I’ll give you one guess as to why I wanted to get my hands on the Weise Outlast Houston jacket.
That’s right: I’m from Houston. Or, at least, I generally claim to be. I was actually born in Austin, but my family moved before I could form many cogent memories of the place. After a short detour through Dallas it was Houston where I spent much of my childhood and it is in Houston (and its broader metropolitan area) where the majority of my extended family still live.
This will surprise you, but it turns out that Bristol, England-based Weise (pronounced “vice”) did not name its Houston jacket in tribute to me. Instead, the name is inspired by the Outlast lining that serves as one of the jacket’s key selling points. Outlast, you see, is a fabric originally designed for use by NASA astronauts. NASA, of course, is based in Houston.
Pitched as “breathable, waterproof and windproof,” the Houston has been one of my favorite jackets since Weise sent it to me last year for review. However, I have to admit it is not a jacket that’s gotten as much use I’d like, due to a design flaw that limits its functionality in Britain.
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Available in sizes S to 5XL, the Weise Outlast Houston retails for £179.99. The jacket proudly claims to be designed in the United Kingdom but I’ve not been able to determine where it’s actually made. Seemingly I’m the only person who cares about this sort of thing; it’s never mentioned in other reviews. I do know that Weise’s stylish Victory gloves are manufactured in China, but that’s not necessarily an indicator of where other stuff is made.
The adventure/touring style of jacket has become ubiquitous in motorcycling, with all manufacturers sticking to more or less the same hymn sheet: lots of pockets, zippers, snaps, straps and Velcro, along with a bit of text that references something that only makes sense to the person who wrote it. In the case of the Houston jacket, that phrase is “PRO-AIR.”
There is no explanation of what that phrase is supposed to mean, but you’ll find it written no less than six times on the jacket’s front, back and arms. Whatever “PRO-AIR” is, Weise is very proud of it.
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There are nine pockets in total – 11 if you keep the Outlast liner in: two zippered external chest pockets, each large enough to hold a 6×3-inch phone, and two external pouch-type pockets that are each just barely large enough to hold a wallet. The pouch pockets close by both zipper and Velcro. Tucked in behind them are fleece-lined “hand warmer” pockets that can zip shut. Internally, there is an equally wallet-sized pocket that zips shut, and a phone-sized pocket that closes with Velco. These pockets are repeated in the liner. A map pocket that’s just a little too small to hold a standard Michelin road map can be found at the back of the jacket.
There are eight zippered mesh vents: two on the upper chest, two on each arm, and two on the upper back. Velcro adjusters are to be found at the bicep and forearm, as well as at the waist. A zipper at the back allows you to attach the jacket to any pair of Weise trousers. I discovered by accident that it will also connect to Triumph-branded trousers. The jacket secures with a zipper, snaps and Velcro, which feels a bit like overkill but certainly adds to that astronaut feeling when gearing up for a ride. The snap at the neck is adjustable, and there’s a little loop for keeping the neck open in hot weather. Arm cuffs are Velcro adjustable.
The Outlast liner zips in and connects via snaps in the sleeves. It is a full liner (in other words, not just a vest) that covers the torso and arms. And you’ll find Level 1 viscoelastic armour in the elbows, shoulders and back.
Within the spectrum of adventure/touring jackets I really like the look of the Houston; in terms of aesthetics it has the edge on similarly priced jackets, like the Oxford Montreal 3.0. Certainly it’s a jacket that I’m happy to be seen wearing, even when I’m on a bike that doesn’t really fit the adventure/touring genre. I feel a little silly wearing my Aerostich R3 when commuting on my Triumph Bonneville T120*, but I’ve got no problem being spotted wearing the Houston. And I think it looks downright cool on genre-correct bikes, like the Moto Guzzi V85TT.
The cut is European, which is what I prefer. I don’t really want to look like Randy from A Christmas Story when I ride. I have a 42-inch chest and 32-inch waist, which Weise says is a medium. The sizing is very accurate and as a result the Houston is one of the best-fitting jackets I own – on par with my much-loved 55 Collection Hard jacket and not too far off the perfect fit of my bespoke Hideout Touring jacket.
Here’s the thing, though: I don’t run into too many guys with a frame like mine. Tall, lanky and broad-shouldered, it’s usually the case that if I find something that fits my shoulders it will billow out at the stomach/waist; if I find something that fits my waist it is usually too tight at the shoulders and the overall garment is too short.
Indeed, this jacket is a little short on me, with the waist adjusters at my lower ribs, but the adventure style of having the jacket overlap trousers means it’s not too much of an issue. The sleeves are long enough for my arms but pretty snug. Again, it’s alright for me but I wonder if a more well-fed fella would struggle to zip the arms shut. All in all, I suspect most guys will want to order a size larger than Weise suggests.
According to the company that makes Outlast – the fabric of which the liner is made – the material incorporates “phase change materials” to “absorb, store and release heat for optimal thermal comfort.” The practical application of this is that the liner is supposed to magically keep you warm when the weather is cool and cool when the weather is warm. Opinion is divided when it comes to the veracity of these claims.
I may not be the best person to ask. Over the years I’ve discovered I have a much higher tolerance (and, indeed, preference) for heat than other people. On a trip to Scotland last summer (riding the excellent Ducati Multistrada 950), the temperature hit a whopping 22C (or 71.6F) and while my Glaswegian riding buddy, Cam, was lamenting the heat I was still wearing the jacket’s liner, along with a base layer and thermal shirt.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve not noticed the liner being markedly warmer than other liners but this may be down to the fact that – despite closing via zipper, snaps and Velcro – the jacket lets in quite a bit of cold air at the chest. The perfect-fit nature of the jacket means I’m not able to squeeze my Knox Cold Killers wind jacket into the layering scheme.
There’s an argument to be made, however, that for quite some time I was wearing the jacket incorrectly. The makers of Outlast seem to suggest the fabric should be worn as close to the skin as possible to help “continually regulate skin’s microclimate.”
“As the skin gets hot, the heat is absorbed, and as it cools, that heat is released,” claims the website.
That seems to imply that one should be going shirtless beneath the Houston jacket, which isn’t really my thing. Only slightly related: the dude who taught me to ride when I was a teenager in Minnesota used to rock a burgundy leather two-piece suit, wearing no shirt beneath the jacket that he kept open to his belly button. Anyhoo, in an attempt to better benefit from Outlast’s benefits, I started wearing just a T-shirt beneath the jacket. I started doing this at the start of the summer, and have found the jacket to be overall more comfortable and seems to work well in temperatures ranging between 14C and 24C (57.2-75.2F). Any colder than that and the wind sneaking in at the chest makes me want more layers. Meanwhile, the Welsh summer has not produced enough hot days that I’ve been able to ride in temperatures exceeding 24C.
Remove the Outlast lining and you’ll find you still have a thin polyester lining, ostensibly to make it more comfortable to wear – one presumes that exposed abrasion-resistant material is a bit scratchy. That’s fine, but I think a mesh sort of lining would have made more sense. As things stand, the lining prevents you from feeling air flow when the jacket’s vents are opened. Combine this with the fact the vents are a tad on the small side and it means that if you’re hot when wearing the Houston jacket you’re generally going to stay that way.
Sticking with those vents, the ones for the chest are located high, at the clavicle. There are zippered pockets over the chest, right where I would expect vents to be, and I have made the mistake of opening a pocket at high speed – thinking I was opening a vent. Nothing fell out, thankfully (the pocket’s design would make it difficult for something to come out unless you were riding upside down) but it’s a bit distressing to get home from a ride and discover that your phone’s just been hanging out in an unzipped pocket.
One of the jacket’s biggest selling points is that it is waterproof, which it very much is – except in all the places where it isn’t. The zippers are not of the waterproof sort that you’ll find on, say, the Oxford Montreal 3.0 jacket. This means that in anything other than a light mist water will eventually make its way into the jacket.
The experience of having been caught in a few sudden downpours whilst wearing the Houston jacket has taught me that you have about eight minutes of riding in sustained rain before the water finds its way to your arms, and another eight minutes until your chest is soaked. Water will get into the otherwise waterproof external pockets and just sit there, pooling. The fleece-lined handwarmer pockets will also be soggy. To say this is disappointing is an understatement. You have an otherwise damned fine and affordable jacket ruined by the cost-cutting act of using standard zippers.
Still, in the right weather conditions the jacket is light and easy to move around in, with the armour never feeling obstructive.
If you’re a fair-weather rider this jacket is hard to beat. It looks the part, is well constructed (the zippers may not be waterproof but they seem durable) and is all-day comfortable. Lack of waterproofing hurts its ability to serve as a good touring jacket in Britain – it’s rare that I’ve taken a multi-day trip that didn’t involve some precipitation – but it’s so good in other ways that I have once or twice just brought along a waterproof overjacket to compensate for the Houston’s shortcomings.
I’ll be honest that I personally wouldn’t pay for this jacket because of the waterproofing issue, but my experiences with the Houston have taught me that Weise at least knows how to make a damned fine jacket. As such, I would be willing to look at the company’s more expensive offerings, like its Onyx Evo jacket. If that were to have waterproof zippers I’d be happy to throw down my moolah**.
If you are considering a Weise jacket, remember what I said above about sizing. It may make sense to hunt down the jacket at an old-school brick-and-mortar shop to make sure it fits, or, if you’re ordering online, be sure to order from a company that has an easy return policy, like Revzilla, Get Geared, or Fortamoto.
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* Just because I feel silly doesn’t mean I don’t do it. The R3 has some imperfections, but I’ve yet to find gear that’s as all-round convenient for everyday, all-the-time use.
** NOTE: I don’t know if it does – I’ve never seen that particular jacket in person