Enjoy the Elements with Soft and Hard Shell Jackets from Magnum Boots
Enjoy the Elements with Soft and Hard Shell Jackets from Magnum Boots
I’ve been wearing two jackets from Magnum for the better part of six months, which includes the cold and snowy season here in Texas. No, Texas doesn’t get the kind of winter weather that more northern states do, but thanks to the Magnum Taurus Softshell and Sparta Jacket I had all my bases covered.
You’re first thought is probably “Jackets… from a boot company?” Absolutely. These are definitely two different jackets built for different purposes, yet they complement each other well. Today I’ll be describing what I feel are the pros and cons of the jackets and how well they’ve held up for me.
I consider myself a pretty active guy; I’m typically out in the elements in one form or another getting out on the trail for exercise, with the dog or out filming our next review for ITS. I made it a point to stick all my other jackets in the back of my closet these last 6 months to truly evaluate the Sparta and Taurus and write up my thoughts.
I’ve taken these jackets into rain, cold, snow, wind and everything in between and I’m here to tell you that my overall impression is very positive. Let’s get into specifics.
What I immediately noticed about the Taurus that sets it apart from every other soft shell I own is the heavily-insulated liner. I say “heavily” not to describe a big puffy jacket, but to set it apart from the typical thin insulation commonly found in “insulated” soft shells. As I started to wear the jacket I grew to love this addition. It’s one of those “why don’t more companies offer heavy insulation soft shells?” Typically with a soft shell it’s worn with a base layer if you need to increase its warmth and why most soft shells have thin, if any, insulation built in.
Let’s veer off on the true purpose of a soft shell, which is designed to provide a happy medium between a hard shell and a mid-layer. The most well known hard shell material is Gore-Tex; while blocking wind and water well, it’s fairly unbreathable. I’ve sweated out my issued Gore-Tex on more than one occasion and is why it sits on a hanger in my closet. A mid-layer is great for a little added warmth and is extremely breathable, but doesn’t block wind or water at all. Enter the soft shell. Common characteristics of soft shells are that they’re made with material that’s flexible, water repellent and breathable.
As mentioned earlier, I found the Taurus and its heavy insulation to be a welcome change for the winter season here in Texas. Rather than needing to layer in all but the coldest conditions, the Taurus had just the right amount of insulation to keep me warm. When we had our notorious ice fest here in D/FW that shut down schools for four days (which was also when these photos were taken), I threw on the layers with the Taurus.
At the core of the Taurus Softshell is Magnum’s proprietary TECPROOF fabric which they describe as a new-generation, high quality thermo-active fabric. TECPROOF consists of two layers of polymers. The outer layer protects against wind, rain and snow while the inner layer allows moisture to quickly evaporate.
From what I’ve found, the material lives up to its description and did a great job in all the environments I exposed the Taurus to. It also retains the flexibility commonly found in soft shell material. The material tag lists the shell fabric as being 96% polyester / 4% spandex and the lining as 100% polyester.
The quilted liner makes it easy to slide the jacket on over other base layers with ease and adds to the overall jacket comfort. The interior TECPROOF label states that the seams of the Taurus are taped for added water resistance, but the taping is under the liner and not visible.
I’m also a big fan of the dual interior zippered storage pockets and the four pistol magazine pockets (two on each side) with velcro flaps. I found the mag pockets to be particularly beneficial when carrying a KYDEX OWB (Outside Waistband) Holster, as I don’t always like running a mag carrier on my belt. The zippered storage interior pockets are a good size and deep. There’s also a small fabric loop sewn near the collar interior that’s made for clipping in a lapel mic, which is a nice touch.
The interior pockets are completely ambidextrous, meaning the right side interior pocket setup is a mirror image of the left side interior. My only real gripe with the interior is that the polyester stuffing “leaks” over time from the liner. You can see this in the interior photos of the Taurus; it wasn’t always this way, but from repeated wear it seemed to develop about halfway through the six month evaluation period. This doesn’t take away from the utility of the jacket, but an issue that needs some attention nonetheless.
One of my favorite features on the exterior of the Taurus is the way the collar stands up, even with the hidden adjustable rain-hood tucked away in it. It’s not obnoxiously tall like the typical popped-collar wearing preppy seen at the mall and doesn’t really appear to be standing up. It’s nice in windy conditions and adds to the warmth of the soft shell.
Other great features are the reinforced elbows, left sleeve zippered utility pocket and the chest pen pocket. Call me a nerd, but I happen to like carrying a pen and Molskine notebook with me everywhere I go for when inspiration strikes. The exterior also has zippered hand warmer pockets, cuff zippers and side zippers running just up to pit height.
I can appreciate the utility of the cuff zippers and side zippers, but found that they’d come unzipped and ride up. They also don’t feature a pull tab like the other exterior zippers on the jacket, causing the jacket to jingle slightly. I think some kind of velcro strap addition would keep the zippers in place and also eliminate the jingle.
The cuff zippers seem like a great way to allow for adjustment when donning the soft shell with large gloves and the side zippers are a nice way to gain some room in the waistband area if you’re carrying concealed, helping you reach your weapon when drawing.
One other thing I want to mention about the Taurus is that it features three different locations where the Magnum logo is embroidered, along with the TECPROOF 10000 logo embroidery on the lower left sleeve. If you know ITS, you know we’re all about branding, but I just thought it was a little overkill on the Taurus.
Now that you’ve heard me talk a bit about hard shells from above, you know, or have already known that hard shells don’t always breathe as well as you might like. While Gore-Tex does breath, the resulting clamminess can get annoying; it’s better than being cold and soaked though. You’ll often see pit zips on hard shells to release the built up perspiration.
Hard shells can also be noisy compared to soft shells, which is due to the waterproof/windproof nature of the fabric. The Sparta Jacket is constructed with the same TECPROOF proprietary material as the Taurus Softshell and definitely has taped seams, which are visible on interior of the zip-away rain hood. The taped seams are done very well and I haven’t noticed any peeling whatsoever.
In regards to the breathability of the TECPROOF material in the Sparta, I wore this jacket quite a few times while running in the rain and found it to definitely be more breathable than Gore-Tex. That’s not to say I didn’t sweat it out, but it did feel to breathe more compared to the activity I’ve done in Gore-Tex.
The material tag lists the shell fabric as being 50% nylon / 50% polyester and the lining as 100% polyester.
The only insulation in the Sparta is the thin polyester liner, which appears to be the same liner as the Taurus, but not stitched in a quilted pattern. I would have liked to see the liner attached to the jacket more than it is, but didn’t find it to stand out as something that got in the way. The two zippered storage interior pockets (one on each side) seem to be the same great size as the Taurus.
The sleeves each feature not only elastic, but also a velcro adjustment tab to cinch down the cuffs if necessary. The liner also doesn’t get in the way when ditching or donning the jacket.
As mentioned earlier, pit zips are usually found on hard shells and the Sparta features an interesting take on the pit zip; instead of having a mid-length zipper opening in the pit area, there’s a full-length zipper that runs from the side of the jacket all the way up to the pit. At first I didn’t care much for this, but have come to appreciate the utility. When the zippers are full-open it almost turns the Sparta into a poncho that you can take off and throw on quickly.
The only suggestion I’d have would be to add a second zipper to the top pit area so that it could be opened as a pit zipper without having to open the entire side of the jacket. It’s great to have the added versatility, but there are certainly times when having the side open wouldn’t be necessary. I didn’t find that these side zippers made noise or came open like on the Taurus, due I think in part to the larger zipper that’s used. It definitely negates the zipper creep that I found on the Taurus.
With the exception of the side zippers and hood access zipper, all other zippers feature a girth-hitched rubberized zipper pull. There are a multitude of pockets on the exterior of the Sparta and no lack of places to keep important items at the ready. The sleeves each feature a waterproof zipper pocket with zipper cave to keep the zipper in check. The sleeve pocket also features a 3″ wide x 1.5″ tall loop velcro strip for affixing morale patches. I personally would have liked to see a little more velcro real estate, but I know there are some that would prefer none at all too.
There are also two vertical chest pockets that feature waterproof zippers and caves and zippered hand warmer pockets with a flap to help keep the elements out. Within the hand warmer pockets are the shock cord termination and cordloc of the front waist adjustment. Due to the side zipper access the adjustment is limited to the front half of the jacket.
In addition to all the aforementioned pockets there are also two horizontal clavicle pockets. The left hand pocket also conceals an ID window carrier sleeve that can be left exposed for identification or zipped up. There’s a flap that covers the opening in the top of the sleeve so that the elements don’t sneak into the sleeve.
I’ve left one of the coolest features for last and that’s the hidden horizontal zippered pocket that conceals a tuck-away ID panel. At 12″ wide and 7.5″ tall it’s large enough to accommodate a large Police or Agent identifier that can be sewn to the panel. The entire panel can also be removed via a velcro strip that secures it. Of course you could also sewn a ton of loop velcro to it and turn yourself into a walking morale patch billboard.
Overall I really enjoyed the time I spend in each of these jackets and as mentioned earlier they really do complement each other well. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either of these jackets to anyone on a limited budget looking for a good soft shell or hard shell. The Magnum Taurus Softshell and Sparta Jacket run $100 and $170 respectively, direct from Magnum.
Both jackets feature a six month no-fade guarantee and are available in sizes M, L, XL and 2XL. You can also get them just like the Ford Model-T; in any color as long as it’s black.
Be sure to stop by Magnum Boots to grab either of these jackets and check out their great boot lineup while you’re there.