I grew up on the Pacific Coast of Washington state. Rain has always been a part of my life. As a kid, I never really worried about rain gear. We went camping knowing we were going to get wet, we just brought extra clothes. I thought I was being prepared when packing included rubber boots or a heavy vinyl, yellow rain slicker. As I grew up and joined the Army (stationed back in Washington at Joint Base Lewis-McChord), I thought we were just supposed to be wet and cold. Yes, I was issued a Gore-tex jacket and a vinyl poncho. How much work do you think I was allowed to do in those? Only if it required standing still or sleeping. Even then, I don’t remember either one of those staying dry for more than an hour or so. After leaving the Army and making the promise that I would never be cold or wet again (yes, I broke that promise again and again), I discovered updated versions of rain gear that actually worked.
This winter I gave the 5.11 Approach Jacket a test, in my quest to never be cold or wet again. Living in northern Virginia near the Appalachian Trail is very similar to where I grew up, mostly mild winters with lots of rain. This jacket was a good weight to fend off most of the rain I encountered at work and while shoveling snow off the driveway. It is a completely seam sealed 3-layer nylon hardshell with a stowable hood, adjustable cuffs and waterproof zippers. The bottom hem has separate draw cords to adjust the fit around your waist while still being able to unzip both sides. It has a waterproof breathable membrane rated at 10k/8K, meaning it is rainproof and waterproof under light rain or snow, under pressure and can vent water vapor (sweat) during mild activities. This fits my current job as an instructor, lots of standing around observing students or demonstrating specific skills in all weather conditions. Because of student care and diminishing attention spans, outdoor training is limited during cold and wet days, to shorter blocks broken up with breaks from the weather. The Approach Jacket performed well under these conditions, keeping me and my gear dry.
The jacket has several pockets to stow notepads, gloves, cellphones, radios and other gear that you would use through out a day in the rain. There are 6 exterior pockets; two front pockets with rain flaps over the zippers; two chest pockets and two upper sleeve pockets with waterproof zippers. On the inside of the left chest, there is a media pocket with a hole for wired headphones. Unfortunately the pocket seems to be made for older media devices, because it will not fit current smart phones. The right inside has an open top mesh pocket for quick storage of note paper or other non-weather proof items that you may need quick access to. There are zippers under both arms for venting and quick access to your CCW or duty belt. One zipper pull is located under your bicep to control the airflow and the other is at the bottom secured with Velcro® and a quick-release buckle with a pull tab that will release the buckle and unzip the side while pulling your jacket away from your gun. This is a quick and easy way to access your CCW with only a couple repetitions to learn. These are an improvement on 5.11’s classic side zippers that have been a part of all of their duty style jackets, since the beginning. This jacket is one of the few jackets on the market that also includes a two-way front zipper, allowing you to access the front of your waist or create some more mobility.
Final thoughts: The Approach Jacket is a great cross over between a heavy shell and a light weight rain jacket. It has the waterproof features of a hard shell and enough pockets to protect your gear, yet remains light because of the non-brushed tricot backer. The Approach is perfect for light activity over a long period of time exposed to the rain. You will be able to stay dry and keep your gear from getting wet while exposed to rainy weather in a mild temperature. As your activity picks up, you will be able to vent the jacket while keeping dry. If you use this jacket awhile on patrol you will be able to quickly access your duty belt and leave your holster outside the side zippers. I’ll be getting a lot of use out of this jacket from fall through spring with enough room to add layers of insulation when the temperatures drop. The Approach Jacket comes in black, dark navy and tundra (a darker brown) and retails for $249.99.
By the numbers:
Comfort – 4/5 Being a 3-layer hard shell the jacket is a little stiff when new and the zippers under the arms are a bit bulky but necessary to have the ability to vent or access your CCW.
Durability – 5/5 It is constructed of top of the line materials and sound construction. All the seams are sealed and the exterior has a durable finish that will hold up during work.
Functionality – 5/5 Although the interior media pocket seems to be made for an original iPod, there are plenty of additional pockets to stow your gear and keep it dry. The side zippers allow for both venting and access to your waistline.
Weight – 5/5 The weight is comparable to other rain coats in its class.
Value – 5/5 The price ranks in the lower middle of jackets of this waterproof/breathable capability and weight and less than many jackets with less features.
Overall rating: 4.8/5 The Approach Jacket might be a little expensive to purchase but durability and features make it worth the squeeze, especially when compared to other major branded jackets.
I received this product as a courtesy from the manufacturer via Spotter Up so I could test it and give my honest feedback. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.
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