Beyond Clothing PCU level 5 - First Impressions Part 1

Update - September 2016
This article has been updated with new information and photography.
Click here to see the new review.

As you might have read in some of my other articles, I had sadly lost my level 5 softshell. I have seen the Blackhawk! version of the level 5, but didn't really see any improvements over ORC's version; the possibility of finding a Patagonia level 5 was slim to none. I almost gave up hope until one of my buddies recommended Beyond Tactical's version of the level 5 jacket, called the Glacier Shock.


What really attracted me to Beyond was that you could customize the jacket to fit your needs. Zip off hood, roll up hood, permanent hood, no hood, pit zips, thumb loops, bicep pockets, velcro loop for the pockets, and best of all: the entire jacket is custom tailored to your body so it fits "perfectly".
After doing a bit of research, I stumbled upon an overview of the entire Beyond PCU system by a US Navy Search and Rescue Swimmer. He was thrilled with the garments and talked about how happy he was with the Glacier Shock jacket, in particular. I sent him an email to get a bit of information about the effectiveness of Epic's Glacier fabric in rain. He was very kind and gave me a very thorough response. He told me that the time he spent in Afghanistan was rainy, wet and cold, and the Beyond jacket performed very well.

What I didn't know at the time was that I was communicating with Jamie Franks, who was one of the contestants on Top Shot season 2. I guess that's kind of besides the point, but it seems to me that his positive attitude and politeness was not just restricted to the show. Anyway, I was convinced that if it was good enough for him and his buddies in Afghanistan, it would be more than enough for any of my applications.

It took a bit of saving, but I put the order into Beyond just before December. Six weeks later, the jacket arrived at my office. I used my box cutter swiftly and surgically like Luke on his Ton Ton on Hoth to get to my prize. I was just about to go out for lunch so I was already wearing my level 3. When I managed to zip the coat up, I thought to myself, hmm… kinda tight.

I distinctly remember ordering the regular cut, not the slim cut. As I went out with my colleagues, I also noticed that the jacket was very tight in my armpits. I was pretty disappointed, considering the 6 week wait. Surely Beyond Tactical would assume that people would be layering this jacket with the other elements of the PCU system.

When I got back to the office, I took off the level 3 and put the jacket back on. It was a much better fit, but still tight enough that I figured they had made a mistake. So I sent them an email, knowing that their perfect fit guarantee should take care of my issues. Sure enough, I got a quick response with a form to fill out for making adjustments. Every email and phone call that I've had with Beyond has been handled with a level of customer service that far surpasses a lot of the other companies I've dealt with.

I talked to a tailor about the measurements I had initially sent to Beyond. They measured me again and confirmed that my measurements had been correct. She suggested that I added 4 inches to the waist, stomach and chest area. I was a little disappointed when I found out I was responsible for the $30 shipping back to Beyond, but I didn't really have a choice. So off it went.

Of course, I took some pictures for you guys before boxing it back up. As well, I made a few observations. It was raining a bit when I wore it outside, and water beaded - as I expected - since the jacket was brand new. The bicep pockets are accessed on the side rather than the top which makes them easier to use than the ORC and Blackhawk! versions. They are closed with a zipper rather than velcro. I opted for pit zips, which were very generous, especially when compared to the Blackhawk! version where the tiny pit zips look more like oddly positioned hand warmer pockets. The zippers were all YKK and had custom zipper pulls. The side pockets were very large and comparable to the ORC level 5.

Overall, excluding the sizing issue, I was very impressed with the jacket. It's probably all chopped up at the Beyond factory in Seattle at the moment, and hopefully I'll have it back in a few weeks. I'm looking forward to doing a First Impression article on it when it arrives. And more importantly, I'm really looking forward to cycling and hiking with a softshell rather than my level 6 hardshell.

Ontario Geardo Related Articles
Patagonia PCU Level 6 - First Impressions
PCU Buyer's Guide
Steps Inc. PCU Level 3 - First Impressions
PCU History
ORC PCU Level 5 - Review
PCU Colour Comparison

37 comments:

  1. Got my Beyond Cold Fusion Shock jacket a few weeks ago(similar to your jacket) and am greatly impressed by it's features and it's fit. Also should mention; my jacket is current SOCOM contract issue and not custom. Greatly impressed by all of the Beyond Clothing garments I've used so far..

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  2. Was there ever a follow-up review?

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    Replies
    1. Hey Rearmount,
      I was planning on doing one this winter. If you have any questions though, fire away! I've since put the jacket through the grinder, and have written about it in other articles like this submersion test. http://www.ontariogeardo.com/2013/12/pcu-submersion-test.html

      When I do get to it though, is there anything specifically you'd like me to cover?

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the fast response! Nothing in particular, just curious to hear your thoughts about it in terms of construction and performance compared to those made by ORC and Patagonia's Slingshot. Thanks for providing such a comprehensive coverage of the PCU system.

      Delete
    3. My pleasure! Unfortunately, I don't have access to the Patagonia Level 5 at the moment. Although there are a few people I can bug that would be able to chime in. Thanks for your interest!

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jessica, I'm not sure why your comment got deleted. Sorry about that! The answer to your question though might be a bit disappointing. I haven't seen a Patagonia level 5 in a long time, so my opinions on them now wouldn't be with much merit. More bad news is that Patagonia doesn't really sell them to the public anymore, so the only place you'll really find them is on eBay. The good news is that I have finished writing a full revew on the Beyond PCU level 5 top and bottom ensemble that I'm hoping to publish soon. Hopefully that, and compared to any other reviews you've found on the Patagonia jacket will help you make a decision.

      Delete
  5. beyond isn't even selling their civilian version of the pcu anymore. Nobody left to go to...

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    Replies
    1. Ya, we noticed that too. Definitely a bummer. There are still a bunch floating around in surplus sites and from private sellers. Snatch it up I guess if you want a piece of history. I know we bought doubles.

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