Part 2 Testing the ATS Elite Parka and Soft Shell
Photos by Peter Draugalis and Marco Vorobiev
ATS Elite Waterproof Breathable Parka
In Part 1 of this series I went over the test parameters I’ll be using for testing a variety of hard and soft shell jackets. Now we’ll get this series started with the jacket I have the most experience with the ATS Elite Waterproof Breathable Parka. I have had this jacket for a few years now and it has accompanied me on my various travels. Apart from typical jacket features like 100% nylon ripstop outer shell with a waterproof, breathable membrane and 260T nylon taffeta liner, Dupont Teflon® Fabric Protector coating, double needle stitching and bar-tacking at stress points, two-way front and side seam zippers, variety of pockets, detachable stowable hood, etc. this jacket has several “tacticool” features most of which add to its functionally.
Lower “skirt” pockets are actually double pockets with fleece-lined side access hand warmers and top-flap secured expendable pouches.
The number and location of pockets is well thought out. Easy to get to chest pockets and lower flap patch pockets are equipped with wide elastic loops to act as a holster for a small or medium size handgun and to secure extra magazines. These same lower pockets have a side access that is fleece lined, which is a great feature for quick hand warming. Rather long, two-way side zippers have a double duty. They can serve as a ventilation opening or provide a quick access to one’s sidearm. I am a huge fan of waterproof hoods. The shell jacket with a hood would replace an umbrella any day. The ATS Elite Waterproof Breathable Parka has a detachable hood that is also stowable into the jacket’s collar. Though it is made with a waterproof, breathable membrane, the jacket has a feel of a lighter garment. The waterproof membrane is much thinner than similar fabrics on the market and has a softer feel. And because of the thinner material the ATS Elite Parka has a liner that adds an extra layer of heat retention without making this jacket cumbersome.
Design and Appearance – The ATS Elite Waterproof Breathable Parka is a well designed jacket. In appearance it resembles a good ole M65 Army field jacket but with a modern twist. It definitely has a military appearance and is not something you would climb Everest in.
Wearability and Comfort – I found it both very comfortable to wear as well as being quite versatile. On my travels I often find myself moving from a board room to the field or even a hunting trip. The ATS Elite Waterproof Breathable Parka is longer and served me well as I can wear it over a business suit or at the range or in the woods protecting me against the elements.
Functionality – I think the designers of the ATS Parka did a great job creating a truly versatile and functional jacket. The location and size of the pockets is well thought out. They are easy to get to and can store a considerable amount of stuff. Even when carrying a backpack all the pockets are accessible. In fact this jacket can be used as a part of a load-out for light duty.
Overall Quality – The quality of the ATS Elite Waterproof Breathable Parka is very good to excellent. No split seams or sticking out threads. All the zippers work smooth. Over a three-year period I have not have any issues with the jacket.
Cleanability – As I have mentioned before I have had this jacket for several years now in a variety of environments and it still looks great. I was bound to soil it in places, but light brushing would usually be enough to bring it to a normal state. Also, the DuPont Teflon® Fabric Protector treated fabric is resistant to both water and oil-based spills. And best of all if I have to wash it, it is machine washable and can be dried in the dryer.
Durability – Over the three years I had a chance to wear the ATS Parka in various conditions. It still looks and functions great as it should and displayed no issues so far.
Modularity – Though unlike some other jackets on my list, the ATS Elite Waterproof Breathable Parka does not have any internal zippers or attachments for a zip-in liner of sorts. But it works well with a variety of insulating garments. I wore it with a combination of fleece, down or PrimaLoft® inserts depending on climatic conditions and in all cases it worked great. No restriction of movement or any other impediments.
My favorite features of the ATS Elite Waterproof Breathable Parka are its versatility, packability (due to light and thin construction it rolls into a small bundle and can easily be packed away into your backpack or even a briefcase) and value (for less than $200 it is a steal).
ATS Elite Soft Shell Jacket
Staying with same manufacturer and because I was also interested in a soft shell jackets, my next subject is the ATS Elite Soft Shell Jacket. A few words about the soft versus the hard shell. Soft shell jackets were introduced several years back as an alternative to their hard shell counterparts. Still weather proof the new fabric was more stretchable and therefore the outer garments could be made more snug and still provide the freedom of movement. The soft shell is water resistant rather than proof and after prolonged exposure to moisture will eventually soak some of it up. Soft shells can also be bonded with fleece giving them more heat retaining properties. And that is what the ATS Elite Soft Shell Jacket is made of. In its appearance this jacket is “plain Jane”. No frills or thrills, no extras, but what you need. It is built rugged with same top notch ATS quality. Just four pockets, two opposite chest and two lower side. All equipped with elastic loops for a small to medium frame pistol and spare magazines. Two-way front zipper allows for a quick access without fully unzipping the jacket. But its main feature is in its soft shell bonded fabric. Because it has the bonded fabric it acts as a fleece and often would not require a separate fleece layer to keep me warm. This is the type of jacket which hangs on the very first hook in your coat rack. It’s the first thing you grab when leaving the house during an emergency in any kind of weather.
Design and Appearance – As I’ve mentioned before it is a plain looking jacket and would suit anybody who is not into all the “tacticool” bells and whistles. Because it is made out of fleece-bonded fabric, it doesn’t need a liner. The four pockets are however lined with the ‘farmer John” red and black flannel that we know and love. It’s the design feature ATS inherited from Woolrich® that gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling.
Wearability and Comfort – I loved the feel and fit of the ATS Elite Soft Shell Jacket as soon as I put it on. It feels soft and pliable, cozy and rugged at the same time. Its high comfort level is achieved by a liberal cut.
Functionality – Though this jacket is a bit on the plain side, it is still very much a functioning jacket that is suitable to wear as an everyday coat as well as a field jacket. Its ability to assist with conceal carry is also an asset.
Overall Quality – The quality with which ATS builds its Soft Shell Jacket is superb. As hard as I’ve tried to look for imperfections I could not find a single one. All seams are double stitched and feel solid, all zippers work like “butter”. For the time period that I wore this jacket there have been no issues what so ever.
Cleanability – The soft shell material was suspect for me in this department. I thought the Soft Shell material being a stretch fabric would retain dirt and/or mud residue more so than the hard shell. I was wrong. After drying the dirt and mud brushed right off leaving very little residue. The best part is the ATS Soft Shell Jacket can be easily machine-washed and tumble-dried.
Durability – I have years of experience with soft shell jackets. I bought my first one for $400 when they first came out. My first soft shell jacket still looks great even after being with me around the world. So, I was not worried with the fabric of this ATS jacket. And I knew that the stitching would be superb based on my experience with their other products. Over the test period nothing came undone, broke or malfunctioned in any way.
Modularity – The ATS Soft Shell Jacket is reminiscent of the old Three-season Jackets, if someone remembers. It is made as a standalone coat for intermediate weather and provides enough warmth by itself or in combination with additional garments. I have found that adding an additional 200-weight fleece would greatly improve its heat retention and it would then be comfortable to 20°F. Though, I am not a big fan of fleece on fleece action. The ATS jacket soft shell is bonded with fleece and having a fleece liner would cause the lining garment to bunch and bind in places. I would recommend a wool or other polyester shirts or sweaters for use with this jacket. It can also be a liner itself for a hard shell jacket or parka.
I loved the ease of use of the ATS Soft Shell Jacket as a go to coat for variety of tasks. It is sturdy enough to be worn for any job and will continue to retain its warming properties. For less than $120 it is an exceptional value.
Both ATS Elite Tactical Jackets earned high marks from me. This coats represent what happens when designers actually put their thinking caps on and come up with a functioning product. I wear both the Parka and Soft Shell jacket on a daily basis. Whether on the range or around town. Due to their design neither of them stand out and they blend in well within any environment I find myself in.
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