You know how it is on a bike – one minute freezing and the next hot enough to boil eggs in your armpit (don’t try this at home, Ed.) Modern designs have brought in clever wicking liners and heat-reflective outers – but to a large extent the problem remains. Or perhaps not. Using technology from NASA, made to cope with 300 degree temperature swings experienced by astronauts in space, Weise’s new jacket claims to have an answer. If they are right it could be a bit more than one small step for a British company – it could be a giant leap for biker-kind.
We were so keen to get hold of the new gear that we badgered Weise endlessly, before finally getting our paws on a jacket when it arrived in the UK earlier this year. This was quickly grabbed by our guest tester Tom Malone. We’ve been trialling it for the last few months and here’s the write-up . Ground control from Major Tom..
On the face of it, the Outlast Baltimore looks rather smart in grey, red and black, though there’s also a more restrained one in plain Spinal Tap-ish very, very black, er, black. But the cut is conventional – nothing to tell you this is anything other than ordinary top notch biker garb except for discreet ‘Outlast’ logo. There’s even something 70’s / 80’s retro about it. You can imaging Bodie from the Professionals wearing one before going home to listen to music on his square, black music centre.
The jacket has a quality feel, as you’d expect from something with a suggested RRP of £320.00. The material feels curiously ‘rustly’ and zips and fastenings are of good quality. It’s backed by Weise’s well-known 2 year guarantee. Slipping it on you feel cocooned, protected, oddly peaceful – not unlike getting behind the wheel of an upmarket car (Please, no bad language, ed.)
The Baltimore’s outer shell is tailored in the long ‘touring’ style and is fabricated from tough 500 Denier nylon, featuring 4 main external pockets – all of which are claimed as 100% waterproof. There are also 2 hand warmer pockets and your on-board clobber (wallets, phone or what have you) can be safely tucked away in one of the two internal pockets, one of which is waterproof. So, a practical layout to start with. There’s even a hidden map pocket at the rear.
Four Seasons (no, not the pizza)
Waterproofing is taken care of by a REISSA® waterproof, windproof and breathable drop lining – which can be removed if needed. The clever outlast stuff is in the separate and hefty 140g thermal quilted lining – and this too can be taken out on it’s own if required.
To help maintain good airflow around the rider in warmer weather there are no less than NINE adjustable vents, the front ones looking like pockets can be pinned back opening up mesh area on the chest. There are others in cuffs, sides and rear. The front function as inlets, channeling cooling air around the body, while the rear play the role of exhausts, letting the heat out into the slipstream.
The collar is a lovely soft neoprene item and can be pinned closed like a storm flap so it shouldn’t let in wind and rain.
Keeping you safe
The Baltimore comes with CE approved armour to shoulders, elbows and back. It’s not too bulky though, and you hardly feel it when the jacket in on. The protection is removable if you wanted to use the jacket for casual non-bike purposes.
There are innovative neon yellow arm covers that give you high-viz, but which can simply be folded back into the sleeve when not needed, meaning you can be safe but not feel a wally when off the bike. Neat trick. Imaginative and one we haven’t seen before. Chest, lower body and upper arm all boast reflective stripes for improved night-time visibility.
Keeping you happy
Comfort can be tailored to you, with adjustment possible at the waist via a twin Velcro retained belt system, at the arms (multi-popper adjustment), and at the cuff . Nice thinking.
Does it Work?
We can say right away that this is a great jacket. It feels good to start with – reassuringly so, as it’s not cheap. In many ways the Baltimore functions like most top-end bike jackets on the market: strong abrasion-resistant shell, with variable ventilation and waterproof / breathable membrane. This all works fine and would alone be enough to justify the tag of genuine ‘4 -season’ capability. The vents are effective in warm weather and the liner is great for when the mercury plummets.
The real question though is about the outlast liner, and it’s important to explain just why this is so different a concept to anything we’ve ever seen before. Unlike normal ‘passive’ systems (say breathable membranes) Outlast is an ‘active’ system. The material physically absorbs and stores heat when you are hot (thereby feeling cool on your skin) and then re-radiates it when you cool down (feeling warm and cosy to the touch). Not only does this keep temperatures more stable, but it also reduces sweatiness by preventing the problem happening in the first place. For moisture that does occur, the jacket is of course breathable in the usual way.
Our tester wore the jacket for 3 months in a variety of conditions from close to freezing in the misty mountains of Scotland, to almost 25 degrees in the Home Counties. In all 3,000 miles were covered. We also carried out the obligatory BigBikeMad jet wash test, whereby the wearer was attacked by a hose-wielding maniac at our local car-wash for 5 minutes.
No leaks were experienced throughout the test, though rain could get in if the storm collar was not closed and when traveling at over 40mph. (And also if some unsporting person slipped the jet wash hose up the back, ha, ha!) No breakages on zippers or press studs and no issues with stitching failure. The jacket was easy to adjust to a comfy fit. After a good wash, the outer shell looked almost like new at the end of the test.
But the key question is – does the new Outlast technology work? Well, yes, astonishingly it does. The material acts rather like a climate control thermostat. Once you have set your vents, it means that the jacket actually compensates for changes in climate by physically cooling or warming you as your body temperature changes. Put simply, if you plotted it on a graph, the system would remove the peaks and troughs, leading to a flatter line. Often it actually feels as if it has a real air-con / heater unit fitted. There is an actual cool / warm sensation, which is quite amazing. We are speechless. well, almost…
We do have three caveats. Firstly, it’s not enough of an effect to completely eliminate any twinge of cold or heat you might experience over the full range that’s possible in the northern hemisphere. You tend to feel the discomfort first and then it gradually fades back to comfort. It’s real though nevertheless.
Secondly, it works best within a certain temperature range (roughly -5 to about 25 degree C) and thirdly, it’s more effective at keeping you warm rather than cool. When things get really hot, you still have to remove the quilted Outlast liner just like any other jacket.This one however means you can generally survive even a long trip without having to faff about – and that is an improvement over almost every other jacket out there..
Sizing and cut
Sizes run about true – possibly slightly small – an XL equating to an actual chest size of about 40 inches for instance. Arms are slightly on the long side, but not enough to be a problem for most people.
For long distance or dispatch riders the Outlast Baltimore could be a game changer. It allows much more stability of temperature to be maintained meaning less stopping to make adjustments and potentially better concentration of the road. The heating and cooling effect is real and as advertised, if not as powerful as your car’s air-con. Try it and and you’ll see.
The neon cuffs are a neat idea, but for us though the best thing about the Baltimore is it’s overall quality and useability. It does everything well, being completely water and windproof. It’s great on a sunny day and highly protective. Best of all it will last for years and stay looking good for ages. This is the real test of a top-range quality product. If you decide you really like the outlast effect then the good news is that matching gloves are also available.
Cutting edge space technology that really works on this planet, typical Weise quality, and a 2 year guarantee make the Outlast Baltimore one of the best jackets we have ever tested for all round use. Simply superb. Major T would be proud.