by Gerde Applethwaite
Shorter: The Firstgear Kilmanjaro and the Scorpion Commander 2 jackets are comparable in so many ways but they vary enough that you will find one with features you prefer.
Hi-viz motorcycle clothing is the only flavor that interests me right now – at least for my own personal use. I don’t expect that I will ever buy anything other than hi-viz moto apparel and I have written about this previously. If you want to know more take a look at my previous posts but on the off chance that you are not inclined or especially motivated in that direction let me briefly reaffirm my Conspicuity Mantra. It is as follows (or at least resembles the following): I want to be as bright and visible out on the highways and bi-ways of this great land as a massively outsized, nearly phosphorescent, chartreuse lollipop. I can be no clearer.
I have purchased a new jacket for the current riding season and in the process have taken note of all of the new hi-viz offerings. Among them are two jackets designed roughly within the same price range and for the same market. These are the Firstgear Kilimanjaro and the Scorpion Commander 2 textile touring jackets. I like them both and either one would be a great choice. Because they are so similar in so many ways I decided to take a really close look at both of them. I have them both before me now and while I have spent a fair amount of time reading up on them online no comparison can be adequate unless you have them in meatspace. Looks aren’t all that important here but I have to note that the Scorpion jacket just has more styley style than the Firstgear. There are other considerations, in fact there are many. I will endeavor to be succinct.
Price: The Firstgear is about $60 less than the Scorpion. (the Scorpion is also slightly more costy for the uber large and/or tall sizes.)
Material: The Kilmanjaro is made of Nylon and the Commander 2 is of the polyester persuasion. Nylon is noted to be a stronger more durable material than polyester but polyester does not absorb and hold water the way that nylon does. This means that once your nylon jacket gets wet the longer it will stay wet. A wet jacket will draw body heat and make you colder. Nylon material will pill-up when frayed, the poly will not. Polyester absorbs and holds odors more so than nylon. They are both 600 denier across the main body panels.
Color: They Both share a bright hi-viz color (virtually identical in color) and both are equally visible from a distance. My lollipop visibility requirements are more than amply met by both. They are both a combination of black and hi-hiz and have sufficient hi-viz in front and back to make them effective. The Scorpion though has mostly black on the side panels below the armpit and this makes the jacket less visible to traffic from the side — a definite deciding factor for me.
Reflectivity: I don’t get this: both jackets are woefully lacking in reflectivity stripes. Why? If you are concerned enough about safety and visibility to buy the hi-viz option wouldn’t you want a bunch of 2” wide, really bright, reflective tape on your jacket as well? I say yes – both Scorpion and Firstgear disagree. Scorpion is woefully out of tune here and Firstgear isn’t much better. The Commander 2 reflectivity patches are sprayed on and more than half hidden under the top front pocket closures – although, even the Commander’s sprayed on the material is substantially brighter than the Kilimanjaro’s. The back and the arm bands aren’t too much better: Scorpion has sprayed on the reflective stuff in a 3/8” wide stripe at the shoulder (the junction between the black shoulder material and the hi-viz) and this thin band wraps around to the arm bands. Firstgear utilizes a reflectively weak black tape reflective sewn in. It glows anemically under light in the dark but during the day it blends fashionably with the black segments of the jacket. Firstgear seem to want to hide their reflectivity panels and blend them into the black bits. Scorpion seems ashamed that they had to put them in at all and hide them under a pocket flap. Is this a style choice? Dunno why, as far as I am concerned the makers should flaunt their reflectivity touches not hide them.
Armor: The Commander 2 is set up with Level 1 Sas-Tec armor in the hips, knees, elbows and shoulders while the Kilimanjaro sports D3O. [See my post about armor “Traversing the Molecular Armor Maze” for more detailed information about armor.] They are ostensibly comparable and their armor is better than you will find in many jackets. Having said that Its worth noting that I swapped out the D3O (level 1) for the Viper Stealth Pro D3O (level 2) and the Xergo D3O (level 2) in the Kilimanjaro. I want the maximum protection available.
Cinching and Closures: Both jackets have adequate cinching belts wit TPR (Velcro-like) closures. They pull up just fine when you need to adjust the jacket. The Firstgear Kilimanjaro has a reputation for being Tent-like but I tested a medium in both jackets and they fit about the same. No excessive room in either. I could wear a t-shirt and a fleece hoodie under each but not too much more.
The main zipper in both is the standard sturdy YKK. Kilimanjaro has one snap at the bottom and the hidden snaps all the way up. The Commander 2 has a 2 button snap on the bottom and nifty magnetic closures the rest of the way up. The magnetic closures work really well and they make opening and closing the front flap with cold and/or gloved hands really easy. The Kilimanjaro has a water seal flap across the front zipper and that gives you an extra water barrier. The Commander 2 has but one flap. On the inboard side of the zipper though the Commander 2 has an extra wall of flaps. It is a different approach to the same problem and I suspect that they are both equally as effective.
Fit and Feel: When you get them adjusted up for your body and riding position they both feel fine. They both have rubber coated buttons on the bottom to prevent damage to your gas tank when leaning forward. The Scorpion has a nice little stretch accordion panel above the elbow to make arm flexibility easier.
Pockets: I am not a big fan of lots of pockets on jackets because its too tempting to put stuff in there. If you land on your phone in a get-off it can bruise your ribs upon impact (or worse) to say nothing of destroying your phone. The scorpion has 4 big pockets on the outside front, the Firstgear has 2. Neither is lacking in pockets but the whole design of the Scorpion is a little sexier than the Firstgear. Both Manufacturers state that their pockets are waterproof.
I do like the reverse kangaroo pouch on the back of the Commander 2 and wish the Kili had one too. these big pockets are really handy for storing your liners when you are riding on a warm day. They are also handy for storing your gloves when you get off the bike.
Waterproofing/Resistance: The Kilimanjaro has its waterproofing applied to the backside of its outer shell while the Commander 2 has a separate zip-in waterproofing liner. The Commander 2 has 2 liners and the Kilimanjaro has one. There is some discussion online about which is better – the separate waterproofing liner or the waterproof backing. One suit manufacturer dropped its separate water lining in favor of the bonded waterproofing. I cannot testify to the worthiness or the lack thereof of either. I haven’t given either jacket a water test.
Zippers: YKK all around. The Commander is easy to get in and out of but the Firstgear takes a bit of work to wriggle out of the sleeve. The Scorpion has zippers at the cuff while the Kilimanjaro an accordion pleat. They both Have TPR cinching at the cuff. I prefer the Commander’s cuff setup.
Venting: The Kilimanjaro circulates more air through the body because its vents are just longer. They have 4 long vents on the front whereas the the Commmander has 4 short 4” vents. In hot weather you can shove a lot more air through the Kilimanjaro. In the front the Kilimanjaro features 2 – 10” vents running vertically along the chest and also 2 – 6” horizontal vents at the shoulder. that’s plenty of breathing room. On the back of the jacket its the same story; The Commander has 2- 4” vents whereas the Kilmanjaro has a long vent flap with a zipper that extends clear across the shoulder. One more thing: the Kilimanjaro has flaps covering all of the vents which is helpful in keeping out the driving rain and also in keeping the bugs from fouling your zippers.
Cuff Sealing: As stated I like the way the Commander handles the cuff sealing thing. The zippered cuff makes it easy to get in there and unsnap the liners and it opens up the jacket for easy exit. The Scorpion also has this nice fillip: the liner ends in a loop at the end of the sleeve so that you can rest the loop like a stirrup between your thumb and forefinger. This means it will stay down on your wrist when you put your gloves on and lean forward. Nice. I used to use a cutout pair of crew socks to do pretty much the same thing
Neck Seal: The neck closure on the Commander is Velcro-like and its an easy close with a gloved hand. You can also wrap the Velcro’y (TPR) tongue around to the inside to get it out of your way when you are riding with the zipper partially open. The neck closer on the Kilimanjaro is a button snap type with an adjustable housing for different neck sizes. It is fidgety to close with a gloved hand.
Thermal Liner: The Commander 2 has two liners as mentioned above. The inner liner is a thermal that seems about as thick as the Kilimanjaro. There is little difference to report but for the fact that the Commander’s liner is approx. 6” shorter than the Kilimanjaro’s. The Firstgear liner extends to near the bottom of the jacket while the Scorpion’s only goes as far as the zipper. This makes zippering your pants to the jacket a bit easier in the Scorpion but when riding without pants zipped to the jacket I would rather have the extra length in the thermal liner that the Firstgear affords.
All in all I think you will be fine with either jacket. I decided to go for the Firstgear Kilimanjaro because: it is nylon, It is $60 less and I really like the built in rain hood in the collar. The jackets are that close in most details that it becomes a coin toss. Just to give you an idea – I almost went with the Scorpion because it has brighter reflective material on it than the Firstgear and because I like the Commander’s Cuff seal system better. I think the thing that really pushed me over was that the Kilimanjaro had more hi-viz material on it side panels. I think it just comes down to a personal choice between 2 excellent jackets. For the price these motorcycle jackets really come packed with lots of features you used to see only on the highest end gear.