Fieldsheer Highland II Review

The Fieldsheer Highland II is a surprisingly affordable and thoroughly armored one-piece motorcycle suit. At $230 from Motorcycle Closeouts it’s quite possibly the most inexpensive way to get a full compliment of CE rated armor including hip and back. Its nearest competitor is the $450 Olympia Phantom (scroll for more).

Highland
II Highland II
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Sizing It is critical, with a one piece, that you really read the

sizing chart. Don’t just go with whatever size you “normally” are. The problem is, of course, that there’s no adjusting the distance between the crotch and the shoulders of a one-piece. If you’re too tall in a two piece the coat simply overlaps the pants less. In a one piece your have heavy duty fabric being yanked into your groin. I’m 5’9 12”, 140lbs, and according to the size chart I was a medium, so that’s what I ordered, and it fits perfectly.

The waist is very roomy but easily, and comfortably, tightened via a strap on each side with velcro on it’s end.

Temperature & Rain

An example of typical cool & wet weather riding is when I took it out on the highway in 47 degree weather with an average intensity rain storm for about forty minutes. Prior to going out I was concerned by the reports I’d read of people complaining that riding in heavy rain left them with a wet crotch. I took special care to do up the inner flap that covers the zipper and is designed to keep the weather out and had no wetness whatsoever. When I took it off at my destination I found pretty much what you’d expect. The outer shell was slightly damp, but the plastic coating on the inside of the fabric had done its job and kept any of that from getting to me. There’s a nice breathable mesh to keep the plastic from touching your skin. The marketing claims that the coating has holes large enough to let water vapor from your skin pass out, but is still small enough that drops of water won’t make it in. I can tell you from experience with a dog bed that I didn’t realize was similarly coated that putting this in the dryer will most likely destroy the waterproofing.

As for temperature, I have to preface this by saying that I’m the type of person who keeps their house at 71 degrees. If it’s cooler than that I feel chilly and will typically put on a lightweight zip-up hoodie type thing. Wearing jeans, and a t-shirt under the Highland II with its insulated liner in, everything that was covered felt quite comfortable, whilst, for comparison, my exposed chin (still need to get the insert for my helmet) was not quite cold enough to be painful (to give you an idea of how cold I’d be without the Highland’s protection). On the return trip at about 11 pm, with the exterior of the suit not 100% dried out, the rain had stopped and the roads had dried enough that I raised my top speed about 10-15mph and ended up feeling slightly cool on my upper arms, like maybe I should have worn a long sleeved t-shirt. See the note below about the silver mesh material.

Inside, with the insulated liner in, this thing is a sauna. Once I put it on I couldn’t wait to get outside in the rain I was so hot. The liner is thin, but surprisingly effective. When the temperature starts to hover around freezing you’re going to want to add another layer underneath. I typically add a sweatshirt and something to keep my neck warm. If I was going on a ride for more than 30 minutes I’d probably add something thicker, or maybe some wool. You will, of course, need hand-warmers of some sort at that temperature. Heated grips are the most awesome things ever. But really, how many of you are actually going to ride your bikes in sub-freezing weather?

The wettest I’ve had this is was an absolute downpour. Not quite as bad as they get down in SC where all traffic stops because even cars can’t see past their front bumper, but within a couple minutes there was half an inch of water or more over everything but the crown of the road. By this point doing up the zipper flaps before starting my ride had become habit and the only things that got wet were my feet, the bottom edge of my jeans (over my boots), and the cuffs. It felt a lot like when you put on a latex glove and stick it in water. Your senses tell you you’re getting wet, but you really aren’t.

Hot weather

I’ve seen a number of people posting on message boards that this suit was too hot in the summer, but I’ve ridden in 90+ degrees (officially it was 91 but the thermometer dangling on my zipper said 98) with 48% humidity, wearing jeans and a t-shirt underneath (without the insulated liner, obviously), and the results were better than expected. I need to preface this by saying that I wear an Olympia Nova high-viz vest over it which, unfortunately, blocks wind from pushing directly into the chest vents (see below) on the Highland II. By keeping the Highland’s zipper open about 6 inches while on the highway I found myself warm but not uncomfortably so. My back did sweat under the armor but I didn’t sweat anywhere else. At one point I actually had it open farther but zipped it up more to keep wind from puffing up my sleeves and didn’t have any worries about being too hot when I did. I’ve got to think that while the Olympia vest was keeping air from getting directly to the vents it was also reflecting a lot of the heat that would have otherwise been absorbed by the black of the suit.

However, while I’ll take highway trips in the summer in it, if you’re going to be in stop and go traffic on a hot day this suit will have you boiling.

Knowing that up front, my only real complaint, as far as temperature is concerned, is the porous silver material on the upper arms. The problem is that there is so little of it that it provides no noticeable cooling on hot days and it’s so porous that on cool days your biceps end up getting chilled, while the rest of you is perfect. I’d hate to have to put in the lining just to warm my biceps because then I’d probably overheat. I’ve seen a FirstGear jacket made entirely from something similar and I think it would probably be great when used all over to keep you cooler, but I think the Highland II would be better off without it. It’s not effective in the heat and too effective in the cold.

Ventilation

The chest vents are essentially as wide as they could possibly be. They are horizontal zippers that go all the way from the center zipper out across the chest and down the arm a few inches. They’ve got big long fabric tabs with a thin foam insert to keep them out straight, and make them easy to pull open or closed with gloves. I would like to see a hard plastic insert in, or as, the tab because I just can’t feel them with gloves and have to look to find them, but they’re high enough up, as they should be, that it can be awkward to see while wearing a helmet. Also, there’s no cinch or velcro or anything to hold them open wide like the Olympia Phantom.

The insulating liner, unsurprisingly, blocks the openings. And I think this is acceptable. If you’re wearing a thermal liner you probably want to stay warm. I opened them up even though I had the liner in, just too see if they’d have an effect and it did help cool things slightly. I would prefer it if there was maybe a slit in the liner to let some of the air in to make this more useful on days that straddle the line between cool and warm. But, this is a really tricky thing for anyone to get right, and I’m not entirely sure how it’s addressed by other manufacturers.

Unfortunately the chest vents are the only vents on the front of this. There is one wide vent across the shoulder blades that’s so well hidden I didn’t even know I had it until another person with the suit pointed it out. One problem, that most jackets and suits have, is that high-viz vests will block much, but not all, of your only source of ventilation. Another, is that, without any arm vents, if you open the main zipper too far down your chest, and have the wrists done up around your gloves, the arms will puff up and provide a good amount of wind resistance which tires out your arms. If I could add one thing it would be some sort of vent across the back. If it came in a high-viz color I wouldn’t need the vest and wouldn’t worry about flocked air.

In 90+ sunny weather my legs (with jeans) were warm, like putting on jeans straight out of the dryer, which makes me think some leg vents might be beneficial, but I can’t think of a one-piece that I’ve seen that has any, so I don’t count this as a failing of the Highland II at all.

Armor

The armor is what convinced me to buy this. I didn’t find anything else in this price range (one piece or buying top and bottom separately) that had CE rated hip and back armor. I have seen a couple comments about the hip armor being uncomfortable but

I had absolutely no problems with that. It’s a bit weird feeling at first, but after a few minutes I just forgot it was there. I would note that you have to be careful to make sure the hip armor doesn’t get folded over when you put the suit on. The velcro holding it on only goes down the center and there isn’t any at the front or back of the hip armor which I think is a mistake. I had to go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and while there I didn’t feel like taking the thing completely off because carrying it around would have been a pain, so I just slipped out of the top half so that I wouldn’t melt (I had the insulated lining in). That’s when I discovered that the back piece is tall enough that you actually have to fold the suit down at the waist or the armor will make the top of the suit poke out from your back. This is actually a good thing. It means there’s enough in there to make a difference (41 cm). And folding it down is a non-issue once you realize you have to. It’s not like wearing a Knox Contour back protector but it’s far better than most tops seem to offer. It does not have any chest armor but Motoport is the only company I’ve come across that has suits with built in chest armor and I could buy four of this suit for one of theirs.

[Update] After more experience with better suits I’ve come to the conclusion that suit does a poor job of holding the elbow and knee armor in place, and I would not be surprised if they were to shift out of the way during a crash.

Pockets

The thigh pockets are nice and deep and are done so that each one is actually two pockets in the same location. One is accessed from the top via velcro and one from the side via a zipper. The pocket was deep enough, and the velcro strong enough, that I think I’d have trouble getting anything out of it while moving (toll money maybe). There’s a tiny pocket just above the left wrist that makes no sense to me. Maybe it’s for change, but it would be really difficult to access at a toll booth. I think it might be useful to keep quarters in for meters. There are two internal breast pockets. The one on the left is surprisingly deep. The right one is smaller but still big enough for a cell phone and wallet with room to spare . The external pocket on the right breast has a vertical zipper and could hold a cell phone or camera or something like that. The left breast has another dual pocket setup about six inches square. There’s also a zipper at pants-pocket level that would allow access to your pants pockets from the outside but the hip armor gets in the way. All of the outer pockets that open at the top are designed so that when you velcro them closed the top of the pocket actually folds over like a brown paper lunch bag, so as to keep out the rain.

Overall I like the pockets but wish there was one I felt I could access more easily, with gloves, for toll booths.

As an aside, I realize it’s nit-picky but I’d like to see a zipper in front of the hip armor so that I could at least access the front pockets in my jeans and maybe squirm my hand back to the back pocket. I tend to throw my keys in a back pocket when I’m getting things together, and if I forget to take them out before I put on the suit I have to undo velcro and zipper and squirm an arm out of the top then reach back in to get them, then reverse the process. Also, I’d love it if it had a back pocket like the Olympia Phantom to shove a CamelBak into.

Velcro & Zippers

One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about the Olympia Phantom is that there’s so much velcro on it that it constantly gets stuck to itself when you take it off and you have to un-stick it all when you want to use the suit again. I haven’t had that problem at all on the Highland II. They’ve made judicious use of velcro everywhere. There are two horizontal velcro closures that go around the top of each boot and undoing them makes it really easy to get your boots on and off, or lace them up, or whatever. However, the positioning of the boot velcro leaves something to be desired. The horizontal closures point directly inward, and, if you tend to lift your leg straight up from the ground, has a tendency to catch on the footpegs. I had to train myself to swing my legs forwards and up so as to avoid this. These, I feel, should be moved to the back of the leg.

The zippers all feel well made and are nice and fat. the main zipper goes down the chest and down the inseam of the left leg. There’s a matching zipper from the bottom of the right leg up the inseam to about the crotch. Pocket zippers are easy to use.

I’ve got no complaints about its closure system at all.

Getting it on and taking it off

I find that it’s really easy to get on and off as long as you’re not wearing your boots. The problem with this is that it takes an annoyingly long time to undo your shoes, take them off and then put them on again and do them up afterwards. Yes, we’re talking maybe a minute tops (for dealing with the shoes), but when all your fellow just threw their coats back on and headed back out it kind-of sucks. Actually donning the garment takes about 30 seconds.

You could unzip the legs from the heel to the crotch and then put your booted feet through but I find that the lining catches on my soles and I end up looking like an idiot standing on one foot while gently wiggling the other one in the air because the inner mesh isn’t designed to withstand much force. Even if I didn’t (look like an idiot, or have trouble with the lining catching), I wouldn’t want to do this if my shoes were anything but perfectly dry for fear of wiping whatever might be on them on the inside of the suit. The Olympia Phantom, on the other hand, seems to be trivial to put boots through, of course it has the downside of dealing with the velcro that constantly sticks to itself.

Visibility

The thing that left me going back and forth between this suit and the Olypmia Phantom was that while this suit had more armor in case of a crash, the Olypmia had an incredible neon green that would help prevent the need for armor in the first place by making riders more visible. The Highland II has a thin retroreflective strip across the back and the top of the chest vents, a wide vertical retroreflective strip that comes up about six inches from the leg bottom, and retroreflective piping around the edge of the elbow and shoulder armor. The silver accents on the arms and left breast pocket looks quite reflective in person, but isn’t notably more reflective at night than your average gray shirt.

I understand that the market demands cool looking things not visible things, and that the Olympia Phantom in neon green is not particularly stylish looking. But, the point of buying safety gear is to stay safe not win a fashion pageant and I would much rather look dorky on my bike and be seen, and avoided, by everyone than be “cool” and unnoticed by cagers.

I think Fieldsheer has done a really poor job of making the Highland II visible at night. Yes, it could be worse, but only barely. Rev’It has show that you can make stylish looking technical garments from lighter, more visible colors (check out the Cayenne Pro jacket), and the Olympia phantom is blazingly visible, if not stylish. If we are to assume, that for economic reasons, they’re only going to put it out in one color, and feel that black would sell best there are still a number of things I would improve: The retroreflective strip on the back needs to be at least twice as tall. I’d add retroreflective strips down the outside of each leg and arm to make it visible from the side. While I’m thankful that there’s anything on the leg at all, you want the reflective stuff to be up high, directly in a drivers line of sight. Down by my feet misses the point somewhat. The retroreflective piping around the shoulder and elbow armor looks neat, and I’m glad it’s there, but I am totally unconvinced that it would help add to my safety in any measurable way.

Comfort / fit

No complaints at all. The sizing chart worked for me. There’s no pulling at the crotch or neck, the armor seems to fall in just about the right place. The neck closure is adjustable and fits comfortably. The hip armor wasn’t uncomfortable at all, and quickly forgotten about (as it should be). People who are a little plump in the midriff should be fine and those who are closer to their target weight should be able to cinch the belt around the middle to get it just right.

Maintenance

The top half of the liner is held in with one long zipper, like most coats. The lower half is velcroed in. The top is, unsurprisingly easy to remove. The bottom is surprisingly easy. The zippers running all the way down each leg make it very easy to open up and get to.

The booklet that comes with it only says how to clean the armor inserts (wet cloth) but doesn’t mention how to clean the suit itself, which is just stupid. My guess is that this is a hand wash only, or maybe Nikwax in the gentle cycle. Avoid the dryer at all costs. I believe that sticking it in a dryer will ruin your waterproofing.

Materials

The majority of the Highland II is 600 denier Carbolex which is a polyester material with an abrasion resistance roughly double that of 500 denier Cordura (nylon based). If you want great abrasion resistance / tear strength that won’t melt, you get Kevlar, and that costs the manufacturer something like $50 a yard, so it’s going to cost you a very pretty penny. Fortunately the shoulders, elbows, knees, and shins are also protected with a “ballistic overlay”. Ballistic Nylon is 1050 denier nylon and was originally designed to stop flying shrapnel from nearby bullet or artillery hits, but not the bullet itself. These days it seems to mostly mean that it’s really heavy duty. What Fieldsheer doesn’t mention in the marketing is that the ass is also covered. Seeing as they took the time to put a special butt covering, I think it would be great if they’d have added a piece of 18” dense foam underneath it for extra cushioning.

As tear resistance and abrasion resistance seem to go hand in hand I would guess that the tear strength of 500 denier Carbolex is roughly 45 lbs. Jeans are 4.5, 620 denier Cordura is 35, competition grade leather is 80-110, and Kevlar is about 1260. My personal belief, based on what I’ve read, is that the abrasion resistance of Carbolex and Cordura is high enough to withstand the vast majority of crashes and that most of your high impact places are also covered by armor and the “ballistic overlay” so, until I can afford a thousand dollars or more for kevlar one piece, I’m ok with these materials.

Conclusion

Overall I feel this is an excellent value for the money, but I’m not thrilled with the idea of using this without a nice high visibility vest over it, and mid-summer it’ll be toasty in stop and go traffic. I am thrilled with the fact that someone is offering a suit that also has CE rated hip and back armor at such an affordable price. Fieldsheer deserves massive kudos for this, because it removes any excuse for people not wearing proper armor. If money is tight but you’re concerned about getting some real protection then I would highly recommend the Fieldsheer Highland II. If you can spend $450 you might want to go with the Olypmia Phantom because the Phantom has excellent reviews when it comes to waterproofing and better reviews for warm weather (but worse for cold), although the phantom appears to be more of a pain to get in to.

Since I live in new england, and ride year round (as long as the roads are clear) the majority of the time I’m on my bike is not “warm weather”, I’m not too worried if it is a little toasty. My everyday wear is now the Highland II, a Knox Gilet Air underneath it (in the winter) for the improved back protection, and an Olympia Nova High-viz ves.