Helikon UTP & OTP – where did all that come from? Part 1.

UTP – what is it all about?

Each and every tactical redneck should know what is meant by this three-letter acronym: “UTP”. UTP stands for the Urban Tactical Pants by Helikon, which personally I consider as one of the most successful products of that manufacturer, who, over the period of several years, has been trying to drop the label of “Polish Miltec” and prove that they’re able to do much more than just manufacture copies of BDU uniforms and M65 jackets and release high-quality, original products to the market. Some were convinced, others not so much. Others still call bullshit hands down. But what are these pants actually all about, why all the fuss and what’s with that weird “change the U to an O” hybrid thing? Stay tuned, folks.

Both among my friends as well as on all the forums I’m on, the UTP users are divided mostly into two camps. The members of the first of them complain about the poor quality of sewing, bits of threads sticking out of the pants, a “tubular”, too narrow cut and low-quality fabric – prone to tearing over time and rapidly losing colour.

The second group falls under what’s known at our place as “the wife of an alcoholic” which is a more narrow “Stockholm syndrome”-ish thing – these people notice the aforementioned flaws, but at the same time consider these pants so freaking awesome that even if in fact they do wash out to whiteness and acquire some not-so-beautiful tears at the edges of the pockets… they’ll just go and buy a new pair. I consider myself a member of the latter group, because UTP are the most convenient tactical pants I have ever had on my butt (and my butt did experience much, including various uniforms made for armies, BDUs, 5.11 and Vertx models, Condor stuff or earlier models made by Helikon, such as the SFU or CPU pants). I’ve been wearing the UTPs and their variants for some three years now, having them on me in a wide variety of different conditions.

 

Shape and cut

The cut is subject to much discussion, and for a reason… that’s right, they can be relatively narrow to people who’ve switched to them from some SFU or Vertx models. On the other hand, after some time I’ve gotten so used to their tailored cut that if I these days happen to put on some of the more classic tactical pants, I feel as if I were wearing a misshapen sack. Thanks to their fit, the UTPs allow me to fill my pockets to the limits and still look, well, good, in a “firm and handsome guy” way. All the stuff inside the pockets is kept close to the body, and not dangling around and bumping into stuff I happen to walk by. At the same time access to all the pockets is fast and convenient. Adding as small amount of Spandex was also a brilliant idea – the pants move with the wearer, stretching when needed and allowing the much needed freedom of movement. In theory, UTP’s looks should fit into the “urban, low profile” genre and though they really do look less “military” than for example the SFU model, their appearance is still characteristic and will draw the eye of anyone who #digsit, so putting the UTPs on and taking a stoll around the town won’t make you into a Grey Man 😉

 

 

Despite having "Urban" in their name, they are perfect for hiking and different outdoor activities

Despite having “Urban” in their name, they are perfect for hiking and different outdoor activities

 

Functions and sweet stuff

The UTPs have a lot of pockets. A lot and some more, to be precise. Two front pockets on your thighs, both secured with a Velcro-equipped flap, perfect for carrying around a phone (or a smartphone, though nothing larger than an iPhone 4 or the Lumia 532). Then we have the side cargo pockets with zips (and that’s a great idea – I find the zips a much better option than velcro or buttons!) and a specific construction making them stay flat next to the body when empty, but still able to hold quite a load of stuff you might want to put into them (though, admittedly, not as much as into the SFU or M65 models). But it’s not a problem to fit a fleece beanie cap and a pair of Mechanix gloves into just one pocket. Next you have two pockets on the front of your hips – you know, the regular pockets, right there where they are in each and every man’s pants. The pockets are reinforced along the edges with an additional piece of fabric, so that you can safely attach a knife by its clip.

The pockets on the butt are just great. They can’t be closed, true, but they’re very capacious. You won’t be having a problem fitting in a beer inside, or a folded rain jacket (which can be pretty helpful out on the town) or even a big wallet (which I, personally, never do even though I’m well aware that there are many fans of doing that). Each of those big pockets has an additional, small pocket fitted inside, which are designed for carrying around a flashlight or a multitool. I don’t actually use tchem much, they’re only good for keeping stuff which will fit inside perfectly, as smaller stuff which is to be attached with a clip will move from side to side and might actually drop out. Last but not least – two tiny pockets on the front, designed to hold a 9 mm magazine or a baton. I haven’t used them even once, but their existence is worth noting (in the OTP variant they’re not there anymore).

All the zips are made by YKK, but honestly, nowadays even good old running shorts from Decathlon have YKK zips, so it’s not really such a big deal. In the front, right above the zipper, we’ll find a velcro strap in the place normally reserved for a button. This is a good idea, as it’s much more comfortable then the said button, as well as allows for minor regulation in the waist size. The UTPs have no side regulation as known from the BDU/SFU series, instead part of the material at the waist, in the back, is elastic. Nevertheless, this makes it much more important to mind the size at the moment of purchase than by the aforementioned BDU/SFU pants – if you choose too large a pair, you won’t have a possibility to tighten them in any way other, than through use of a belt.

 

 

 

Yes, you can wear them while chopping wood ;)

Yes, you can wear them while chopping wood 😉

 

A mortal sin

What’s the argument most often voiced against the UTPs? That damned, low-quality fabric. And though it’s easy to cope with all those threads sticking from the material (which have somewhat come to be a trademark of Helikon) then I must admit that the fabric in both the RS and cotton versions (for these are the two I was using myself) really does loose colour pretty fast. It might happen that after just six months of use, our pants will not be looking all that good as on day one, and putting them on for a stroll around the town might not be that good of an idea. Actually, you don’t even need to put them into a washing machine. All that’s needed is a sudden desire to get rid of that tiny little spot by using a sponge and some soap. Just rub two times too many and you’ll be left with a spot of slightly fairer material, and I’m talking from experience now. Were these pants designed to be used in the forest only, that wouldn’t be much of a problem, but their prime destination is to be used on an everyday basis, at work and out on town. And let’s be honest, not many of us like to show themselves in the public wearing bleached pants. In my case, the UTPs go through a process of an evolution, starting as pants to be worn for work and while going out, through clothes used for hiking and airsofting, and finally ending up in the closet, taken out and used solely for the more hardcore and heavy-duty work in the outdoors, where I won’t mind messing them up even more.

Even so, in my personal opinion the pants’ cut and shape are a pro beating the obvious con which is the lousy quality of the material. Overall, these are very good pants. I’m well aware that the thing with the fabric is what might disqualify these pants in the eyes of many of you, but let’s not forget that people have various expectations; the same story could be told about gloves or lightweight Solomon running shoes. In both those cases, their users are well aware that the gear they’re buying has a limited „life expectancy”, but the smart solutions used in them, as well as the sheer comfort of use, makes them buy yet another pair after the first one wears down. I don’t know about you, but for me… well, I’m in.

 

Second part of Helikon OTP review

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