Disclaimer: This item was provided free of charge by Tactical Kit for testing and evaluation purposes. There has been no exchange of money, and the terms of the item being provided are that if I like a product, I review it, if I don’t like a product, it gets sent back. With this is mind I always remain as unbiased as possible, my thoughts are my own, and the sole purpose of this blog is to provide helpful information to someone who might actually need it to find the right solution for their problem.
Since commissioning the excellent Cellar Gear to bastardise my old faithful North Face jacket into a Cryeter’yx lookalike I’ve been on the lookout for its replacement. As usual the guys at Tactical Kit were on hand to help, offering me one of their new products for a bit of T&E: the Raptor Tactical Welded Down EXFIL. This was however in September 2020, at the height of the COVID fuckery, and as a result they didn’t land in the UK until early 2021.
My own personal interest in the jackets was piqued not only by a need to be warm and comfortable at ALL times, but by the seemingly unique method of locking the jacket’s insulation into place. On my previous civilian jackets the familiar Michelin man style stitching has been effective, but weak. Punching holes into a material also degrades any water resistance it may have. With this in mind when I saw the Raptor offering, I was very interested to give it a try.
Possibly the most recognisable feature of the EXFIL is the use of sonic welding throughout to secure the down filling. In layman’s terms, sonic welding is a process of pressing and vibrating surfaces together in such a way that they permanently bond with each other – seriously, look it up, it’s fucking weird.
What this means is that there is no stitching or glue required in order to hold the two surfaces together, and as the two surfaces have essentially been melded into one, the join is as strong as the material it is made from. This also means that there are no holes in the jacket, making it stronger and more weather resistant.
Features of the EXFIL
With the black magic of how the jacket is held together out of the way, it’s time to discuss it as a piece of clothing. The first question most people will have is: “is it warm?”. Short version? Fuck yes.
Inside the EXFIL is a 90/10 duck down blend. This ratio means that 90% of the jacket’s filling is the naturally insulating and suuuuper soft natural down, which makes the EXFIL formidable in cold weather. In my testing (bearing in mind that I’m hardly an eskimo) I’ve found the EXFIL to be plenty warm enough, even when outside on particularly cold and windy winter nights. The polyester outer material is completely windproof which combined with the effective insulation keeps your bodyheat inside.
The use of natural duck down also makes the EXFIL an incredibly lightweight and packable item. Using the almost standard issue Sports Direct special Karrimor drybags as a scale (British squaddies will know what I’m on about) the EXFIL fills out half of an orange drybag, which I would estimate is just under 5L of space.
On the outside of the EXFIL there is a down filled hood that is “normal” sized, meaning while you can’t get it over a helmet, it reduces overall bulk. On either side there are also the traditional abdomen pockets, which are deep and each has a reversed zipper meaning that when they’re closed, they’re almost completely hidden.
This is where the normal jacket features end, and we start getting into what sets the EXFIL apart. Firstly on each arm there is another pocket, which is accompanied by a large velcro panel on the outside. For me as a civilian this is a little overt but as this jacket is designed with the military application in mind, especially those members of the military who do cool stuff at night, it fits that role perfectly. The large velcro areas mean callsign and other IFF patches can be attached directly to the jacket without the need to add another layer over it.
Inside the EXFIL there are 3 more pockets; one with a zip closure on the left breast, and two open topped slip pouches on each abdomen (formed by stitching the external zip pockets on 3 sides). I’ve found the breast pocket particularly useful for holding my wallet as is is easily accessible by the wearer, and pretty well concealed to the outside world.
The internal slip pockets are a great place to stow other items of warm kit like gloves and hats either to be stored with the jacket, or just if you take them off for a bit. Having them inside the jacket not only means that you are keeping your outer pockets free for your hands, but when you put them on again your body heat will have warmed them up. I wouldn’t trust these slip pockets to anything particularly heavy or valuable, as they’re quite loose and have large openings, not to mention that the next stop after leaving the pocket is out the bottom of the jacket and gone forever.
Even with all the pockets you could ever need, the EXFIL still has a couple more tricks up its sleeve, and they both show that this is an ostensibly military jacket. Firstly, the heli marker arms. On the inside of each arm the lining forgoes the dark outer colour of the jacket and is instead a lurid high intensity orange. When worn inside out these can be used as a way to attract attention of friendly forces both on the ground and in the air. For added effect, run around like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man. While this might not be as effective as a full size heli panel, it’s nice to have the feature included in the jacket where many others don’t, and should you need to signal someone or make your position known, the option is there to just whip off your jacket for a second.
Printed on each of the internal slip pockets is the last real feature of the EXFIL jacket, a 9 liner medevac slate card, and morse code cheat sheet. Both of these again don’t really need to be there, but if you ever did find yourself in a situation where morse code could save your life, wouldn’t you rather have a reminder on your person? The 9 liner I feel is a little unnecessary, as slate cards containing them are carried as standard practice by all those who could ever conceivably have to send one, but again, the space was there so why not include it?
I would have liked to see both the 9 liner and morse code sheets printed in the same hi vis orange as the sleeves however, as on my green jacket the black text is very tricky to read, and I can only imagine on the black jackets it’s all but impossible. Seeing as these are here to be used in emergencies, I think it was a bit of a shit choice to add not being able to see the life saving information to the list of things that would have had to have gone wrong for you to actually have need of it.
Final thoughts on the exfil
Honestly I really like the EXFIL. It’s hard to make yet another down jacket stand out in a world where everyone from squaddies to scrotes has one, but Raptor Tactical have achieved it here. It’s a feature rich jacket that will stand up to the elements well and is comfy to boot. All this also comes in at a price point of £250 which when compared with the likes of Arcter’yx is almost cheap.
The biggest thing for me is the sonic welding. It’s neater, stronger and lighter than most other methods, and I am convinced is something that will become more of a mainstay in other brand’s jackets in the future. That combined with the fact that it simply works puts a big smile on my face.
Thanks for sitting through my review of the Raptor Tactical LLC Welded Down EXFIL jacket. If you want to grab one of these for yourself they are available in the UK/EU through Tactical Kit, and I’ll leave a link to them here.
Yet another huge word of thanks for Tactical Kit for sending it over for T&E, the support they give to the blog is hugely appreciated. As ever if you have any questions, or just want to call me a cunt, head over to my Instagram @thegeardocrow