Icon Raiden Jacket and Pants: Adventure Gear Review

New for 2020, Icon has gone back to the drawing board for a full redesign of their Raiden gear. Now in its 3rd generation (arguably 4th), this year Icon has made a host of changes to the venerable Raiden adventure gear, including materials, layout, features, and fitment.

In the interest of transparency, let me cover some official business. A while back, a good buddy over at Tirox linked me up with the marketing folks at Icon. I bought a full set of the Icon DKR kit a few years back. That gear tackled the Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway, tropical storm Irma at the Dragon Raid, and the lion’s share of the Ride 365 challenge. After crashing in that gear in February of ’19, it needed replacing. Budget, availability, and exposure to new things led me to try out a different set of replacement gear. However, after some conversations with folks over at Icon, they sent me a set of the new Raiden gear to test out.

Fitment

For folks already familiar with Icon gear, I’m sure you’re curious about sizing. In my experience, Icon gear (designed in Portland, Oregon) is generally more relaxed than most of the popular European brands. My previous Icon DKR jacket was a size medium, and if I was honest with myself, I probably should have been wearing a small. Based on advice from Icon, after consulting the sizing chart, I actually went with a size large in the new Raiden jacket. The new jacket is more tailored than the previous generation DKR jacket. That said, at 5’10”, 180 pounds, I feel like I’m between sizes. I could probably fit in a size medium, but might be a little cranky when piling on layers for cold weather riding this winter. However, the new Raiden jacket fits comfortably in a size large with the thermal layer installed.

When I ordered my original DKR pants a few years back I went with a size medium but had to ship them back for a size small. Today Icon’s over-pant sizing chart puts me directly in size medium for the new Raiden pants. I want to emphasize “over-pant” sizing, these pants are designed a little more relaxed so you can wear the pants over casual clothes and so on. For summer riding, if you prefer riding commando… you may want to select a size down. In my case, I want to wear these pants with thermals in the winter, so they’re about spot on.

Features

Those familiar with the previous Raiden Patrol and DKR iterations, the new Raiden gear again arrives with a waterproof outer layer, a full suite of D3O armor (including back protector), and abrasion-resistant materials on the joints. The pants again arrive with optional suspenders, or zippered jacket attachment if you so choose. Just like the jacket, pants also come equipped with D3O knee and hip armor as standard features.

The “monkey paw”, magnetic closure, handkerchief waterproof pocket, and hydration system from the DKR series has been removed this year, in favor of a revised ventilation scheme and better hot weather performance. The overall material is a little thinner than the previous generation, including a redesigned mesh “comfort liner”; much different than the loose, baggy comfort liner you’re accustomed to seeing on summer-weight gear from competitive brands (more on that in a minute). Meanwhile, ADV staples like spacious handwarmer pockets, zip-in thermal liner, and rear pouch are all back again with this rendition of the Raiden Jacket.

Airflow and wet weather tolerance were both hallmarks of the previous generation DKR Jacket (the former not so much for the pants, but I’ll circle back to that). With this latest iteration, Icon has shifted and redesigned the chest vents for increased airflow. The vents now have a cord and hook “stay” to hold the chest vents open. Along with removing the “monkey paw”, additional vents have been added to the wrist to facilitate more active venting up the sleeve and out the armpit and rear exhaust vents.

Per my previous comments, the magnetic closure from the DKR series jacket has been replaced with a traditional zipper closure (with rain gutter). In line with the tailoring of the jacket, the collar has been redesigned for a closer fit with optional cinch cord and a new velcro closure, in lieu of the DKR push button. The collar also has 3 different cord and hook “stays” to choose from that hold the collar open for extra airflow on the hot days. Similar to the collar, cord and hook adjusters have been added to the bicep for better fitment and to keep the elbow armor in place. The Elastic waist pulls have been replaced with 4 nylon adjustment straps to snug up the jacket when the temps drop. That before mentioned thermal liner also zips in independently on both sides; meaning it’s also meant to be worn separately from the jacket.

While the evolution of the jacket is noteworthy, the changes to the pants are the most significant. The previous generation DKR pants were thicker than the DKR jacket but lacked the thermal liner. Like its predecessor, the new Raiden pants have heat-resistant materials on the inside of the leg to protect from hot exhaust, weatherproof outer layer, bibs, handwarmer pockets, and full-length zippers to make it easier to put the pants on over boots. The stirrups from the DKR pants have been removed in favor of a 3 button, elastic rain gaiter, along with velcro ankle closure that accommodates larger adventure or motocross boots. The new Raiden pants also come with additional thigh pockets and side exhaust vents.

Commentary

Beyond the spec sheet, after spending countless hours in the saddle with this new Raiden kit (including Red River Scramble and another Iron Butt), it’s evident that Icon put significant emphasis on improved summer tolerance with this latest generation of all-season adventure gear, while still maintaining the Raiden reputation for exceptional wet-weather performance. The newest rendition feels”lighter” than the previous DKR kit; both in weight, flexibility, and temperature tolerance. Impact zones are lined with 500D Cordura Nylon while the inner “comfort liner” is thinner than the previous version and fits closer to the outside layer which increases airflow inside the garments. Velcro closures, taped seams, and waterproof materials are sometimes abrasive to the skin, so I was initially concerned about removing the traditional, thick, mesh comfort liner. Surprisingly, this new Raiden gear still feels soft to the touch. Similar to the DKR gear, the D3O pockets are again made from soft microfiber that doesn’t rub your knees raw on a long day’s ride. All this combined with the relaxed fit, the Raiden gear is simply comfortable to wear.

My most recent experience with competing adventure gear included an internal waterproof liner (versus external). I admit the interior waterproof liner typically means the hot weather tolerance, sans liner, is much more comfortable (75°F and warmer). However, when it comes to getting stuck in an unplanned rain shower, it’s more of a process to get the rain liner installed on the side of the road, or worse, putting a rain jacket on over the gear; completely defeating the purpose of the “included” rain liner. Not to mention, you now have a soaking wet jacket on top of a rain liner, while still (mostly) functional, it’s inconvenient if nothing else. Somewhere in eastern Virginia a few weeks back, the skies opened up, including a little hail. Needless to say, I was happy to have the versatility of the Raiden gear’s exterior waterproof liner while avoiding the fuss of digging through the pannier for rain gear. I zipped the vents shut and I was ready to brave the elements.

 

Styling is certainly a matter of taste. Icon’s signature graphics and vivid colors are unquestionably what drew me to the brand years ago. On the flip side, I want to give Icon props for dialing it back a notch with their adventure gear. This is a gross statement and brave assumption on my part, but I think overall the ADV crowd is a bit more conservative than the typical urban street rider (perhaps something to do with age and the cost of entry?), so I think this is a good play on their part. That aside, I am a fan of the copious high-viz yellow details and color combinations offered thus far.

This latest rendition of Raiden gear has blended the best parts of the previous-gen DKR gear with more popular features seen on competing adventure gear. The wrist vents are a welcome addition, with the removal of the DKR’s monkey paw, the new wrist vents get substantially more air through the arms and across the torso than the previous model. Furthermore, while I love the idea of having pockets all over for every contingency (like a former jacket of mine), the reality is that most of my pockets go unused, so I think it wise that Icon skipped the excess clutter in favor of improved chest vents. Originally I thought I would have preferred the chest vents provided direct airflow on the rider, however, I think Icon made the right call to make these passive vents. I say this because front-facing zippers are about guaranteed to leak during heavy rain, so the passive venting in front of the rain liner keeps the rider dry while providing a pocket of cooler air.

If I’ve not mentioned elsewhere, I’m quite comfortable here on the D3O bandwagon. In a world where “back protector sold separately” is the standard verbiage strategically hidden in the item description, it’s nice to see Icon including a full set of D3O armor in both the jacket and pants. These days it seems like manufacturers are skipping the back and hip protectors as a way to trim cost from the gear (and yet not lowering the price), Icon hasn’t taken that shortcut. With that, Icon is still including a removable thermal liner with the Raiden jacket. I’ll accept arguments that a thermal liner is superfluous for the fully electric winter gear crowd. While I also have electrics, I’m still pretty old school most of the time and simply don’t want to fuss with all the extra steps necessary to get riding. I really appreciate that heated gear when I’m crossing state lines in February, but for the daily 20-minute ride to the office, traditional sniffle gear is plenty effective. Moreover, that stand-alone Raiden jacket thermal was a welcome company when I was sleeping on a couch in a hospital room during my wife’s last stay in recent weeks; I’m sure it will be equally welcome next to the fire on an adventure weekend this fall.

Like so many things with the motorcycle community, I do think some folks will struggle with fitment. I know riders that want gear to be form-fitting, with armor exactly in place; with others much more interested in how it looks and keeps them dry than how safe they feel. With images of sliding on asphalt still fresh in my memory, armor positioning and safety are very prevalent in how I review gear. However, it’s not uncommon for my posterior to occupy the saddle from sunup to sundown, and as trendy as skinny jeans may be, I much prefer the relaxed fit of Icon’s gear. Finding the size that splits the difference is key. The new bicep adjustment on the jacket is a welcome addition that adds flexibility to the new Raiden jacket. Personally, I would like to see Icon add a second adjustment on the forearm to really lock that elbow armor in position when I expect riding to get spirited, however, per my comments above, with my puny arms it’s about spot on with a thermal installed. Looking at the preceding DKR pants, options for armor position adjustment were pretty scarce. I used the stirrups on the old gear to keep the cold air and water out, but also to reinforce the knee pad position. The rain gaiters and the adjustable ankle closure are a big improvement for function and fitment on the Raiden pants; combined with the fact there’s now spacious accommodation for hardy dirt-worthy boots and still keep the rain out.

Speaking of which, this iteration of Raiden pants is a big step up from the former DKR variety. The ankle closer and rain gaiter alone are welcome additions, but the thigh pockets, exhaust vents, and material changes are icing on the cake. The conveniently located thigh pockets make it a lot easier to fish out my wallet at the gas pump. As far as materials go, as I mentioned before, the reduction in the comfort liner weight makes the material feel “lighter”, but not just that, the former DKR pants had a sewn-in thermal layer the DKR jacket lacked. That integrated liner made the DKR pants a bit toasty on those summer days, but still not warm enough to combat the sting of the midwestern winter. This generation of Raiden pants has the same outer material thickness as the jacket, along with the addition of exhaust vents. I do wish the pants came with a zip-in thermal liner, however, they are sold as “Over Pants” and I have a closet full of sniffle gear that gets the job done.

As far as cold weather is concerned, we’re just now getting our first frost warnings of fall. Thus, I haven’t had the chance to put this gear through my usual winter abuse. That said, I’ve now punished enough gear through midwestern winters to get a gross feel for what to expect. Due to the spacious neckline and collar closure on my old DKR jacket, I found myself wearing a neck gaiter at much higher temperatures than previous jackets. With the more tailored fit of the Raiden jacket, the collar is more form-fitting, which does a much better job of keeping cold air out when closed completely or holding the collar open for more air on the 90° commutes home from the office in July. At the same time, while I sometimes bemoan velcro because it breaks down over time (I don’t care what they say, a moron designed the Army Combat Uniform). However, I think the change to the velcro closure on the Raiden Jacket was on point considering I struggled to close the DKR button collar one-handed.

While not crash-tested, and hopefully never, I think prospective buyers will appreciate the Icon’s upgrades to the Raiden gear this year. I think most folks struggled with sizing and fitment in the past. To reinforce what I said earlier if you’re going to wear this gear in primarily hot weather, and not as an overgarment, you’ll likely want to go down one size from the size chart. However, if you’re going to wear the Raiden kit as a 3-season winter setup with thermals and so on, I expect folks to appreciate the more tailored fit of this year’s gear per the Icon sizing chart. Either way, I can’t praise Icon enough for evolving the Raiden line based on feedback from the customers; this new gear is virtually everything I would have asked for from Icon after spending years in the DKR gear.

2020 Icon Raiden Jacket (Gray HiViz)

2020 Icon Raiden Pants (Gray HiViz)

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Icon Raiden Jacket and Pants: Adventure Gear Review

  1. Jesse says:

    I’m curious were on the democracy indez these are made…

    It’s a question I may have adopted from someone else you know but I think it may be the question of our age.

    • Drew Faulkner says:

      I need to check the tag to confirm, but if I have a suspicion they’re made in the same country as Klim gear, FOX, O’Neal, and Thor.

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