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Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.
17 November 2016
About the only wearables we review are camera straps so when SCOTTeVEST suggested we take a look at one of their products, we balked. We've never even owned a photographer's vest.
But we do have very strong feelings about jackets and pockets and camera bags. We've developed these strong feelings over a lifetime of hoisting bags onto our shoulder, fumbling through pockets, keeping keys separate from polished electronics and, well, you've probably done the same dance.
The problem is that we all have a lot of stuff and we occasionally have to leave the house. When we do, we bring too much of the stuff we've got laying around. More than we need, more than fits comfortable in a jacket or a bag. Or even both.
There's no doubt an official mental illness named for this behavior with several unsuccessful and experimental therapies funded by generous governments and drug companies.
But meanwhile we suffer every time we leave the house and wonder what to put in our pockets.
We've settled on two strategies.
When we take a camera, we pack a camera bag. This has come to resemble a man purse.
It contains a camera so nobody can call it a purse. And maybe one other photographic accessory (like a lens but sometimes just a lens cloth).
We put our wallet in there for old time's sake. And a Moleskin notebook in case we run across anything we would otherwise forget as soon as we run across something else. A pen goes with the Moleskin.
We've got our smartphone, too, mainly to count steps. And a Bluetooth trigger because we really can't stand the on-screen shutter or the little button shutter. Even though we never remember to use it.
And we take along our glasses in their case.
When we don't take a camera, we only need a wallet, Moleskin, pen and the smartphone (which could, we admit, cover the previous three items in an emergency). We wear our glasses.
That fits, more or less, in one of our jackets. But oddly enough not many of them.
Pockets seem to have become an expensive add-on. We have a number of fleece jackets with just two outside pockets to keep your hands warm and large interior bags to stuff things in. You wouldn't put a phone or a wallet in them because they'd tumble out the first chance they got.
Some sleek windbreakers have no pockets at all. Or just one across the front. Ridiculous.
Suit jackets are, suprisingly, more accommodating. Even sports coats. We have one sports coat that has interior breast pockets on both sides, a hidden pocket at the lower left front and a pen pocket. Which is a good thing because the outside pockets are all sewn shut.
In fact, that brings to mind two other strategies: whether the jacket has pockets on the outside or the inside.
That old photographer's vest, for example, has pockets on the outside. You stuff them with things that make those pockets bulge.
Our sports coat, though, gets stuffed with thin stuff like a smartphone and a wallet (well, our wallet is pretty thin) so the pockets don't bulge.
THE STERLING IDEA
The idea behind the Sterling jacket, which is cut for either men or women, is to provide both inside and outside pockets in a stylish jacket you can wear as a vest, too. In other words, it can be whatever you want it to be.
We've been wearing one for months now and have become close friends with the thing. It hasn't replaced our camera bag but it's the first jacket we consider.
First of all, it's attractive.
It has a straight car-coat collar not a racing-jacket band collar so, when you wear it as a vest, it doesn't look like an ordinary coat without sleeves. It looks sharp as either a jacket or a vest.
You wouldn't wear a tie with it but that goes for any coat these days.
The sleeves unzip to turn the Sterling jacket into a vest. It was very easy to remove and even to replace the sleeves. Just pay attention to the button orientation so you put the right sleeve on the right side and the left one on the left.
The shell is a 65 percent cotton 35 percent nylon bend, while the lining is 100 percent polyester. There is no fill so the company rates it sufficient for mild weather (which is about all we have in San Francisco anyway). And the garment is made in China.
Unlike so many jackets these days, the Sterling has so many pockets (the company counts 25 for the men's jacket and 23 for the women's) that it includes documentation on a microfiber cleaning cloth in one of them. Other mysteries are explained with little cards or attachments, including a fabric note to remove the keychain before washing.
Whenever we thought we ran into an issue, we discovered (with a little exploration) a solution. Our encased iPhone 6 Plus, for example, didn't quite fit comfortably in the smartphone pocket, which rides a little high on your chest. But it slipped perfectly into the front chest pocket of the jacket.
We also thought we didn't see a place to clip our pen. But there are two pen pockets, one on the inside of each front edge of the jacket. Little icons provide suggestions near each pocket.
The smartphone pockets have a plastic face so you can glance at the screen. But a smaller smartphone without a screen protector that we tried stuck to the plastic. The solution was just to turn it around.
There's even a cable management system built into the collar, which the company calls a Personal Area Network. You can wear your headphones without getting ensnared in them. Christmas trees should come with as nice a cable management system.
Here's the list of more important pockets:
On the outside of the Sterling, you'll find:
- Two zippered breast pockets deep enough for a large smartphone. Both also include a pocket within the pocket large enough for a credit card-sized wallet.
- Two large zippered side pockets, one with a waterbottle holder so it won't tip over and another with a keychain on an expandable leash.
On the inside of the Sterling, there's:
- A cable management system around the neck
- Two windowed breast pockets large enough for a medium-sized smartphone (with the cable management system they make what the company calls a Personal Area Network)
- Two pen pockets on the edge
- A large layered pocket system that fits a tablet, passport, ID card (in a window) and more
- On the other side a two-level pocket system for glasses and a small camera.
That inventory of pockets can be used any way you like, of course. The icons are merely suggestions.
You might think of the Sterling as a back with removable sleeves that has two font panels composed entirely of pockets with inside and outside zippers.
On more thing you should know about these pockets is that they're guaranteed up to $1,000 for any valuables pickpocketed from them while traveling. You can find the policy details at that link but here's the gist:
This is not an everyday guarantee and it's not something you will hear from other companies. But, this is exactly how confident we are in our product. If you are pickpocketed while wearing your SCOTTeVEST, we will reimburse you for any losses up to $1,000 Unfortunately, anytime you wave around $1,000, it brings out the trolls and con artists, so our lawyers made us put in some fine print. Even with the details below, we promise you that if you are truly pickpocketed while wearing your SeV, we will cover your losses.
The lawyers insist you save your receipt, make a police report mentioning you were wearing the product and a few others things, so check the policy.
IN THE FIELD
We resisted the temptation to load up the Sterling like a camera bag. For one thing, you need to balance the left and right sides. For another, with the main pockets on the inside, you can appear oddly bulky with a dSLR stashed in one.
While we didn't load it up, we did use the various pockets in different combinations on different occasions. The flexibility is what we appreciated.
There was always a pocket available at the right size for whatever else we wanted to take with us or pick up along the way. It took us a few days to find them all, but they were there.
And while there's no law against it, we found ourselves preferring to pack flat items in those pockets to keep the profile of the jacket slim. A glasses case was about as three-dimensional as we dared to get.
But the pockets are designed to handle bulkier items using what the company calls its HangingPocket design.
We didn't have that timidity when we wore it as a vest, though. We didn't zip it up in front for one thing so we didn't have to preserve that slim look.
With a light load we had no problem strapping a camera across our shoulders, too. We usually put the coat on over rather than under the camera strap to make it harder to "borrow" our gear on the street. But the Sterling works either way if you keep the lower pockets empty.
We didn't wear the Sterling in the rain. We have hooded rain jackets for that. But we did get caught in some heavy fog. The fog, which felt like pin pricks on our face, beaded up on the tightly woven Sterling fabric and our phone and wallet did not get wet. The streets, however, did.
We wouldn't wear it in a storm but it's nice to know it isn't fazed by a little low fog. Let's call it weather resistant.
Washing instructions bear a little study because the garment is full of zippers and clear windows and attachments. If you're one of those people who leaves things in their pockets all the time, beware.
Here's the drill, Heloise:
- First, close all those zippers and remove the built-in key chain.
- Machine wash cold with like colors on the delicate cycle with no bleach.
- Tumble dry low (those clear plastic panels can melt).
- Use a cool iron only.
And do not dry clean. The company warns against it on the label.
WHAT WE'VE LEARNED
The Sterling has saved us on a number of occasions from carrying a man purse-like camera bag. And we're probably a bag person to begin with. We like being able to take everything in a compact bag and leave it on a chair without it pulling our clothing this way and that.
But the Sterling provides places for a lot of the stuff we can't leave home without these days without requiring that heavy bag on our shoulder. And we can drape it over a chair to be free of the burden, too.
It's priced like a camera bag but it's a bit more versatile.
The Sterling is available for $200 list but SCOTTeVEST runs a lot of sales so you can often find it for $150.
It comes in a number of colors (black, white, gray, blue, red) and size ordering on the site is reliable and accurate. We got a perfect fit.
We're awarding the Sterling all four photo corners for its thoughtful, practical design which has been carefully executed in manufacturing. You won't be disappointed.