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December 11, 2007

SeV Explorer Jacket

A coat, even one that is perfectly suited to a life entwined with personal tech, is still a coat. In the middle of the night, scrambling into something warm so you can drive your sick kid to the ER, it's just a coat and it had better do its job. Wallet, keys, mobile phone, grab the kid and you're out the door. This is no time to think about your iPod's earbud wires, okay? The SeV Explorer Jacket is a superb coat that'll keep you warm, make you look good, and let you brilliantly organize all your daily gear and effects within.

I've reviewed virtually every SeV product since before the company was launched. I think the only bits I've missed are the tie (because I'll never wear a tie) and the Ultimate Cargo Shorts (because cargo pants make me look fat). While I have ended up wearing a number of SeV garments long after the review was past, it was always the simpler, less obvious items that stayed in regular rotation. Jackets with a dozen visible pockets are not cool unless you are a professional cameraman -- and they make me look fat.

When I saw the new SeV catalog featuring the brown Explorer Jacket ($200 direct), I dropped their president Scott Jordan an email of congratulation. Here was an attractive cold weather long coat with classic lines that just happened to have 20 pockets invisibly arrayed inside. No backpack pocket, no car racing suit-style collar, and no overt logos. It even has big old-school buttons along with the main zipper down the front -- nice and casual. It still has crisp SeV lines, only the edge has been softened a bit. The handy gusseted breast pockets have buttons but they are just to complete the look; these pockets close with velcro tabs.

Fewer pockets, better pockets
I have used almost every pocket in this coat, a claim I cannot make about all previous SeV coats. Though the Explorer has fewer than most, they are placed better for the way I live. It's easy to pat myself down to find things once I get home and want to unload. Phone, wallet, keys, iPod, sunglasses, notepad and pen -- all right where I expect them to be. If I'm out with the family, add my compact camera, a paperback or magazine, and occasionally a flask. There is an appropriate pocket to hold all these things securely, yet you don't see or feel any bulges. Sure, stuff a fat hardback or a 16-ounce water bottle in there and you're going to notice, so if it bugs you, don't do that.

I liked the Explorer immediately and like it even more now that I've been all over town wearing it for a few weeks. It's cold here in Boise this time of year, so I often wear a thick wool sweater under my coat if I'm going to be outside for a while. The Explorer is cut generously enough to be comfortable even when heavily layered. The Teflon-treated "microsuede" fabric and quilted lining are light and flexible yet warm and resistant to both wind and moderate rain or snow. I have no complaints about fabrics, fit, or finish. It's all top notch and as good or better than casual outerwear from other makers.

I have but one minor complaint, and it is one that is an easy fix. The left inside eyewear pocket contains a shock cord with a metal alligator clip that is holding a square of microfiber for polishing lenses. Metal hardware in a pocket meant for glasses? Your hundred-dollar Ray-Bans will not appreciate that roach clip hanging around, so cut off the clip and the rough cord and let the microfiber dwell in the bottom of the pocket. If you lose it someday, so what? Cleaning cloths are infinitely cheaper than replacing scratched lenses.

Man purse? Think again.
SeV's latest designs show a sensitivity to the needs of people who do not want to dress like alpha-geeks. Many men carry two or three gadgets, a wallet and keys around all day. An SeV Tactical Jacket's 35 pockets are completely unnecessary and can be downright confusing for regular guys. But when regular guys get an iPod, a pocket satnav, and a digicam for Christmas and find themselves suddenly having visions of the dreaded man-purse, an Explorer Jacket starts to make a lot of sense. Save your what's left of your masculine pride and join the browncoats!
SeV Explorer Jacket

~David MacNeill

Posted by dtm at December 11, 2007 09:33 PM