Image: scottevest.com

In a recent post about minimizing the amount of time and hassle you encounter at TSA security checkpoints, I mentioned that I use a travel vest. The strategy is pretty simple: as you approach the initial TSA screener, stow your cell phone, iPod, heavy metal watch, and so forth in the pockets of the travel vest. At the x-ray machine, simply slip off the vest and send it through. Out on the concourse, most travel vests have enough pockets to paperback books, magazines, and even a bottle of water.

But there’s one issue with conventional travel vests:  they’re dorky as all get out. With up to 7 pockets plastered over the front, most regular travel vests aren’t terrifically stylish. Functional, yes; good looking? Highly debatable.

Ideally a travel vest would be stylish enough that you could wear it to work on casual Fridays, still have plenty of storage to be practical for travel,  AND be designed in mind with the electronics that are a part of all of our daily lives.

Enter Scott Jordan and SCOTTeVEST. Jordan design strategy for the original SeV was simple: design a stylish vest that’s capable of carrying a myriad of items in mostly hidden pockets and which incorporates an advanced PAN (Personal Area Network) for iPods and other electronic devices.

The vests were instantly popular with techies, but also quickly developed a following with travelers, for good reason…

A quick rundown of the specs:

  • Lightweight, breathable Teflon® coated cotton/poly blend
  • Available in 3 colors – black, sand, and red rock (rust)
  • 22 pockets including 2 pockets with lightweight translucent plastic – for controlling electronic devices right through the material; several zippered, hidden pockets
  • A sunglasses pocket which comes with microfiber cleaning cloth secured on a tether
  • A removable coiled lanyard in one of the front pockets for securing your car keys (a hangup of mine – so for me, this is a great feature)
  • A superb PAN that offers 2 options – a quick, easily removable setup, and a slightly more complex setup whereby the wiring for your earbuds is fed through the lining of the jacket. A number of pockets have ports which enable your iPod or other device to be stored/accessed there. Especially slick: Velcro® tabs for securing your earbuds’ wiring; small mesh pockets for storing the earpieces themselves when not in use
  • Here’s a photo of the inside of my vest. If you look closely, you can see one of the earpieces sitting on top of its mesh pocket; the other – on the right side of the photo – is stored in its pocket. Click on the photo for a closer view…

SCOTTeVEST Travel Vest

  • When you click on the photo you can see the earbuds’ wiring system threaded through the collar of the vest; you can also see two of the translucent pockets mentioned in a bullet point above; there’s a 3rd one expressly designed for a driver’s license-sized ID card
  • As with most travel vests, there’s a large pocket in its back with a hidden zipper. This pocket is large enough to accommodate magazines or even a Camelback; you can route the straw up to the collar area of the vest quite easily
  • In short, the vest is loaded with features, most of which are not immediately apparent or visible

Here’s Scott Jordan in a brief video about the SCOTTeVEST travel vest:

Impressions and Comments

One can’t but be impressed by the thoughtfulness of the SCOTTeVEST’s design. The fabric is good looking and appears to be quite durable; the zippers are of high quality and operate smoothly; the PAN system is terrific and can set up in 2 main modes and when the integrated mode (earbud wiring concealed inside the lining) is selected, in can be configured in numerous ways to put your electronic device exactly where you want it.

Additionally, there are lots of clever little details I haven’t mentioned – the two outside handwarmer pockets are zipped, but they also have magnetic closures – so if you leave them unzipped, they’ll still stay closed. There’s also a vertical pocket inside that’s perfect for boarding passes. Several of the larger pockets are called Deep Pockets™ so your things won’t fall out, and so that weight is distributed evenly across your shoulders. The two larger translucent pockets are perfect for an iPod or the like, let you control it through the material, and no matter whether you’re right or left handed – you’re covered. An unobtrusive little icon next to each interior pocket indicates what the company recommends be stored in it – digital camera, music player, sunglasses, etc. – thoughtful!

The vest is, in short, fantastic. As Bose does with their noise canceling headphones, it comes with a number of cards you can give to people you encounter who are curious about your distinctive vest.

If I have any concerns, they are picky: when the vertical zippered pockets are zipped open, the zipper pull is at the bottom – I’d prefer the opposite. I wear a short sports jacket, and found the vest to be just a tiny bit long – but that’s a problem with my design, not the vest’s! Finally, it’d be perfect if it had zip-off long sleeves for the ultimate in flexibility… but of course that’d boost the price.

…which is a subject I haven’t addressed to this point. The SCOTTeVEST is $100; this is comparable to what you’d pay for an Orvis travel vest, and about $20 more than a TravelSmith equivalent.  It’s worth it. The attention to detail, build quality and extra features (PAN, etc.) are truly impressive. Plus… it’s much better looking, in my opinion!

The company has a very nice website including informational and how-to videos; see it at scottevest.com Note that they carry a full line of jackets and pullovers; many are equipped with the PAN system described here. They also carry cargo pants and some lighter shirts. Make sure you get a product that’s suited to your needs and climate!

NOTE:  I have no connection to the company whatsoever, other than being a satisfied customer. Thanks for visiting; if you have tried this vest or other similar products, please comment.

1/16/09 Edit: Ah, the wonderful misery of being obssessive-compulsive!  I left the SeV with a seamstress this afternoon.  It is being shortened by 2¼” and of course the zipper will require replacement.  For my frame it’s simply too long and in all honesty the result is that I haven’t worn it that much.  It’s loaded with features for sure, but I found myself opting to wear other vests rather than it.  If you have a short torso or wear a “short” sports jacket, think twice.  I’ll post an update when it returns in early February.

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14 Comments on Review: SCOTTeVEST Travel Vest – high tech, stylish alternative to conventional travel vests

  1. Michael W. says:

    Uh…I’m a big believer in zippers that operate from bottom to top (when unzipped, the zipper is at the bottom, when closed, the zipper is at the top). I’ve had too many bad experiences with zippers that operate in the other direction, where I MOSTLY had the zipper closed but there was just enough open room at the bottom for something (keys!) to slip out.

    I call this design “upside down” zippers. In the old days, most jackets had zippers that closed in the downward direction. They were good for handwarmer pockets. As manufacturers got savvy to things falling out of pockets because the zippers were not COMPLETELY closed, they reversed the direction of the zippers. Now even partially zippering gives a “deep” and safer pocket. So I think you should re-think your objection to “upside down” zippers!

    Patagonia has both styles of zippers. In all their “urban wear” the zippers run upside down to keep stuff from spilling out of pockets. In their climber gear, the zippers run the old style direction. They say the climbing belt makes it hard to reach the zipper if it runs in the upward direction, and they assume climbers will always make sure the zippers are closed all the way if they are worried about losing stuff. (So their “casual” vests run in my preferred direction, while the more technical R2 vests run the old-fashioned, unsecure direction.)

    Thanks for the review, a week ago I clicked through to the ScottEVest company from one of your Google adsense ads, and although I didn’t buy the vest ($100 is steep), I did order a $35 synthetic pullover which has a couple of neat zipper pockets at the waist. All of Scott’s stuff is well-thought out and I look forward to getting the pullover in a couple of days. $35 for a zip turtle neck is about $3 cheaper than similar zip necks from Marmot and Patagonia, and those don’t come with useful zipper pockets!

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  2. Kevin says:

    Michael,

    Thanks for your comment. Yup – I get it. The logic behind the “upside down” zipper is clear and inescapable. I just don’t care for it; just a matter of personal preference. I can honestly say I’ve never had anything fall out of a zippered pocket, regardless of the orientation of the zipper.

    In any event, the vest is a really neat piece. The more I wear it, the happier I am.

    Thx again,- I love your comments!!

    Kevin

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  3. Michael W. says:

    I got my ScottEVest 1/4 zip pullover. Definitely designed more for a music lover (iPod pockets, cable holes in pockets, ear bud cable loops near neck) and not for the typical traveler. Materials and workmanship are good, but not quite at the stellar Patagonia/Marmot level. Zippers are a distinct disappointment, difficult to operate, not smooth like branded YKK zippers. Are the zippers on your vest smooth operating?

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  4. Kevin says:

    Michael –

    All operate smoothly w/o issue except one on an inside pocket – which has a bit of a hitch in its operation at one specific point. At first I thought it was catching the material inside the pocket, but it’s just a bit balky. The balance of them are fine. Are they bothersome enough that you’d return it?

    Kevin

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  5. Berg says:

    I wish Scottevest made as many different jackets and sweatshirts for women as they do for men.

    I was at Magellans today and tried on the Scottevest women’s essential jacket. Have to say I was really disappointed. The arms were far too big and long for the torso size that would fit, and let’s just say this jacket is not for, um… women of a certain chest size. Even without anything in the pockets, they were already showing through on the outside, and the fit was just not working for me. My ideal jacket would have less pockets, but have them strategically-placed in areas that are less likely to bulge, like the abdomen. Having pockets right across the chest is simply not going to work for someone like me. At the moment, my Marmot 3-in-1 works great, as both the fleece and the shell have below-the-breast pockets that holds tons without looking like it on the outside.

    (Oh, and I like upside-down zippers as well :)

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    Kevin Reply:

    Berg,

    Funny stuff… and (seriously) clearly an issue.

    A bit off topic, but I was thinking about this last night, and just now went and fished the item in question out of our mud room closet…

    This will sound like heresy to some, but one of the handiest “travel vests” I own is an inexpensive reversible golf vest made by a no-name outfit called Grand Slam Tour. It’s a nylon material on one side, and is fleece on the inside/other side. The nylon side features two zippered hand pockets, and yes, the zippers zip upward.

    It’s a great layer on long flights, should things get a little chilly. You can easily stow a point and shoot camera and/or an iPod in the pockets. It’s decent looking. I’ve had mine for years and it’s held up very well.

    I just did a search – here’s a link: http://is.gd/5nRme It’s a whopping $25 at Kohl’s!

    I wore this on flights to the UK a couple of times, and loved it. Great for casual Fridays, too.

    Perhaps we ought to take a look at other golf apparel (or perhaps other sports/interests) to see if they could be used for travel. I just ordered a Marmot Pre Cip jacket… which as I think about it, may be not all that different from a (golf) rain jacket.

    Anyway, rambling… thanks for the comment.

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    Berg Reply:

    That’s a nice-looking vest! Just proves the point that just because something is designed for travel, doesn’t mean it’s always ideal. I have the same thought whenever I see many of the latest travel shoulder bags and travel clothes, because they look *so* incredibly touristy, which I’m sure defeats the purpose. I love looking at tour photos where everyone is wearing the same stuff, heh.

    Anyway… the Scottevests are a great idea, but are probably a tad over-designed for me. Less is more, in my case, at least. Maybe it’s okay for men, who can usually hide bulk a little better than women (you obviously like your Scottevest, which is great), but I’ve never needed to carry a magazine in my jacket, or even a water bottle (I mean, seriously? How can that look normal on a form-fitting jacket?). I also think the jacket should be longer, to cover some part of the hips, which is a look flattering to most women, in general. This would also allow for some of the breast pockets to be a little lower, improving the shape and the fit, and would also help if the weather turned bad.

    Anyhoo. Just some thoughts I had. It’s just so odd they make all sorts of sweatshirts and things for men, but only 2 basic items for women (the jacket and the vest).

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    Kevin Reply:

    Absolutely. I imagine the male orientation at SeV comes from Scott Jordan himself… or the demo of their audience must skew male. In any event, I will clarify one thing: I hardly ever wear the thing. I described it to Michael as “metrosexual”, and I’ll leave it at that. And I totally agree with you that all his stuff is way overblown with all the pockets and what-not. It’s too much. …and that’s my point about the cheap er, inexpensive, golf vest: it works just fine, and besides, just how much crap do you want to stuff in your 14 pockets???

    Luke Reply:

    That vest looks like a Fina vest and jacket combination that I picked up a few years ago. I agree that golf clothes would make good travel gear. The pants are designed to wick moisture, they dry quickly, and dont show wrinkles. Shirts are generally the same, and I usually wear one one the plane, regardless of the outside temperature (I’m comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt down to about 55-60F) The Fina vest and jacket is wHat I usually take on travel if I think I’m going to need a jacket.

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  6. Berg says:

    Oh, that makes sense. It’s like trying to find some sports memoribilia for women — there just aren’t enough of us who want that stuff!

    And yes, I agree. I’d have less in my daybag than I would in that jacket!

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  7. Till says:

    Berg, totally agree on the comments about pockets smack dab across the chest. Not gonna work, unless it’s Twiggy. I think if he made something with a little more “flair” and with a cut arranged for the female figure he could make a killing.

    I also think that upside-down zips are much better. In my mind it is more important to get to something quickly than to stow it quickly. A zip that unzips downward is easier to unzip because the natural fall of the garment will give the necessary resistance.

    Also agreed on the number of pockets. 20+ pockets just get confusing. I sometimes have trouble finding keys, wallet, phone, business cards if I am wearing an ordinary suit coat or a suit coat plus an anorak. The main reason is, of course, that I am not as strict about my method as I should be. For example, when I am expecting a phone call, the phone might be in an interior chest pocket or shirt pocket. But normally it would be in a coat side pocket. The thing is also so darn flat that sometimes I don’t feel it even if it’s in my front trouser pocket. Same for my wallet, very flat. :)

    I really love a good travel anorak and can’t stop promoting the idea but too much is too much. OTOH my Cole Haan is really doing a great job. And my Barbour jacket would be wonderful in terms of pocket layout but it is simply too heavy. Mine is the Northumbria model but there are much lighter models that one might look into as a travel coat, also for women. Quality is irreproachable.

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  8. Paul Klipp says:

    I was enamored with the Scottevest, too, but there are plenty of higher quality travel vests at a much lower price point. I don’t find mine very comfortable, either. Even with just an iPhone, a wallet, and a swiss army knife in the pockets, it feels heavy right on one point on the back of my neck.

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    Kevin Reply:

    Paul,

    As I think I’ve said before, I love the concept, hate the execution, and am annoyed at the relentless hucksterism that Scott Jordan, “CEO of ScotteVest,” engages in.

    A quality golf vest with a few zippered pockets works just fine.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Kevin

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  9. David says:

    I agree, Kevin.
    If Scott spent half the time actually addressing concerns made by customers on great sites like Practical Hacks, as he does engaging in vague replies via video and the “hucksterism” you describe, then he would have an amazing product, raving fans, and more sales.

    The execution is awful. Out of stock products, slow refresh lines, nothing in the sport coat line, and questionable durability.

    The thing I really like about his design is the Personal Area Network.
    Do you know of any other jackets, vests, sport coats, etc that have the ability to run wires for headphones?

    Ideally, I’d like a jacket that could provide warmth for evenings in the Bay Area of SF, work equally well as a sport coat, have wiring and accommodation for headphones, pockets for cell phone, ipod, boarding pass, pen, etc. The basics. Repels water, good warmth, but breathes, looks great, travels easily taking up minimal room.
    Any suggestions?

    A few others that I’ve looked at include:

    Koyono – not really a good alternative to a sport coat, and wiring is missing for headphones.
    http://www.koyono.com/Genius-Outerwear-s/1.htm

    Orvis – Seems designed for a generation or 2 ago…not really up to date with pocket placement or design for gadgets, and the fabric and make are very thick and heavy
    http://www.orvis.com/store/sho.....p_id=17035

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