Review: Kenpo 'Made-For-iPod' Jacket

Los Angeles based fashion company is breaking ground with a new line of jackets that have buttons on the sleeve to control your pocket-protected iPod. (Courtesy: Personal TechPipeline)

February 17, 2006

3 Min Read
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Though iPods are designed for portability, they’re not that easy to use on the slopes while snowboarding – especially if you’re wearing heavy gloves. Kenpo, Inc., hopes to solve that problem by enabling you to keep your iPod in the jacket’s inner pocket and control it without taking it out.

Kenpo offers two versions of the jacket: the MKT-023, a lighter hooded jacket, and the MKT-07, a slightly heavier fleece-lined jacket. I looked at the MKT-07.

Music control is accomplished from a touchpad on the bottom of the left sleeve. The fabric controller has five large, built-in buttons: Volume Up, Volume Down, Previous, Play/Pause and Forward.

The Kenpo jackets are based on technology called ElecTex licensed from Elecsen Limited. It includes a patented, 100 percent fabric control system made of three layers of “Smart Fabric.” An iPod is then plugged into the controller found in the inside pocket of the jacket, which operates the five-button switch sensor on the sleeve. The beauty behind the whole system is that it is all powered by the iPod – no need to carrying around built-in batteries.

The Jacket supports 3rd through 5th generation iPod models (though 5th generation models require a different controller, which is provided by Kenpo) and is also machine washable (you still need to unplug the controller from the inside.)Connecting the jacket is easy. Simply connect the controller to the jacket, connect the iPod to the controller and set the iPod to lock. The iPod has its own dedicated pocket on the inside bottom left of the jacket, which is padded for the iPod’s protection. Operating the iPod from the sleeve is similar to the controls on the iPod itself -- with a few differences. The device is automatically set to lock (a feature that cannot be turned off). I found this irritating at first, but eventually got used to it. To unlock, you push and hold the “Track Forward” button for three seconds. Then you are free to manipulate the iPod any way you want within a playlist. There is no way to switch playlists without removing the iPod from the pocket and switching the “old-fashioned” way.

I took the jacket on a rigorous (ahem!) “field test” on the slopes of Mammoth Mountain, Calif. The three-day test involved extreme weather conditions, low temperatures and a brutal durability test.

My first day of snowboarding was spent in freezing rain. Temperatures were in the low 30’s and everything was wet. Although not advertised, I found that the jacket is very water-resistant. After a half-day of riding in freezing rain, I was nice and dry on the inside.

My 2nd day of boarding exposed me and the jacket to extreme temperatures (around 10 degrees F with windchill factor) yet my upper torso remained perfectly warm because of the fleece lining in the jacket. Mind you that, for testing purposes, I was wearing a long sleeve shirt underneath (no layers).

The 3rd and final test was durability. After a full-day in the park, I walked away with only a few mild injuries while my iPod sustained none. However, for snowboarding, the iPod positioning is awkward. At times it felt like there was a weight hanging away from my body which was uncomfortable. I would have preferred that the iPod was located higher up in the jacket, closer to my chest.Although Kenpo is not the first company to come out with “Made for iPod” jackets (Burton released an iPod jacket in 2003), the company is the first to unveil an affordable option for the average consumer. $275 is definitely a reasonable price for an excellent, high-quality jacket, extra protection for your iPod and a convenient listening experience.

With 42 million iPod solds so far, Kenpo is providing a realistic and excellent product that will lead the way for technology-integrated clothing.

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