Gadling Gear Review: Scottevest Transformer Jacket

Safely and securely carrying all of our gadgets while traveling can be a real chore. Many of us now hit the road with a smartphone, digital camera, tablet, headphones and more. While each of those tech toys has made travel more enjoyable, it isn’t always easy to keep them well-organized and easy to access. Scottevest is a company that has built an extensive catalog of travel apparel designed to do just that. Their line of clothing is specifically built to keep all of our favorite gadgets close at hand while minimizing bulk. The new SeV Transformer Jacket delivers all of that plus a few unexpected surprises.

To the casual observer the Transformer appears to be just like any other jacket you’d find someone wearing on the street. It features a classic design and cut that is equally at home hiking a trail as strolling the halls of a museum. Its easy-to-clean, wind-resistant fabrics make it a perfect option for staying warm and dry while on the go.

But underneath that unassuming exterior lurks an organizational system that will make even the most anal retentive traveler happy. Scottevest has managed to incorporate an astonishing 20 pockets into this jacket, many of which are designed for a specific purpose. For instance, there are two pockets built just for touchscreen smartphones, one on the left side of the jacket and one on the right. Those pockets feature a clear plastic cover that allows the wearer to not only view the screen but to also interact with its capacitive touch interface. Those same pockets provide cord management options that allow headphones to be run through a series of hidden conduits on the interior of the jacket. This keeps headphone wires secure and out of the way, while still allowing them to be easily used by the wearer. The company calls this its Personal Area Network (PAN) and each of their garments incorporates this option to some degree.The smartphone pockets are just the beginning, however, as there are others designed for carrying pens, USB thumb drives, passports, small digital cameras and more. Each of them has unique qualities, which makes them perfect for the task. For example, the pocket built for carrying sunglasses has a soft chamois cleaning cloth on an elastic cord and the camera pocket includes a separate area for memory cards. There is even a “PadPocket” that is large enough to carry an iPad, Kindle or other tablet device.

If you’re already familiar with the products that Scottevest offers then much of this probably isn’t new. But what separates the Transformer from the rest of their clothing line, and gives the jacket its name, is the unique ability to turn into a vest. That in and of itself isn’t all that revolutionary, as convertible vest/jackets have been around for years. But what sets the Transformer apart from similar offerings is its clever use of magnets embedded under the fabric. These small and lightweight, yet surprisingly powerful, magnets make adding or removing the sleeves a snap – quite literally. In a matter of seconds the Transformer not only adapts for warmer weather but significantly changes its look as well.

For those that like to travel light, the Transformer Jacket is a great addition to the travel closet. Depending on what you carry with you when on the road, it is possible that it could replace a daypack or other small bag. Scottevest seems to have thought of everything when designing this piece of clothing, keeping all of our important items very close at hand. That said, loading up the pockets with all your gadgets would obviously add weight to the garment, particularly if you’re carrying an iPad. The jacket is designed to distribute weight evenly, but wearing a fully loaded Transformer still took a little getting use to. I tested the jacket with an iPhone 4S, iPad 3, headphones, a digital camera, and other various times, and while it wasn’t at all uncomfortable, there was a short adjustment period.

Gadget lovers will most certainly love the Transformer. It not only looks good but it features plenty of ways to safely carry a variety of gear. The integrated Personal Area Network is also useful for keeping chords organized and out of the way too. If you’re the type of person who travels with plenty of tech toys, then you’ll certainly see plenty of value in this jacket, which retails for $160. On the other hand if you tend to hit the road with little more than a cellphone, the Transformer is probably overkill for you and you’ll find there are plenty of other great travel jackets for less money.

Scottevest has made sure that gadget girls aren’t left out of the mix. A women’s version of the Transformer, dubbed the Kelly Jacket, is also available for the ladies who love their technology too.