Kenpo Jacket for iPod

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What could possibly be the most unique and coolest iPod accessory I’ve ever reviewed before, came in the form of a jacket.

Los Angeles based Kenpo have come up with a range of jackets featuring an uber-technological fabric control system from Eleksen, that 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 control system is designed in to the sleeve of the left arm and features fabric ‘buttons’ to Play/Pause, Skip Forward/Back and Volume Up/Down. Everything you need is built in to the jacket; all you need to do is supply the iPod and headphones.

This jacket line is available in both men and ladies styles and come in a range of shapes and sizes. Everything from fleece jackets, ski jackets, lightweight mesh jackets, satin bonded jacket to the 3-in-1-system jacket.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on two of these jackets and having tested them out in frost, wind, rain and cold mornings, I have the final verdict on whether you should be investing in one of these jackets for this years winter season or whether you should give it a miss.

First of all, the lightweight mesh jacket in blue, featuring a waterproof exterior, detachable hood, zip front, adjustable cuffs, plenty of self-adhesive pockets and a zip wallet pocket inside.

Designed to be water and wind resistant, I found this to be a great jacket for rainy days. It kept me warm, dry and well insulated from the outside elements. The lightweight waterproof material doesn’t look as though it’s going to provide much insulation from the cold, but having to wake up early to travel in the mornings near enough every day, having this jacket available certainly makes it that bit more easy to step outside.

If you’re concerned that this jacket isn’t going to provide enough warmth, I can reassure you that as soon as you put it on, you will be immediately shielded from outside elements. I don’t know what magic these guys are using in the manufacturing process, but it’s certainly working. I’ve never owned a jacket before that had the ability to stop me from being cold near enough instantly after putting it on.

The second of the two jackets I reviewed is the anorak version (MKT-04). A much heavier and tougher jacket than the first one I tested. Again, this jacket is designed for outdoor use in the worst of winter. Although I found this jacket to be heavier, it felt more substantial and kept me warmer. The hood is non-removable but does come with one of those mouth-flaps that stick via Velcro for added protection from Mother Nature.

I liked the exterior pockets in this model more because it was just a zipper that kept it closed. The lightweight mesh jacket that I reviewed earlier had the zipper and a Velcro, which I found to be a bit annoying when I needed quick access to my pockets.

The inside pocket on the left contained a big flap closure. Opening it up revealed two smaller pockets. You can have a guess as to what these are for. Yes, you got it. They’re pockets to store either an iPod Nano (using the smaller pocket) or the larger video iPod. You’ll probably find these pockets will also fit older generations of the iPod quite comfortably as well.

So how does it all connect together in the ‘Apple’ way? As in seamless integration of clothing and iPod.

The classic dock connector that is found built in to the jacket attached to a short cable on the inside pocket means you have a digital connection straight in to your jacket. Don’t worry; it’s removable for 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’re ready to go!

You have ultra-futuristic fabric buttons integrated straight in to the sleeve of your left arm. Controls for power on/off, volume, play/pause and the usual skip forward and back buttons are now always within reach. No need to get your iPod out anymore. As a preventative measure, the controls auto-lock after 7 seconds to prevent any accidental knocks or bumps that start your iPod without you knowing.

The fabric controls are completely waterproof, come wind, rain, or snow, the technology behind it all will work in these conditions. I tested this by immersing the fabric control part of the sleeve in to tap water (tap water gets pretty cold at this time of year) for 5 minutes. Took it out and connected my iPod up to it. Worked as it always does.

These jackets come in all shapes, sizes and materials so check out their web site (link at the top of the article) and you’ll find prices around the $149 mark (translates roughly to about ?Ǭ�80). Compare that to what these jackets normally cost in the shops and without the iPod integration, the price is about the same.

Kenpo has certainly nailed a niche market on the head with the iPod range of jackets. This cool and ultra-sophisticated Eleksen fabric technology has been implemented well enough that you don’t look geeky and 99% of the time, most people around you won’t have a clue what it is you’re wearing. That’s bonus points to Kenpo since iPod crime is apparently on the up. You’re probably more likely to get robbed for the jacket than for the fact that you’re carrying an iPod around with you.

If you want to keep your iPod away from the elements this winter, retain the use of it and keep warm at the same time, then I suggest you visit Kenpo and place your order before the winter season really kicks in.

The Kenpo iPod jackets gets a toasty thumbs up and the TechCast Recommended Award.

2006-11-17 Onwah Tsang

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