As a female motorcyclist, choosing a viable suit for long-term riding is met with limited options. Despite the growing industry for women’s gear, what was available in October of 2012 did not equate to the durability and versatility of men’s gear. I looked at comparable manufacturers such as Rev-it and Alpinestars (I rode a KLR, so the BMW brand was not even considered), but neither of those held up to what I wanted out of a suit I was going to live in for six months. So, while preparing for a motorcycle journey from Los Angeles, California to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, I decided on Klim’s Men’s Latitude jacket and pants.
In my initial review after six days of test riding around California before I left, my response was, “Yay! Klim is so great!” But just like any new relationship, I was excited at the potential of what could be, not scrutinizing what I had in front of me. So now, 15-months and more than 23,000 miles later, it’s time to break down the long-term, grime-covered, down and dirty results.
JACKET: $579.99 – SIZE M / PANTS: $519.99 – 32T
Thanks Justin for pointing out the napping bike. At least the suit looks good – photo courtesy of Randy Farnes
The Latitude suit comes in three color options. Not wanting to stand out any more than I knew I already would traveling through Latin America, I avoided day-glow and chose the grey/light grey option. The suit is a combination of fabrics: a Gore-tex® bonded performance shell (light
grey) and 840D Cordura® laminate exterior in the high abrasion zones (grey). Traveling along the Pan-American Highway behind trucksbelching black smoke is when I wish I had chosen black. Light grey did not hide the lovely splatter pattern stains of exhaust and proved difficult to remove due to my limited means for washing. Laundromats were hard to come by, but I did manage to scrub the suit with potent-smelling soaps in Guatemala, with hi-tech soaps brought to me by another rider in Peru, and an attempted pressure wash in Bolivia. Each time the suit gained a level or two of brightness, but never to its original brilliance. The great thing about Klim as a company is that they are open to feedback and make appropriate adjustments. Since I bought my suit, they have upgraded the material to a Misano Cordura® laminate exterior for the main body (light grey portion), hopefully negating my concerns for the fabric. Cleanliness aside, the material of the suit I wore was everything it said it would be. It kept me dry no matter what weather I was riding in, be it sudden downpours in the tropics or the consistent pin-tickling raindrops of Patagonia.
Notions & Durability:
After six months of daily exposure to mostly sun, some wind, a bit of rain, and even a snowstorm, plus nine months of weekend use, I am pleased by the fact that all Velcro on the pockets, the fitting adjustments and the collar, as well as the stitching throughout the jacket have held up to heavy use. The rubber coated buttons and zippers for ports, internal pockets, and main access all still function and remain in good form. The most used and my favorite feature is a simple addition on the outside of both the jacket and the pants: a sewn-in plastic loop for hooking your keys. With a carabineer, it takes just a moment to secure your key ring and not have to worry about where you placed them once off the bike.
- The scenery helps complete the “I landed on the Moon” feel (in Honduras)
What Klim refers to as Max Flow Ventilation, I consider personal heat regulation. However you want to call it, the important part is that air moves when you need it. Riding through the arid deserts of Mexico, Peru and Chile, the five ports on the jacket (2-upper arm, 2-pit zips, 1-back exhaust) and four ports on the pants (2-thigh and 2-rear leg) provided pleasant relief from the heat. In the 90°F+ muggy tropics and humid coastlines of Central America, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, the Gore-tex laminated shell does get a little warm and movement is necessary to help cool off the beads of sweat that form underneath. Airflow was most noticeable on the wet days of Bolivia (especially when I forgot to
close the zippers) and the chilling days of riding in Patagonia. I am not a fan of zip together inner liners or out shells. I want my suit to be substantial enough on its own, and Klim is with its waterproof and windproof shell, yet allow me to choose the base layers I want when I could use a little extra warmth. The times I was cold, such as crossing the Andes or nearing the Strait of Magellan, I layered not only with thermals and a down jacket, but a thin waterproof hiking jacket to keep more of my heat in. I packed specifically for this because personal heat regulation is just that… personal. I will add the disclaimers that I naturally run cold and generally put on a sweater when the temperature drops below 70°F; and the heat loss I experienced with the Latitude was potentially more of a fit issue, which is all the more reason to buy gear that is sized appropriately.
Latitude 0 (at the Equator in Ecuador)
I tend to like everything within an arm’s reach, which means on a motorcycle it either has to be in the tank bag or in a jacket pocket. The Latitude did it right with ample compartments – six external and four internal. Looking back at pictures from my trip, most of the time the two lower
cargo pockets were crammed with stuff: my iPhone, a point and shoot camera, a bandana or two, and still a little room left over for trinkets. The upper cargo pocket was storage for a chapstick tube of money, and extra copies of my DL for those unjustified pullovers. The waterproof left chest pocket held all of my important bike and personal papers, and the right pocket held a pair of sunglasses. The sleeve ID zippered pocket came in handy for not just important emergency information, but cash – especially change for the inevitable toll roads. I did not use the internal pockets as often because of accessibility. I stored my wallet on the inside but not much else. There is a pocket to place an mp3 player with a specific hole for earphones but I change playlists so often that I preferred to have it at easier
range and, being a woman, it’s just not comfortable having something rest on the top of my chest that way. Like packing a motorcycle,it’s about dispersing weight properly and I prefer to keep the weight lower in the jacket. There is also a secret internal pocket, which was well, so secret, I forgot to put anything in there. No matter which compartment I filled, each item was kept dry and I never worried about putting my items in plastic before putting them in my pocket.
The best feature of the Latitude pants was the external zippered pocket on the left thigh. It was the ultimate dry place to store wads of toilet paper, napkins, or any other suitable material, assuring me I would never be without. Anyone who has traveled in Central or South America will understand the importance of this necessity.
Pockets galore! (on the Altiplano in Peru)
Design & Fit:
I probably could have ordered down a size, but unfortunately, fit is where there was more to be desired. After three months of constant wear, the suit was officially “broken in”. By that I mean it lost some of its stiffness, which held a more flattering shape. I recognize I am a woman trying to fit into a man’s suit but the Latitude makes a valiant attempt at bridging the difference. It comes with plenty of adjustments: a Velcro cinch for the waist, zipper releases at the sides of the hips, and more Velcro to keep the wrists and lower arms snug, yet still the design overall was too bulky for me. Design and fit are a big part of choosing gear and given the variety of shapes of women (and my height as a woman) I am hoping options will change in the near future.
I appreciate that Klim offers a tall option in pants. The tall runs a 34” inseam, which is as close as I have been able to find anywhere. Still a little short, the kneepads always sat a smidge higher than normal even with the lowest adjustment. Luckily the armor is soft enough to be comfortable while riding for hours at a time without noticing too much pressure. I have come to realize, that frankly, it’s not going to be easy for me to ever find a pant, let alone a woman’s pant, that fits me, without having something custom made. I wear my pants outside of my boots, so the zippered expansion and snap closure came in handy. At times it helped provide some added ventilation for cooling down when relaxing off the motorcycle.
Motorcycle gear is not usually a candidate for a fashion show, but Klim pants have a tendency for saggy butt syndrome. It’s not just me… it happens to the men I meet who wear Klim too, no matter if it’s the Latitude or Badlands suit. When comparing to the BMW Men’s Rally suit, the European cut is much more flattering. But unlike the European cut, Klim includes a comfort stretch panel, which helps when straddling a motorcycle for 10 hours a day. Additionally, the elasticated and raised waist back and Velcro side adjustments help keep the top seam from exposing too much. Despite the droopy butt off the bike, they were comfortable on the bike.
Needs more curves and less sag
Lastly, I could not forget I was in a Klim suit. Their logo is everywhere – two on each sleeve, two across the back, and one on the chest; the pants aren’t as bad with one at each ankle, one across the butt and an asymmetrical embroidered KLIM over the knee. Totaling 11 logos, I could do without a patch or three. However, I do like that the KLIM lettering in white is reflective and adds a safety element to their purpose.
Klim was with me to the end (of the road)
Where the Klim Latitude suit did not fail me, and unfortunately I had the experience to test, is its armor. I traveled with the CE-rated integrated armor system that came with the suit. In Bolivia, I summersaulted down the bank of a dirt road after my bike 180-ed and decided to spit me out on the muddy terrain. It was like a circus act. I hopped right to my feet, shook the dizzy out of my head, and yelled at the driver of the 4×4 loaded with tourists that ran me off the road. After I picked up my bike and a few pounds of imbedded mud, I was able to ride away without injury.
Withstanding the test of rain and mud (in Bolivia)
Another useful feature of the CE-rated integrated armor system is that the knee pads provide extra padding you need when kneeling down on asphalt to work on your bike on the side of the road, which with a KLR, I did too often.
But vents worked great to let out my heat, when I had to work on an over heating bike.
Overall, the Klim Latitude is a great suit and proves to be as weather versatile as its name describes. Although I may not be jumping as high as I first was, if I were to do it all over again and given the available options, I would still choose Klim.
At this point, the glaciers glow much whiter than my suit (at Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina)
While I have been composing this review, Klim released their women’s adventure line. They based the Altitude off of a good choice – the men’s Latitude. It’s similar in styling, but with a fit that is cut for women. I have been eagerly waiting for more than a year since I bought the Latitude for this suit to come on the market. Women asked and Klim listened. I am looking forward to trying out its fit and functionality, in hopes it continues the Klim standard I have come to know and appreciate. But I have to ask, does it come in black?