Named after the famous snow-capped volcano in Tanzania, the renowned Kilimanjaro jacket, was created for a life of extreme riding.
Firstgear’s Kilimanjaro jacket has earned a reputation as a sturdy, versatile, all-seasons jacket worn by everyone from Long Way Down-types to the casual commuter. After years of hearing about the Kilimanjaro and never trying one, I ordered up a black size medium to see what all the hype was about. With it came Firstgear’s latest TPG Escape “all-weather” pants – a logical companion to the stalwart jacket.
Interior liners are included with both items – the Kilimanjaro uses poly-fleece, the Escape insulated polyester – which would have been ideal for some cold-weather testing. Problem was, spring had long-since given way to the triple-digit heat of summer, so I headed out into the midst of Northern California’s destructive wildfires to see if Firstgear’s flagship apparel could really live up to their all-weather claims. After two months and 2000 miles, the results were in.
Kilimanjaro 4.0 Jacket
The Kilimanjaro 4.0 is loaded with features and is comfortable right out of the box – no break-in required. The double-stitched, 330 denier shell uses Hypertex – a “waterproof, breathable liner membrane” – to aid in weatherproofing, and feels pliable, lacking the stiffness found in some textile apparel. Inside, the mesh liner is soft and nonabrasive. The Kilimanjaro comes with the black fleece liner, held in place using zippers and snaps. Installation of the fleece is easiest if it’s being worn; slip it on, don the jacket and then remove both at the same time to fasten the fleece in place. Firstgear claims the liner can be worn as its own jacket when off the bike, and that’s definitely the case; it’s thick, well-made and looks good.
From the dry scorching heat of the African summer, to the continent’s short, but incredibly wet monsoon season, the Kilimanjaro is built to persevere.
The size medium Kilimanjaro fit my 5’7”, 160-pound frame well; snug but comfortable, and not too long, with the bottom of the jacket coming down just past my tailbone. When wearing the liner the jacket’s forearms were fairly tight, so depending on the size of your arms, don’t plan on wearing much more than a thin long-sleeve t-shirt or thermal when using the fleece.
Further inspection of the Kilimanjaro uncovered its many pockets, vents, zippers and fasteners. Starting at the top, the tall, hook-and-loop collar is lined with a comfortable microfiber material that’s easy on the skin. All of the zippers are heavy duty, work well and are easy to operate, even with gloved hands. The main front closure features an extra layer of snaps to seal out foul weather.
To keep the jacket in place, Firstgear uses hook-and-loop adjustable straps on both the cuffs and waist. The waist straps do a good job of cinching the jacket to the rider’s body, but tend to ride up slightly, bracketing the lower part of the rib cage instead of the waist. I would occasionally pull the bottom of the jacket downward to alleviate this, but it’s a minor detail that doesn’t seriously detract from the jacket’s overall comfort and performance.
Pockets are plentiful, with Firstgear’s Cargo Storage System (CSS) on both sides of the chest area. Unzip what looks like a single pocket, and inside is actually a series of additional pockets and sleeves of several sizes. There’s plenty of space for cell phones, maps, wallets and even an elastic tether for keys. On the right chest area inside the jacket is a tall pocket that can house a small hydration bladder, with two grommets that allow a drinking tube to exit through the shell and route up to the rider’s helmet. Beneath the waist straps are four more pockets, so there’s no lack of storage space in this jacket.
Keeping a black jacket cool and comfortable in hot weather isn’t an easy task, so the Kilimanjaro uses Firstgear’s Torso Venting System (TVS) to keep air moving around the rider’s body. Large vents are located in the chest, back and inside the arms, and do a surprisingly good job of moving air through the jacket. Even during some of my slower dual-sport rides and city commuting in 100-degree weather, heat build up wasn’t a problem. Like any jacket, if you’re stationary long enough it gets uncomfortable, but once on the move the Kilimanjaro’s TVS performs well.
Firstgear’s Escape pants feature all-weather wearability with heat-resistant material inside the pants legs for resistance to hot exhaust .
For added protection, the Kilimanjaro features CE-certified armor and foam padding in the shoulders and elbows, as well as a foam back pad. All of the armor is unobtrusive and fits well with the rider’s body, though the elbow pads tended to rotate around the underside of my forearms when in a normal riding position, leaving the top half of the arm relatively unprotected. Speculating about crash-worthiness without actually hitting the pavement is just that – speculation – but it would be nice if the armor was either made wider to encompass more of the arm, or held in place better. Nighttime conspicuity is aided by reflective stripes on the front and back.
I used the Kilimanjaro under hard conditions on both the street and dirt, and it held up well. It cleans up nice with a quick hand washing, and none of the stitching or material frayed or unraveled. This is a truly a versatile jacket, with a subtle, understated design that looks good and works even better.
TPG Escape Pants
Like the Kilmanjaro jacket, Firstgear’s TPG Escape pant is aimed at extreme weather readiness, regardless of which direction the mercury is headed. Made of 660-denier, waterproof and breathable nylon, the Escape pant has a sturdy, well-built feel to it, reinforced by thick, CE-approved armor in the hips and Kevlar-reinforced knees. The liner is insulated and held in place by a series of zippers and snaps.
The Escape’s design has been well thought out. My size medium pants slid on easily thanks to the tall leg zippers that go past the knee and snap at the ankle. The outside edge of each leg has a reflective strip, and there’s a zipper on the upper back panel to attach similarly equipped jackets (the Kilimanjaro did not attach). All pockets and vents are well-placed and straightforward to use. The waist has a snap, clip and adjustable belt fasteners on each side to help tailor the fit to your particular girth, and the front zipper features a flap to help seal out moisture. Both legs are lined with a heat resistant material to shield exhaust temperature, but that was a tough feature to evaluate with ambient temperatures reaching the triple-digits.
Waterproof YKK zippers are used on the Escape’s four pockets in an attempt to keep your personal items dry. There are two fleece-lined pouches in the front, two dry compartments in the rear and a dry storage pocket on the front right leg. Each of the dry storage areas has a flap that covers the waterproof zipper, and all of the pockets are big and easy to access, even with gloves on. There are so many pockets between the jacket and pants that it’s easy to forget where all your items are stored.
I wore the Escape pants in warmer temps with the liner removed. There’s no getting around these pants’ cold weather emphasis, but they did surprisingly well in hot weather. My hottest ride was on a 102-degree day, touring the remains of Northern California’s fire-scarred landscape. There are only two vents along the front edge of each leg, but they’re long and open wide enough to create a reasonable amount of airflow. Did they cool my drumsticks like a pair of mesh pants? No, but I would have no problem leaving on a mid-summer trip in these pants.
There’s a fine line between snug and constrictive when it comes to fit, but the Escapes felt good both on and off the bike. The length was perfect for my 30-inch inseam and there wasn’t any loose, baggy material left flapping in the wind. The hip armor gives the wearer somewhat of a pear shape, but once on the bike all the padding becomes mostly unnoticeable. The overall feel is sturdy without feeling bulky.
Look good in the Firstgear’s Kilimanjaro 4.0 jacket and TPG Escape pants and enjoy great protection.
The Escape pants aren’t perfect, but the drawbacks are minor. The armor is of excellent quality, but the knee padding tends to drop too low when the rider’s leg is straight. When on the bike, the armor slides into a good position – still lower than I’d prefer, but it does cover the knee. The problem is that during a crash a rider’s leg may very well straighten out. If that happens, it appears the knee would only be covered by the shell material.
These pants will no doubt make their way into many riders’ dual sport kits, so it would help if the leg closures had some elasticity, allowing them to accommodate larger, offroad-style boots.
Both the Kilimanjaro jacket and Escape pant attempt to excel at everything instead of focusing on seasonal strengths. That’s a difficult task, but I was surprised and impressed by how well each of them performed. I’m still wearing both on a daily basis, and the Kilimanjaro has replaced a jacket in my closet that I’ve worn and loved for over twelve years.
This is a do-it-all set of gear that’s good looking, well-designed and functional. Stay tuned for the cold weather report.
(The Firstgear Kilmanjaro 4.0 Jacket has been updated for 2009 with the new Firstgear Kilmanjaro Jacket – MSRP $299.95)
Product: Firstgear Kilimanjaro 4.0 Jacket
Sizes: S – 4X, Large Tall – XX-Large Tall (depending on color)
Colors: Black, Black/Blue, Black/Grey, Black/Red, Black/Yellow
Product: Firstgear TPG Escape Pants
Sizes: 30 – 48, 34 Short – 40 Short, 34 Tall – 40 Tall
Colors: Black/Grey, Black/Yellow