The British “SAS” smock, it’s what all the cool kids seem to wear these days if you read any of the cool kid blogs. While my use for this interesting piece of clothing bears only mild resemblence to theirs, it is still a superb garment for the modern hunter-gatherer and for general outdoor use.
Most folks touting the smock these days are intending to utilize it for its designed purpose, combat. I on the other hand see very little liklihood of armed woodland conflict in my future, I do see myself spending much time in the woodlands hunting, trapping, paddling and bushcrafting. As such I am always looking for that “ultimate” thing, be it a pack, rifle or in this case jacket.
I will confess, I have an original British DPM Smock that is of the heavy Gabardine type weave and I also possess an Arktis lightweight model in US. Woodland pattern. I have had both of these for a while but they see little use (the Arktis rides in the car bag). One of the reasons is that a substantial portion of my outdoor time is spent simply enjoying local preserves and waterways and camouflage is not needed and in fact may serve the opposite function, drawing attention when I want to be left alone.
Thus began my search for an economical SAS type smock in a basic earth tone color. Yes earth tone, I don’t need camouflage every day, but I do want to be able to blend in to observe game and at times avoid people. I also spend many work days in large urban areas which in the need to get home on foot, good earth-tone clothing will blend, both urban, rural, and wilderness.
While reading a slew of blogs one icy Saturday, I stumbled across a reference for ASMC (The Adventure Company) in Germany. These guys have perhaps the best selection of Smocks I have ever seen. After much looking and comparing I decided on the Lightweight Miltech Olive Smock Here. Total cost shipped from Deutchland was $71 and it arrived 10 days later.
The smock is listed with the following features:
Fixed wired hood with drawstrings
– 2 large cargo chest pockets
– 2 large lower cargo pockets
– 2 vertical zip pockets (Napoleon type)
– 1 vertical reach through pocket for access to the inside
– 1 arm pocket
– 2 internal zip chest pockets
– 1 large pocket on the back
– 2 side pockets for canteens or similar objects
– Underarm ventilation
– Front zip with large storm flap
– Cordura elbow reinforcements with pad compartment (pads included)
– Cordura shoulder reinforcements
– Loops on back and shoulder for attachment of additional camouflage material
– Adjustable Velcro cuffs
– Material 65 % Polyester 35 % cotton
Upon unboxing, I carefully examined it next to the Arktis and British Smocks. Here is what I have discovered. This is made in Germany (a big plus as I have seen some Mil-tec products outsourced to Asia) . The Mil-tec XL is bigger than the Arktis XL. The material overall is actually mostly 35% Ripstop Cotton with 65% Polyester (lightweight Gabardine I think is what its called). This type of fabric tends to close up when wet. The buttons are Canadian style and identical to Arktis. Sleeve pockets are slightly different in size.
Pocket layout otherwise is similar, however; the Mil-tec unit has a large pocket on the rear, big enough in fact that a section of foam pad could be inserted as a seat/insulator. It also has elbow pockets with removable pads (this will be great for prone rifle shooting). The feature that really makes this Smock shine above the other two I have is PIT-ZIPS! Yes it has armpit zippers for ventilation.
Proper use of the smock is as the outer part of a layered approach. In the winter one would have a heavy wool sweater, fleece, or poly-pro beneath it. In the summer it should be worn over a t-shirt, however; even with just a tee, August humidity and heat can make any overgarment unbearable, hence pit-zips.
All other parts of the mil-tec smock are very well done, with nice heavy zippers, and good overall stitching. The color is nice dark olive and is even throughout. The non-removable hood is big enough to go over a Kevlar helmet (if one has need), and has a wire in the rim to keep it from drooping over your eyes. This Smock also has foliage loops for attaching natural camouflage in the field…very handy.
So which of the three is the best, based on value, quality, and usefulness?
Arktis is just slightly ahead on stitching quality, but has no ventilation option. It also costs twice the price.
The British issue Smock is slightly ahead for cold weather use only because of the tighter fabric weave.
The Mil-Tec Smock is the winner due to more features, quality construction and a comparable price to a used surplus DPM smock like my British one.
Next we’ll look at turning the Mil-tec unit into the perfect Scout Smock, and stocking its many pockets for survival.