Review: Kenpo Jacket for iPod

An iPod coat for 3 seasons (December 27th, 2006)

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Product Manufacturer: Kenpo Inc.

Price: $189 US - $99 on sale

The Good

  • Works flawlessly. Integrates seamlessly with your iPod. Great spring, fall or winter jacket. Removable hood. Protected pockets.

The Bad

  • Limited availability from select retailers. Check seams and iPod connector before purchase. Does not work with first or second gen iPods (time for an upgrade anyway!)

The most unique and coolest iPod accessory I have ever reviewed comes in the form of a jacket. Los Angeles based Kenpo has created a range of jackets that features an uber-technological fabric control system from Eleksen Group plc. The electro-conductive fabric touch pad requires no batteries, wires, switches, or voodoo magic. The 100% fabric control system works seamlessly with the latest iPod right back to the iPod Mini.

The Controls

The control system is sewn in to the sleeve of the left arm and features five fabric push buttons to play or pause, skip forward and back and to change the volume up and down. All the controls are built in to the jacket, but you need to supply the iPod and headphones.

The Mkt-025

This review covers the Mkt-025 men’s jacket, a dark blue, lightweight mesh jacket that features a waterproof exterior, detachable hood, zip front, adjustable cuffs, two outside self-adhesive pockets and a zip wallet pocket inside. It also comes in black. The inner iPod pocket includes a mesh pocket and two Velcro pockets. Ilene and I have tested it out in cold wind and rain. A winter jacket review will come later. I have the final verdict on whether you should invest in one of these jackets or whether you should pass it up.

Designed to be water and wind resistant, I found this to be a great jacket. It kept me warm, dry, and well insulated from the outside elements. The lightweight waterproof material does not look as though it will provide much insulation from the cold, but I can reassure you that as soon as you put it on, you are shielded from outside elements. I do not know what magic these guys are using in the manufacturing process, but it certainly works. I have never before owned a jacket that had the ability to stop me from being cold instantly after putting it on. Ilene found that while holiday shopping the jacket got downright toasty when inside a mall. There are no air holes or webbing to vent perspiration, so it is a good idea to carry the jacket when inside.

A Closer Look

The two side pockets use a zipper Velcro closure, which I found to be a bit annoying when I needed quick access to my pockets. On the positive side, there is no way anything will fall out. A zipper-only breast pocket lies above the iPod pocket, so you may not want to use it.

The inside pocket on the left contained a big flap closure. Underneath are two smaller pockets. These pockets store either an iPod Nano or the larger video iPod. The iPod photo is a very tight fit and you must be careful not to pull on the controls.

Enabling your Jacket

A built-in dock connector is attached to a short cable on the inside pocket, which means you have a digital connection straight in to your jacket. It is removable when you wash the jacket.

Just take your iPod, plug in the dock connector, place your iPod safely in the pocket, hold the skip forward button for about 3 seconds to unlock the controls then you are ready to go!

You have ultra-futuristic fabric buttons integrated right in to the sleeve of your left arm. All the iPod controls are now always within reach. No need to take your iPod out anymore. As a preventative measure, the controls auto-lock after seven seconds to prevent any accidental knocks or bumps that accidentally start your iPod.

The fabric controls are waterproof, come wind, rain, or snow, the technology behind it all works in adverse conditions. I tested this by immersing the fabric control part of the sleeve in tap water, which gets pretty cold at this time of year, for 5 minutes. I took it out and connected my iPod and it worked just fine.

The Woman’s View

Ilene noticed that some of the sewing was sloppy and her iPod connector started tearing away from the coat after only a couple of days. I had no similar problems. Ilene notes that the jacket construction is good, but prefers a more robust front zipper. The adjustable toggles on the bottom and on the hood, plus the storm flaps over the front zipper are great. The medium-sized men’s jacket is perfect for a woman size 10 - 14, depending on how loose you like your coats. The Velcro-adjustable sleeves are too loose for a woman’s smaller wrists though. As a soccer photographer, I found this coat perfect for fieldwork and I have not been able to find another jacket with these features that protects so well against wet and cold weather. Even with the connector problem, most of the controls still work; the volume down button is toast though. Kenpo warranties the jackets for one year and replaces or fixes problem coats.

Variety

The Kenpo jacket line comes in a range of shapes and sizes for both men and women styles. Everything from fleece jackets, ski jackets, lightweight mesh jackets, satin bonded jackets to a 3-in-1-system jacket. and materials so check out their web site. The women's selection is only a track jacket and winter coat, and the sizes are smaller than you think. They are sold in various retail outlets, including JC Penny. This jacket retails $189, but Ilene found it on sale for $99.00. This cool and ultra-sophisticated Eleksen fabric technology is so well implemented that you do not look geeky. Most of the time, people around you will not have a clue what it is you are wearing.

by Onwah Tsang and Ilene Hoffman


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