I picked up one of these jackets to try out something a little lesser known. The full name is Marine Corps Combat Desert Jacket, however so I don't have to type all that business out every time we'll just call it the CDJ. The main concept of this jacket is to be a full on desert jacket. Everyone knows the desert gets hot, but it can also get cold at night. Although rain isn't so common, wind and sand storms frequently come into play. A lot of effort went into finding fancy fabrics to create this soft shell that can both keep you cool or warm as needed. Some fabric use highlights include:
-Heat generating from humping body armor and ammo escapes through panels of thin stretchy material that runs down the sides and under the arms.
-Shoulders are reinforced with water-resistant Gore-Tex fabric to keep shoulders from chafing, while a secondary panel of the same Gore-Tex fabric in the lower back protects against water seepage below the line of a marines body armor.
-Chest and back panels are constructed from another Gore fabric called Freedom Plus, which combines the softness of fleece with the toughness of standard Gore-Tex. Arms are made with a Polartec fabric called Power Shield and are lined with a light grid pattern fleece.
-The CDJ is impregnated with X-Static, and anti-microbial silver fiber that protects from odor during a week long trek.
When first putting it on the fit is generally loose and the solid tan stretchy material is the most noticeable. It is kind of like having built in pit-zips that you don't have to regulate. The material also adds to the stretchy factor of the whole jacket so a full range of motions can be performed without restriction. It doesn't have magical cooling so wearing it is hotter than having nothing, but for the protection it gives, the CDJ doesn't cook me up too bad at all. When things get cool, windy, or even rainy the CDJ still offers solid protection one would expect in a performance soft shell.
The sleeves have built in "monkey paws", heh no I didn't name em' that, which basically are sleeve extensions with thumb holes. They are sewn inside the sleeve so it is really hard to put on the jacket without deploying them. Luckily it isn't too much of a hassle to tuck them back in the sleeve if not wanted. Since there is some elastic in there, it helps keep out sand and debris. As you may have noticed in my pictures the sleeves are slightly more red in color than the rest of the jacket. I'm sure this is due to the difficulty of color matching quite different fabrics.
All of the zippers are water resistant which includes the main zipper, 2 hand pockets, 1 chest pocket, and 1 sleeve pocket. The chest and sleeve pocket are on the left being optimized for right hand dominant users. Although the water resistance factor is nice on zippers, this makes the friction much greater. Thus the sleeve pocket zipper is particularly hard to use. I find myself sticking my whole arm out to get enough sleeve fabric tension to be able to move the zipper. Fortunately the rest of the zippers function overall well. Since the CDJ is made to be worn with armor on top, I find the chest zipper to be a potential uncomfortable poke spot. So far while I had my plate carrier on I didn't feel any painful pressure from it, but the real test is of course to see if I feel the same way after wearing the CDJ and armor for a full day. I do think that no matter what, chest zipper comfort will depend on how much man boob muscle you have going on. Next to the chest zipper is what appears to be a badge holder, but is referred to as the Rank insignia tab. I guess the user can decide to have embroidery or patches added here without compromising the integrity of the rest of the jacket.
When fully zipped up the inner collar material comfort is appreciated, but there is some zipper resistance when trying to look down. I recommend just unzipping the zipper about 1" down allowing more comfortable head movement while still protecting your neck. For a unique bonus, a neck gaiter is integrated in the back neck area. When stored it makes for a little neck pad that can quickly be deployed with simple velcro closure. Just pull it over your head and cover up what you need to protect. Although it isn't a full balaclava, you can come pretty close when combined with headwear.
It should be noted there is a big "seconds - not for military use" stamp on the inside of the jacket, however AFMO declares "Jackets are actual over production from a government contract and are not available through any other commercial sales channels. Our CDJs have no defects in construction detail." It may not matter to some, but keep in mind none of the fabrics used are labeled as flame resistant so perhaps the CDJ is not the best choice in IED country.
Offhand the main change I would make to this jacket would be to make the pocket placement symmetrical which would add a chest and sleeve pocket on the right. Although I am right handed, that also means my right hand might be busy holding my blaster. It also seems many fancy soft shells on the market share the problem of the hard to operate shoulder pocket zippers. Personally I'd rather have an easy to use pocket than a hard one that is water resistant. In the end the CDJ is still a pretty slick soft shell I look forward to beating up on to see its long term durability. It ventilates well in the hot afternoons, yet breaks the wind on cool days all while having enough rain resistance to cause water to bead up and slide away. It is only available in desert MARPAT, but they don't call it the Marine Combat Desert Jacket for nothing.
Recommended and likely only place of purchase: