-1948 ERDL camo. Compared with Woodland, it a bit lighter, due to a large amount of a tan in the pattern.

The parka has several nice features:

  • Sealed seams.
  • A large, oversized hood. It looks like it’s meant so you can fit it over a helmet. This means you can fit it over pretty much any warm hat you might wear. The hood can be cinched down using elastic shock cords and an adjustment tab on the back. The hood can roll up into the collar, but it’s lumpy if you do so. I’m just going to leave it unrolled.
  • High collar that comes up about to your nose.
  • Two-way zipper covered by dual storm flaps.
  • Pit zips with two-way zippers.
  • Two large cargo pockets with zips and storm flaps.
  • Two Napoleon breast pockets that are protected by the the same storm flaps that cover the main zipper.
  • Elastic cinch cord at the lower hem.
  • Velcro-adjustable cuffs.

Click here for the gallery with full size pics.

Overall, the quality of workmanship appears very good. Between the high collar and huge hood, you can really button up for foul weather.

The parka is consists of three layers – the outer camo layer, the breathable membrane, and the inner layer with taped seams.

All the zippers are plastic but feel like they are high quality. The snaps are secure but easy to snap and unsnap. The adjustment bungees on the hood, collar, and hem all have cord locks.

On each upper arm there is Velcro patch about 1.75” x 2.5”, and 2” square Velcro patch on the front. Presumably, the shoulder patches are for flags or unit patches while the front Velcro is for rank insignia.

Sizing is a bit weird. For reference, I am 5’4” tall and weigh about 185 lbs. (damn gut), and have broad shoulders for my height. I wear a 33” sleeve. The XL parka fits me very well. There’s plenty of room for layering -- with a Polartec 300 SPEAR fleece it’s comfortable without feeling like I’m wearing a tent, without being binding.  The sleeves are about 34”, which isn’t too long for me. The lower hem reaches down to my mid-thigh. Normally, an American garment in XL would have sleeves a bit too long for me.

My first test of the parka was on one of my nightly walks around my subdivision. The temp was about 30*F with some wind and freezing rain. I was out for 36 minutes. (Thankfully, I made my circuit without falling and breaking my neck.)

With the SPEAR fleece for insulation, the French parka kept me dry and kept the wind out. The pit zips were easily worked once I started to warm up, and I was able to adjust the hood over my ball cap to keep out the rain. After getting back inside I noticed that there was actual ice frozen onto the outside of the parka.

I tried the parka again the following day. It was in the upper 30s but with gusts up to 10 MPH. Worn over a sweater it provided ample wind blocking.

Compared to the German Sympatex parka the French parka is much nicer. The pit zips help with temperature regulation and the hood allows for bulkier headwear underneath. The French parka’s cargo pockets are larger and it also has the two chest pockets. The French coat has a two-way zip while the German parka does not. Both jackets have Euro zippers, which are backwards compared with the zips used on American men’s clothing. A bit annoying, but c’est la vie.

As for the two parkas’ camo patterns, which one is better depends on where you are. Flecktarn is one of the best camo patterns available for wooded terrain. It works very well in the Pennsylvania hard woods. The French CCE camo hasn’t been available in the US for as long as flecktarn, so we’ll need to test it in the field.

I don’t know how the French parka would compare with a USGI Gore-Tex ECWCS parka, since I’ve never owner or used one. If a reader has experience with both, please post your impressions in a comment.

For $40 plus about $12 to $20 shipping, the French CCE parka is a good deal, if the sizing works for you. It’s well designed, well made, and should be rugged. I’m looking forward to using it as a shell for camping, hiking,shooting, and hunting in cooler weather.

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