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The Viktos Zerodark MC Insulated Jacket is the type of layering every adventurer should own. While that isn't to say the lightweight packable jacket is the lightest of weights or the smallest to pack, it fills a gap found all too often across those who engage with an aggressive profession. Thin enough to wear underneath a plate carrier or motorcycle jacket, and durable to endure more than a few scrapes and campfires, the Viktos Zerodark belongs less on the racks of athletic-chic outlet, and more splattered with mud, sweat, and unburnt powder.
Tested over the three most applicable seasons for a jacket of this weight, the Viktos Zerodark MC (for MultiCam) began its testing period in the late Minnesota Fall. As the leaves turned colors, and dropped to the ground, temperatures also descended, until reaching an enduring low in February of consistently below-zero Fahrenheit, not to mention the wind chill. As the first signs of Spring eroded the frozen edges of the season, the insulated jacket saw more standalone use, but not without precautions.
Distinctly designed as activewear of a certain persuasion, the Viktos Zerodark MC includes features not regularly found in jackets of its weight class. The main body of the jacket consists of 100-gram Thermolite insulation and is coated with a water-resistant substance that effectively keeps a light mist or snow from sticking. The under-arm panels, however, are both elastic and vented where heat tends to gather. This shouldn't be confused with what they refer to as Gunvents: Zippers splitting the 3- and 9-o'clock underarm sections that can be pulled open to access a firearm.
In addition to the normal front-of-hip pockets, two rather large external chambers run from mid-chest to the beltline and could easily stow radios, a handgun, or a 2-liter of choice dental demise. A suite of near-typical features accompany their departure from the normal, such as a collar-stowed hood, and an internal pocket for a cell phone, but these rarely are the things that steal the spotlight.
In the stretches of a damp fall, the Viktos Zerodark cut the edge off the chilling temperatures. At the range, whether stationary or sprinting back and forth for theatrics, the combination of insulation and venting kept our focus on hitting our target, not staying comfortable. Got too warm? Open a side vent. Too cold? Throw a hoody over it. Fitting tighter to the body, it never snagged on obstacles, nor bunched when a shell was worn on top.
Above: Fitting naturally under a plate carrier, the Gunvents make space for Rifle Mags, and additional gear that sits on a belt. G-Code Softshell Scorpion Mag Carriers recently appeared on a comparison of AR Mag Pouches.
Once the bottom dropped out of the temperature, the Viktos Zerodark played well with outer layers. The old three-layer strategy of clothing being a way of life learned young for those in the frigid North, it frequently sat sandwiched between a wicking shirt and outer shell. The insulation couldn't always keep up with the coldest days, and certainly wasn't designed to. Instead, so long as the thermometer read above ten degrees, or if worn during bursts of physical activity, our core stayed warm, pumping heat into the extremities as best it could.
A December trip to Florida to attend a W.O.F.T. course debuting the Leopold Deltapoint Micro brought out a new angle of the Viktos Zerodark. The brief respite from well-below-freezing temperatures stressed more of the “tactical” elements of the jacket. Drawing from concealment, changing mags from a hidden belt pouch, grappling with assailants, or maneuvering through an outdoor shoothouse, the jacket kept off the slight briskness of a West Orlando winter and held up to the different stresses.
One hundred draws later, we wished there was a double-zipper on the front opening, for although the jacket didn't snag during a draw, even with a pistol bearing an optic, it has become a preference for the apparel of this type.
As soon as the snow evacuated Minneapolis streets, one started to see motorcycles here and there, and the itch had to be scratched. Setting the record for the warmest March 8th in over 100 years, we hit the streets ourselves. The attackposture fit of the Viktos Zerodark resembled the features expected on motorcycle gear enough that they paired like peanut butter and thai sweet chili sauce. Naturally complimentary, it nearly earned a permanent place in our saddlebags, especially for those looking to maximize space on a dual-sport bike.
While the off-the-beaten-path elements of the Viktos Zerodark often aimed to accomplish one thing, we just as often found them exceedingly useful for different purposes. The Gunvents saw more use as temperature control valves, especially when wearing a plate carrier, and the large chest pockets were used to store maps and documents during longer outdoor treks. It filled the gap between a heavier flannel and a lighter coat and played well with both as the unpredictable Minnesota seasons carried on.
Above: Where the Viktos Zerodark Shines: Drawing Rifle Mages from a beltline, while allowing for ventilation and mobility.
In the age of bougie $400 jackets, the Viktos Zerodark slides in at $190 and before the ghosts of “just-as-good” come creeping out, the point must be made. As the design shows, this insulating layer isn't trying to be other jackets. Thankfully, in a world of knock-offs, one-offs, and half-off's, the Viktos Zerodark is neither completely novel nor completely toeing the standard line. It fits well in a Pacific Northwest wardrobe for the utility across seasons, just as well as it belongs as a piece of kit in the cooler high-desert regions. Fitting just as well at a campfire as on the range or in a training course, the most valued aspects are the more subtle. For those of a moderately athletic build, it simply fits well, and for Americans who don't regularly employ a tailor to make alterations, it goes a long way.