Merlin Drifter jacket review

Sustainable material, lightweight and cool-looking make this jacket a good proposition

Merlin Drifter jacket

by Jim Blackstock |

One thing we all need to be keenly aware of is the impact our lives have on the environment. This jacket from Merlin seeks to protect riders, all while reducing its effects on the planet.

The outer layer is formed in 100% organic ripstop cotton, produced by Halley Stevensons, a regular partner with Merlin, particularly on its waxed-cotton clothing. This gets treated with a non-fluorocarbon surface treatment to repel water while it is also backed with a Humax breathable and waterproof membrane.

The Drifter is part of Merlin’s Explorer range, so it has a definite touch of adventure to it though it looks and feels equally at home on a retro or worn with a pair of riding jeans.

Merlin Drifter Jacket

There is no integrated thermal liner so if you envisage wearing it in colder climes, you will need your own, separate mid-layer(s) to keep you warm. And on that basis, you may need to have a careful think about sizing and if possible, try before you buy. I usually take an XL in jackets but the L fitted me perfectly and, I reckon, would still allow room for a thin mid-layer over my base layers.

The Drifter is an innovative garment; in addition to being waterproof (I have only ridden it in showers but can confirm it is definitely showerproof) the material is also windproof. However, this is where the Drifter’s design touches begin to get really interesting. There is a fold-out storm flap behind the main zip; leave it folded away and you get a pleasant blast of cooling air through the non-waterproof main YKK zip.

However, fold the flap out and it blocks all airflow through the front of the garment to keep you warm. In addition, there is a return on the flap which prevents any water that gets past the zip from running into the garment – it simply stays within the flap and runs down, to the bottom of the jacket. Outside the bottom of the zip, there is material to help protect the finish of the bike’s tank and prevent scratches or marks from the zip.

Fit on me – 34in waist and 44in chest – is lovely. I have a relatively long torso compared with my legs and this sits nicely with a very good relationship between the body size and the length of the sleeves. This means the elbow armour is in the right place and the cuffs sit nicely on my wrists. The cuff fastenings – hook-and-loop over a gusset – are large enough to go over short gloves and still allow some airflow up the sleeves for hot rides.

Speaking of airflow, there are also no less than six vents to allow additional cooling air into and out of the jacket. There is a vent on each upper arm and the top of each side of the chest and there are large vents running down from under the armpit to allow air out. These are secured by non-waterproof zips which sit behind two layers of overlapping materials to prevent water from reaching them.

Keeping things even cooler, the collar is a relatively loose fit (on a 17-inch neck) and secures with one of two poppers to prevent water and wind from getting in through the neck aperture. However, again to allow cooling air in, the neck flap can be secured well out of the way with an elasticated loop on the flap and a hook on the side of the collar to allow yet more air in. The collar, like the cuffs, is edged with faux leather and is super-comfortable.

There are also pockets everywhere; six on the front with four zip-closing and two hand warmers with the flap closed by magnets. There are three inside, including one waterproof Napoleon-style version accessed from inside the main zip and all zips are supplied by YKK.

Inside, there are also pockets to add chest armour to supplement the included Level-1 D3O shoulder and elbow armour and D3O’s Viper back protector though the latter is upgradeable to Level-2 for £40 from Sportsbikeshop currently. This brings us neatly to the Drifter’s only real criticism. Overall, it has a CE rating of A; lower than other garments in the range, such as the Merlin Edale.

Now, for many, this won’t be an issue, particularly if you are a rider who dresses for the ride, not the crash - and if it isn’t, then this is a very good option for flexibility and in particular, warmer rides though clearly you can pair it with more layers underneath to keep you warm if necessary. However, if you consider a garment’s potential protective ability when purchasing, then this may affect your confidence in the Drifter.

Verdict

This is a very nice jacket – it has clearly been well-conceived and developed and offers an excellent array of features as well as a great fit and looks. If you can get past the fact it is only CE A-rated, then it is a great option; wind and waterproof, cool in warm rides but with enough inbuilt design flourishes that eliminate virtually all external airflow and with room for warming layers underneath.

It has a touch of adventure to it but it wouldn’t look out of place on the road either. It is very easy to ride in and feel comfortable with the added bonus that you are helping reduce motorcycling’s impact on the environment.

Pros:

• Made from sustainable Ripstop cotton
• Wind and waterproof and breathable membrane
• Loads of airflow options

Cons:

• Only gets a CE rating of A

More textile motorcycle jackets on MCN

Alpinestars T-Fuse Textile Jacket
Oxford Harrington Classic Riding Jacket
Merlin Edale Waxed Cotton Jacket

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