For the past three weeks, I’ve been glowing in the dark.
The folks at Blauer asked me to review their Colorblock Softshell Fleece Jacket. I’ve been wearing it as my traffic vest during my night shifts at work, and wore it all week at the Texas EMS Conference. It is, to put it mildly, a very… loud… jacket.
And that’s the point, really. Blauer markets the jacket as a warm yet lightweight, high-visibility windbreaker for nighttime operations. The outer shell is a bright yellow/gray/black pattern that highlights the human silhouette. The fabric itself is very bright, and visibility is enhanced with the addition of Scotchlite reflective trim.
The jacket performs as advertised. It is very light, yet breaks the wind admirably well, and was plenty warm for the conditions. I wore it in wet and rainy weather ranging from 30-60 degrees, and never felt uncomfortably cold nor uncomfortably warm. I’m one of those guys whose internal thermostat is premanently set to broil, not to mention the fact that I carry a lot of, um, internal insulation these days anyway. I rarely wear jackets for long. However, the Blauer fleece jacket was thick enough to keep me warm in 30 degree temps, spitting rain and sleet, yet still light enough that I wasn’t tempted to shed it immediately when the temperature rose above 50. If I had one criticism, it’s that it could breathe a little better. I sweated a bit in it when the temps were high but the weather was rainy.
The jacket comes with removable badge and microphone tabs, zippered side vents to allow easy access to a duty weapon, and zippered, fleece-lined handwarmer pockets. If you’re a little more cold-natured than I am (and most people are), the fleece also serves as a zip-in liner for Blauer’s Tacshell jacket.
One feature that I found quite useful that isn’t advertised is the fleece’s water repellent quality. Blauer mentions nothing of it on the product page, but it sheds water quite well:
I’m not sure if it will continue to shed water through multiple washings, but thus far it has been laundered according to manufacturer’s instructions three times, and still works just as well as you see in the video.
The final breakdown:
- Visibility: A+. It’s a highly visible garment I wouldn’t hesitate to wear at night on the side of a busy roadway.
- Comfort and Wearability: B+. It was lightweight, warm and comfortable even in 30-degree sleet, with a full cut in the shoulders to allow easy movement. A Gore-Tex rain jacket it’s not, so be prepared to get a little sweaty if you’re wearing it in 70-degree drizzle. Not as sweaty as The Borg’s issue waterproof parka shell, though.
- Water Repellent: B+. It’s not water proof, mind you, but unless you’re wearing it in a driving rainstorm, it’ll keep you dry. If this quality holds up through repeated washings, I’d give it an A.
- Price Point: C. Don’t get me wrong, I like this jacket. I’m just not sure I like it $150 worth. Maybe I’m cheap, but if I’m going to pay that much for a lightweight fleece, it better be 100% waterproof, Gore Tex,and camouflage. However, price point is a subjective measure, and no doubt plenty of people will find the comfort, wear and increased visibility of this jacket to be well worth the price. I wouldn’t pay it myself, but as I recall, my Borg-approved parka with liner cost me nearly $200, of which the fleece liner was $80, non-reflective, and definitely not water repellent. As a matter of fact, I may see if this fleece will replace the zip-in liner for my Borg parka, and keep wearing it.
Overall, it’s a nice, warm and highly reflective jacket well-suited for night traffic duty.