After some thorough testing, the Held Carese II receives glowing praise from Sam Manicom (who knows a thing or two about what makes a good jacket for overlanding).
I’ve been wearing items of Held gear for around ten years now, so when the chance came up to review their Carese II jacket, I leapt at it. As a dash of background, Held is a German family business, and has been around for over 70 years. German motorcycle magazine Motorrad has recently awarded their ‘Best Brand’ category to Held, three times.
Over the past years I’ve been riding five to six week trips in the USA and that’s given me the opportunity to ride in everything from -1C and snow, to a baking 52C. The Carese II jacket is classified by Held as Quattrotempi, or four season, so the test for me had to be, were Held right? Would this jacket have the flexibility to deal with the constant weather and temperature changes on future visits?
For me, a jacket has to keep me safe, and must be comfortable. It has to be tough and flexible enough to deal with the all conditions of wear that I’m going to give it, and the poser in me wants it to look good too.
The armour in the DuPont Cordura 500D outer jacket is in the form of CE approved Held cloverleaf SAS-TEC shoulder and elbows protectors, which fit in very comfortably. I found that they stayed in place well when riding, and when putting on or taking off the jacket. I like the point that the elbow protectors not only cup the elbow, they continue down the arm for a good 18cm. The Carese II comes with a temperfoam back protector, but I have a preferred back protector and was glad to see that it slotted into the protector pocket snugly.
The jacket fastens with a heavy duty YKK main zip, and has a Velcro and magnetic button overflap. I really like the fact that, gloves on, I’m not messing around with poppers! The magnet/Velcro combination is powerful enough to keep the flap firmly in place even in high winds and at higher speed. I was surprised that there isn’t a security fastener of some sort at the base of the main zip but I know that Held test their gear rigorously so perhaps it’s simply not needed.
The collar is just less than 5cm high at the front and 6.5cm at the back. For me, those measurements are perfect; weather and wind protection, but no strangulation sensation! The collar has a soft lining, and using a loop and hook arrangement you can clip the fastening flap back if you wish.
The Carese II is not short of pockets. There are 2 waterproof outer pockets, and two in the rear below the waist. Inside are 3 pockets and a cell phone pocket; none of which are waterproof. And that is one of my few criticisms of this jacket. I would have liked to see two more waterproof pockets.
This is not a laminated jacket but has a removable Gore Tex liner, which has a 5 year guarantee. The liner fits snuggly inside the jacket as you’d expect, and it’s held into place with easy action zips down the front, and at the wrists. The trick stuff begins because it’s designed in such a way that you can wear it on the outside of the jacket too! It even has reflective strips and decals. I really like the option to wear it outside because when rain is on the way, you don’t have to strip off your jacket so you can insert the membrane. The option to wear it on the outside also means that the jacket isn’t soaking up water, which can add a chill to your ride as it’s being slipstreamed away. The seat pocket is the perfect size to tuck the Gore Tex jacket liner into. If you need to put it on in a hurry, there’s no messing around unpacking to get at it. You just reach round, unzip and pull it out; job done. As a complete bonus, off the bike, you can wear the liner as a waterproof, breathable windcheater. It actually looks rather smart. I’ve used the test jacket liner for hiking and it’s perfect for it!
With that clever design dealing with the waterproof side of things, how does the Carese II cope with high temperatures? It’s very capable. To begin with, the lining of the jacket itself is made of coolmax, which is a breathable mesh. The sleeves have 40cm two way zips which go from wrist, to high on the bicep. I like this idea for two reasons. One, it’s really easy to put my gloves on at the wrist fastening point. You can adapt the jacket to your wrist size using Velcro straps. Two, undoing the zips from the top down to the wrist gives you a two and a half inch wide blast of air along your arms. This works really well, whilst still giving you the security of your wrists being firmly fastened. No ‘ride-up’ if you were unlucky enough to have an off.
The chest pockets aren’t pockets at all but are your next weapon against the heat. The zips open two sides of the ‘pockets’ to expose more mesh. You simply fold the flaps in on themselves and magnets hold them in place. This gives you a good blast of air direct to the chest. There are rather ineffective pocket vents under these, but there are useful 15cm zipped vents to the arm side of these ‘pockets’. The final front airflow opportunity comes from the jacket’s main opening flap. You can use the magnets to fix the flap in the open position and that exposes a body length strip of mesh.
A 26cm zippered opening across the upper back accesses more mesh, 15cm openings on the back of the arms and eight inch openings behind the shoulders complete the air flow possibilities. I’m writing in such detail about these because I really like the fact that this collection of cooling opportunities allow me to regulate how much exposure I want, and where it’s happening. I like the fact that when riding in warm but not extreme temperatures and I have the liner inside, the mix of vents allows a good draft between the layers. That helps the Gore-Tex to do its job of wicking away body perspiration. In more extreme temperatures I have of course taken the Gore-Tex liner out, and the difference is instantly noticeable. A key cooling point to note is that once the outside temperature is more than your body temperature, too many openings mean that you aren’t cooling your body at all. You are heating it up. When you reach these sorts of temperatures it’s better to close almost all the vents and to allow no more than a slight breeze to flow through your jacket. The way this jacket is designed puts you firmly in control.
Finally, how does it deal with colder temperatures? There isn’t a quilted or thinsulate lining and when I first saw that I was concerned, but then logic kicked in. You just rely on multipurpose layers; quality base layers, your fleece and so on. This is practical in that using this mix easily fits with the motorcycling rule that all kit should, where at all possible, have two uses; so important when you are looking to keep luggage weight and bulk down.
Rounding off the review, the Carese II comes in Grey and Red, plain Black, Grey and Orange, and a Grey-Blue combo. All variations are well equipped with subtle but effective 3M Scotchlite reflectors. Helping the jacket to fit your personal shape are bands on each arm, a waist band and shoulder stretch panels. The riding trousers to go with the jacket, are Held’s Torno II.
All in, I think this is a well thought out jacket which puts you the rider firmly in control of whatever the weather decides to throw at you. Its design, build quality and materials mean that you are going to be well protected if the worst happens. It looks great on too. This jacket isn’t cheap but in this instance you really do pay for what you get, and that makes it really good value. It’s so close to being a five star review but I’m happy to give it four and a half stars. I’d like to see it with more than two waterproof pockets and I’d like a security fastening at the base of the main jacket zip. Minor nit-picks…
Held Carese II – Specs
• Held Gore-Tex 5 year warranty
• Connecting zip
• COOLMAX breathable mesh inner lining
• YKK Zips
• 3D air mesh panels in back to promote air circulation
• Removable GORE-TEX 3 layer technology
• Removable waterproof membrane inner jacket which can be used attached inside the jacket or as a separate over jacket
• Waterproof external pockets
• 3 inner pockets
• Internal phone pocket
• Map-document pocket
• 1 Back pocket
• Air vent zippers in front, back and arms
• Magnetic closure pockets double as air vents
• Stretch panels at shoulders
• Waist belt
• Dual arm adjustable
• Soft collar
• SAS-TEC shoulder and elbows protectors
Available in chest sizes XS (38) to 4XL (52).
I like to have plenty of space for layers and prefer a relaxed fit, so I went for a size larger than normal.
UK Price: £522
Review by Sam Manicom.