In April of 2011, I was in search of a good armoured riding jacket. I was about to ride 6000 km to Khardung La, Ladakh and back to Mumbai with my motorcycle club Road Stallions and wanted to buy a jacket that befit the risk involved in such a long ride. After some research I decided to buy the Cramster K2K, primarily because of 3 reasons:
- I wanted a touring style jacket and the Cramster K2K was the only such jacket available in Mumbai in 2011 (that fit my budget)
- It was the only jacket that claimed to be water resistant without the need for a separate waterproof inner liner (I’ll cover this point later in the review in greater detail)
- It looked the coolest, out of the then present options
Well, 2.5 years of really rugged use later, I’m glad I bought the K2K. I must have ridden close to 25,000 km wearing the Cramster K2K and it still has at least as many kilometers left in it, if not more.
Fit and Comfort
According to me, this is the most important characteristic that differentiates a good jacket from a bad one. Agreed that characteristics like quality of armour or water resistance are important too, but after the first few months the only reason you’ll continue wearing the jacket regularly is if it is comfortable and fits well.
The first time I picked up the K2K my immediate impression was that its very heavy. At that time I used to ride wearing a hoodie or a windcheater and the K2K felt like a rock on my shoulders in comparison. Luckily, another K2K owner that was present in the store at the time told me to go ahead and buy it anyway. He said that I’ll stop feelin the weight once I properly adjust the Velcro straps. And he was right!
The K2K has adjustable Velcro straps on the cuff, sleeve and the waist. I’m a slim person and usually the shortest setting on adjustable straps is too loose for me. But not so with the K2K, the range of adjustment on the K2K straps and the jacket size options available (S through XXXL) make sure that every rider, from the slimmest to the heaviest gets a snug fit. A word of advice here, be ready to go through a short period of trial and error before finding the perfect combination of Velcro strap settings. The idea is to get a fit which is so perfect that you shouldn't need to undo and redo the Velcro every time you wear and remove the jacket.
The zippers on the K2K are YKK brand and I’ve never had any problem with the front main zipper. A double flap gutter covers the main zipper all the way on top, which when properly closed, helps in keeping the weather out. The 2 pockets on either side of the chest also have zippers, which tend to become a little difficult to open and close after a period of time. The K2K has a small zipper on the lower inner side on the back. After 6 months of using the K2K, I found out what it was there for. If you ride in a pair of purpose built riding pants, there will be a matching zipper on the back of the waist on those pants. This gives the rider an option of zipping the jacket and the pants together, which will stop the jacket from riding up once you are on the bike. Though this sounds like a good idea on paper, I’ve never used this option. You might want to give it a try though, before deciding if its good or bad. When riding, I normally wear a full sleeved lycra base layer on my torso, which, I insert inside the pants. If I’m not wearing this layer though, this little chain irritates the hell out me as it keeps on chaffing against the small of my back.
Pockets and Storage
The second thing I noticed about the K2K was the number of pockets available. Two main pockets with Velcro flaps, two chest pockets with zippers and Velcro flaps and two more stowaway pockets inside the jacket; make the otherwise required waist-pouch redundant. The pockets are all perfect in size for where they have been placed.
The latest available version of K2K has an “Extra Bum Pocket for Unmatched Storage”. Inclusion of this “bum pocket” has become a trend with a lot of jacket manufacturers lately, but most of them seem to miss the point. A rare exception is the bum pocket on the BMW Rallye Pro 3 jacket, which started the trend in the first place. The bum pocket makes sense on the Rallye Pro 3 jacket, where it is required to stow away the detachable sleeves and/or liners, and the bum pocket itself is detachable. A bum pocket which itself is not detachable is useless. To me, the bum pocket doesn’t make sense on the Cramster K2K and might even turn out to be an inconvenience. I ride with a backrest installed on my bike, which lets me ride long distances day after day without any back pain at all. This means if I store anything in the bum pocket, I’ll not be able to rest my back properly against the back rest, and that in turn makes the use of a bum pocket futile!
Water Resistance (and not Water Proofing)
The element of any jacket that primarily ensures a good water resistant performance, is the fabric used. In all my years of motorcycle touring experience I have not come across any “all-weather” fabric that is a 100% waterproof, with the possible exception of Goretex, which I have not had the chance to experience personally. Therefore, I’ll advise you should not expect any jacket in the similar price range to be a “100% waterproof”. Having said that, I’ve found the Cramster K2K to perform better in rains than other jackets, with the following observations.
The 2013 Cramster K2K comes with an inner rain/wind/snow resistant and breathable inner membrane called the Reissa Powerskin, which is not there on the 2011 Cramster K2K. However, I’ll still recommend using a separate rain jacket that goes over your riding jacket instead of an inner membrane. The reason is simple, an inner water resistant membrane might keep your body dry, but the jacket still gets wet. On short one day rides, I make do with just the K2K and leave my rain jacket home. Hell, I even enjoy getting wet in the rain, since I know there’s a hot shower waiting for me at home at the end of day’s riding. However, from May to November, on long multi day rides, I never leave home without my Quechua Arpenaz rain jacket. On long rides, not only is it important to keep the body dry, but its equally important to keep the jacket dry. If the jacket becomes wet, the water is bound to seep in at some point or make your body cold under the wind and nothing guarantees to make you more uneasy at 80kph than a wet jacket. For worry-free riding in the rains, I recommend you carry a 100% waterproof rain jacket, irrespective of which jacket you are wearing.
Year Round Suitability
Apart from the small kink of not being 100% waterproof, the K2K is awesome throughout the year. In winter I attach the Thermolite insulation liner that comes with the jacket. And given that you have enough layers covering the rest of your body as well, this insulation inner layer is warm and comfortable enough for your torso. The insulation liner is easy to attach and detach and Cramster has made sure that both the inner stowaway pockets remain accessible even when wearing the liner. The insulation liner can be worn only when wearing the Cramster K2K and cant be worn as a separate jacket.
I’m nitpicking here, but if I had designed the K2K I’d have made the insulation layer an independent jacket. When I’m riding in the winter, I would have loved to continue wearing the insulation layer without the K2K, when I’m off the bike. With the Cramster K2K, I need to carry another winter jacket, for when I’m not riding, which is just one more additional thing in the tank bag. Another small point here, counting the Reissa® Powerskin and the Thermolite® Warm Liner, the K2K has a total of 2 detachable inner liners. Although rare, there will be times when you’ll need to wear both these liners together inside the K2k, assuming you are not carrying a separate rain jacket, like when you are riding to Goa on a cold November night and it starts raining. To avoid a really tight fit at such times, make sure you try on the K2K with all the layers inside the jacket, before deciding on a size.
The K2K is well provisioned for those hot and humid days as well. It has a total of 4 zippered vents, 2 on either sleeves and 2 on the back, which one can open when it gets hot. The vents do their job very well, but I find that the 2 zippers on the back, though not impossible, are a little hard to reach by myself. It’d have been much better if they were placed another couple inches outward, making them easier to zip and unzip by myself.
The contact layer, which is a perforated breathing liner, does a good job of wicking away the sweat from the body. At stops, I simply lay out the K2K on my bike, the inner layer facing upwards, just to help the perforated liner dry out before I start riding again.
Visual Appeal and Safety
Now lets take a look at the visual appeal of the K2K. The K2K is now available in 2 colours, storm grey and neon green. I own a storm grey K2K. Cramster seem to have discontinued the blue and red variants of the K2K. The storm grey is more subtle as compared to the neon green, but hi-viz riding gear has gained popularity amongst the touring community and rightly so. Go in for the neon green if the rest of your riding gear and your motorcycle is visually subtle. Having said that, though not as eye catching as the hi-viz neon green, the storm grey holds its own, and will definitely keep you fairly visible on the road.
For night time visibility, both variants come fitted with 3M Scotchlite® Reflective Piping strategically and amply placed on both sides along the whole length of sleeves and torso of the K2K, making sure your outline pops up from the road when even the dimmest of lights hits it.
The Armour (Impact and Abrasion Protection)
Now we come to the most important element of any armoured riding jacket, the protection that it offers from impact and abrasion. The Cramster K2K has CE approved armour inserts in the shoulders and elbows. Though Cramster claims to have an armour insert in the back of the K2K as well, it is not really an armour, it’s a CE approved hi-density foam insert, but it does the job well. The outer shell of the K2K uses MaxTex Cordura® - Abrasion Resistant Fabric, which has performed exactly the way it should have, whenever I’ve stretched the limits of my K2K. I have taken plenty of falls and tumbles while off-roading and have been in 2 serious accidents. If there is one thing that can take credit for the fact that I’m hale and hearty today, it’s the Cramster K2K. The Cordura Fabric and CE approved armour live up to their design. I’ve come across a maddening range of armoured inserts of varying quality and performance, and I find the armour/padding used in the K2K to be satisfactory and above average as compared to other jackets in the similar price range. It might not be the best available in the market, but it is definitely the best armour and fabric amongst the jackets of the same price range. If you want better, be ready to spend more.
K2K Hacks (tips and tricks)
1. The K2K has a small loop on the left chest. When riding, I loop my Casio OutGear watch through this loop and seal the loop with a bit of adhesive tape. This lets me be on top of the time, the weather (the Outgear has a weather prediction function based on barometric pressure). Its just handy to have my watch visible to me when riding
2. Access to a dry and clean handkerchief is a blessing on the road for any rider. The zippered chest pockets on the K2K are perfect for keeping a kerchief each, wrapped in a plastic bag just to be safe
- Available in a good range of sizes
- Velcro straps on cuff, sleeve and waist to get the perfect fit
- Long lasting YKK zippers
- Plenty of pockets
- Zippered vents in the right places
- Perforated contact layer that wicks sweat away from the body
- Removable insulation layer that does its job well
- Good sized CE approved armour/pad on shoulder, elbow and back
- 3M Scotchlite reflective piping for night time visibility
- Not 100% waterproof
- Slightly difficult to reach placement of rear zippered vents
- Scarcity of replacement armour inserts. (This is not specific only to Cramster but a general scenario in India, forcing a rider to continue using the same armour inserts after an accident. Ideally, just like a helmet, the armour inerts should be replaced after every serious accident.)
- The fact that the insulation layer can be worn only inside the Cramster K2K and not as a separate jacket.
Its subtle yet visible. Comfortable yet highly functional. Wears out handsomely and looks cool even after 2.5 years of really rough use. Perfect for winter and summer on its own and can be made perfect for the rains with the addition of a separate rain jacket. The armour used is best in class. Cordura fabric saves you from road rash.
If you want a really good armoured touring jacket for long term and round the year use, without burning a huge hole in your pocket, the Cramster K2K is what you need!
Note: This review is in no way sponsored or backed by either Cramster or Outdoor Travel Gear. The jacket reviewed was purchased by me for personal use.
"Give me a motorcycle, a camera, a good book and I can rule the world", says Aditya.
Aditya is the lead strategist and conceptualiser at Motonomous and also heads the content, design, photo and video teams.
Aditya bought his first motorcycle in 2009, and has been travelling on two wheels ever since...