I wrote a decidedly mixed review of a SCOTTeVEST vest back in 2015. (Yes, SCOTTeVEST is how it’s written, like they’re shouting.) Since then, the article has been seen by about 10,000 readers.
The review was mixed because, while I liked all the pockets and the fact that I didn’t have to carry a handbag, the polyester fabric was hot in the climates where I was traveling. I also didn’t like the collar that stood up, adding to the heat on my neck, and the fact that when I filled the pockets, it pulled the vest down in front, which was uncomfortable on my neck as well.
A brand-new review of SCOTTeVEST
I suppose that’s why someone from SCOTTeVEST reached out to me recently with a simple offer: “We’d love to send you a couple of items again if you’re interested in another review.”
Here’s the thing: while my original review was not particularly positive, I wished I had liked my SCOTTeVEST more. I loved having my hands free and not having to carry a handbag. So I immediately replied and quite quickly received two new SCOTTeVEST items.
Disclosure: I received the two SCOTTeVEST items for free in exchange for a review. However, the company has no influence over what I decide to write. I have also included affiliate links, so if you end up buying a SCOTTeVEST product through one of these links, I will get a small commission. This will not affect your price.
What I ordered
This time I decided to try clothing for cooler weather and requested the Chloe Glow hoodie and the Essential Jacket 2.0. Learning from my experience with the vest, I ordered a size bigger than what would normally fit me – once all my things are in the pockets, I still want to be able to zip them closed.
I’ve gained lots of weight since the original review – Curse you, menopause! – so I’m in their large sizes now, which they euphemistically call “Marilyn” sizes. (I wonder what the Marilyn this is named after thinks about this!). According to their sizing chart, I would fit a size M2, but ordered both items in size M3.
Both of these are made of good quality, sturdy material and are machine-washable. Both have lots of pockets – 24 on the jacket, 18 on the hoodie – that would be hard for a pickpocket to access and that are also made of sturdy material.
The pockets would be very difficult to break or cut, and most are well thought-out for their various uses: travel documents pockets (with RIFD in the jacket), tiny pockets for extra SD cards, or long narrow pockets right next to the center zipper for an easy-to-reach-for pen or stylus. They also both have pockets big enough to hold tablets, though the size varies depending on what your clothing size is, so check the specs carefully.
In other words, both of these offer what I liked about the original vest I tried: they replace a handbag completely so I don’t have to worry about pickpockets and so that I have my hands free for my camera.
The Essential Jacket 2.0
My review: short version
The short version of my review of the Essential Jacket 2.0 is very positive. It’s perfect to serve as my new spring and fall jacket, especially because of the flexibility of its zip-off sleeves.
This jacket is billed as a spring/fall jacket and is 58% cotton, 42% polyester. That appealed to me because I tend to wear mostly cotton because of its breathability. With 24 pockets in total, it’s not their most “pocketful” product, but I was sure that would be enough for the normal contents of my handbag.
I also liked the look of the collar – it doesn’t stand up – and the fact that, at least in the photos on their website, it looked like it could pass for an everyday jacket. I couldn’t be sure, though, since the models in the photos are all skinny. For us heavier people, it’s often a matter of imagination when ordering online; we never know if an item will translate well to large sizes.
That, in my view, turned out to be no problem at all. It does look like a normal everyday jacket on me and, with or without filling the pockets, it fits me quite roomily.
What follows is the long version, looking at various details, particularly the things that I didn’t like in my original review, most of which are better this time.
My review of the Essential Jacket 2.0: long version
This jacket looks and feels like a normal jacket. It zips up, even when I’ve put a passport, two wallets, some meds, some business cards, a set of keys, a rather large phone, and two camera batteries into it. The material feels and looks like a cotton blend, which is what it is, and keeps me warm to about 5°C (41°F). With a sweater under it, it could serve for even colder temperatures.
It’s not waterproof, but it is water resistant. When I got caught in a very light rain (what the Dutch call motregen, which translates as “moth rain” and means a misty kind of rain), I didn’t get wet. The jacket did, but it didn’t soak through. It seems that the rain mostly ran off it, and the jacket dried pretty quickly afterwards.
The special thing about this jacket, and the reason I ordered it, is that it has zip-off sleeves but still looks like an ordinary jacket when it’s on. The zippers at the top of the sleeves are out of sight, and work easily. The ends of the zipper are under the arms and a flap around the seam keeps them dry. Each sleeve has a label on the inside “right” or “left,” so there’s not too much fiddling around to zip them back on.
I first tried the jacket on a trip to Miami in February. One day it was quite chilly when I left the hotel in the morning, but warmed up later in the day. I found that, a bit awkwardly, I was able to zip off the sleeves without even taking off the jacket. I’m sure I looked funny to the pedestrians around me, but I don’t care.
I don’t think, though, that I could ever put the sleeves back on without taking off the coat, which would mean the admittedly small risk that someone could snatch the jacket from my hands. This is one of the main reasons I like these clothes with pockets: the idea that all my things are on me and less easy to steal than a handbag. I think I’d solve this by going somewhere enclosed, like a bathroom stall, or seated in a restaurant, or back at my hotel room, to zip the sleeves back on.
That day in Miami, once the sleeves were off, I wasn’t sure what to do with them. In most of the pockets on or inside the front of the jacket, they would form quite a big lump, no matter how neatly I folded them. I remembered the back pocket, and was able to ask the friend I was with to put the sleeves there for me.
The back pocket
One of the things I complained about in the original review was that the back pocket was unreachable unless you took the vest off. On this jacket, this has improved; the back pocket is lower on the back, so with a bit of flexibility you can use it – it’s awkward, like scratching the middle of your back, but it’s doable.
What this means is that, if I need to – which I haven’t, so far – I can solve the balance problem I had with the original vest. The weight of all my things in front pockets pulled the front of the vest down. With this jacket, I could put my lesser-used items in that back pocket. Just shifting my portable charger and/or a travel modem to the back would be enough. Problem solved.
The folded-down collar on this jacket is a great improvement. If it interests you, it still can be used to wire your headphones through as part of SCOTTeVEST’s “personal area network.”
The glasses pocket
The pocket designated for glasses has, inside it, a chamois attached to an elastic. I love always having a chamois available for my glasses, but also for my phone screen and my camera lens. The chamois also has a handy little graphic printed onto it showing where all the pockets are on the jacket.
I complained last time, though, about the elastic that kept getting tangled with my reading glasses when I tried to pull them out. Nowadays I wear multi-focals, so I don’t need a glasses pocket. The elastic is still attached in the same place, so if you want to use that pocket for glasses, don’t. Instead, use one of the many others.
This jacket has two phone pockets; I’m not sure why. In any case, I didn’t use them. My Samsung S20 would normally fit these pockets, but with the heavy-duty case I keep it in – I’m clumsy and I drop my phone a lot! – it doesn’t fit without quite a bit of fiddling. Instead, one of the outside front chest pockets, which are both quite deep, works perfectly for me. I like that I don’t have to unzip the jacket to get to my phone.
That’s a suggestion I’d make if you decide to buy this or any other SCOTTeVEST that is meant for cooler weather. Put the things you use most – your phone, your wallet – in outside pockets. That way you don’t have to open your jacket in the cold.
The bottle carrier
One of the negative points in my original review concerns the bottle carrier, which did not work for me at all since the elastic strap was so tight and it made the pocket bulge so much.
The bottle carrier on this jacket is a great improvement. It won’t hold a can upright – it’s too loose. But it will hold a small refillable water bottle and keep it upright. Since my jacket sits so loosely on me, a bottle doesn’t even cause a bulge. It’s still a pretty limited feature, though. Only quite a small bottle will fit. You might be better off with a carabiner clip on your belt if you want to carry a larger bottle.
The SCOTTeVEST Chloe Glow hoodie
My review: short version
I like the Chloe Glow hoodie too and will certainly use it, but it’s less flexible than the jacket. I will likely use the jacket more.
My review: long version
SCOTTeVEST describes the Chloe Glow hoodie as being for things like going to the gym, yoga classes or hiking. Made of nylon (36.4%), cotton (58.3%) and spandex (5.4%), it has a comfortable feel to it, and I don’t think it would feel very sweaty with such a high percentage of cotton.
The Chloe Glow hoodie fits me a little less roomily. I can zip it up, even with my things in the pockets, but it looks lumpy, unlike the jacket. That’s not surprising, seeing as it isn’t as thickly lined as the jacket. It “only” has 18 pockets, which is still plenty, though I miss the chest pockets: they make reaching for my phone really easy, so I end up putting my phone in the “handwarmer pockets” instead.
It’s almost as warm as the jacket, I’d say, but I tend to wear hoodies unzipped, so it’s probably best for late spring and early fall. It’s also not water-resistant, like the jacket, so it’s good for a slightly cool day’s sightseeing when the weather promises to stay clear.
Like the jacket, the hoodie looks normal: like a plain old hoodie. I got the red, which is nice and bright. There are a few design touches to point out, though. The front zipper circles the head. In other words, you can zip it up right up to your chin, but the rest, along the edge of the hood, is just a design element, nothing more. I liked it; it seemed a bit hipster to me.
Nevertheless, this “infinite zipper” comes with a drawback. I received both items when I was in Miami, and found I had no room for them in my single carry-on bag. Instead, I wore the jacket on my way home and carried the hoodie. At some points I stuck it under the handle of my carry-on bag, which was a tight fit.
Somewhere in transit between Miami, Atlanta, Amsterdam and home, the slider (the zipper pull) fell off. I couldn’t believe it would break that quickly and easily, but I took the hoodie to a local tailor to get it replaced. He pointed out a problem with this zipper that goes around the hood: the slider might have traveled all the way up and over and simply slid off the bottom end! Zippers have a “bottom stop” on one side, but not on the other.
The tailor offered a simple solution. He put on a new slider, but then also sewed a few neat stitches between two teeth of the zipper right at the top of the hood. It’s very small and not noticeable, but now the zipper can’t fall over to the wrong side again.
I don’t see this as a big problem. You can either just be careful that, whenever you’re not wearing the hoodie, you zip it at least partway. Alternatively, you can sew a few stitches over the zipper at the top.
If you’re searching for a travel-related gift, check out Unique Travel Gifts: A short-but-sweet gift guide.
The sleeves are quite long: meant to be worn with the cuffs folded over. This is because it has thumbholes sewn into the cuffs. This is a great idea: they offer a bit of warmth if my hands start to feel cold. I wish the jacket had these. When I’m not using them, I can fold back the cuffs, which show a contrasting dark grey.
With fewer pockets – but still plenty – the hoodie has no pocket on its back and no chest pockets. I don’t miss the back pocket but would have liked at least one chest pocket for my phone. It also has no RFID pocket.
I think I’m likely to use the jacket for travel more than the hoodie, particularly because the zip-off sleeves allow more flexibility. I’ll probably use the hoodie more for day trips, where I just need a bit of warmth and a safe pocket or two, rather than all my usual travel items.
As you can see, I feel decidedly more positive about these products than I was when I reviewed the vest. Perhaps this was just a matter of using the vest in the wrong context: traveling in the summer months in very hot countries. Or perhaps these are just better products; I’m not sure.
Either way I’d make a few recommendations:
- If you’re traveling somewhere that’s hot, night and day, just use a handbag. For safety, make it one with a cross-body strap or an anti-theft fanny pack.
- If you’re traveling somewhere cooler – say, between 5°C and 15°C (41°F-69°F) – use the SCOTTeVEST Essential Jacket 2.0. That way you can remove the sleeves and open the zipper as needed as the day warms up.
- If you’re taking a shorter trip like going hiking or sightseeing for a day in, say, 10°C-15°C weather (50°F-69°F), and you’re sure it won’t rain, use the Chloe Glow Hoodie.
SCOTTeVESTs, by the way, are not cheap. The Essential Jacket 2.0, as of this writing, costs $249, while the Chloe Glow hoodie is $154. The current version of the vest I bought back in 2014, called the Featherweight Vest, is $174. The quality of the material and workmanship seems worth it; these are top-end products. Obviously, I can’t tell for sure how well they’ll last until I’ve traveled in them considerably more.
I’ll let you know.
Now, if you’re still interested in the original review, published in 2015, here it is. I updated it a bit in December 2020 (in italics).
My original review of the SCOTTeVEST travel vest
SCOTTeVEST’s unique selling point is pockets. They produce jackets, vests, trousers and shirts with lots and lots of pockets.
I love this idea. Most days I carry a handbag, but don’t usually have to carry it all day. I go to work, where I put it down. I carry it to do grocery shopping, but then put it down when I get home.
The problem, when I travel, is that I’m out and on my feet all day, and carrying a handbag isn’t pleasant for that long. Carrying it on my shoulder, I end up with shoulder and/or neck pain; on my back, back pain. In foreign, unfamiliar cities, I also get a bit paranoid about pickpockets so I end up clutching my bag all the time.
That’s why, in order to be able to carry all those necessities that I normally schlep around in my handbag, but without carrying a handbag, I bought a travel vest by SCOTTeVEST (Yes, that’s how it’s written, as if someone is shouting.).
SCOTTeVEST promotes itself with the slogan “Our pockets … your freedom.” The pockets are mostly on the inside, zippered and secure, which makes it very hard to pickpocket. In theory, at least, it also doesn’t draw as much attention to your status as a tourist as bulging pockets on the outside would. I was told more than once, however, how “American” I looked in it!
I chose a vest-style rather than a jacket because at that point I was planning a trip to Israel and Jordan in the summer, when it can top 40 degrees most days. I’ve since also used it on my solo trips to the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, also during hot weather.
Also worth reading: ExpressVPN review, by a digital immigrant
SCOTTeVEST review: Good points
When SCOTTeVEST boasts of pockets, they’re not kidding! This travel vest has a lot; I’m not actually sure how many. I carried, on a daily basis, the following:
- My passport
- A wallet, with just the necessary cards
- My phone
- Two pens
- My sunglasses
- My camera
- A spare camera battery
- A spare SD card
- A small notebook
- A portable modem
- A small box of medicines
- Assorted plasters
- My business cards
- Assorted leaflets and flyers
- depending where I was staying: keys
Despite all these things in the pockets, it wasn’t very obvious from looking at it. The most visible bulges were in the two outside pockets, where all I carried was my pocket camera. Everything else rode on the inside, mostly invisibly. Presumably this makes you less of a target for pickpockets, and, even if they tried, they wouldn’t be able to access the pockets, since they all close well.
I didn’t realize how safe from pickpockets (the kind who use a knife to cut bags or clothing) this travel vest was until I was in Hong Kong and decided to get the collar sewn down (more on that below). The tailor broke three needles trying to do it, and gave up. He said even heavy-duty needles wouldn’t go through this material.
In any case, it was a delight to be able to wear all of these things on me and a) not have to worry about pickpockets and b) have my hands free!
SCOTTeVEST review: Bad points
However, I experienced some considerable negative aspects of this travel vest.
1. The heat
It was hot! It might have been “just” a vest, but the material is some sort of polyester, I think, and does not breathe at all. In 40 degree heat, I sweated in it, even though I never zipped it closed.
(SCOTTeVEST now markets a “featherweight” vest. They have one for men too. Since I haven’t tried it, I can’t say whether it is better.)
2. The neckline
The neckline didn’t work for me. It has a small collar that stands up. The idea is that you can feed your headphone wires into the collar so that they’ll stay put and the earbuds will hang on either side, ready to use easily and quickly.
I don’t use earphones and I can’t imagine blocking out the soundtrack of whatever place I’m visiting! When I travel, I want to hear, as well as see and smell, the places I visit.
The collar, then, was in the way. It made my neck sweat, and I ended up tucking it under to get it out of the way. You can see how messy that looks in the picture above. I never expected the vest to look beautiful, but this spoiled the cut of the vest even more.
3. The weight
The weight was a problem. Obviously, I knew I was shifting all the weight that was usually in my handbag to my body. I didn’t mind that. It’s just that all of the weight was on the front, so the vest pulled down in front, which meant pulling down on the back of my neck.
There is one pocket on the back of the vest, supposedly for a tablet. I don’t think it would have fit my tablet, a Surface, but in any case I couldn’t use it because I couldn’t reach it. I did use it a few times in Israel and Jordan for things like maps and leaflets, but I was dependent on members of my family to put things in or take things out. Otherwise I had to take off the vest to access that pocket, which would defeat the purpose of its pickpocket safety. I could just imagine taking it off on the street somewhere and having some passing thief grab the whole vest out of my hands.
It seems a missed chance. SCOTTeVEST could have pockets on the side seams, pointing backwards toward the small of the back. That would be a useful spot, and would allow some of the weight to shift back to offset all the weight on the front. I could tuck heavier things into them that I wouldn’t often need to take out, like a power bank or portable modem.
And since the pocket on the back is so useless, it would have been far more comfortable to use some breathable fabric or netting on the back panel to bring the temperature down.
I bought a size large, by the way, which fit me when the vest was empty. When I filled it with my things, I could not zip it up anymore. This didn’t really matter, since it was too hot to wear it zipped up.
4. The glasses cleaner
The vest comes with a chamois cloth for cleaning glasses, attached by a string into the glasses pocket. I loved having that available, both for glasses and for my camera lens. However, it is attached in such a way that every single time, without fail, that I tried to pull glasses out of that pocket, the string got tangled up in the glasses. A little thing, but it got annoying.
(Neither the men’s nor the women’s featherlight vest has the glasses pocket or cleaner. This is a good thing!)
5. The bottle carrier
Inside one of the outer pockets is a wide elastic strap for holding a bottle. I could not find any standard size bottle that would fit into that strap. Once I managed, by taking off the vest, to wrestle a bottle into it, stretching the strap to its limit, but, since the strap is inside the pocket, the bottle deformed the whole vest to such an extent that it bulged very oddly and made it sit uncomfortably on me.
You might also like my review of my Eagle Creek rolling backpack that I used on my solo trip.
SCOTTeVEST sells lots of other models, with various numbers of pockets. Many of these are jackets rather than vests, so they’d work in cooler weather. If you’re using the jacket for pickpocket prevention, however, as I was, what do you do when you’re inside? You have all of your belongings tucked away in hidden pockets of your jacket, but you want, say, to spend a few hours in a museum, or go to a restaurant. Do you keep the jacket on, or carry it in your hand? In that case, it’s no safer than your handbag would have been.
A solution to this problem would be to wear a regular jacket in cooler weather on top of the vest. It would probably mean needing a bigger jacket so it would fit and close over the vest. But it would allow you to take off the jacket inside and keep the vest on.
If you look at SCOTTeVEST’s website, it becomes clear that their products aren’t really intended for long-term travel. They gear their products more toward shorter-term trips, particularly hunting or fishing. Some are just meant to be everyday clothing. These products seem more suited to these uses. Certainly, if you’re going to be out all day hiking or whatever in, for example, autumn weather, one of their jackets would be perfect for comfortable, hands-free walking.
It’s too bad, really, because I loved having my hands free, and I loved knowing my things were right there and no one could steal them.
If, despite this rather mixed review, you are considering buying a SCOTTeVEST, you can use this affiliate link to order.
NOTE: I bought this vest at full price and this review is my honest assessment.
(Original article updated to December 10, 2020. Jacket and hoodie reviewed in March 2022.)