Since my time in the military and continuing on as a competitive shooter I’ve had to be out in all kinds of weather from breezy fall mornings to full-on torrential downpours. That’s why a near constant companion in my pack has been a good rain jacket and set of rain pants. Finding a good rain jacket that pairs nicely with my gun gear has seemed to be a never-ending endeavor though. I’ve tried different military and backpacking gear over the years but nothing really worked as well as I’d hoped. That was until I stumbled onto the 5.11 Duty Rain Shell at a brick and mortar store and I don’t want to say I fell in love but I was pretty smitten.
Of course, being from 5.11 it’s available in non-neon bright backpacking colors, you get the options of two shades of green, dark blue, and black. The jacket is made from a 100% polyester fabric with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating and a printed backing. The backing has a sheen to it that may look like a rubberized coating but at the same time, it’s soft on the skin and doesn’t feel weird like some similar jackets I’ve worn. All of the seams are taped and sealed on the inside for additional protection and durability. A fixed hood with shock cords and an adjustment tab in the back has plenty of room to go over a ball cap and a pair of earmuffs with a little room to spare.
5.11 lists the jacket as 10K waterproof and breathable but what in the heck does that mean? Well, essentially it’s a way to quantify the performance of a fabric by how much water it can withstand, expressed in mm and how much it can release, expressed in grams. If the jacket is rated as 10K for waterproofness, a 1” X 1” section of fabric can withstand a column of water 10,000 mm high or just a shade under 33 feet. What this boils down to is that the jacket is able to handle light to moderate rainfall, such as if you’re standing outside all day during a match. Being rated 10K breathable means that the jacket can move 10,000 grams of water vapor through a 1 square meter section of fabric in a 24 hour period. The more water vapor it can move the less like a garbage bag it will feel as you move around and generate sweat. To summarize, the 10K/10K rating means the jacket is a pretty good all-around performer for those that will be experiencing moderate activity in inclement weather.
Their sizing runs a little large I’d say, which makes sense for a “duty” rain shell, but with the XL jacket, I have plenty of room to go over a belt and other equipment. Although I’m not regularly wearing body armor, the larger cut allows me to layer appropriately for different weather conditions. The length of the jacket is also a little longer compared to other XL rain jackets that I have, which is appreciated whenever I may have to bend over and move around.
Performance and Comfort
I’ve been wearing the jacket for a while so that I could get a feel for how it does in different conditions and I have not been disappointed. On cool fall days it’d be sunny but also a little breezy and the jacket did an excellent job at cutting the wind while also managing heat build. Any other jacket, I feel I’d be struggling with layers and venting to stay cool but I wasn’t even breaking a sweat underneath the Duty Rain Shell. As the weather turned colder and windier the jacket became a welcome outer layer over a softshell jacket or sweater. It’s coped very well with temperature swings where it would be in the 30’s in the morning and then the high 70’s in the afternoon. It’s been a pretty dry fall season but when we did get rain, this jacket was of course the first thing I grabbed. With no surprise, it kept me dry and comfortable without any issues to speak of and water beaded up and rolled off the jacket like it would off a duck’s back.
The two large hand pockets had about 7” wide zippered openings that are easily able to hold whatever I need to keep close by for easy access. When zipped up completely, the zipper is very well protected by a storm flap to keep water and crud out of the pocket. The sleeves have elastic openings so that putting on and taking off the jacket is fast and easy. There are no velcro straps to undo or tighten and there are no concerns about hook and loop closures to get fouled and not work.
What really attracted me to this jacket were the side zippers because they solved a problem I’d been having forever, how to wear a jacket with my competition pistol belt on. In the past, if I was at a match or just at the range, I tried to get by with just wearing a jacket over everything with the front unzipped. This is obviously less than ideal and the Duty Rain Shell handles this issue with side zippers that can open up and let the jacket go around the holster.
I found that even though the cut on the jacket is large it still didn’t impede my ability to draw and present from my Safariland ALS holster. Undoing the left side also gave me easy access to my spare magazines under the jacket for both my pistol and AR-15. I’m not going to say that access is as quick as without the jacket but after some practice, it was pretty close and the best part is that I still have protection from the elements.
These features shouldn’t appeal to just competition shooters, for the concealed carry individual this jacket brings a good bit to the table also. The generous cut and stretchy material mitigates printing and those side zippers can provide easy access to the pistol. If you’re an appendix carrier you can use the two-way front zipper to leave the bottom undone and held closed with the bottom snap and velcro tabs. Then it’s just a matter of a quick jerk and pull to separate the bottom and draw the pistol.
For less than $100, the 5.11 Duty Rain Shell is everything I was looking for in a jacket to use while enjoying my firearms while also not breaking the bank. I won’t feel bad getting carbon on it, getting down in the dirt, and the inevitable pin holes that come with using gear as it should. It’s also not so tactical looking that it can’t blend in on the street and look like just another jacket, which can be an advantage all its own.
For more information about this jacket and other products, check out 5.11 Tactical.