Our bodies were not meant for motorcycling. Straddling an engine and catapulting ourselves across time and space can result in exposure to extreme cold and heat. Sometimes, even bolting ourselves and our bikes back together with a bit of metal. We need the best protection we can get when exposed on a motorcycle for days, weeks or even months at a time.
Enter Klim, experts at engineering an armored second skin for sled-heads, dirt and ADV riders. They know a thing or two about protecting us from the elements and have put their graduate degree at the school of hard knocks into something for sport-touring and touring riders: the Klim Latitude.
I welcomed the Klim Latitude as an addition to my gear stash, since I will admit to anyone that I am a bit of a gear junkie. My garage has racks of skis and my closet is full of motorcycle gear to meet the ever changing weather conditions here in the paciﬁc northwest. To earn its spot in my closet though, I did a comprehensive breakdown including a 4 day, 1600 mile test ride to the Klim oﬃces in Rigby, Idaho to meet with Klim’s Brand Training Manager, Dustin Pancheri.
The Latitude jacket and pant main body are made from 2-layer Gore-Tex. In case you haven’t heard, Gore-Tex is the best stuﬀ on the planet for keeping you warm and dry when Mother Nature wants to rain on your parade. I have a Gore-Tex jacket for ski patrol and can give you countless stories about how that material has made the diﬀerence between working comfortably in a hostile environment or suﬀering a miserable shivering existence.
To have Gore-Tex in a motorcycle jacket and pant, where chilly and wet weather can dull your reaction time, just might make the diﬀerence between a narrow escape versus picking yourself up from the ditch.
If you have been cold and miserable on a bike, you know what I am talking about.
Klim uses Gore-Tex in their snowmobile gear as well, so they are experts at waterproof construction practices. In fact, in my visit to the factory, I saw the apparatus they use to test the waterproofness of their gear. It is a pressure tester.
You read that right. They put the fabric beneath a ring similar to the wooden hoops my mom once used for needlepoint. That ring then presses the fabric onto a plate with holes drilled for the ﬂow of pressurized water. Then, as the fabric is held down with the ring onto the pressure plate, water is forced up through the holes in the plate. You can then look down onto the fabric and see if bubbles form. If you are wearing the Latitude jacket and pant in an environment where water pressure is that severe, then you are so far underwater that your biggest worry should be ﬁshing your motorcycle out from the Mariana Trench. Then explaining to your insurance company how it got there.
If the fabric can withstand that kind of water pressure, then 50 caliber raindrops are a laugh.
To take their total protection to an even higher level, Klim lined the elbows and forearms of the jacket with goat leather. They also lined inside of the thighs and knees with goat leather where they contact the bike along with a small trim of goat leather on the shoulders and the knees beneath the heavy duty 840D Cordura. In my conversations with Dustin, he reported that Klim studies how many stitches per inch they can put into the leather to get maximum seam integrity to resist tearing without putting so many holes in the leather that it rips upon contact with terra extra-ﬁrma like some sort of leather tear away coupon. That my friends, is attention to detail.
And Klim thinks of every detail. According to Dustin, the dye they use for their fabric is engineered to resist fade, so that black jacket will still be black years from now, not a sun faded grey. The zippers on the pants and jacket have rubberized pulls so they are easy to grab with a gloved hand, even when wet. The 3M Scotchlite reﬂective panels are positioned strategically along major anatomical joints on your frame (collarbone, arm, forearm, shoulder blade, thigh and calf) to make you look like a humanoid form when it reﬂects headlights, instead of a mail truck or sign post. There is even a vertical zipper along the sides of the belly in case your ride entails you eating a burrito the size of a sleeping bag.
There are two roomy chest pockets on the front and I found that, when devoid of contents, they make excellent chest vents. These two external pockets on each chest combined with the two hand warmer pockets give plenty storage space for touring.
There is also a emergency medical ID pocket on the left forearm with the star symbol (*) to tell ﬁrst responders where to ﬁnd your medical information should they need it. If you ﬁll out a form online, Klim mails you your personal I.D. card for free. Nice touch.
Then, behind that pocket is a secret ﬂap (maybe not so secret now since I am telling everybody) that is designed to hide a credit card or stash of cash. But I think that its best use is storage for an extra key for your bike. If you have ever lost the key to your bike, or have it amputated oﬀ in your saddlebag then you know how life saving this hidden pocket could be.
As to not over-engineer the basics, there are simple Velcro adjusters on the wrist and adjustment straps on the forearms, ribs and back of the knee to make sure that your armor does not rotate upon impact. I think Klim got the collar height just right, not tall enough to rub up against your Adam’s apple and chafe, but tall enough to eschew Mother Nature’s attempts to ruin your good time. Also, the collar adjusts with a cinch strap, oﬀset to the left so it can be reached with your clutch hand. More attention to detail.
When you open up the inside of the jacket you see what seems to be pretty standard fare at ﬁrst: four zippered pockets, two on each side.
The left chest pocket has a cutout for your headphones. I cannot ride without my music, so a jacket not having a Napoleon pocket is a deal breaker for me.
Then, if you remove the back pad, there is another small, passport sized pocket behind it. With all of this storage, you could play hide and seek with this jacket. It is clearly designed for travel.
The pants have two glove sized hand warmer pockets with an additional zippered thigh pocket on the left hand side.
What surprised me is the coziness of the liners on the jacket and pants. They are as soft as your oldest, comﬁest pair of gym shorts your wife keeps begging you to throw away; they are that comfortable. Klim understands this so they gave the liners a Polygiene Odor Control additive which means that after a couple of days or weeks on the road, the garments won’t smell like that old pair of gym shorts your wife is begging you to throw away.
So it is clear that the Latitude will keep you warm, happy and comfortable no matter what your riding conditions. Which makes you wonder how well it performs when temperatures start to climb.
The answer is: fantastic.
This is one of the beneﬁts of having a Gore-Tex shell. The exterior is waterproof and guaranteed to keep you dry, which means that all vents go directly to the body, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Many manufacturers do not have waterproof shells, so they either have a non-removable liner behind the main fabric or include a separate, detachable liner to stop rain before it gets to your skin.
The disadvantage of these two solutions is that the vents are either blocked by the non-removable liner or you have a detachable, garbage bag quality liner that you have to stop and attach to your jacket beneath a freeway under pass while your riding buddies ride by, honking and waving at you in their Klim Latitude. Or if you are me, you forget to pack the stupid liner. Or you just lose it completely.
Also, with either of these waterprooﬁng techniques, the jacket gets completely, soaking, wet. The jacket absorbs water and you now have a wet, heavy jacket to wear for hours on end. You might be dry (maybe) but your jacket is a sloppy mess. This perfectly describes both my current ADV jacket and touring outﬁt. After a downpour, I gain an additional 10 pounds of retained water, like a soaking wet sleeping bag, and about as comfortable. Couple this with no venting directly to the body and you can see that Klim has the best solution: make the shell waterproof, with water resistant zippers and you can then vent directly to the body.
And boy, does it vent well. There are two vents on the forearms that push air up and over your arms, around your shoulders and down the vertical exhaust vents in the lower back. For fun, I would engage my throttle lock and stick both my arms out to my side like Rose riding on the bow of the Titanic. These forearm ﬂaps then deployed fully and caught serious wind which was not only great for cooling, but made enough wind drag it allowed me to steer the bike with the throttle lock on. Put my right arm out to steer right, left arm out to steer left, both arms out dropped my speed by a couple mph. These are the games you play with idle time while doing hundreds of miles a day through Montana.
There are also two vertical shoulder vents positioned high enough so air can reach them past your windscreen. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the two chest pockets (should they be devoid of contents) can be opened and used as additional vents.
However, my favorite venting feature is the double hold back collar. Each side of the collar can be retained open with simple elastic loops and a hook mounted near your collar bone, unlike most manufacturers that have only one side of a collar to open for venting. The holders are so simple and bulletproof I could hook them back while riding. Why isn’t everyone using this design?
Open up both sides of the collar, unzip the main zipper and you feel like you are wearing a hardcore mesh jacket. I controlled the venting by pinning both collars back and then pulling the main zipper up to my neck for a tad bit of air, or unzipping all the way down for the full on parachute eﬀect. With the zip all the way down and all vents open, I felt like a B-52 deploying full ﬂaps while coming in for a landing. It’s as close as you can come to wearing just a t-shirt.
The pants have not only two huge thigh vents but also exhaust vents on the back of the leg on your hamstring. Again, why isn’t everyone doing this? Open both of them up for the M.C. Hammer pants look and let the good air ﬂow.
Even with all of the time and eﬀort spent on these features, Klim didn’t skimp on the armor, putting D30 armor in the knees, hips, forearms, shoulders and the back. D30 is amazing stuﬀ. This orange goo (yes, they actually call it that) feels like silly putty when you play with it, but when it meets impact, it hardens instantly to dissipate that kinetic energy through the material.
Scientists call it a non-Newtonian ﬂuid. I call it amazing.
It’s so pliable you never notice it’s there. But when the orange goo is called into action, it meets or exceeds CE Level 1 protection. By the way, kudos to Klim for including a real back protector with their gear. Why do other manufacturers just include a throwaway foam placeholder in the back, forcing you to choose between spending more money for real back protection or just take your chances?
To test the armor, I grabbed a hammer. Not just any hammer, a long handle, 28oz framing hammer. That way, no one would claim that I wasn’t trying hard enough. I put my hand beneath the back pad and bravely gave a healthy swing. There is no doubt in my mind that with lesser armor I would have had broken metacarpals for days, but the D30 just stiﬀened up, absorbed the energy of the impact and returned to its normal, malleable self.
Then I did it again.
And a third time for ﬁlming purposes.
Then I high ﬁved my cameraman Kevin Rimes with my impacted hand. Not something I could have done with any other armor.
Then he said that we didn’t get audio and we had to repeat the ﬁlming all over again.
Kevin. You are ﬁred.
More hammer blows.
But a note: at freezing temps, the armor does stiﬀen. More on that later. Which brings us to the road test.
And my chosen destination? The Klim oﬃces in Rigby, Idaho, of course.
I left Wenatchee under blue skies and cool temps in the high 50’s, made an overnight stop in Clarkston, headed over Lolo Pass to Missoula then down to my overnight camp near Rigby. In the true spirit of fully testing the Latitude jacket and pant, I only took oﬀ the gear to sleep. It came oﬀ as I got in my sleeping bag and I put it on as I crawled out.
Of course, the fact that it was 32 degrees in Rigby when I woke up may have had something to do with that. As I rolled out of my sleeping bag to put on the jacket and pants lying next to me in my tent, I discovered I had accidentally laid the jacket face up over the top my helmet. It was then that I learned that D30 armor does get very stiﬀ when the temperature reaches freezing. In my case, the D30 back pad had slightly frozen into a convex curve. This stretched the jacket fabric enough making it diﬃcult to put on. When I did wrestle the jacket on, I looked like a turtle with its shell put on upside down. However, a few minutes of body heat softened the pad up enough so that it returned to its happy, limber self. Not everyone will live in this gear in freezing temps, so this might only apply to me. This is the testing I do in the name of gear review for you.
Way above my pay grade.
Later that morning, I had the privilege of spending the better part of a day with Dustin Pancheri,and got a great tour of Klim HQ. This is what I uncovered.
Dustin is the kind of person who after a brief introduction, makes you feel like you are chatting with an old riding buddy: stories get exchanged, laughter, knowing smiles. He is so passionate about the sport, the outdoors, the Klim family and his own family that you get the sense that he eats, sleeps and breathes the gear head life. Even he admitted that sometimes he will be at home, have an idea and say “Oh my gosh, I just had an idea. I can’t wait to get to work.”
But it’s not just Dustin. Everyone at Klim that I met embodied that passion. Sales people, marketing managers, warehouse workers, upper management, all shook my hand, said they were glad to meet me and then would apologize for the popcorn butter on their hands. They were all happy to stop and say hello, share a smile and a laugh. Even when contacting Klim headquarters to set up this interview, a real person answered the phone.
Yes, an actual human being. Not a endlessly irritating “press 1 if you want sales, press 2 if you are facing north, press 3 if you have no frickin’ clue what you want, press star if you hate phone menus”. I was so surprised to talk to an actual person at their home oﬃces that when they answered I froze and completely forgot I spoke English.
That same passion for people is probably why Klim oﬃces are still in CEO Justin Summer’s hometown of Rigby, Idaho and not in a massive sprawling urban jungle of asphalt and glass.
After our tour I suggested to Dustin that he could use me as an excuse to get out of work and join me on a ride to lunch. He didn’t take a whole lot of convincing and suggested we ride to the nearby town of Victor. Dustin grabbed a brand new BMW R1200GS from the Klim oﬃces. New as in it had 10 miles and he still needed to put the seat on. I know he was jealous of my 20 year old VFR with 75,000 miles on the clock.
Now, you would think that being a brand new bike with new tires would call for a gentle breaking in, and that Dustin would lead a casual cruise into Victor.
You would be wrong.
I am not a fast rider, but I am not slow either. Yes, I am on a VFR and have done a track day on it, but my bike is also as outdated as my iPhone 4 and it is fully loaded with 4 days’ worth of camping gear. I am using that as my excuse for getting completely smoked by Dustin. True, it was a road he was familiar with and laced with strategically placed apex potholes big enough to swallow unsuspecting children, and I was still shaking oﬀ the morning’s freezing temperatures. I am using that as my excuse for being thoroughly schooled by Dustin.
I think that is Klim in a nutshell. That same passion Dustin exhibits in his riding, Klim puts into their gear. You sense their DNA when you put it on. If it is built to withstand what their employees can put it though, then it is good enough for me.
I returned home the next day, having put 1600 miles in 4 days on the Latitude jacket and pant in temperatures ranging from 32 degrees (I used my heated liner) to 88, at speeds from road construction crawling to 110+ (actual ﬁgures shall remain secret to protect the guilty) and having done everything from walking the Klim facilities for hours and taking photos to setting up camp and cooking dinner, literally only taking the gear oﬀ to sleep, and putting it on immediately after waking up. Here is what I learned.
The Klim Company is family, passionate about the outdoors and experts at making gear that withstands the abuse that adventurous people put it through. The Klim Latitude jacket and pant also pass the biggest test of gear: they disappear when you ride in it. In freezing temps you stay warm, in heat you stay cool, at speed nothing ﬂaps around. It seals out the cold and in the heat vents almost as good as a full mesh jacket. After wearing it for 4 days non-stop (with only one shower day, for testing purposes of course) it still smelled like a jacket and not like a sweaty middle-school locker room after a wrestling match. The Polygiene Odor Control Technology at work.
Any product reﬂects the mind of its producer. The conscious of the creator is borne out in their creation. Their mind becomes matter. So, when you pick up a product, you are holding the philosophy and paradigm of its creator. The people at Klim are just plain badasses and it shows in all of their garments.
The Latitude jacket and pant wear like a well-engineered second skin that God would have given us if we were supposed to hurl ourselves through the atmosphere at stupid speeds with nothing between ourselves and the asphalt but two credit card sized contacts of rubber.
Given all of this functionality, quality and protection, I did something unheard of.
I gave away some of my gear.
Shocking, I know.
I like the Latitude jacket and pant so much that I, the gear junkie, kept the Klim Latitude jacket and pant for good and gave away my ADV jacket, my touring gear and even my rain suit. It replaces all of them. Some people will balk at the price of Klim gear but trust me, it is cheaper to buy quality the ﬁrst time around, rather than stockpiling a bunch of gear to ﬁll riding niches.
If you live in more temperate climates, this is the only piece of riding equipment you need and you should get the gray and high-vis version to stay a touch cooler. If you want that ADV style to go with your KTM Adventure, Honda Africa Twin, Triumph Tiger or other ADV bike, then the all gray will tell people you mean business. I ordered the black.
I did keep my track leathers as well as my hardcore mesh gear for those 100+ degree days. The Latitude has no pretensions about replacing either one of those. Other than that, this is what I automatically reach for when I go to my newly shrunken gear closet.
If you have any questions about the Klim Latitude jacket and pant, want pictures of speciﬁc features (check the unboxing video ﬁrst) or any other inquiries, please don’t hesitate to leave a question. I am a rider just like you, and I know that buying a garment sight unseen has an element of faith. To help you make a better informed purchase, I am at your disposal for your questions. So take advantage. I might not be able to answer every question, but I can try.