Technology Enabled Clothing's ScotteVest 237D

by Bob Bestor

ScotteVestIn bygone days, all most of us wanted in a jacket was something warm and comfortable that looked good. These days, however, as competition in the fast-growing travel clothing market heats up, clothing manufacturers are addressing needs that go way beyond style and weather protection; needs such as convenience, communication, security, storage, even entertainment - without sacrificing looks and comfort.

A jacket that does all that? Stay with me.

Being a bit of a gadget person, it wasn't a hard sell to get me out the door of Travel Essentials wearing a sleek TEC (Technology Enabled Clothing) ScotteVest 237D. I first got interested when the Travel Essentials salesperson started dropping lines like "with this jacket you can probably get by with one less carry-on bag," and "a patented wire conduit system allows easy connections from cell phones to hands-free headsets, MP3/CD players to headphones, and devices to each other."

A few minutes later I was standing in front of a try-on mirror thinking "this thing looks pretty good," when he hit me with the clincher: "No more messy wires; they're organized and channeled through the eVEST to keep earbuds and headphones in place. Plus there's room for a digital camera, portable keyboard, GPS device, two-way radio, bottled water, keys, and wallets in 33 padded, easy-access pockets for the ultimate hands-free experience."

I already had my credit card out when he zipped off the sleeves, a move that both surprised me and turned the 237D into a vest. Suddenly I was buying a garment I can wear 237 days a year - a least here in southern Oregon. It was a done deal.

The clever heart of the 237D is the patented PAN (Personal Area Network), which connects almost all its pockets. It's a conduit through the lining that wearers can use to link such devices as hands-free headsets and/or microphones and/or earbuds to cell phones and music players; using, of course, the wires that come with the devices. One could also connect a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) to a cell phone to access the Internet.

I've had the jacket for a little over two weeks now and still haven't found all the pockets. (It's the first item of clothing I've ever owned that has a learning curve.) They range in size from big enough for a small laptop to a clear plastic slot for displaying an ID badge or trade show credentials. All 33 pockets are virtually invisible from the outside, and are zipped, snapped, Velcro-ed, and even held shut with magnets. I found one great little mesh pocket for AA and AAA batteries that I know will save my tail when I'm in Europe shooting pictures for our website and dictating notes into my tiny, hand-held digital recorder that always seems to give up the ghost at the wrong time. Of course, there are all kinds of little hidden-away places perfect for passports and tickets.

If you don't want to store your laptop in the 237D's huge back pocket, you can instead use it for ScotteVest's Camelbak water system ($21.99). Run the drinking tube through the PAN to exit near the collar, making beverage sipping easy.

There are many more features to discuss-such as the 237D's Hidden Epaulets (clip on a walkie-talkie mike), the 4-Pen/Stylus Pockets, the Eyeglass chamois you'll find in one pocket, the ZIP-PIP feature that turns one pocket into two, or the Secret Pocket for storing valuables-but since this is an article of clothing, not a gadget, you probably want to know what's it made of, what it looks like, and what it costs.

Mine is beige, which TEC calls "stone," but the 237D also comes in "olive." The exterior is Teflon-coated nylon that's stain and water resistant, while the lining is a silky-feeling polyester. The overall effect is a sort of Bwana/Out of Africa/Safari look. Pretty cool. I forgot to mention the detachable hood rolled up in the collar.

For sure, I'll wear this jacket/vest around Ashland, but what I'm really looking forward to is filling up those pockets with digital recorders, cameras, iPods, cell phones, notebooks, batteries, pens, and maybe even a laptop, on my next flight to Europe.

A couple of years ago, I paid $275 for a jacket at Nordstrom. It still looks good, but there is only one inside, breast pocket and it seems diabolically just the wrong size to hold an airline ticket folder. At only $159.99 the 237D has exactly 30 more pockets and looks just as good. (Gemütlichkeit subscribers receive a 10 percent discount from Travel Essentials. Mention the Gemut2006 promotion when ordering.