Helikon Tex M65 Trousers
The M65 trousers were part of a cold weather clothing system that came in to use by the U.S. military during the 1960s. Clothing made to the same set of patterns is still produced by many companies. The most well known item is probably the M65 jacket made by Alpha Industries. Helikon Tex make an M65 jacket too.
The various clothing made now and labelled M65 is made in several different materials including cotton, polycotton and nyco. Nyco is 50:50 nylon:cotton and was used in the original M65 clothing with a sateen weave. This combination of yarn and weave makes reasonably breathable, windproof and thorn-proof clothing.
Helikon Tex is a Polish company making contemporary and "surplus" military clothing. They also have product lines aimed at outdoors ethusiasts and law enforcement personel.
I bought my Helikon Tex M65 trousers in November 2014 at the recommendation of a friend. Since then, I have worn them more often by far than any other long trousers. Obviously, I think they are worthy of a review.
As I said, the original material for these trousers was nyco, and that is what Hilikon Tex use. I searched Helikon's website for mention of "sateen" but the only hits I got were in PDF catalogues from 2010 to 2013. Are they still using sateen weave for their nyco clothing? I don't know. How much difference does this make? I don't know that either.
The trouser fabric feels rugged without feeling harsh. When temperatures are approaching mild and I still want protection from wind, undergrowth or showers, I am comfortable wearing my M65s without underwear.
I travel by bicycle almost every day so these trousers are in constant use in Winter and, after two years, I still cannot see any wear in their seat.
Freedom of movement
Even for "combats" the M65s are a loose cut. This is not surprising. As part of a 1960s cold weather system, they were designed so that a relatively thick thermal-liner could be buttoned into them. The Helikon Tex version has the buttons required to fix that liner in place. I haven't found a thermal liner in my size but I have used my M65s as an overtrouser over an old pair of snowboard trousers. It's a convenient way to add lots of pockets while snowboarding. If you get used to M65s then you might find other combats a little restrictive.
The flip-side of this generous cut is that the trousers look somewhat shapeless compared to many other combats. I own a pair of Helikon's "SFU Next" and they have a more streamlined shape than the M65s, with the obvious trade-offs.
There are 6 pockets accessible from outside and a buttoned watch pocket inside the waistband. The front and back pockets are made of a lighter-weight material. I assume they are cotton. This kind of pocket is often the first thing to go in a pair of trousers that I wear a lot but there is no sign of that yet.
The thigh pockets are made of the main fabric sewn on to the trouser leg. They are not the shape I'm used to seeing on combats where there is a bellow around the whole edge, instead, they concertina from the centre and the rear-facing edge of the pocket, bulging out more there when they are full.
Inside the thigh pockets are some strings of fabric that can be threaded out through a hole in the rear-facing edge of the pocket and tied through the skinny pieces of webbing under the crotch. This pulls in the baggy material of the legs and (apparently) makes it easier to run while the thigh pockets are heavily-loaded. (I have not tried this.) I assume that this feature was the inspiration for the fashion some years ago for strings of fabric hanging from women's "cargo" trousers.
All the pockets that are accessible from outside are secured with metal press-studs. I leave them all open except for the studs at the rear edge of the thigh pockets. I find this is secure enough for me. I have never inverted while wearing these trousers.
Sewn in to each ankle cuff is something like a round shoelace. They seem to be fixed to the trouser so that they cannot be accidentally pulled out. This is reassuring. I've seen cosmetically-similar adjusters pulled out of the waistbands and hoods of tops.
The cuffs can be pulled in and then each "shoelace" tied to fix the narrower width of the cuff. This is a great way of ensuring that the cuff cannot slip down under the heel of your shoe. I love this. The adjusters will not stay tied forever. Neither would a shoelace. I find that I retie the adjusters once a week or less, so that's fine by me.
The trousers have a YKK zip fly. The zip has a fairly bulky piece of fabric tied to it, presumably to make it easier to grab wih gloved hands. This piece of fabric is obviously trivial to permanently remove. You might find that it gets in the way of pissing while standing.
There are a pair of waist adjusters, one on either side of the waistband. They look and feel like they are made of cotton webbing. They are threaded through a metal length-adjuster which, I find, fails to hold the webbing securely. They may be useful for someone else. I have decided they are cosmetic.
As you would expect, there are also belt loops.
The fabric is sufficiently windproof that I would not choose to wear anything else for Winter walking and commuting by bicycle.
The trousers will shrug off a short shower. If I let them get properly wet and then have to sit still then, unsuprisingly, they take longer to dry than a lightweight pair of cotton cargo trousers. I'm not sure how long they take to dry while I'm moving because I don't really notice that they are wet then.
They are breathable enough (and baggy enough) that if I work up a bit of sweat then I don't notice it on my legs.
I love these trousers. They are my day-to-day wear in the Winter. They only see a lot shelf time when it is warm enough for me to switch to shorts. If I wear any other long trousers then it is for aesthetic reasons only.