Category Archives: Jackets & Trousers

The Right Trousers? Klim Dakar 2016 ITB quick test

itb_dakar_itbTested: Klim Dakar 2016 ITB pants.

Where: Over 200 miles trail riding in the Pyrenees.

UK price: £155 at Adventure Spec

tik

Solid construction, good fit, look good in olive. Dry quickly on the move.

cros

Poor venting when seated in hot, slow conditions.

See also: Klim Outriders

aspecThese pants were supplied by Adventure Spec in exchange for advertising in the AMH7

What are the best trousers to wear for overland travel? I can’t say I’ve ever got to the bottom of it. rittrosBreathable and vented Cordura overtrousers for the ATGATT brigade, kevlar reinforced jeans (right, sort of), leathers (below, 1982), MX pants? More than a jacket, it can be a tricky compromise between comfort, practicality, looks, plus rain and crash protection.
itb-82Since the very start I’ve gone for leather trousers for biking travels as well as biking work. squatWatching Alvin Stardust and Suzi Quattro on TotP may have had something to do with it, but back then before Cordura, Gore-tex, D3O and kevlar, it just made sense unless you loved the smell of wax cotton in the morning. Leather is low to zero maintenance; lasts forever; look good in town and country, on or off a bike; good at sliding down the road or bashing into things too; warm enough in the cold; doesn’t show the dirt and is wipe clean – but quite hot in the heat.
The main problem is at 2.5kg they’re so heavy they need braces to keep them up, and year by year it gets harder for me to swing the old leg over high-saddled trail bikes. It’s great to feel protected, but it would be nice to do so with less weight. And the older I get the more I’m disinclined to hurt myself on a bike. In the 21st century there must be something out there better than a skinned cow for riding the ranges.
I have a pair of Aerostich GTX pants with full length side zips for easy putting on, but can’t bring myself to use them as anything other than rain overtrousers on a long cold ride for which they’re pretty bulky when not worn. I’ve never really been sold on membranes, which I’m beginning to realise, understandably err more towards waterproofness than breathability. If they’re going to be clammy, I’d sooner wear something breathable and then pull on my classic Rukka for downpours.
itb-stondKlim make GTX trousers to go with their jackets too, but I asked Adventure Spec to try a pair of no membrane Klim 2016 Dakar In The Boot pants. I plan to wear them on this autumn’s Morocco tours instead of the leathers (by which time I’ll have more to say about them for travelling). For the moment I used them on one of Austin Vince’s two-day Pyrenean rides.
tros-pyrWearing thick layers of nylon wouldn’t be my first choice – I do prefer natural materials like cotton or leather, but these things just aren’t always as practical. Your Klim Dakars are a heavy, thick pant made of lined Cordura and strategically positioned stretchy and ventilated panels. On top of the thighs are longitudinal vent zips with mesh behind, and alongside each of them a small patch pocket – the only ones you get. There are leather patches on the inside of the knees where you contact the bike, as well as sleeves inside for knee and hip armour. The hip sleeves could double as regular inside pockets. You get a velcro reverse belt, plus a zip fly and studs for a snug fit. The 38s fitted me just right.
itb-standAnything but yet more dreary black is fine with me – but so is the extreme opposite of dazzling, high-octane colours. I find the olive and black combo just right. If you want to go shouty and frighten the horses there’s a set in burnt orange as well as plein noir. itb-ffieldThe whole lot weighs 1280g, exactly half my leathers plus 190g for a £20 pair of Forcefield shoulder pads which AS recommend for the knees over less durable D3O. As it’s not the semi-final of the Ezeberg I didn’t bother with hip armour.
itb-bentkneeThe best thing you can say about this sort of gear is that you forget it’s there. Beating up and down the valleys of the Pyrenees, getting on and off the TTR250 loaner to read checkpoints was no chore. I’d prefer a zip at the ankle to make a snugger fit ITB while still making them easy to take off.
scorchiNo so good was the fact that in the 35°C+ temps the thick pants got quite hot and sweaty, especially when waiting in the sun for the navigator to decode the map, but doubtless my leathers would have been cooking too. The vents should have cooled things off, but I found the foot-long knee-to-hip zip vent only really caught the breeze when I stood up like a proper itb-vetnerITB Dakar racer. When sat down the breeze just fluttered over the zip without purging any clammy air. Any chance I got to stand up, I did to get some flow on. What would really work when seated is some sort of lateral arched or sprung vent above the knee, acting a bit like those Ventz sleeve thingies (right).
At one point mid-afternoon while letting the baking air-cooled TTRs cool down a bit, I just had to join in and drop my ITBs to air the heck off. Back at the ranch, 4 litres of sugar-and-salted water later, hygiene dictated laundering them before the next day’s ride.
wale-22That day was at higher elevations as well as on faster tracks and backroads and the ITBs felt much less sweaty. Back home a proper wash in a machine saw the dye leak from the leather and take the edge of the orange branding on the pockets. The rubbery Klim knee logo picks off too if you need a lower still profile.
klimdaksSince then I’ve used them trail biking in Wales – a lot cooler and with deep puddles so no probs getting hot, and when soaked from a big splash itbbsthey dried quickly once on the move, so I never had the impression of wearing soaking trousers. When I got back on both days they were barely damp. The venting felt more effective too: closed up in the early morning chill and unzipped as the day warmed up and things got technical.
In Morocco (left) they worked fine – not too sweaty and the vents were in range, but missed some pockets.

Heated jackets for motorcycling

Turn on, Plug in but don’t Chill Out on winter’s long road.

hj-2jax1-gloIf you live outside the tropics and like to ride on anything other than sunny summer days, heated clothing makes sense on a bike. Your bike produces excess electrical power which, with the benefit of modern technology and materials, can make a near-freezing ride tolerable in a way you couldn’t imagine. The two jackets looked at here are Aerostich’s 75-watt Kanetsu AirVantage (above, on the far right) and the lately discontinued 60/105 watt Powerlet RapidFIRe which you can still find used for as little as £100.

hj-seddonbikeI remember back the late 70s there was a batty guy at work called Maurice Seddon who rode a BSA made before I was born and who sold hand-made heated clothing on the side (left). For London-based despatching that wouldn’t have been such a great idea, as with all the stop-start and on-off you never got that cold. But out on the road between cities you sure could. Even then, heated clothing had a reputation for inefficiency and unreliability and so didn’t seem worth the investment compared to piling on the layers and gritting your teeth.

WindChill_ComparisonCompared to the northern US states and eastern or northern Europe, the southern UK rarely gets that cold in winter (anymore), but sat on a bike in the wind it’s always colder than you think. Apparently, in bikers’ lore over in the US there’s something called the ’60 60 30 rule’: 60 mph at 60°F (ambient) feels like 30°F on a bike (100kph / 15°C / -1°C).
That may be easy to remember but is clearly exaggerated. There’s no way doing 60 at 15°C feels like just below freezing. It’s an embellishment of what they now call the ‘old wind chill index’. According to the calculator on this page, the post-2001 new wind chill index (NWCI, red, left) gives a more plausible index of 54°F or 12°C, rather than 30°F at 60-mph. Bright sunshine can also reduce the wind chill by several degrees °C.

hj-fogBut when the ambient temperature drops to a more typical, mid-winter’s ride of 41°F (5°C), the new wind chill index corresponds to 26°F or -3°C. That’s how it felt for me crossing northern Spain last week when, for the last few hundred clicks to Santander, the road rises to more or less 700m (2300′). Though it was foggy and clearly above 0°C, I felt freezing with my Powerlet RapidFIRe heated liner turned up to the max. I rode on through the murk for as long as I could bear it, then dived into a roadside hotel to thaw out. Next day it was the same until I dropped out of the fog to the coast. It gave me time to work out how to get the best from a heated liner. Apart from sealing against all possible draughts, using heated grips, hand guards and a windshield, having the liner actually pressing on your body is much more effective. Like this, the liner’s heated matrix is warming a thin base layer clinging to your skin, not the air gap between. And ironically, I feel it’s better if that base layer is not thermal – just thin polyester or whatever that’s easier to wash than a jacket full of wires. At times I was riding with my left arm pressed against my chest just to force the front of the jacket against me and benefit from the heat. But doing that for a while my hand got cold away from the heated grip. Next day I wore a thin fleece over the heated jacket to press the wires down achieve the same, all-round effect.

dsc00029

Liner or jacket?
The Kanetsu is designed to zip in as a liner on your Aerostich Darien or Roadcrafter, but over the years I’ve mostly used it with various other jackets. The Powerlet zips up to itself, but does feature a textured outer shell that’s slightly tacky or rubbery so it’s more prone to staying with your main jacket as you slip both off (assuming that’s what you want). Because the Kanetsu is a zip-in liner, I found when using it with other jackets the open-ended zip would open up from the bottom. Aero could get round this by adding a stud to stop it separating when not zipped in as a liner.
hj-2jaxBoth jackets stuff into their own zippered pouches (left), with the Kanetsu benefitting from belt loops. On a long trip both still add up to a sizeable bulk when not worn, unless you choose to use it off the bike. As you can see below, they both look pretty good as regular jackets. The Aerostich has more pockets, the Powerlet has a lined and heated collar. Both weigh about 1100g.

hj-2jax

hj-pletbandsAs said, a close fit makes all the difference and these jackets achieve that differently. The RapidFIRe has Spandex sidepanels in the body and arms (left) to make the liner cling to you. Mine was an end-of-the-line cheapie which by that time was only available in XL – a bit too big on me. But it occurred to me I could easily close up those elastic panels with thread to achieve a snugger and so more effective fit.

Thj-plet-nukehe RapidFIRe has two heat settings – 60/105 watt which, afaict, the newer $430 Atomic Skin model has dropped. Probably because no one ever needed 105 watts. To activate this arctic setting you join up two loose plugs zipped into a dinky hem compartment (left). Knowing my Honda had the capacity to run it (see below), I tried the 105-watt setting on a 200-mile round trip down to around 8°C (which in NWCI adds up 0.5°C @ 65 mph). I found that setting 2/5 was more than enough to keep me warm in my Darien Light and a thin base layer. If I regularly rode in sub-freezing conditions I might leave it on 105 watts. More probably though, I’d get a car.

hj-kanMy 5-year-old 75-watt Kanetsu AirVantage is a version of Aerostich’s regular (and $70 cheaper) WindStopper. It differs by having an air bladder within the body linings which you inflate with a hj-inflatestem valve (left), like an airplane life jacket until you have a comfortable fit under your riding jacket. As long as you’re not wearing it inside out (an easy mistake to make) the bulging bladders press the heating elements against your torso, a clever idea that maximises efficiency and means you don’t have to whack up the dial for it to have the desired effect. Until you get used to it, it’s another thing to remember to do when togging up, and it can result in that ‘stuffed’ feeling you’re trying to avoid with heated gear. But it adds insulation and does work. The AirVantage is definitely worth the extra $70 ($387) over the regular, non-inflating WindStopper.


hj-exotogFast forward to 2019 and at a show I spotted these Exotog inflatable pull-over bodywarmer. A bit like the lifejacket mentioned above, the idea is the still air creates a thick insulated layer without excessive bulk when not in use. The truth is, down works better to keep trapped air still, but that’s impractical with humid, breath-inflated items and these must be better than nothing.
It also occurred to me they’d be a very effective way of pressing a heated jacket down on to your torso to derive maximum efficiency. It weighs from 270g and costs 100 quid.


godofhellfireWhat both jackets highlight is that once warmed up and doing their thing, you won’t necessarily feel like The God of Hellfire (left) reposing in front of a roaring log fire with a warm cup of cocoa. But you’ll sure notice the difference should you switch them off. [This is actually a slightly misleading test as switching off is a bit like stepping out of a shower all wet: in the short term you’ll feel chilly until things evaporate]. And, depending on the wind protection on dsc00040 (1)your bike, you’ll also notice your heated but exposed arms will feel notably less warm than your hopefully balmy torso, as well noticing the slightest cold spot. In fact this whole temperature differential can be a bit of a distraction.
The Powerlet uses something called Carbon Nanocore technology (thin wires) producing far infrared heat (hence Rapid FIR e); the AirVantage simply uses ‘hotter’ wires in the arms. Whichever one you’re wearing, this is where those velcro arm cinches on your riding jacket come in useful to press the heating elements against you. The Darien I recently reviewed has them both above and hj-cinchbelow the elbow (right), but they still couldn’t spread the heat evenly. If I was heading for a really long, cold ride, I’d find a way of binding the heated jacket’s sleeves close to my arms. All these measures will enable you to run as low a setting as possible, so giving you an extra margin when things really chill down.

Electrical consumption
One good thing about modern bikes is they should have plenty of alternator capacity to power electrical accessories – and heated jacket liners probably make the biggest demands. My CB500X produces 500 watts at 5000 rpm – my late-80s era GS500R dished out just 200 watts at the same rpm. Even a modern 250 single might produce over 300 watts. Modern lights draw less power too, but add fuel pumps, some LED or HiD spots, heated grips as well as the possibly lower engine speeds when riding at night in freezing temperatures, and on the old GS the alternator may have struggled to keep up with the demand.

Heat Controller
These thermostats usually come as accessories to the heated liners but are a good idea unless you’re happy with all-or-nothing heating. After all, what other heating application – domestic, industrial or otherwise – has no adjustment settings? Often, as you slow down to ride through a built-up area you’ll feel too warm – you don’t want that but you may not want to switch right off either.

heatrollersThe Aerostich Heat Troller ($70; left and below right) is a little box with a dial knob and molded SAE leads. You can feel the knob’s soft click as you turn it on and in less than one clockwise turn it’s at max. Tucked down by a tank net as below right, it’s easy to operate on the move using feel alone when wearing thick gloves. No need to take your eyes off the road. I just dial it up to max then back off as needed. There’s a red LED that flashes proportionally – handy for a quick hj-aerocontglance to see if it’s actually working or if it’s just you and you need to dial in more heat. Direct from Aerostich it seems the Heat Troller only comes with SAE connectors but I just bought one with QuiConnects coax here). Their Kanetsu jackets now comes with BMW, SAE or QuiConnect fittings.

 

hj-pletcontThe Powerlet uses a similar black box and the co-axial QuiConnects all round (left), but with a flat pad to turn it on and keep pressing up to five levels. The problem is that pad is very hard to locate and feel through a thick glove, so you’re not always sure if you’ve done anything or gone too far and turned it off. You need to glance down to check the position of the red LEDs – not handy on an icy hairpin at six in the morning. It’s nowhere near as user-friendly as a dial knob. The current Atomic Skin Powerlet liner uses a remote wrist-mounted wireless controller. Me, I’d sooner fit an Aerostich-style Heat-Troller unless you mount the controller on the handlebars.

Overall, the discontinued Powerlet RapidFIRe gets the nod as it’s a tad less bulky, has two core heat settings, has accessory wires to run glove liners, has a regular zip for use in any riding jacket, not as a zip-in liner, has wire in the collar and slicker QuiConnect fittings. But chances are you can’t buy it anymore unless you’re huge, and neither the Kanetsu not the Atomic Skin are currently sold in the UK.

My tips for heated liners:

  • Get a full heated jacket with heated arms, neck and full torso, not a waistcoat or a jacket with partial panels
  • Get an easy-to-use heat controller
  • If the body’s elasticated, aim for a close fit
  • Wire direct to the battery via a fuse (leads often supplied)
  • Don’t bother with remote, battery-powered options. Your bike has a  battery and charging system: make use of them.

Click this for a recent review of Aerostich and Klim shells which were used with these heated liners

Good 2012 article by ABR magazine (pdf)

Aerostich Darien Light and Klim Overland reviewed

jako1If you’re serious about a travel jacket, one with a waterproof/breathable membrane laminated directly to a tough outer shell, with taped seams and with some good venting is the way to go. It’s not the cheapest way of making a jacket, but it’s the most effective.I’ve now done a couple of thousand miles on two US-branded shells: Aerostich’s Darien Light (rrp $577; sold US only; 2.27kg) which has been around little
changed for over a quarter of a century. And Klim’s Overland (rrp $430 / £379;  1.97kg) which hasn’t. Some might say Klim’s Latitude might be a fairer comparison with a Darien Light (DL). I looked at a 2015 Latitude but couldn’t see myself owning it, for the reasons explained in the link.

Fyi: these jackets were supplied by Aerostich and Adventure Spec
in exchange for adverts in AMH7

What they say:

klim-logoaspecIf you’re taking your first steps into Adventure and Adventure Touring, the all-new Overland series is a tremendous value.

aerosThe Darien Light really comes into its own for commuting and general riding, especially in atrocious weather where it will flat-out work better than whatever you now wear.


Aerostich Darien Light
jaq1A 25-year old, made-in-the-USA design that’s been refined over the years and comes in four or maybe six colours. A longer version of their equally popular Roadcrafter.

tik• Roomy fit
• Irresistibly practical
• Collar flap magnets
• Ten+ pockets, including massive ones
• Intuitive waist belt cinching
• Customisable plus a range of accessories including heated and thermal liners

cros• Bulky, base-spec TF3 armour
• Only sold at Aerostich, USA
• Plain range of colours

Review
jak-DL_features_1This is my third Darien (fourth it you count the same-styled waxed cotton Falstaff). Didn’t get on with the stiff, full-weight Darien and even less with the mucky and ineffective Falstaff, but a Darien Light – made of 200D rather than 500D Darien fabric (losing 30% abrasion ability in the process) has got to be one of the most under-rated round-the-world travelling shells. Light enough to be bearable in the tropics, roomy and adjustable to take extra layers, vented to keep you cool, plus your obligatory Gore-tex membrane to reduce clamminess while resisting the rain.
The fabric may get bonded by the roll in Vietnam, but one good thing about being cut and assembled in Duluth, MN (afaik) is they can do you any number of custom fittings and enhancements if you have special prefs or a non-conventional physique. Very few motorcycle clothing manufacturers offer this level of customisation; you just get what you get in whatever colours they have between XS and XXL.

Armour
jakk2One all my previous Dariens I ditched the bulky, hard-capped TF3 elbow, shoulder and back armour without thinking. This time I stuck with all except the back pad, but can see why I used to remove it. After experiencing the Klim Overland’s supple slices of orange D3O, the bulky TF3s snag and don’t make slipping on the DL the sartorial delight it should be, especially if you’ve left the arm cinches done up. You feel like a stuntman togging up prior to being catapulted from the battlements.

armors

The TF3 elbow – top – is light at 90g and composed of a soft, open-cell sponge, cut and glued to shape, then partially topped with a hardshell cap which must be key to distributing impacts. The orange D3O T5 equivalent is heavier, slimmer and smaller, a denser rubbery foam moulding that looks more effective. Aero do sell similar, low-profile TF5 armour, which can be adapted with new velcro sleeves for fabric Darien jackets.

My advice: if buying an Aerostich fabric suit, upgrade to TF5 armour and velcro sleeves 1107_knee_1d(left). For elbows and shoulders the cost should be negligible. Aero should make this upgrade option more obvious on the DL page, though as it is, the TF3s warm up quickly and once on the move you’re barely aware of the bulk.
Aero tell us that velcro-ing armour pads to the shell (rather than hanging them in a mesh) is a superior but more time-consuming way of doing it. And the velcro (Americans are constitutionally prohibited from using the v-word) does enable useful fine-tuning with the position. If you want to get picky then the outline of the velcro patches glued into the shell’s inside shows on the exterior and spoils the smooth lines.
I suppose the crux is the stuff staying in position as you tumble down the road and the two velcro cinches either side of the elbow will see to that. Perhaps in the baggier DL cut, arm-joint armour is more prone to getting dislodged than on the closer-fitting Overland with D3O. According to this detailed explanation from 2011, while not CE certified or approved (a European compliance standard), at that time TF3 was as good at impact absorption as anything out there. That’s great to know, but things have moved on and while not being a card-carrying ATGATT type, I feel the DL should come standard with TF5 – see the comments below the above linked explanation. I’ve since inserted in some half-price D3Os into my DL’s arms. The orange stuff is nearly 50% heavier (TF3 90g vs D3O 132g) but slips on better and feels less bulky, while almost certainly impacting as well.

Old Men in Black
jakk5While I’m whining, it’s shame the DL comes in such a drab selection of colours. It would be great to get away from boring old black – usually the least bad option – without necessarily having to look like this. It’s a safe, conservative and inexpensive option, but I believe there’s a way to make a jacket interesting with shades of jak-stealth_jkt_2dark grey; my ARMR Moto cheapie wasn’t bad-looking. Singularity fans, check out the alluringly noire City Stealth Roadcrafter (right) from Aerostich. Now that’s a black textile jacket I could do business with. Expect to see it in the next Bond movie.

Storage
jakk1One of the best features on all Dariens is the varied array and size of pockets. For me this ability to compartmentalise your valuables and frequently useables (‘V&FUs’, as the adventure clothing industry calls them) is at the heart of the motorcycle overlander’s key garment.
My 2015 DL has ten plus one: a zip-up on the right cuff, two angled and flapped zip-ups at the hem, two vertical zipped chest pockets which’ll swallow a map, gloves or a bundle of border-generated paperwork. Behind them are a couple of spacious hand-warmers which are a tad too high for comfort. All have water-resistant TiZip-like zips which will need lubing once in a while. There’s also a small, velcro-flap-only chest pocket top left which I found handy for a waterproof point-and-shoot and a Sharpie. There’s a mini snap link inside though I’d actually prefer an exterior D-ring (like on the Overlander’s hem) – somewhere to quickly hang the keys while paying for fuel, for example.
Inside the main shell are two smaller, lighter-load-bearing but deluge-secure wallet-and-phone chest pockets: one vertical entry, the other from the side, both velcro’d; take your pick. You can also velcro on a clear, zip-up pocket onto the left forearm; handy for a compass away from metal influences, I find. I use all of them plus a light, bladder-holding daypack so when I get off the bike I know I have all my compact V&FUs with me.

Vents
jakk3The DL’s venting comprises of more water-resistant zips which arc up and round the armpit. With that bend and the stiffer zip action, you can barely work them at a standstill, let along on the move. The exhaust vent is a two-way lateral zip below the big back reflector. Riding with them open while on the piste at say 25°C and 25mph saw a nice cooling sensation on the chest, rather than an all-round coolness, but that will do me. It means you’re not gagging to take the thing off even time you stop. Problem with the horizontal back vent is it will get blocked if you wear a daypack or hydrator – vertical side exhaust vents are better in that respect.
I’d have rather had a dark grey shade, but found in wintertime Morocco the passive heat absorption of the black fabric was just right when combined with the vents. Wearing the Overland in similar conditions was noticeably cooler. Get into the tropics or the Sahara in the warmer seasons and I don’t suppose I’d be quite so comfortable in black.

jakk4Adjustability
I thought using magnets to secure a folded-down collar might be this year’s gimmick; they’re actually quite inspired. The collar simply flaps down and stays there at any speed requiring no unsightly studs, clips or velcro (though it may set your pacemaker into a nosedive). Another plus is the easy-to-use velcro waist belt: grab either forward-facing band and cinch as desired – very handy for keeping the core warm. The Klim Latitude I tried did the same thing but with backward facing tabs – for me a far less intuitive action. Other adjustments on the DL include side tabs for hip girth, a cinch cord down there, velcro tabs above and below the elbow to cinch down armour or heated clothing, plus a zip and velcro cuffs to help air-off or run gloves tucked in or out. There’s a velcro strap on the lined collar which you can just about use one-handed on the move, fighting the magnets.

Rainproof
As for waterproofness, I’ve not yet had the chance to ride in hard rain – just a few hours of dense fog. I’d expect the exterior pockets to eventually leak, but the shell to hang in there unless it’s really hammering down. Watch for an update.

Conclusion
jak1The Darien is a flexible and versatile do-it-all jacket that, base-level armour apart, doesn’t feel like war-zone-ready clobber. It’s a jacket that, much like the CB500X I’ve been riding, is good for the getting there and the being there.

I’m sure I’m not the first to suggest that Aerostich should capitalise on this adventure biking fad with a snazzier, adventure-style jacket based on the Darien. Something that would appeal to less conservative younger riders whose fathers, I suspect, make up the core of the Darien and Roadcrafter users. The thing is, apart from a bit of flashy detailing here and there, a pouch on the back and bluetooth interconnectivity, it would differ little from what I already have here, the Leatherman of overland-ready jackets.


Klim Overland (discontinued)
jaq2The Overland was an upgrade on Klim’s entry-level Traverse, with armour, better venting and reflectivity, a new look as well other improvements.

tik• Was a great price and widely distributed
• Exudes quality
• Discrete D3O armour
• Easy to use vents
• Fits well if wearing minimal layers

cros• Sizing comes up way small according to the chart
• Small pockets
• Boring black or light grey; you get what you get in your size

Review
klimov-01The Overland has a lightweight body with a boxy cut (not waist belt) and textured overlays in high-wear areas. This makes it as light as it can be – the five sections of D3O armour adds maybe a kilo to the weight. I chose the Large knowing it would be on the tight side, but also knew the XL was a big jump. Read my first impressions of the Overland here.
klim_jacket_size_guideAccording to Klim’s sizing chart (right) I should have been bang on with an L as usually an American L = XL in Europe. Not with Klim, so with an L there’s just enough room underneath of a Powerlet heated jacket which adds up to three fleeces and a pint of hot soup. It does make a nice change to have a close-fitting jacket for a change, instead of the usual and more practical sack.

Armour
klimov-02The soft, pliable (even when cold), CE certified (not ‘approved’) D3O T5 EVO XT armour (made in Croydon, no less!) slips unobtrusively into the mesh liner’s pockets and you forget it’s ever there. Unlike the Aero TF3, it doesn’t bulk out the jacket like an American footballer, all of which helps give the impression of a slim, close fit.

Look
jak3It’s all subjective of course but it sure is nice not to have to wear another black jacket and it seems that Klim have toned down the branding on this one. The Overland’s fabric textures don’t come up so well in photos, but in grey it looks less dull than you might think. It’s a boxy fit they say, but then I have a boxy torso, which would yield little under a waist belt.
klo1The reflective patches are minimal but, we’re told, mimic the form of an oncoming rider not a startled deer. It’s the other extreme from Aero’s broad bands of Scotchlite, and you do hear that France now requires a minimal area of reflectivity on motorcycle clothing which I doubt the Overland’s discrete 3M sipes would cover.

Storage
klimov-09Here is where a jacket daring to klo3call itself ‘Overland’ comes up short. If they’d called it ‘Dayrider’ or ‘Happy Shopper’ or even Traverse II, it would have been fine, but then they probably wouldn’t have been so successful.
I enjoy wearing the Overland for short rides but in Morocco, when it came to sending one back before riding home in December, I knew I’d be keeping the Darien. Having pockets full of stuff may not give you a profile like a David Beckham underwear advert, but it sure is handy.
klo5Having said that, one good thing about the mesh lining is that it’ll be easy to buy a square foot of the stuff and sew on a usefully large ‘drop pocket’ on the inside (see below), because only inside can you be sure that stuff won’t get wet. And yes I’ve looked closely at the Latitude and Badlands which IMO, both come up short on large-capacity pocketure.

Vents
klimov-06The Overland’s vents have a superior arrangement to the DL and even other Klims: simple zip downs along the side but below the armpit; and matching vertical exhaust vents at the back which cunningly won’t get blocked by a daypack as the DL’s transverse back vent does. On any jacket, how all this venting deals with torrential rain remains to be seen, but on a rainy ride back from Amsterdam in 2016 I got home dry.

Adjustability
klimov-05Even with the back of neck cinch cord loosened right off, I found the collar a tight fit against the front of the throat when done right up. Down at the hem you’ve another cinch cord, but that won’t snug up well against the chill as well as a waist belt. That’s not the Overland’s style and anyway, you can use your own belt against the cold or use a daypack’s hip belt. I liked the single arm cinch below the elbow; with a snug fit there’s no need for two as on the DL – less is always better. Cuffs are velcro only, no room to tuck in gloves in, if that’s your thing.

Rainproof?
klimov-12Again, climate change has got to such a state that I’ve been riding near daily across three counties in winter for over a month and have dodged all rain clouds. A jacket, with four apertures and multiple zips isn’t like a submarine, no matter what they all claim. I got hours or rain riding a WR from Holland. There was a  certain clamminess; but I was dry inside.

klo4The Overland in a slick-looking and well-featured jacket that I enjoyed putting on more than the Darien Light, and would be my choice for nipping out on the bike or doing short, fly-in trips. It’s less overkill than the Badlands style as many here think. Overland may be a misleading name but it’s still Klim quality at a great price.

klimpoxOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpdate: A year in I’m liking the lightness and simplicity of my Overland. Just enough jacket to do the job with good vertical vents when it warms up. And with 50p of mesh, I’ve added some drop pockets to the insides (left) to make my Overland even more useful for overland travel where you end up with piles of documents traverseyou want to keep handy.

In 2017 the Klim dropped the Overland. Shame. The new-style Traverse (right) is similar but lacks armour and those arm cinch bands for a snug fit. Read my 2019 Travese review here (soon).

klo2

 

Klim Overland jacket – first impressions

Full Klim Overland review here

klimov-11The cupboard was bare, the fridge was an icy cavern bereft of succulent goodies, and the sun was shining. It was high time for a shopping run to Ullapool. And, finding myself between chapters on the new AMH, it was also high time to saddle up the CB-X for a ride along the lochs and glens to try out some new gear.

Adventure Spec supply me with free or reduced cost
gear in return for advertising in AMH

In need of a decent coat for a winter getting to and from the desert, Adventure Spec recently sent me a Powerlet Rapidfire heated jacket and Klim’s Overland jacket. AS had already sent me a Latitude to look at a couple of months back. But considering the investment in such a key item of gear, I found the Latitude either a little small in L, or klimov-01way too big in XL. And in other ways it didn’t quite compare with an Aerostich Darien Light which I still consider a benchmark in travelling jackets.

Wearing the Powerlet liner (about the bulk of a fleece), the Overland in Large felt tight across klim_jacket_size_guidethe chest and shoulders and yet, according to the chart on the right, I’m (42″ chest, 6’1″, 95kg) at the lower end of their Large range. The Overland was snug on me dressed in full gear – but still useable.

What Klim say
If you’re taking your first steps into Adventure and Adventure Touring, the all new Overland series from KLIM® is a tremendous value [sic].

My first impressions
Good value, solidly built three-season shell that’s well-designed, has some tidy features and an understated look. Warmer than you think too, but could use more- or just bigger pockets in and out. And beware: Klim sizing comes up small.

Klim Overland – a quick look
• The Overland costs £379 with tax from AS and is listed as $429 + tax in the US or another $50 for the huge 3XL size
klimov-03• My Large weighs 2.04kg, less 330g without back armour pad
• It has four pockets: two hand pockets the hem with vertical entry water-resistant zips, a smaller vertical chest pocket and a similarly small one on the mesh inside (right)
klimov-06• There are water-resistant zipped armpit vents down the sides that you might just undo on the move, and two corresponding long vertical back vents (right)
• The front two-way zip lies under a velcro flap with a stud at each end, and the soft, Tricot-lined collar can be cinched for a snug seal. There are also cinch cords on each side of the hem, velcro arm tabs below the elbow and velcro at the wrists
klimov-02• The jacket has ventilated D30 E5 EVO XT armour on elbows, shoulders with a slightly less highly rated slab of non T5 D30 across the back (right)
• Eight discreet 3M Scotchlite reflective flashes front and back
• The cut is boxy and most of the arms and shoulders are over-layered with coarser and darker abrasion-resistant panels of 840D weight Cordura. The light grey body is made of much less stiff regular nylon fabric of about half that weight. The mesh lining is polyester and the membrane is Gore-Tex tw0-layer Performance Shell which is ‘Guaranteed to keep you dry ®’ and the jacket has a lifetime warranty too.

klimov-04Review
A few years ago when Klim first came to the UK, I remember looking at a Badlands or something at the Ace Cafe Adventure Day and thinking: £800 for a jacket – really? Of course Rukka had come to price themselves up there too, incorporating what I considered fussy, over-complicated ‘technical’ designs that seems to be a way of justifying high prices on a lot of stuff these days. But 800 quid for a garment made in Southeast Asia?

Maybe ‘start high – bring in the cheaper stuff later’ is a recognised marketing strategy. That’s how it looks to me with Klim in the UK and now we have more normally priced jackets like the Traverse, and the second take on the Traverse which is known as the Overland.

As I say in the book, setting off on a long trip you’ll be wearing your jacket just about all the time for weeks or months. It’s got to work well, feel right and be up to the task as it’ll become your second skin. One thing that categorises Klim as a serious contender is they only make rugged waterproof shells and eschew what is to me the cheap measure of a zip-out membrane. If you want a serious Gore-tex type jacket, get one where it’s laminated to the outer shell. Yes, it costs more.

klimov-10I set off for what turned out to be a 180-mile ride on an October day with temps peaking at 13° and strong winds forecast. Underneath I was wearing the Powerlet, a thick shirt and a vest, and leather trousers plus thin unlined gloves. I planned to fire up the Powerlet when the chill got to me. As it turned out – perhaps because I was stopping a lot – that never happened. The Overland kept me warm all day right up to sunset which was impressive. It means you can wear less clobber underneath but I suppose may get hot working hard off road in a warmer climate. For that reason I chose the grey version rather than the black. It really can make a difference.

klimov-07Doing it up I noticed that with the Powerlet’s high wire-laden collar and a shirt collar too, there wasn’t really room for my thin neck buff I usually wear. The front collar stud was a two hand squeeze to do up and the collar felt tight at the front while loose at the back where the cinch is. In other words the collar fitting was too upright or – neanderlike many humans in this digital, screen-staring era – my neck and head stick forward like a round-spined Australopithecus. Trying it again now it definitely presses on my Adam’s apple, but not unbearably so. Normally I prefer loose clothing and the Overland is a ‘snug’ fit round the neck and in the arms  and across the shoulders with arms pulled backed which is probably more flattering, cosier and aerodynamic.

klimov-09klimov-08Riding along I thought I felt a chill under the arms through the vent zips, but not enough to plug in the heated jacket. And anyway this could be attributable to my bike / screen /posture / speed. Later on I didn’t even notice it.

P1000435At one point I left the bike perched on a sunlit hillside track and walked on to recce the route. In a black jacket I’d have cooked like a Findus boil-in the-bag cod in parsley sauce, but the Overland was surprisingly cool. By the time I got back to the bike I did have a bit of a glow on, but rode back the few miles to the main road unzipped and flapping by which time normal operating temps had resumed.

klimov-05An hour and lots of lipsmacking pics later I pulled in at a cafe near Poolewe and instinctively went to slot my gloves into a pocket to came up against the Overland’s main flaw: too small pockets. I suppose I could have stuffed then into one of the lower pockets but what I’d like a decent, map-sized chest pocket or some meshy drop pockets low down inside (they could actually be easily tacked on to the mesh. What do other riders do? – cart around a tank bag or backpack – or slip them in a topbox I suppose. A jacket called Overland needs overlandable storage. For the return run I also removed the back armour to free up some room. It made the jacket lighter and more flexible, but I can’t say it felt significantly more roomy. For that the shoulder pads need to come out but I’ll keep those for the moment.

P1130862Riding back with the sun now dipping behind the hills, I expected to resort to the Powerlet, but riding up to 80mph the Klim still hung in there. The wind was up now too, pushing me around on the single track roads and at one point coming over a pass I distinctly felt the wind catch the back vent flaps and pull me around in the seat.

klimov-12So – preliminary findings on the Klim Overland adventure touring jacket. Warmer than you’d think, under pocketed but the plain looks that are growing on me. Great armour and adjustability too. Resistance to pelting rain and ventability to be established. I always wonder if the latter might compromise the former.

Full Klim Overland review here

P1000489

Quick Look: Klim Latitude 2015 jacket review

In 2018 the Klim Latitude was substantially redesigned. To be reviewed shortly (Jan 2020)

klimlat07tik+ Supple D3O armour, build quality, number of pockets, venting system

cros– Sizing on me, small pockets, hip belt adjustment, colours

aspecJacket supplied by Adventure Spec Price – £525 Sizes tried – L and XL Colour – Black Weight – 2.4kg (XL)

Klim Latitude is the sort of do-it-all jacket that’s well suited to travel: lots of pockets, long cut and with state-of-the-art protection against crashing and the weather with your Gore Tex 2-layer Performance Shell laminated** directly to the body and guaranteed for two years.

Klim-lat-15When Klims first came out here in the UK I was among many who scoffed at the ‘£1500’ riding suits (jacket and trousers) and didn’t unquestioningly buy into the idea that they were the pinnacle of rider wear. As the range of jackets has increased (now over half a dozen) prices seem to have dropped with what I’d consider great value alternatives like the Overland or Traverse. The Latitude falls midway between those and the Badlands (old model on special) before you head towards the near £1300 Adventure Rally.


** Laminated to the shell is the proper but more expensive way of doing it as the roll of material has to be sent to Gore-Tex. These separate- or zip-out membrane liners are just cost cutting dodges that’ll see the outer shell ‘wet out’ in the rain, at which point the membrane will struggle to breathe. In my experience such jackets are more waterproof than breathable. That’s probably the better side of the equation as long as you don’t pay too much for it, or expect it to anything other than a bin bag.

klimlat02Size and Fit I was initially sent a Large (42-45”) then an XL (46-50”). One thing’s for sure, even though my chest size was at the lower end of ‘Large’ range in Klim’s size chart (below right), the L felt too small on me across the chest and shoulders, especially once I put it on over my heated liner (comparable in bulk with a fleece). A same-sized Klim Overland was included and that felt the same, so warning: Klim Large may feel small even if you measure up as L. klim_jacket_size_guideThe XL sent in replacement was just too big. Even though, as Roosevelt said to Churchill, ‘an inch is an inch’ it’s well known that American sizing can come up too big on us Brits: what’s Large in the corn-fed States can often feel huge in the bacon-butty UK. Well, this Klim seems to contradict that, or maybe I’m just not a Klim-shaped individual.

klimlat05There are the usual ways of adjusting the fit of course, but I found the velcro hip belt non-intuitive to use in that you’re adjusting it backwards behind you (left). Wearing the bulk of the jacket (or perhaps just my old joints) with the height of it doing that was awkward, even though it’s something you’ll do regularly say, to cinch up warmer or to allow for post-luncheon expansion. Forward adjustment is the way to do it, but I suppose breaks up the plain front. klimlat12You also have expansion gussets down at each side using a zip and popper (right) though I imagine these are less frequently adjusted. klimlat11Then you have your velcro tabs at the wrists – nice touch here are the lightweight spandex sealing gaiters tucked inside the cuffs (right), though actually many riders cut these out. Zips are YKKs all round and the chunky main zip is two-way – always handy to avoid clip-on scrunch on your R1. The short and soft-lined collar can be cinched up with an unobtrusive and easy-to-use toggle and the forearms have those velcro straps to pull in and limit high-speed flapping and presumably keep the elbow armour in position when you’re sliding down the road. The cut felt and looked boxy but I read that’s the way Klim do it for their ‘off-road/active’ jackets.

Armour I’m not a great fan of the bulky armour that’s come with my older Aerostich Dariens and similar, but the D3O T5 stuff they fit in the Latitude (elbows, klimlat-00shoulders, back) is pleasingly low-profile and squidgy. Its advanced properties mean that on impact the foam ‘locks up’ at a molecular level to become rigid and so, protective. batUnconvinced? Get a mate to belt you with a cricket bat to feel it at work. I especially liked the spine pad (left) which on other jackets has felt either insubstantial or over the top. This D30 T5 stuff remains unobtrusive and comfortable until you need it – that’s what you want with armour unless you’re a GP racer. The back pad crosses over the exhaust vent and so is itself vented to help air pass through.

klimlat04Pockets  The Latitude comes with six on the outside: two at the hem with vertical side entry zips
• two vertical zip chest pockets
• another waterproof-lined smartphone-sized zip-up inside klimlat13the flap but outside the main zip
• and another on the left arm with dayglo piping and a card to register the jacket for emergency ID. Can’t be arguing with that. klimlat01Inside there are four more pockets: two at chest level with vertical and horizontal zip
• and two small stash mesh pockets below with velcro tabs (these could have easily been full depth) There’s Klim’s trademark hidden pocket in there somewhere too, but I’m obliged not to tell you where exactly. klim-misano

I read that people complained about the previous Misano Latitude’s velcro/no-zip flapped horizontal hand pockets (right). Must say that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me – just put valuables elsewhere. I’ve not seen one up close but one thing I liked about the Misano was the huge map chest pocket(s). This is a great feature which I missed on this 2015 Latitude and darulitefind maddening on my cheap-as-chips ARMR Kiso (since ditched).
Lots of pockets klimlat10are good but I’d sooner have fewer but big pockets and skip what to me are gimmicks like the hypalon earphone slot (right; just pass it out the zip!). And for big-ass pockets you can’t beat an Aero Darien (left – a Darien Light), afaik the original jacket of this type (though not sold outside the US). None of the new Latitude’s pockets felt big enough to take a paperback and I doubt would swallow a typical OS map, let alone a pair of gloves.

klimlat03Venting Obviously I didn’t get to test this out but I get the feeling the arrangement of the Latitude’s vents will work better than most. There are two vertical vents on each side of the chest (left) instead of the usual but less-accessible armpit vents – two more on the upper arms and the exhaust vent halfway across the back (below left and right), just above the belt. klimlat14klimlat06Being old school I’ve never fully got into this venting business and have merely considered vents a weak point against all that lovingly laminated Gore-Tex, while vents get easily overwhelmed by arduous effort such as pushing or paddling through desert sand. But then I’ve never ridden right through an Arizona summer. In such situations, I’d just open the frontal zip right out and let the jacket billow. The idea with vents is to keep you cool on Route 66 when it’s 46°C in the shade while ensuring that the zipped-up but venting jacket will hold the armour in place in the event of a prang.

klimlat09Look I like the fact that they seem to have reduced the branding on current Klims but I’m still not that keen on the 2015 design: too much black in all three colour options, though the previous Misano’s light grey wasn’t such a winner for me either. A pewtery shade would suit me – something that picks up less heat, but won’t soon look like month-old underpants. Even the short time it took to take these shots in the garden got me wilting. armrkisoIt would be good to see a few less-conservative colours besides the black, grey or day-glo (and now blue) in Klim’s range. Ironically I really like the look and cut of my ARMR Kiso  (right) – just a shame it breathes like a pane of glass and has pockets fit for a 5-year old.

klimlat15Conclusion All in all, though I don’t doubt it’s as good as anything out there for bad weather and crashing, the look, small pockets and the sizing would put me off spending £500 quid on a Latitude. For that money, I’d wait for something else. As said, in 2018 they designed it and in 2020 I got one to try.

There’s a saying in kayaking that goes something like: ‘dress for the swim not the weather‘. In other words just because it’s sunny, if you capsize don’t think you won’t get hypothermia and drown. I’ve not always been a loyal disciple of this is ‘all-of-the-gear-all-of-the-time’ philosophy. While I do opt for leather trousers on long rides, I prefer a jacket that feels less like hefty motorcycle clobber, even if it offers reduced protection against rain and prangs and cricket-bat attacks. I modulate my adventuring on land and sea accordingly but I recognise that for long travels on two wheels something like a Latitude is probably the best choice.