Were I to attempt a crossing of the Darien Gap I would certainly use this jacket. For those not familiar with the Darien, it is that hundred-mile stretch of roadless wilderness between Panama and Columbia, and it is horribly hot and humid—the most miserable weather for a motorcyclist, in my estimation.
I was down in Panama in 1969 and again in 1974, and took the advice of locals not to go farther than the end of the road. In 1985 a brave fellow name Ed Culberson managed to get his BMW R80G/S through the Gap, through a combination of riding, carrying and dragging his machine. I don’t know what jacket he wore, but this DarienLight motorcycle jacket would have been very suitable.
Basically it is a lightweight (surprise!) version of Aerostich’s well-known Darien jacket, that uses a 200-denier Cordura nylon fabric lined with Gore-Tex to keep the rain out. The standard Darien is tougher, should you harbor any plans for sliding down the asphalt, but this is a good cover when faced with 99-degree heat and 99 percent humidity. What you want in those climes is protection without heat prostration.
The jacket has TF3 armor in the elbows and shoulders, which are the body bits that tend to get bruised or broken when involuntarily dismounting from a motorcycle. Since there is no 911 in Panama, keeping yourself from getting hurt is the real key. Also, a sensible addition to the jacket is the standard Aerostich Back Pad, also made of TF3, designed to fit into the jacket using preplaced hook-and-loop tabs. That TF3 stuff is a “viscoelastic” material that, the brochure says, when worn, molds comfortably to the body, but stiffens up when struck. Body armor is only good when worn, and if it is not comfortable it is often not worn. In the Darien Gap, you want to wear it; when commuting in St. Louis on a hot summer day, you want to wear it.
The DarienLight has lots of pockets, nine if I counted them all. Very useful for carrying things, preferably soft, bendable things like maps and sandwiches, especially on a dual-purpose ride when I’m waltzing through the hills and dales for a few hours. Three big vents, two in the pits of the arms, one on the back, can be opened up for a breeze. Leave the cuffs open and a nice rush of air runs through. Lots of Scotchlite reflective material makes you more visible at night, always a comforting thought.Speaking of cuffs, the wrists close down with short zippers and hook-and-loop tighteners. To snug the jacket proper there are a pair of hook-and-loop mini-belts on either side of the waist. Securing the front is a long YKK double-ended zipper, protected by a windflap secured with more hook-more-loop. The mandarin collar itself is lined with some very comfy suedelike material and closes with a hook-and-loop tab.
Just in case there is a cold snap in Panama, several liners are available, and I got the TLTec Wind Blocker. This long-sleeved fleece (polyester type, not sheep) zips into the jacket, and has its own pockets, plus underarm vents. It is quite warm and cozy.
I have no plans for trying to ride through the Darien Gap, but I love the jacket—especially when going through Death Valley in the off-season (summer). Jacket price: $387; Wind Blocker Liner: $187; Standard Back Pad: $70.
For more information: Call (800) 222-1994 or visit www.aerostich.com