Ballistic nylon, a thick, tough fabric developed by DuPont for flak jackets worn by World War II airmen, was named for its intended function, to protect the wearer from the shrapnel caused by ballistic bodies (bullets, artillery shells) ripping through airplane fuselages.
Ballistic nylon gets its strength from heavyweight threads interlaced using a criss-cross basketweave, and it is now commonly used in luggage, backpacks, utility belts, skin-on-frame kayaks and motorcycle apparel.
The Joe Rocket gear tested here is the eighth-generation jacket and seventh-generation pants to carry the Ballistic name. The jacket features a waterproof, 600-denier RockTex outer shell, a BigAir ventilation system and a removable, full-sleeve insulated liner.
The BigAir system, which we first experienced on the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit (Rider, June 2011), draws in a large amount of fresh air through an 80-square-inch mesh panel down the middle of the chest, which then exits through two vertical exhaust vents at the back. Waterproof overlapping flaps are located behind the BigAir mesh, which Joe Rocket says makes the ventilation system waterproof. But when water isn’t allowed in, neither is air. For the BigAir to truly work, the waterproof flaps need to be unbuttoned and folded back.
The Ballistic 8.0 jacket also has CE-approved armor at the shoulders and elbows, plus a removable foam back pad inside a pocket that accommodates Joe Rocket’s optional CE-approved back protector ($89.99). Zippers, snaps and hook-and-loop straps at the arms, wrists, waist and torso allow the fit to be easily adjusted, and there are snap loops for attaching the jacket to a belt as well as an 8-inch zipper at the back for attaching to the Ballistic pants. There are four outer pockets and two inner pockets (one inside the insulated liner).
Designed to pair with the jacket are the Ballistic 7.0 pants, made of 630 denier Hitena twill nylon with melt-resistant material inside both legs. Unlike the waterproof jacket shell, the pants have a removable waterproof liner, which can get swampy when it’s hot and is a hassle to take off when on the road. Crash protection includes CE-approved, height-adjustable knee pads and high-density hip pads. Two-way, hip-to-ankle zippers make it easy to get in and out of the pants even with boots on, and allow some side venting on hot days. Designed to be worn over street clothes, the pants close with double snaps and a zipper fly with hook-and-loop overflap, backed by a rain gusset, and there are adjustment straps at the hips and an 8-inch zipper to match the one on the jacket. There are two hip pockets. I wish the pants had belt loops and reflective piping similar to what’s on the Ballistic jacket.
Benefitting from several generations of refinement, Joe Rocket’s Ballistic gear looks good, fits well and covers the bases in terms of functionality. At $269.99-$289.99 for the Ballistic 8.0 jacket (Red/Black, Black/Olive, Hi-Viz and Black in sizes S-XXXL, with tall sizes in Black only) and $149.99-$169.99 for the Ballistic 7.0 pants (Black only in sizes XS-5XL, M-XXXL short and M-XXXL tall), this ensemble is reasonably priced, well-made, sharp- looking gear. We recommend getting the CE-approved back protector to round out the package.