Originally, tactical jackets, or Tac Jackets (or sometimes even Tac Jacks, if every second counts), were made to be entirely functional. Typically done in olive drab, they were militaristic and operational, but looked like second-hand surplus stuff. As tactical jackets made their way into the mainstream – thanks in no small part to the punk movement whose adherents often adopted an Army Surplus style – they became more common for street wear. Thus they became more fashionable and high-end manufacturers started to add a little more urbane style to the instrumentality of the tactical jacket.
Today, you can make whatever fashion statement you want while still getting an overcoat that works for hunting, survivalist expeditions, camping, hiking, or paramilitary combat. Average citizens can now get military-grade materials in their jackets, meaning the most difficult choice is picking which one works for you. We found items for those who are looking to be debonaire with just a hint of functionality, those who demand both savoir faire and battlefield utility from their clothes, and all the people in the middle. For winter wear, summer battles, or mud season hunts, we have the 8 best tactical jackets.
Condor Alpha Tactical Fleece
Stay Low: Beginning with a polyester fleece that has abrasion-resistant nylon gracing the shoulders and elbows, this could be a 3-season jacket, or work for milder winters. A good mid-layer if you’re using a slimmer shell, the sleeves extend up to two inches when you need added protection, and 4-inch square velcro loop patches let you add on whatever branding and bling you want, or give you additional areas to secure the tools of your trade. Oxford reinforced and made with super fine fleece, it’s just tactical enough to belong in the closet of anyone looking for a lightweight layer.
TRU-SPEC 24-7 Tactical Softshell
PT Runs: Wind and water resistant thanks to the nylon and spandex body, the 24-7 offers lots of mobility along with a tight fit that is good for doing physical training, whether just out for a jog or hitting an obstacle course race. Large pockets on the front and back provide the space to stash your stuff, but loading up the pockets will reduce mobility, and the range of motion is part of what makes this such a dynamite piece of kit. Able to work with ballistic vests, most kinds of armor, and geared up to allow you to carry firearms almost anywhere without affecting your draw, this might be lightweight, but it’s meant for heavy wet work.
Rothco Special Ops Soft Shell
Duck and Cover: Velcro on the cuffs and a huge, stashable hood that can be used to aid in concealment or just keep rain, sleet, and snow off of your head, the Special Ops jacket is affordable, but still gives you a 100% hydrophobic polyester shell that keeps the elements where they belong. A wicking fleece liner makes the body comfortable, and the thick insulation adds a lot of warmth for a fair price. Zippered pockets everywhere let you pack up all your EDC gear for a day or a week without encumbering or restricting your movement.
Triple Aught Design Ranger Hoodie LT
Elite Company: Put it on and you’ll feel pampered, which is unusual for anything bearing a tactical title, but this feels so plush and fits so well that it’s clearly made with fashion as much in mind as function. The three-piece hood gives you a few different ways to cover your head, letting you adopt a smarter, savvier look while still staying warm and dry. The zipper pulls are grosgrain ribbon, with grosgrain liners making an appearance over each seam so they lay flatter both inside and out. The Ranger Hoodie provides you with a way to thread your headphones through for easy listening, or for getting status updates from Bravo team over your earpiece. Feels so good, you’ll be shocked at the punishment it can take without wearing out.
5.11 Tactical 5-in-1 Jacket
Snowbound: Made for your colder winter ops, or when you have to stop an uprising in Siberia, 5.11 has become the gold standard among troopers both military and paramilitary. When you don the 5-in-1, it becomes clear why. Ventilated zippers look innocuous enough for a winter jacket, but the 5-in-1 jacket lets you reach for your sidearm while it cools you down. The interior is a fleece jacket all on its own, complete with removable sleeves which give you freer arm mobility and reduces warmth without changing the lines of the coat. A hidden documents pocket stashes your most precious cargo, though if you’re being mugged, odds are that they’re going to want this jacket along with your cash.
Under Armour ColdGear Infrared Tactical Shell
Urban Recon: This looks about as ordinary as a tactical jacket gets. Since Under Armour has become one of the premium names in athletic wear, they’ve branched out into new areas of clothing, hence this subtle tactical jacket that easily looks like plain, everyday wear. Beneath the surface you’ll discover ripstop cordura handles, fully taped seams, and a 10k/10k rating, along with plenty of proprietary fabric and the ColdGear interior treatment retains and reflects heat so you stay warm, while wicking away wetness to dry quickly for less clamminess. Zippered pockets that include holster access make this understated, but truly badass when you get past the deceptively simple style.
Arc’teryx Leaf Combat Jacket
Flanker: Lightweight is the battle cry of the Combat Jacket from Arc’teryx. The jacket lacks much in the way of insulation, choosing instead for coverage and breathability. Assembled using Tweave Durastretch material, it fits like a protective sheath around your body, adding abrasion resistance and protection from snags and snares, while also inhibiting water from finding a way into your manly canvas undergarments. Pit zippers give you even more airflow, while loads of zippers and velcro keep everything else locked up tight and close to the body so it won’t catch on your firing pin as you reassemble your AR15 blindfolded.
Vertx Solid Smock Jacket MultiCam
Guerrilla in the Mist: 40D nylon paired with high-tech Cordura makes this a one-two punch from Vertx that should be in the closet of any serious hunter or doomsday prepper. Large pockets, and lots of them, offer you an immense array of options for what you carry and how so you can get stocked with protein bars for a long day of hiking, or plenty of extra ammo and loads of ways to start fires if you’re headed to a black site where you have to hike in. Concealment, durability, and the fit needed for an active operator working in hostile territory, this is how the pros do it.