TWF Review: 2007 Power-Trip U.S. Army Blackhawk Jacket
Review: Power-Trip / U.S. Army Blackhawk Jacket
Be All You Can Be as an Army of One
Historically the military has used mass media to gain the attention of potential recruits. Using mediums such as roadside billboards, radio, television and print ads marked a quantum leap in advertising for the military when they were first implemented. Though largely successful for several decades, the value of these methods to promote the military have been called into question as the internet gains dominance as a source of news and information. Marking, perhaps, the largest leap forward in advertising since traditional mass media, the internet has proven to be one of the largest sources recruitment for the military. While all branches of the United States military have gone online, it is the U.S. Army that stands out amongst all other branches when it comes to and online presence.
In 2002 the U.S. Army developed a computer program called America’s Army. Part game, part recruitment tool, the Army claims users in excess of 7 million have played the game. Development and marketing of the game was a gamble for the Army but it has been, arguably, a success. So, where does the Army go now? Recruitment has always been about appealing to the demographic group the military requires to fill its ranks: young men.
Upon his capture in 1934, the legendary bank robber Willie Sutton was asked by FBI agents, “Why do you rob banks, Willie?” Sutton replied, “Because that's where the money is.” To that end, the Army is now marketing in potential recruits areas of interest. Young men like speed and what says speed better than motorcycles?
Call To Duty
Motorcycle gear maker Power Trip has teamed with the U.S. Army to become an official licensee of the U.S. Army “brand” name. So, why brand motorcycle gear as “U.S. Army”? In the same vain as Willie Sutton, because that’s where the potential recruits are.
Presented as “tactical gear” the Power Trip line embodies the core values of the Army: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. With catchy names like the Alpha, Bravo, Delta, Sniper, Halo and Blackhawk, the names are as cool as the gear. The Army line is complete with men’s and women’s gear, including casual wear. Since reviewing the Tactical Hoody wouldn’t provide much material for a review, our latest piece of gear in focus is the U.S. Army licensed “Blackhawk” jacket (more on that in a moment).
Before we delve into the review, you might be hung up on the brand Power Trip. If you’re not familiar with the name, Power Trip has been around several years. Despite the Power Trip gear being devoid of a larger mass-marketed name, don’t assume Power Trip isn’t affiliated with some names you do know. In fact, a quick trip to the internet archive (archive.org) shows Power Trip has had an internet presence since 2001.
The Power Trip brand name is owned by Sullivan’s (http://www.sullivansinc.com/html/about.htm) who has been around since 1972. Sullivan’s is the exclusive distributor of Joe Rocket (whom we’re certain you’ve heard of) in the United States. And, in the case of our review, the jacket was designed by none other than Joe Rocket. Sullivan’s is also the largest distributor of HJC, “the number #1 helmet line in the United States”; another well known name. Sullivan’s is also the exclusive distributor of Power Trip apparel. Power Trip is not a fly-by-night operation making cut-rate gray market products in Korea. They’re a brand backed by one of the largest distributors of motorcycle apparel in the United States. Feeling better about it now? Good. With that out of the way, let’s get down to business.
When this jacket arrived, we had at least a half dozen people come by and take interest in it immediately. Based on the first reactions we observed, even ex-military types will take kindly to this jacket. Way to go Power Trip, tap two markets without even trying!
Of course, upon first review most are puzzled by the Army patches on a motorcycle jacket. The first question is, “Why?”… but we’ve already answered that in this review. The next question is “How much?” immediately followed by, “Where can I get it?” The initial response to the design and style has all been positive. The jacket is all black (not flashy), nearly all leather, which means even the cruiser crowd had to peep our jacket. Yes, it’s true – crotch rocketers and ape hanger lovers alike could live in peace and harmony with the black leather Blackhawk.
Since this is a leather jacket, let’s talk cowhide. The majority of the Blackhawk is comprised of cowhide ranging from 1.2 to 1.4mm. We struggled to find inconsistencies in the quality of leather throughout. There is evidence of “fat wrinkles” associated with premium cowhide leather. Though the literature we had available to us did not specifically state this, the grain and feel leads is consisten with premium cowhide leather.
Here is a SUPER close-up of the leather grain.
Click for larger version.
The rest of the exterior construction is comprised of a nylon. You’ll find a well constructed zippered nylon liner/vest on the inside, removable of course. Behind the insulated vest is a nylon taffeta jersey knit fabric. These combinations seem to be the standard with riding jackets. In or out, the jacket is equally comfortable.
Around the neck (liner) and the inside of the wrists is incredibly soft leather, almost a microfiber feel. In fact it reminded us of the chamois leather you use clean your car or motorcycle. Certainly meant for comfort, they add a very nice style element to the jacket while performing a functional purpose at the same time.
Here is a close-up of the chamois-like material around the cuff. Click for larger version.
Speaking of stylish elements, let’s not forget about the U.S. Army patches emblazoned throughout the Blackhawk’s real estate. You’ll find the distinctive Army star on each arm with a separate patch “U.S. Army” directly below. The same can be found on the high back area of the jacket, visible while riding. On the front inside placket, or zipper area, of both sides are the Army core values mentioned earlier: “Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage. Loyalty.” It’s certainly a classy touch to the Blackhawk.
A close-up of the chamois-like material around the neck and inside zipper area. (TOP)
The stitching along the inside zipper area revealing the Army's core values. (BOTTOM)
Click for larger versions.
The only other patch on the outside is the U.S. Flag. As many of our passer-bys noticed, the flag is facing “backward” on the right arm. In fact, it is not backward at all. First off, you’re probably wondering, “Why not put it on the left arm and avoid the confusion?” The flag is worn on the right shoulder, because, in the military, the "place of honor" is to a military member's right. Still, if it must be on the right, why is it “backward?”
The answer to that question lies in Army Regulation 670-1. The patch is worn so that the star field faces forward. When worn this way, the flag is facing to the observer’s right, and gives the illusion of the flag flying in the wind as the wearer moves forward. This rule is rooted in the Army's early history, when fighting units would designate a standard flag bearer, who carried the Colors into battle. As the bearer charged forward the wind caused the flag to fly back. Since the star field portion of the flag is attached to the pole, that section stayed to the right, while the stripes flew to the left; depending on your position relative to the flag. Simple, right?
And let's get this out of the way... we should mention the country of origin is China. Though it’s not terribly relevant, but there is a bit of irony considering this is an officially licensed product of the U.S. Army. It would have been nice to move the “Made in China” tag off the neckline so it wasn’t so obvious, but it’s nothing a pair of scissors can’t handle. And, it should not detract from an otherwise high-quality product.
This ain’t no Hillbilly Armor
One of the features we liked best was the C.E. rated protectors on the shoulders and elbows. The CE Mark is a conformity designation required for certain products to be sold in Europe. The CE label applies to products regulated by European health, safety and environmental protection legislation. It is also obligatory for certain products sold in the European market. Many riders in the United States look for this designation when purchasing gear, though it is of little consequence outside of Europe. And as a side note, CE armor is designed to absorb a single hard impact and must be replaced afterward. The CE “Turtle” armor in the Blackhawk conforms to standard EN1621-1, for the propeller heads out there that need to know.
CE Turtle protection! Also shown (left) is are the yellow stars,
the logo of the U.S. Army, on each wrist strap.
Click for larger version.
On the Blackhawk, you’ll find the turtle armor in the shoulders and elbows. You’ll also find a spine pad on your back. All of this armor doesn’t come without a bit of sacrifice, unfortunately. Though the armor was one of our favorite items, it was also a point of contention: The armor provides for one stiff jacket. Sure, it’s a tradeoff between safety and comfort, as it always is with gear. We’ll gladly opt for the armor, but be aware suiting up in the Blackhawk isn’t like donning your civvies for a little R&R. Add the optional spine protector and expect a bit more rigidity.
Along the backside, or yoke, of the jacket is a stylish reflective piping for safety. There is no other reflective piping on the jacket. And, the patches are non-reflective.
With the armor and quality and thickness of the leather, this jacket is sure to protect in a “Blackhawk down” situation.
Let’s talk creature comforts. When you’re all geared in full regalia, you’ve got to be comfortable, right? We’ve mentioned the chamois-style leather in the neck and wrists, but what about adjusting the Blackhawk to fit you?
On each side of the waist, there are 11” Velcro straps (looped in half). These are, of course, adjustable to fit snugly around your waist. The tips are decorated with the Army logo, a simple yellow star – nice touch.
Moving up the jacket on the forearm area you’ll find a snap attached to an elastic band. Around the back of the arm are three receiving snaps to attach the band, giving you three alternatives to ensure a snug fit around the arm depending on the season. Snug is nice for winter, but it’s not going to allow for airflow. Therefore…
Let’s say you’re zipping along in your Blackhawk en-route to Fort Blister in the searing August heat and you just aren’t getting enough ventilation; what do you do? For starters, the Blackhawk offers two zippered vents. The vents are just forward of the shoulder running parallel along the arm seams. If your deodorant stopped working somewhere in El Paso, these vents will give you what feels like rotor wash directed toward your arm pits.
Not good enough?
We’ve seen a lot of leather jackets in our day, but the Blackhawk has one neat feature that beats them all when it comes to ventilation. On either side from the front of the shoulder, wrapping under the arm to the lower back is a removable piece of nylon. Removing this sail-shaped piece reveals a nylon mesh underneath sure to provide you with all kinds of ventilation. In our test, with these strips removed and an ambient air temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit, we experienced frostbite in approximately 3.8 seconds. Needless to say, testing ventilation features is something we’ll leave to Summer testing going forward.
While we tested our Blackhawk in the depths of Winter, it is inconceivable removing 30+ square inches of jacket on both sides could do anything BUT provide vast volumes of airflow. And, like all of the zippers on the Blackhawk, the panels are held in place with high quality YKK zippers.
All of the zippers are nylon with the exception of the cuff zippers and the torso zipper, which are metal. The largest nylon zipper is the 8” used for pant attachment. And speaking of accessores, Power Trip also makes matching gloves for the Blackhawk if you yearn to complete your ensemble with matching gear.
Attach your zippered pants here! (TOP)
The removable "sail" (BOTTOM)
Click for larger versions.
If it's possible to attract attention with an understated jacket, then the Power-Trip Blackhawk jacket does just that. There is nothing flashy or eye-catching about this jacket, other than the U.S. Army patches. They're not large or obnoxious, but it will cause bystanders to do a double-take.
We put the Blackhawk through the paces in our time with the jacket. And, while it would have been nice to really test the airflow on a muggy 95 degree day, there is simply no way you would receive anything less than enormous volumes of air when the sail panels are removed; who can argue with physics? The jacket, though a tad stiff, was otherwise very comfortable to wear. The leather, quality of construction, stitching and materials is top-notch. And, with the insulated vest installed, cozy and warm for cool weather riding.
The price of the Blackhawk will, most certainly, sway many from considering its purchase. Yes, it does cost a bit more as do many "officially licensed products", but this product does aim to serve a niche market. High cost, but high value at the same time. Army veterans and current enlisted will most likely comprise the bulk of the market. However, the airflow alone might interest riders of all types and backgrounds.
Who knows, with the Blackhawk jacket on, maybe the cruisers will wave or even salute you?
The Power-Trip U.S. Army Blackhawk jacket comes in black, mens sizes 40-56. "Street" prices are in the $360-$400 range.
Comfort / Fit :
Visit Power Trip on the web (http://www.power-trip.com):
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