Gear Review – Alpinestars Yaguara Drystar Jacket

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Big Sur. Managua. Durban. Valparaiso. Bogota. Yokohoma. Andes. Yaguara. Alpinestars has a bevy of jackets that are named after places you should be riding to, and based on the jacket I’m wearing I should be heading to a town in Colombia that’s named after a jaguar. Unfortunately, South America isn’t in the cards for me this week but I wore this jacket while reviewing the Yamaha Tracer 900GT, so I got to use it not only for the launch in Washington but also for my ride back home to Los Angeles. Here’s what I think:

Photos by Nathan May.

The Yaguara is part of Alpinestars’ Tech Touring line, and that should tell you what type of riding it’s good for. But what sort of technology do you get for $650?

“Tech Touring” – an excuse to make you look at my butt.

You won’t get the most interesting potential feature – an optional airbag system which will run you an additional $1,149.95. I’ll cover that in a separate review, so for now I’ll just mention that the jacket is prewired with electrical connections and zippers to accept the airbag:

Beyond that, the jacket is packed with features. The main shell is a “polyamide fabric”, which is the fancy name for nylon. It’s laminated with Drystar membrane, which is Alpinestars’ in-house version of Gore-Tex. In fact, that seems to be the main difference between the Yaguara and the next step up in the Tech Touring jacket line – jackets like the Managua, Revenant, and Big Sur all have Gore-Tex in their official product names and will set you back between $850-$1,000. The big picture comparison is that Drystar and Gore-Tex are similarly waterproof, though the latter is more breathable – this does not mean that it lets air pass through, rather it refers to how well it lets moisture vapor (sweat) escape. If you really want to geek out about it, Gore-Tex has over 9 billion pores per square inch and those pores are “700 times larger than a water vapor molecule”.

Drystar works well. The yellow “U” helps you line up a connection point for the airbag system.

While I was wearing the Yaguara, I was dealing with 100+ degree temperatures and never encountered any rain. However I have had plenty of time with the Yokohama jacket (which also utilizes the Drystar membrane) for a touring story in Italy and I can confidently state that the jacket is waterproof, even after riding through hours of heavy rain on naked bikes. In addition to the Drystar membrane, there’s a waterproof Napoleon pocket on the right side and all the external zippers have a polyurethane covering that is highly water repellent. That’s a good thing, because there are a lot of zippers as part of the “Ventilation System”.

Each zipper is labeled with “VENTILATION SYSTEM”, which seems a bit unnecessary.

In total, there are 8 ventilation zippers: 1 on the inside of each forearm, 1 on either side of the torso, 2 on the chest, and 2 long ones that flank the back. On the road, when I opened up all the vents I could feel a moderate amount of airflow because the airbag understandably gets in the way. When I wore the jacket without the airbag, the ventilation system was truly outstanding.

While we’re counting up to 8, that’s also the number of pockets. 5 of them are exterior pockets: 2 on the chest, 2 up front on the bottom, and 1 large “utility pocket” in the back. In addition to the previously mentioned waterproof Napoleon pocket, there are two interior hand pockets as well. You presumably get the point – there are zippers galore and just as many places to stash your stuff.

But wait, there’s more! There are two sets of buttons on each sleeve to adjust how big you want the arms to be, cinch belts for the waist, and one of the better velcro-based wrist size adjusters I’ve encountered. If you’re getting the airbag system as well, you should consider sizing up by adding 2 inches to your usual chest size. I’m usually a Euro 54 – Alpinestars considers both 54 and 56 to be XL, so I stayed in the XL range. With the airbag in, it fits perfectly. Without the airbag system, it’s a little baggy. Not a surprise, but you’ll need to keep it in mind when you’re ordering.

Including connections for the airbag system and pants, there are 18 zippers on this jacket. Also note the buttons for sleeve sizing adjustment on the arm.

Rounding out the features are some reflective pieces all over the jacket, a microfiber interior on the collar and cuffs, and armor. The shoulders and elbows get what Alpinestars calls Bio Armor. It’s CE Level 2 and it’s built as a lattice to prevent your sweat from getting trapped underneath. There’s also Level 1 armor in the chest and back – it’s nice that there’s chest protection but “Level 1” just seems to be dense foam.

The Yaguara is available in Black/Anthracite (too dark), Black/Dark Gray/Yellow (too bright), and Black/Dark Gray/Mid Gray (just right). The Hi-Viz option gets dirty instantly, but that’s not an Alpinestars-specific problem.

I’ll take the one on the right.

Overall, the Yaguara is an excellent jacket. It’s comfortable, clever, and it feels like it will last for years of exploration (you’ll make it to Colombia some day). But there’s one big problem – it only makes sense if you’re also going to buy the airbag. Otherwise, you’re paying extra to get connecting plugs, lights, and sensors that do nothing, and there’s plenty of good technical riding jackets at this price point. By itself, the $650 Yaguara isn’t a jacket, it’s a commitment to spending another $1,150. And you know what? The combination is worth it if you’ve got the dough. I’ll explain the Tech-Air system in detail soon, but I’ve never felt safer while riding a bike, and I frankly felt naked when I had to send the airbag system back. Buy both the Yaguara AND the airbag, or look at something further down the Alpinestars Tech Touring line. I hear Valparaiso, Chile is pretty nice this time of year…

If you don’t have the airbag, this jacket feels like wasted potential.

Check out the Alpinestars Yaguara Drystar Jacket!
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