Gadling Gear Review: The North Face Radish Mid Layer Jacket

The North Face Radish Mid Layer JacketTravelers always appreciate clothing that is versatile, lightweight, easily packable and performs well in a variety of weather conditions. It doesn’t hurt if it also happens to look good. That seems a rather apt description for the Radish Mid Layer Jacket from The North Face, a comfortable and well-designed piece of performance apparel that is equally at home on a mountain trail as it is kicking around town.

Built from a soft, yet very durable, fleece, the Radish is designed to operate as either a stand-alone jacket or part of a technical layering system. On its own, it has the styling of a form fitting hoodie with an athletic cut that allows it to easily move with the body during vigorous activities. Its fabrics include North Face’s proprietary FlashDry technology, which gives the jacket the ability to breathe warm air while also wicking away moisture in an efficient manner. As the name implies, it also dries very quickly, something that most travelers will be able to appreciate.

I found this combination of qualities made the Radish a great option for travel. I wore the jacket in temperatures ranging from 10 – 50°F and remained comfortable at all times. That was true whether I was hiking, trail running or simply meeting friends for dinner. As someone who is fairly active, I appreciate that North Face designed this jacket to move with the body, not restricting motion in any way. I also appreciated the well-designed hood, which is flexible enough to move when turning my head, keeping my vision unobstructed at all times.As good as the Radish is on its own, it performs equally well as part of a layering system. For those taking part in cold weather adventures, a good layering system is key to enjoying the experience. Those systems generally include base layers, which sit closest to the skin, a mid-layer fleece such as this jacket and an outer shell for extremely cold environments. The Radish operates very well as that mid-layer, where its ability to move unrestricted once again comes in handy and its warm fabrics make an excellent insulator.

The North Face Radish JacketThe North Face has been making performance outdoor gear for decades and that heritage shows through here. There are small touches that aren’t readily noticeable at first but are welcome additions none the less. For instance, the Radish has reinforced fabrics on the shoulders and hips that line up quite nicely with a backpack. Those zones keep the jacket from wearing prematurely while wearing it with a pack. It also features specially tapered seams that keep abrasion to a minimum when wearing it as part of a layering system. Those are the kinds of touches that only come from years of experience and knowing your market well.

Still, there are a few things that could be improved on the Radish, not the least of which is its lack of pockets. There is a single zippered pocket on the left breast, which is nice for keeping small, important items close at hand. But there are no traditional hand pockets, which most people will instinctively reach for when the temperature starts to drop. North Face made the conscious choice to not include more pockets as it helps to keep the profile of the jacket low. This is an important design choice for the active outdoor crowd who don’t want to snag their gear while backpacking or climbing, but for the average traveler it could be a bit of a disappointment.

The other point about the Radish that is sure to give some buyers pause is the price tag. North Face has set the MSRP for the jacket at $230, although it can be found online at a discount. For the average traveler, that may be too much to pay for a jacket of this type, although I believe it is worth every penny when you consider the level of performance it delivers. For the active, outdoor traveler this is very nearly the perfect piece of gear, although not everyone needs that level of performance. Those who do will greatly appreciate what the Radish brings to the table. It is certainly the type of gear I’d want with me while trekking in the Himalaya for instance or backpacking in the Alps. This is a jacket that is so good, that the price should be viewed as an investment. One that will pay dividends for many years to come.

[Photo by The North Face]

Gadling Gear Review: Scottevest Fleece 7.0 Jacket

Scottevest Fleece 7.0Saying that Scottevest is a company that makes jackets is akin to saying Apple is a company that makes cellphones. Both statements are technically correct, but both also fail to tell the whole story. Scottevest puts the emphasis not only on comfort and good looks but also function. Popular amongst travelers and gadget lovers alike, their jackets incorporate numerous internal pockets that keep all of our gear organized and close at hand, whether we’re going around the block or around the world.

Today Scottevest unveils their latest creation: the Fleece 7.0. The jacket maintains the company’s legacy quite nicely while incorporating some new design choices that make it easier and more logical to use. On top of that, this might be the best looking and most comfortable Scottevest ever created. Its stylish exterior does nothing to reveal all of the technology and other important items that are well hidden underneath.

If you’re already familiar with the products from Scottevest you are probably aware of the numerous pockets that line the interior of their jackets. With the Fleece 7.0 the layout of each of those pockets has been re-examined with the expressed intention of making each of them better. For instance, previous Scottevest offerings have included a pocket specifically designed to carry an iPad, and this new jacket is no different. This time out though, that pocket has been redesigned to make it easier to gain access to the device, whether you’re wearing the jacket or not. That same iPad pocket is also now lined with soft fabrics designed to clean fingerprints from the screen as it is taken in and out.

Perhaps the biggest change to the jacket is the placement of a pocket designed specifically for smartphones. That pocket incorporates Clear Touch fabrics that allow users to interact with their phone’s touch screen without having to remove it from the jacket itself. This isn’t exactly new, as Scottevest has built similar pockets into their products for some time, but they’ve now moved that pocket from the chest down to the lower left side of the Fleece 7.0. On the surface this might not seem like much of an innovation, but the new placement does indeed make it much easier to interact with your phone. In its new location, the smartphone pocket isn’t nearly as awkward to access when making or receiving calls, or launching your favorite apps. The new Clear Touch fabrics are more responsive and natural feeling as well, which helps to improve the overall experience too.X-Ray View of the Fleece 7.0 Scottevest JacketIn addition to the smartphone and tablet pockets, Scottevest has woven a host of other pockets into the design of the Fleece 7.0. In fact, you’ll be amazed at just how many pockets this jacket has and how utilitarian they can be. For instance, there is one designed specifically for carrying a small point-and-shoot camera that includes a separate slot just for memory cards. There is also a useful eyeglasses pocket, complete with a built-in soft cloth lens cleaner, which I found to be fantastic for safely carrying sunglasses. Perhaps my favorite storage options, however, was the large hidden pocket that is perfect for keeping your passport, boarding pass and other important documents close at hand.

The jacket also includes what Scottevest calls the Personal Area Network, which conveniently incorporates a set of headphones directly into the garment. The PAN keeps cables hidden and out of the way and even features earbud storage integrated directly into the collar. Considering that many sets of earbuds now include built-in microphones, this means you can easily listen to music, interact with Siri and talk on the phone without ever taking the jacket off or pulling your smartphone out of its secure pocket.

Other nice touches include integrated penholders, a key clasp and an elastic water bottle loop hidden away in one of the cavernous hand pockets. These small, but thoughtful, details help to separate Scottevest jackets from the competition and have made them a popular choice for travelers who like to stay organized and travel light. In fact, as the company continues to refine its product line, you’d almost swear that they have declared war on carry-on luggage. It is quite conceivable that owners of the Fleece 7.0 could go on a trip without the need for any kind of carry-on at all, which says a lot about just how well this jacket performs.

All of these well thought out pockets and other features are the hallmark of a Scottevest product of course, but they aren’t the only reason to be impressed by the new Fleece 7.0. The jacket is made from soft, warm and durable fabrics, which puts it on par with similar offerings from such well-known companies as Columbia or North Face. I found the jacket to be incredibly comfortable to wear both casually around town and on more active excursions and while I haven’t tested it as part of a dedicated layering system yet, I get the sense that it will perform well in that capacity too.

Like most of the other Scottevest jackets, the Fleece 7.0 converts to a vest, adding yet another level of versatility to the garment. This is a great option for those days that start out cool but warm up as the hours pass, allowing the wearer to stay comfortable as conditions evolve. But unlike the Transformer Jacket that we reviewed a few months back, the Fleece 7.0 uses traditional zippers to add or remove the sleeves. The Transformer cleverly replaces those zippers with strong magnets instead, which makes the process easier and quicker. On more than one occasion while wearing this new jacket, I wished that Scottevest had elected to incorporate the magnets as well, as they just simplify the process nicely.

If you’re in the market for a new jacket, either for travel or for the changing weather conditions that fall is sure to bring, then it is easy for me to recommend the Scottevest Fleece 7.0. Even if you’re not a gadget nut, you’ll still love the numerous pockets and organizational options, but most importantly you’ll love how comfortable it is to wear. In true Scottevest fashion, this jacket offers unprecedented access to your smartphone and other tech toys too, making it a fantastic option for trips around the block or to the far side of the globe. The Fleece 7.0 is available today for $160.