By Richelle Redekop.
After a recent bike trip through Northern British Columbia and the Yukon was cut short by an unfortunate combination of sub par motorcycle gear, biting cold and constant torrential downpours I vowed to begin the search for some proper bike gear. I quickly ran into the same frustrations that I’m sure all women experience when looking for quality motorcycle apparel…the selection of gear out there for women (especially adventure riding women!) leaves a lot to be desired. If you want gear that is a shortened, feature poor version of a men’s piece with pink butterflies plastered all over it (I’m looking at you Joe Rocket) then you are all set, but if you want something that offers protection, comfort and utility you are going to have a more difficult time finding the right piece of gear.
/ Rant Note to motorcycle gear manufacturers: Women are a rapidly expanding demographic in the motorcycling world so step up your game! Why do you think women will be content with gear that is designed solely to look cute? We want pockets and GoreTex not pink butterflies and fairy wings. /Rant Over.
I knew that I was not interested in the typical gear brands carried by most of the bike dealerships in my area such as Joe Rocket or Alpinestars as these brands in my experience tend to be the some of the worst offenders for not offering quality women’s gear. Eventually I narrowed down my search to Klim, Touratech, Rev’It! and Olympia. I think the Touratech Compañero suit would have been a top contender but unfortunately I had to rule it out due to not being able to try it on beforehand (I would love to try this suit eventually as I have heard great things). The Olympia Jacket I tried fit great, and so did the Rev’It! but in the end I decided to go with the GORE-TEX shell and layers approach and ended up with the Klim Altitude Women’s Jacket. See below for a comparison of the jackets I was considering from each brand.
My reasons for taking the shell approach are simple, I wanted the waterproofing to be on the outside of the jacket so that if I got caught in the rain on a warmer day I did not have to get wetter by having to strip off my outer layers in a downpour to fit in the waterproof inner (the main reason I ruled out the Rev’It). I also did not want to overheat by having to put on unnecessary layers in order to keep dry. I really hate having a jacket with 3 layers that I have to figure out how to assemble every time I want to gain or lose a piece so I think the shell approach will work well for me. There is nothing worse than standing in the rain on the side of a highway trying to figure out how to put your jacket together. I have a thin down mid-layer jacket that will work perfectly underneath the Klim coat on cooler days if I need it.
I have less than half a season (darn you short Canadian summers) riding in the Klim jacket; therefore, this is just a preliminary review (stay tuned for a longer term test at the end of this summer!). As this is preliminary, everything I say comes with the caveat that my mind may change after more time spent in the Klim Altitude, but I have had enough time with it write about my first impressions.
Based on the above list you can see that the jacket is a fairly feature rich shell that has the potential to be a great adventure riding jacket (for those that want to take the shell approach). If you tend to always be cold or don’t ride much in the rain this jacket probably isn’t for you.
So far this jacket has already lived up to my expectation in one big way…it is waterproof! I have ridden with the Klim Altitude in a few rain storms so far and I have remained dry and comfortable (just remember to close those vents and collar!). I have found myself actually riding towards rain clouds on purpose just to see if I can make this jacket leak (no luck so far, which is good!).
I thought I would have gotten a lot colder in this jacket as it is only a shell but so far I have been pleasantly surprised by how warm it actually is. It wasn’t until I got caught in a night time rain shower with nothing underneath but a T-shirt and temperatures hovering between 5 and 10°C that I was wishing I had a mid-layer on. I need to ride in more cold weather to have a more educated opinion on the jacket’s warmth but for a shell it exceeds my expectations. I haven’t had too many hot days in this jacket, but so far the venting seems very good at highway speeds. There is a collar cinch that holds the jacket collar open to increase airflow, and I have found this works very well. I heat up quickly when stopped or riding at slow speeds but I think that goes for pretty much any jacket.
Pockets are a big deal for me, as my husband can attest after listening to me rant about how men get way more pockets in their jackets than women do. I love all of the pockets in the Altitude; the hidden passport pocket is a great idea and something I will definitely put to use when riding in the States. There is more than enough room to keep maps, keys, phone, etc. with you when you ride.
The fit of this jacket is great (for me) and works very well with the men’s Klim Latitude pants I bought to complete the set. Keep your eyes out for my review on the Klim Latitude pants and for an explanation on why I went with the men’s pants over the women’s. The whole suit is very comfortable when you are on the bike; in fact, it feels like you are encased in a ‘safety pod’ and that is a good feeling. The arms of the jacket don’t ride up to far when you are reaching for the handlebars and the neck doesn’t ride up and choke you. The cuffs on the jacket aren’t very big so if you have bulkier gloves you probably aren’t putting them underneath. The length of the jacket is great, it covers your butt and lays flat so you don’t end up with wind up your back and water down your pants. Overall, I think it is a nice looking jacket that I could even get away with using when riding my cruiser.
So far I haven’t found too many downsides to this jacket. Unfortunately, I was not able to get this jacket in the blue and yellow Hi-Vis version and had to get the black, which was not my first choice as I would have preferred to be more visible on the road. The black jacket does have reflective piping on it which works fairly well, but ultimately there is no replacement for Hi-Vis. The jacket came with a voucher for an Emergency ID card that you could order online and put in the special pocket on your left forearm but unfortunately mine never arrived.
One thing that I would love to see from Klim is a women’s version of the Badlands jacket, which is what my husband bought. I am green with envy over his jacket and would bought one as well but when I tried one on I looked like I was wearing a burlap sack. I like to think I don’t get to hung up on fashion, but a girl has her limits. The Badlands jacket has much better armor, a 3 layer GORE-TEX shell, 10 venting ports, more adjustability, the ability to integrate a hydration pack, etc., all options for which I would have gladly paid extra. Klim has done a great job with the Altitude jacket but it would be nice to see a range of gear similar to what men get. At the very least a comparable jacket to the closest competitor in the men’s lineup, the Latitude jacket (the Altitude misses out on hydration compatibility, a headphone access port and a few pockets).
Overall I think this is a great jacket! I will be taking notes on what I like and dislike about it in different situations over the next season so that I can put together a more thorough review. I am very excited to get some miles on in this jacket as I think it is going to be an excellent jacket for the riding I do. In the future I would love to get my hands on the Touratech Compañero, as I think this would be the ultimate adventure riding jacket for women, but for now it’s high price point and difficulty getting one to try on steered me towards Klim.