Super Bowl of Hardcore – Patagonia Lvl 4 Gen II Windshirt
I recently picked up from good friend Simon B an allegedly second hand Patagonia Lvl 4 Gen II Windshirt in ‘Foliage Green’ – arguably, due to its excellent condition I’d hazard a guess that it’s all but virtually brand new, so a big thank you to him.
As I understand it SOCOM sought to address harsh weather conditions for Special Operations troops deployed in Afghanistan in the early 2000’s.
Enter the PCU (Protective Clothing System) – NATICK leaned heavily on experiences from the civilian world with extensive cold weather experience to develop and issue an interchangeable clothing system called the PCU. This provided war fighters comprehensive suite of apparel and options for cold weather conditions.
The PCU is divided into seven levels, here I’ll clarify, which are not seven levels to be worn necessarily on top of each other, but rather combined interchangeably with one another for a wide variety of atmospheric and environmental conditions.
It’s comprised of a total sixteen garments – each providing a different complimentary functionality to the overall system.
Want to know more on this or other garments in the PCU system head on over to the inimitable ITS TACTICAL here: https://www.itstactical.com/gearcom/apparel/comprehensive-guide-protective-combat-uniform/amp/
Patagonia Lvl 4 Gen II Windshirt
Level 4 consists of a thin, windproof “wind shirt,” which is intended for use inside the system, though it can be worn as an outer layer. Generally it’s worn under other layers and helps retain 300% more heat than without a wind shirt. It is ideal in escape and evasion situations, as it’s very compact and can be rolled up and stuffed in a cargo pocket. It’s less durable than the Level 5 soft shell garments and not meant for high abrasion situations like low-crawling over rocks or work in which the wearer is getting into and out of vehicles with some frequency. It’s frequently worn as an under-layer beneath the soldier’s camouflage uniform and in helicopter use, or other situations with significant environmental wind.
With this in mind, I’ve used thus far as a supplementary garment for intended purpose whilst worn over a PolarTec ‘Grid Fleece’ and under my Patagonia Lvl 5 Gen II ‘Soft Shell’.
It’s worth mentioning here, The PCU system consists of synthetic materials that don’t retain moisture. While they may become wet, either from external moisture, or moisture generated by activity- they have been designed to dry quickly. The use of these materials stems from experiences mountaineers, who determined that it was impossible to stay perfectly dry. As a result, the superior strategy was to don materials that would shed water as fast as possible.
In short, this provided an ample protection against the recent freezing wind chill, biting cold snow and gale force winds, which even here in the South of the United Kingdom dropped as low as -12° …
Whilst we’ve apparently more inclement weather inbound, and even more snow due this weekend (at the time of writing) the temperatures have soared back into the early teens, and such a combination has proved, whilst on the move a little too warm, however, that’s a good thing, indicative of how much heat each garment traps, and naturally when combined it keeps you more than warm enough.
So proverbially, what do you get out of the box. The Patagonia Gen II ‘Lvl 4 Wind Shirt’ is not unlike its civilian ‘Houdini’ model, however is minus the stowage feature of being rolled into its own proprietary pocket/bag – no matter as we ‘Ranger Roll’ jackets here at the S23HQ
Made from ‘Epic Fabric’ the wind shirt offers a slightly thicker brushed twill, comparators to the Gen I and civilian models. Yet is still comes in at paltry 14 oz’s – so thin in fact is easily stuffed into any BDU pant pocket or large jacket pocket …
The Gen II features a full zip, as opposed to the original Gen I which was a half zippered pull over affair.
Like the Lvl 5 it has a generous hood, easily worn over head wear, be it a beanie, boonie or even PPE such as a helmet, and as expected can be cinched down using the double barrel locks on the bungee cord that runs through the brim.
It’s worth noting that unlike the Lvl5 the hood which is stored in the collar as is the Lvl 5’s has additional Velcro points, allowing the collar to be brought back up into a full neck coverage, thus with the zipper brought all the way up, gives good protection from chilling frosty winds.
The zipper runs up from waist to neck, is naturally expected, the industry standard, YKK – and as you can see, I’ve traditionally heat shrunk the paracord pull tab …
Cuffs are elasticated offer full closure, but unlike other garments are non abrasive nor do they cause irritation.
You can see the difference in fit and form against the Lvl 5.
The front of the torso is cut slightly higher in line with the belt line, and the back slight dropped fishtail style – offering a slightly more dynamic and athletic fit around the lower abdomen.
Both the Lvl 4 and 5 have again barrel locked waist adjusters to draw the jacket in as well as adapt fit and form to suit your preferences as well as keep out the elements.
The jacket has little in the way of storage but does have a small Velcro’d closure on the upper left chest area, ideal for keys, pens, chem lights or a small torch.
The material, as mentioned above is ‘Epic Fabric’ and is DWR treated, whilst recommended for only light precipitation stands up well against heavy rainfall, albeit temporarily as eventually it will start to wick.
A form of 100% nylon made by Readyone Industries.
To summarize this garment will undoubtedly stay a permanent feature stowed in my day sack, as even during the more clement months, of either spring or summer – is a quick solution to either high wind, light rain or cooler late evening.
Or as a combination with other garments if the weather really takes a sudden down turn.
Combined with the Lvl 5, and a PolarTec fleece, with a light neck gaiter and PolarTec watch cap (beanie) this jacket provided invaluable protection from the elements in recent weeks, it is – quite simply a very welcome addition to the gear locker – S23
1) lay the jacket out flat and zip up
2) fold over either sleeve and 1/5 of the torso
3) Repeat step two and you’ll now have the jacket in the form of a long rectangle
4) start to roll from the bottom up to the neck
5) Squeeze Rolled torso into hood, you can use the barrel locks to compress the hood size and achieve an even smaller pack – and if you so desire place in a zip lock bag from protection against water and quick and easy recovery from your pack as well as saving additional space and easier stowage – S23
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