The Firstgear Rainier TPG jacket provides warmth, comfort, modern styling and it's waterproof. It's a good choice for serious riders looking for high quality at a lower price point than the premier jackets from heavy hitters like Rev'it, Rukka, and Klim.
This is the third version of the Firstgear TPG Rainier jacket reviewed on webBikeWorld in the last 3 years.
But reader feedback indicates that Firstgear and the TPG line of clothing is one of the most popular available, so here we are again, reviewing the latest revisions to the Firstgear TPG lineup.
The popularity of the Rainier jacket and also the rest of the Firstgear standard and TPG clothing lineup is with good reason. The clothes are well made and have many of the features serious riders demand.
The TPG clothing line (TPG = "Technical Performance Gear") comes with a premium price over the non-TPG Firstgear jackets and pants.
But with motorcycle jackets costing up to $1,300.00 for the Klim Adventure Rally Jacket and $1,995.00 (you read that correctly) for the Rukka SRO A Jacket, the Rainier TPG seems like a bargain. You could buy two and still have enough change leftover for a pair of pants or two...
I'm sure Klim, Rukka and Rev'it would sniff at comparing the Firstgear brand with their top-of-the-line gear. Such temerity! But maybe one of these days we'll do a comparison just for fun.
But when you get right down to it, there are really only three things a jacket must do: 1) Protect. 2) Keep you warm (or cool). 3) Keep you dry.
And maybe look good doing it, but style is independent of function and besides, have you ever seen a Rukka SRO A jacket in black, the only color available? The word "style" isn't even in that dictionary.
While I couldn't say that the Firstgear TPG Rainier jacket has no competition, it does slip into a niche as more of a jacket than, for example, brands like Fieldsheer or Joe Rocket (or even Firstgear non-TPG types), but below the higher end Rev'it Defender GTX.
But even the new Rev'it Defender GTX (review coming) looks like a bargain compared to the Klim and Rukka jackets.
Version 1 of the Rainier TPG jacket (review) was first released in the winter of 2008. It didn't fare very well in the webBikeWorld review at that time. But Firstgear gets a lot of credit for sticking with the program by continuously updating and evolving the product line each year.
Version 2 was reviewed exactly one year ago, in November of 2009. Actually, this was the review of the Firstgear Teton TPG jacket, a shorter version of the Rainier but with identical construction and styling. That jacket was a good update to the original TPG concept.
The November 2009 review also included a look at the matching Firstgear TPG Escape pants, which were praised as the perfect match for the Rainier or Teton jacket, or for use with any other motorcycle jacket when protection from cold and rain is paramount.
I also reviewed the Firstgear "Basegear" underlayers in the Firstgear Teton TPG jacket review, which I still like very much and I wear them whenever the temperatures drop.
So here's yet another look at the very popular Firstgear Rainier TPG jacket, although I'll focus mostly on the differences or improvements from the previous reviews. I also have a companion review of newly revised 2011 Firstgear Escape pants, which have also been revised, somewhat less successfully.
Firstgear takes a slightly different approach to the Rainier shell construction, using a waterproof material called "Hypertex Plus". This is a treated textile claimed to be waterproof and breathable to "keep rain outside, but allow inside humidity to escape", according to Firstgear. The shell is the typical thickness for textile motorcycle jackets at 600 denier nylon.
The styling of the original TPG jacket was fairly modern, if a bit on the subtle side, and Firstgear has continually updated the styling of the TPG series. The Teton and Rainier Version 2 were improved and Version 3 looks very nice in my opinion, although it's not a radical change.
The jacket comes in a silver, brown/tan and all-black version in addition to the red and all have black trim. Note that the red color shown here is not an accurate representation. The actual color is more of a muted red with very subtle hints of mahogany. It's very nice and not too loud; a mature rendering that gives it an expensive look.
I'm a little disappointed with the quality of the stitching on this example. While it seems adequate for maintaining structural integrity, there are several hanging threads that aren't just loose pieces leftover from cutting the thread after the sewing run was finished but pieces that are sticking out from the stitching itself.
This is the big, big difference between a jacket like this and the Rev'it Defender GTX, which has a real focus on the stitching as an important factor in both the overall structure and also in the "ambience" of the jacket presentation.
The Rev'it has very meticulously designed stitching patterns and reinforcements on all of the critical wear points, where the feeling I get with the Firstgear jacket is it has been stitched with more of a design/styling focus only. This is one of the reasons why the Rev'it jacket costs more.
Firstgear also states that the Rainier has "Kevlar reinforced Teramid underlay at the crucial first point of contact on the shoulders and elbows to keep your skin safe from the road". This fabric isn't obvious, so I'm assuming that by "underlay" they mean it's underneath the shell material.
One nice feature of the TPG series since the beginning has been the overall soft feel of the outer shell material, which makes the jacket comfortable to wear. Version 3 is said to be lighter and more comfortable. This size large weighs exactly 6.0 lbs. and the pants weigh 5.0 lbs.
The question of water resistance is apparently one of the major concerns of jacket buyers. Everyone wants a jacket with pretty much the impossible -- a shell that will stop rain dead in its tracks while still providing vents and breathability. Those are the nearly impossible to conquer constraints faced by every motorcycle jacket manufacturer.
I can't tell you how many emails we've received from motorcyclists who don't want the shell to become soaked, even if a waterproof liner stops the water from moving any closer to their skin. My feeling is that if you're riding in that kind of a rainstorm, you need a specialized rain suit. But both the Firstgear Rainier and the Rev'it Defender GTX acquitted themselves admirably in heavy rain, as it just so happens.
We were fortunate -- if you can call it that -- to have an interesting opportunity to evaluate the water resisting capabilities of both jackets during the last few weeks of riding.
We usually don't have a direct line with Mother Nature that allows us to control the scheduling of product evaluations to coincide with cold, heat or rain. But in this case, Burn and I deliberately set out on a previously scheduled ride of about 400 miles round trip in a storm of fairly epic proportions just to satisfy a curiosity.
What started with mild rain turned into a raging storm that lasted all night and into the next day, with temperatures in the high 40's to just above 50 with wind and extremely nasty conditions not fit for motorcycling.
I'm both surprised and pleased to say that both outfits passed the test with no problems at all -- in fact, we're amazed at how dry we both remained, percolating along, comfortable and warm through the raging monsoon. This was a pretty serious test I'd say and actually beyond what I would expect any motorcycle riding outfit to cope with. We deliberately did not wear the vinyl waterproof over suits just to be able to fully evaluate the textile outfits.
What was truly amazing is that although both the Firstgear Rainier TPG and the Rev'it Defender GTX jackets felt absolutely soaking wet when we reached our destination at night, they were nearly completely dried out after only about 2 hours of hanging on the rack over the tub. By the morning, both were dry as a bone and we happily swapped outfits, only to do it all over again.
So my conclusion here is that yes, the jacket shells will get soaking wet, there's just no way around it. If you don't like it, buy a vinyl oversuit. But these jackets kept us dry and warm and the shells are quick to dry, ready to do it again.
The Rev'it Defender GTX jacket, by the way, also has a waterproof outer shell but includes the Gore-Tex Performance Shell removable membrane with the lifetime "Guaranteed to keep you dry" certification.
One more thing: I never realized it until reading the product literature just now that the Rainier jacket collar has a hidden hood that can be worn under the helmet. I'm not sure how much this would have helped in our rain ride; it wasn't like I was wishing I had such a feature, but it's there if you want it, the collar unfastens in the back and the hood pops out. The jacket also uses high-quality YKK and RiRi waterproof zippers.
We no longer have the previous versions of the Firstgear TPG jackets available so memory will have to serve for comparison. The Rainier Version 3 shown here in size large fits slightly larger than expected for this size, and I think looser than the original TPG.
The size large jacket should fit a 43-44 US sized men's chest, although the Firstgear size chart says the large will fit a 42 to 44. I think a rider with a 42" chest may feel the size large is too big, especially once the jacket liner is removed, as the jacket gains at least one size.
The neck on the Rainier is still non-adjustable unfortunately; I'm kind of surprised that a $500 jacket doesn't have an adjustable collar. The collar fits my 17" neck but I wouldn't mind having at least one notch more of adjustment, especially when the liner is removed, because it has a stand-up collar that helps fill the gap. The collar was too loose for Burn, making it a weak point when it comes down to blocking water entry.
The body of the jacket has a very nice adjuster on either side that don't have too much extra strap hanging out like some jackets.
The sleeves of the original TPG jacket (it wasn't called the Rainier then) were tight and the sleeves on the Rainier are still snug when the jacket liner is installed, but only if I'm wearing more than a layer or two underneath. The tight fit does keep the armor placed correctly though. I think only riders with very thin arms will probably need the adjusters, one at the bicep and one at the forearm. The sleeve length feels proportional and has enough extra room for a 34" to 35" shirt length.
I do think the combination of the non-adjustable neck, the snug arm fit and the slightly loose body make the jacket feel slightly out of proportion to each other, but overall I'd say it's a comfortable fit, especially for touring and street riding, and it probably fits better than most of the less expensive jackets we've reviewed.
More precise fit seems to be something else you buy when you spend a lot of money on a jacket; I suspect that the more expensive jackets from Rev'it et al have specific patterns for each size and perhaps the less expensive jackets use more common parts, similar to a motorcycle helmet with greater or fewer number of shells.
By the way, the model shown here is about 6 feet even and borders on an L/XL.
Version 3 of the Rainier jacket also involves a reconfiguration of the pockets. I have concluded that I only use jacket pockets for a wallet, cell phone and ear plugs, so more than a couple of pockets aren't a big priority with me.
Firstgear says the Rainier has 10 external pockets; I found them all after some time -- I wasn't counting the pocket in the rear that I never use and the semi-hidden key/change pocket on the left sleeve. They also say that the left front pocket has a "port for heated apparel power cord or headphones for your favorite listening device", but I can't find that one?
The top pockets open across the top and vertically in the front with waterproof zippers. The bottom pockets open across the top and on the side, also with waterproof zippers.
Anyway, there are enough pockets for anyone, that's for sure, and most of them are waterproof, a double plus. I deliberately put my cell phone in the front left chest cargo pocket and it remained perfectly dry.
The inside of the shell has yet another waterproof pocket in the right placket that I always use to store my wallet, and a cell phone pocket inside on the left.
Forget about luggage; you won't need it with this much storage!
The outstandingly nice removable liner that comes with the Rainier has always been one of the best features of this jacket that literally makes it a two-for-one deal. Firstgear should really give this liner a name, it deserves one!
The liner looks even better for 2011, with a fantastic and beautifully soft semi-matte surface finish and very comfortable lining, and it can certainly be used as a good-looking casual jacket. Firstgear could sell it individually, no doubt about it.
It has its own waterproof pocket on the outside at the chest; two more waterproof pockets for the hands and a cell phone pocket on the inside left and big cargo pocket on the inside right. It also has two waterproof zippers covering vents in front of either arm. Firstgear says the fabric is a "3-layer laminate that is water and windproof and micro fleece lined to retain warmth. For airflow, there are 2 chest vents that line up with the chest vents on the outer jacket."
The liner definitely helps justify the price of the Rainier in my opinion.
The paradox about jacket and glove reviews is that when the manufacturers place their new cold-weather jackets and gloves up for sale, it's usually late summer, not cold enough to evaluate them properly. But by time it gets cold enough to properly evaluate them, it's too late to evaluate them because riders have already purchased their winter gear. The same thing happens in summer with jackets designed for warm weather.
So this makes it difficult to evaluate the vents, because by the time it's cold enough to wear a jacket like this, venting usually isn't needed. I've been wearing the Rainier jacket sealed shut most of the time and with the liner installed, so I can't really comment on the venting system.
The jacket has six vents. A vertical vent is located in a rather strange position, on the side and in back of each upper pocket. It's not really an arm vent and it's blocked by the pocket material, so it doesn't allow air to directly flow in, it's more of an indirect system.
The sleeves have waterproof two-way zippers about 9" long that open from the top as a vent and there are two rear exhaust vents behind the arms.
I haven't worn the jacket in temperatures warm enough to warrant a removal of the liner, but I only wear a jacket of this type in Fall/Winter/Spring anyway; it gets too hot around here to wear a jacket like this in summer. As a three-season choice, it works.
Not too many years ago, one of the problems a rider might face when wearing a buttoned-up jacket is moisture control, but I haven't noticed that problem in recent years; apparently the modern two-way breathable moisture barriers really work.
So overall, the Rainier is comfortable and keeps me warm and dry and, in fact, in this regard there doesn't seem to be much difference between it and the Rev'it Defender GTX jacket.
I won't go into a lot of detail here because it seems that the use of the d3o armor and other protective features haven't changed from Version 2 of the Rainier/Teton, so you can refer to that review for my thoughts on this issue.
I'm still not convinced about the benefits of the d3o armor in the elbows and shoulders compared to "normal" armor. The d3o armor is also much flatter (i.e., not shaped) than other types, as you can see in the photos comparing the SAS-Tech armor from the Rev'it Defender GTX to the d3o sections from the Rainier.
The Firstgear does have a fairly thick back pad. It's not what I'd call a back protector, but it seems better than most of the flabby pads that come with less expensive jackets.
The reflective strips on the Rainier are the black type that are supposed to light up when illuminated. They don't really work that well and nowhere near as good as the eye-popping 3M material on the Rev'it jacket. We pumped up the photos of the reflectivity in Photoshop; not really fair but if we hadn't done it, you probably wouldn't see it, just like the photos in Version 2.
Firstgear offers an excellent 5-year warranty on the jacket (against defects in material and workmanship) and a two-year crash protection warranty. Crash with the jacket (and hopefully survive!) and send it back to them with a Police report and you get a new one.
The jacket zips to the matching Escape pants and by the way, the tail of the jacket is extra long for good coverage.
|The wBW Opinionator: Firstgear Rainier Jacket Version 3|
It's really nice to see Firstgear (Tucker Rocky) working hard to continuously improve the TPG series. We complained about the price/value ratio when the TPG jacket was first released but that value equation has come into its own as the years pass and as the pricing of some of the competition continues to increase. So the Rainier now seems like a good value at a list price of $499.99.
The jacket holds a good position that is above the less expensive mass-market jackets and offering nearly the functionality of the much more expensive jackets, so this is a good niche for the product and probably one of the reasons why it's so popular.
The Rainier is stylish, very comfortable, has a better and more accommodating fit than the original and in my experience it's completely waterproof. So I think it's an excellent choice for motorcyclists searching for a higher-spec jacket for serious riding.
|wBW Product Review: 2011 Firstgear Rainier TPG Jacket|
|Manufacturer: Firstgear||List Price: $499.99|
|Colors: Black, silver, brown or red with black trim.||Made In: China|
|Sizes: S to 4XL. Tall sizes in L to XXL.||Star Rating (1-5):|
|Review Date: November 2010|
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From "P.A." (11/10): "Good review of the Firstgear Rainier TPG jacket. Two comments: I agree the "armor" looks a little dodgy but I unimpressed with the "armor" used in most jackets, CE-approved or not. The lack of shaping of these pads looks like they would be less than comfortable and less protective than they could be.
Compare to the armor used by Aerostich. Large pieces of "TF3" energy-absorbing foam and a shaped, hard shell guarantee your elbow or knee will touch down on some actual protection.
Second, it's too bad Firstgear didn't offer high-viz yellow as a color option. High-viz is the only way to go, unless you only want to make a fashion statement.