Men’s Tactical Jacket – Features to Look for and Best Models to Buy

The right gear in uncompromising situations has to be just as, well, uncompromising as your own planning and attention to detail. That’s why the best tactical jackets have to come through in the clutch for time spent in the field, covert operations and even an off-grid road trip or two. It’s like we’ve said before: You won’t realize the importance of gearing up properly, especially as far as your outerwear is concerned, until you realize that you’ve made a misstep and gone into the field without the right tactical jacket.

Of course, that’s at the top of the laundry list as far as planning for expeditions and excursions is concerned, but the rest of your everyday carry essentials should also pass muster. That goes for a highly useful hunting knife, especially when camping, hiking or hunting, and you should cover off on the bases with ready-for-anything work pants or the best tactical pants, too. Heck, even your pants themselves should be held up by one of the best tactical belts, all the better to streamline your whole fit and help you move covertly, not crash loudly through the brush (to name but one example).

While real life doesn’t resemble movies all that often, you can (and should) steal some tips related to form and function whenever you have the chance.

Tactical jackets are often sleek in their design, be it in matters of color or the bells and whistles themselves. Think hidden pockets, handy zippers and an overall look that doesn’t stand out too much on bustling city streets on in remote locations far afield. Here’s a modern example that blends both form and function: While not a true tactical jacket, James Bond himself wears a classic Harrington jacket to great effect in 2008’s epic Quantum of Solace. Is it a timeless fashion move as well as a manner of moving covertly through multiple locations? Yes, it certainly is.

But a word to the wise: Focus first on functionality and performance, then on potential looks. Your tactical jacket is there to serve a crucial purpose, after all, and it’s got to check off those boxes right away. That being said, who said emulating a certain secret agent was ever a bad thing, right?

While real life doesn’t resemble movies all that often, you can (and should) steal some tips related to form and function whenever you have the chance. Tactical jackets that channel that same energy as Bond (blending stealth style with utility) are to be both admired and appreciated. Oh, and used, of course. The right tactical jacket needs to be both long-lasting, hard-wearing and up for anything. Like we’ve said many a time before, you might not realize your gear isn’t up to snuff until it’s too late. When time and performance are of the essence, whether on the open road or zipping through a crowded city, those mistakes simply can’t happen.

Tactical jackets run the gamut in terms of design, whether they’re built more like a field jacket, more like a plain-front zip jacket or more like a parka. The best tactical outerwear, though, comes in sleek colors like black, all the better to fit it covertly in multiple locations, especially when the sun sets (again, Bond gets it right in this instance).

Overprepare and invest in one of the best tactical jackets, and never miss a beat when it comes to retrieving your everyday carry, your tactical tools and much more. That’s another thing about tactical jackets: Today’s crop of the best outerwear for tactical situations is as modern as can be, built with the right storage space and sleek design to keep you on the go while saving time. That means you should look for ones packed with useful pockets, durable fabric and clever additional design touches. What else to look for in your next purchase of a tactical jacket? Allow us to offer up a few useful tips.

How to Shop For Your New Favorite Tactical Jacket

  • Consider both form and function: As if you needed another reminder, it’s vital to keep these two keys in mind when shopping for a tactical jacket. While some tactical jackets are overbuilt to the point of being too bulky — take old-school field jackets, for example — the best tactical jackets of today are sleek and forward-thinking, able to be worn with, say, an all-black ensemble as readily as they can be teamed with slim blue or black denim if you need a more useful casual jacket. The blend of form and function is going to serve you even better than you might think if you find yourself moving from the city to the field and back again.
  • Go for versatility: A tactical jacket is, naturally, going to serve a different role than one of your go-to, casual and everyday jackets. Of course, you can wear a tactical jacket on the daily, and they’re especially useful as a travel jacket, but the best tactical jackets are first and foremost made for the field. That means a neutral color like navy or black is going to serve you best. Naturally, that also means that your tactical jacket can be paired with just about any type of trouser and T-shirt in terms of color. That’s the kind of versatility you need if you’re in search of a tough, rugged jacket you can wear in multiple locales (Bond’s Harrington jacket comes to mind here, too).
  • Look for the right design features: Consider carefully what exactly you need from a tactical jacket. Do you need more hidden interior jacket pockets for sensitive information or tools? Do you need quick access at the drop of a pin? Do you need a ton of pockets, or just a select few? Most tactical jackets, but especially ones designed by brands specializing in the style, are made to answer these questions readily. Some jackets are more streamlined than others, some are built only for the field instead of the city, and some can do a little bit of both. Choose wisely and you’ll reap the rewards (and better still, the best sort of useful design features).

With a few helpful tips at the ready, it sounds like you’re ready to start shopping for a go-anywhere, useful-as-heck tactical jacket, right? No doubt about it, so let’s get into our favorite picks for the game-for-anything outerwear style.

The Best Tactical Jackets for Men to Buy Now

5.11 Tactical Surplus Jacket

5.11 Tactical Surplus Jacket

With a name like that, it’s no wonder that this famed outfitter specializes in gear made to take you out into the field and back, right? No matter what “the field” means to you (it could mean tracking, hiking or ferrying important documents somewhere safe), the Surplus Jacket, particularly in slick Black, is the right way to go. With field jacket-style pockets and fabric that happens to be a tough “Flex-Tac canvas with Teflon finish,” it’ll help you speed up, rather than slow down.

5.11 Tactical Preston Jacket

5.11 Tactical Preston Jacket

Yes, it’s a very wise bet indeed to trust 5.11 Tactical with your next outerwear move, and that’s doubly true when it comes down to crunch time on tactically-minded outings. While the Surplus Jacket is made from a thicker canvas, the Preston Jacket is your go-to lightweight tactical jacket, made with downright useful articulated sleeves and a weather-ready “90% nylon/10% elastane double weave, 6.1-oz.,Teflon™” fabric blend, according to the brand. Keep your valuables and yourself safe in breezy weather all the while.

Eddie Bauer Windfoil Elite Jacket

Eddie Bauer Windfoil Elite Jacket

Eddie Bauer’s heritage of outfitting explorers and adventurers is just about everything you could ask for from a brand that’s now focused on modern, stylish and hard-working guys everywhere. And that’s great news all around, because they’ve come up with a surprisingly sleek and tactically focused jacket made with a highly useful StormRepel® DWR finish and soft-shell construction. Because we’re talking tactical situations, go for all the all-black colorway.

Duluth Trading Company Lightweight Grab Jacket

Duluth Trading Company Lightweight Grab Jacket

It seems that whenever we tend to need ’em the most, Duluth Trading Company steps up and delivers. That goes for warm flannel shirts, rugged outerwear, tough work pants and plenty more. They certainly haven’t gone wrong with the aptly named, supremely weather-ready Lightweight Grab Jacket, fashioned from a “100% nylon shell treated to shed drizzle and mist” and made with a breathable mesh lining. Stay off the radar using this jacket — you won’t be disappointed.

First Tactial Tactix Softshell Jacket

First Tactial Tactix Softshell Jacket

There are times in the field when you need more coverage and uncompromising performance without too much added fabric or added weight. First Tactical, suppliers of highly effective, super-dependable and covert tactical jackets and gear several times over, have come up with the perfect solution with this parka-length tactical jacket. Cut longer for more protection, it’s made from a nylon and spandex blend and happens to be craft “with 4-way stretch, water and wind resistant” capabilities. All of these features come together in a way that First Tactical says “make this remarkably stretchy shell the perfect lightweight companion.” That’s an understatement, so the next time you need a useful jacket in the field and beyond, go with First Tactical (or really, any of the other options on this list).

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Beau is Brooklyn-based style and lifestyle writer. He covers menswear, gear, spirits, craft beer and music. When not writing, Beau can be found shopping for vinyl or sipping on a Brooklyn beer.

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