Alpinestars Evolution Jacket review – armour, hydration and storage

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MTBstrengthfactory‘s Ben has been out testing a whole load of Enduro kit for us this summer.

One of his favourite pieces of kit is the Alpinestars Evolution Jacket. It’s body armour … but it’s also a hydration pack and a way of carrying some basic kit.

The Evo Jacket is all about 2 things; protection and storage. To protect you it has a flexible CE Certified spine protector, removable shoulder pads, and minimalist chest protection. To store your stuff the back protector compartment can also accommodate a hydration bladder and there are two elasticated roadie-style pockets on the back of the jacket, either side of the armour.

The features

  • Removable and replaceable Level 1 CE-certified back protector.
  • Multi-material streamlined design for superior body fit which enables top to worn under jersey.
  • Lightweight, stretchable mesh main construction with breathable padded inserts.
  • Strategically placed panels to ensure the vest remains well fitted.
  • Removable, slim-profiled, lightweight shoulder protectors.
  • Ergonomic back protector follows natural curve of the back.
  • Back protector pocket can also house hydration pack.
  • Front and back conduits for hydration pack hose.
  • Rear kidney compartments for convenient access.
  • Full length main front zipper for easy in and out.
  • Soft chest and side padding is reinforced for added impact absorption and comfort.
  • Short-sleeved styling allows for use with Alpinestars elbow protectors.
  • BNS compatible (that’s the Astars neck brace)
  • RRP £130
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Lightweight, comfortable and tough on crashes. Don’t worry, the shoulder-pads are removable!

The Evo is slim-fitting and fastened with a zip down the front and plenty of mesh panels to keep you cool. It is really well finished and after plenty of use and a couple of washes is not showing any signs of wear and tear.

The back protector moulds nicely to your body and whilst it does give you a sweaty back, it’s not as hot as wearing a back-pack. I’ve not had much reason to wear the shoulder pads, but they are straight forward to fit and remove and are made of EVA Foam. If I was going for an uplift day, I would certainly slip them back in for added protection.

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Don’t want to carry a bag? Shove a tube and a Yorkie in the hip-pockets and you’re set for a day out.

The chest protection is one of my only gripes as it is so thin that I doubt it would actually do much in the event of an impact. I wish that they had made the chest area out of mesh instead, keeping you cooler on warm days. As it is, on a hot day your chest gets very warm and sweaty and you don’t get much protection in return for your suffering. I usually find myself unzipping the jacket on long, hot climbs to help cool me down.

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The Evolution Jacket has space for a Level1 CE certified back protector and a 2L bladder. Again, no need for a bag.

The ability to carry a couple of litres of water is what makes the Evo stand out from the rest of the crowd. I have been using a Camelbak 2 litre bladder the whole time I have been testing this and it fits perfectly. A 3 litre bladder just about fits, but it feels tight and less stable. I’ve also briefly dropped in an Osprey 3 litre bladder and the stiff back of it meant that it did not sit very well against the spine armour. My advice is to stick to a 2 litre, flexible bladder for comfort and usability.

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The only issue with the water storage is that there is no hook to hold the bladder in place and stop it slipping down. I have been hooking it through the mesh instead which is fine, but I suspect that this will eventually cause some tearing of the material.

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… But you have to run the hose on your left shoulder. Can you get over that?

On the bike there is no sloshing or movement of the water and it feels secure like a pack, just without the straps and the added bulk.

The hose runs over the left (I prefer right!) shoulder where it is secured. To drink you poke it up out of the neck of your jersey, unless you cut a hole in the armpit area and feed it through.

The 2 back pockets are small but still very useful for a light jacket or gillet, some food, or your phone. I try and avoid storing tools in them in case of a big crash as the pockets are over the kidney area and I think it would hurt a lot falling on a pump or set of allens! You do need quite flexible shoulders to get in them whilst riding, so a few stretches may be in order for some of you.

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Here’s the Level 1 CE certified back protector and bladder tucked nicely away in the back pocket.

The word:

The Alpine Stars Evolution Jacket isn’t perfect … but is an awesome piece of kit.

It meant I could race the Enduro World Series without a pack. It slips under a t-shirt on a cool evening ride instead of a base layer. It gives you peace of mind and nobody knows you are wearing armour. I would happily wear it on a summer (or winter in fact!) trip to the Alps. I love riding without a pack and this lets me do that more often. Recommended!

Want more in depth reviews? We’ve got loads here.
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