I recently had a customer who was comparing these jackets for a possible purchase. After purchasing a Firstgear Hi-Viz Meshtex jacket over the summer, he realized that other vehicles were reacting differently to him on the road and perhaps it was time to go Hi-Viz year round. The Firstgear Kilimanjaro Jacket appealed to him initially due to brand familiarity and because he thought it would zip to his Firstgear pants. Unfortunately, there is no connection zip on the Kili jacket. I personally don’t have an issue with this. Between the extra length of the ¾ style jacket and the fact that most riding pants have a raised back section, you are unlikely to get any skin exposure. The Scorpion XDR Commander jacket does come with a 9” connecting zip if that’s your thing, and Scorpion does provide both halves in case you need to sew them into a non-compatible pair of pants. Here are feature-by-feature comparisons of the Kilimanjaro jacket and the XDR Commander jacket.
My customer’s first reason for buying the Hi-Viz jacket was the color option. Holding the jackets together, the colors on the Hi-Viz portions are basically a match. However doing this I noticed that the black accents on the XDR Commander actually make the neon part pop a bit more than the dull gray accent colors do on the Kili. This is just nit picking of course. You would probably never know this if you saw the jackets separately. As I said to my customer, I would still purchase the Kilimanjaro with confidence that it will get you noticed in traffic.
The next thing you notice when you physically pick-up both jackets (both size Large) is that the XDR Commander feels a lot heavier. Opening up the Commander, you start to realize why. It’s like opening up a virtual cocoon. Peel back the Velcro opening on the removable storm collar. Unbutton the six snaps. Unzip the main zipper. Pull apart the Velcro storm flap on the removable waterproof liner and finally unzip the waterproof liner. Five separate steps with all the optional cold weather parts installed. Luckily, the thermal liner attaches to the waterproof one so it does not require an extra step. How does the Kili fare comparatively? It takes only two steps. Unbutton the front eight snaps and unzip the main zip and that’s all. The removable thermal liner attaches in such a way that it does not require an extra step to get in and out of.
Speaking of liners, these jackets take two different approaches as far as waterproofing. The Kilimanjaro Jacket takes the more classic approach of a waterproof membrane built into the jackets shell. The Scorpion XDR Commander takes the newer and perhaps more popular approach of a removable waterproof liner. The idea behind this is that if you don’t need the waterproofing, then you can remove the whole thing and theoretically end up with a jacket that is more breathable than one with a built in membrane. I’m personally a fan of the older style, if it rains I don’t want to have to stop and start zipping in liners. But you are going to have fans on both sides of the equation here. On the Firstgear jacket, a real nice feature is that the thermal liner itself is a finished piece, so that you can wear it as a separate jacket when you get to your destination. It is fleece lined on the inside and the exterior has a smooth appearance. It even has its own inner storage compartments. For those who take multi-day trips and wish to travel light, this is definitely the way to go. However, again the Scorpion XDR seems to come out ahead if you want more technical features. The thermal liner while not finished, uses Scorpions proprietary “Everheat” and “Kwickliner” which promises better heat retention and moisture wicking properties than ordinary fabrics.
The XDR Commander jacket seems to take a more is better approach which when comparing these jackets appears not to be the case. On the front of the jacket alone I counted six pockets, but there are four on the chest that amount to a pocket behind a pocket, and the opening zips are right next to each other. This is all a bit confusing when you are trying to figure out which zipper opens what and there are two small, zippered chest vents right over the pockets adding to the busy look. The First Gear jacket also uses the pocket behind a pocket setup on the lower cargo pockets but the waterproof zippers are neatly hidden behind the main cargo pocket. Plus the fact that the Kili does not use sleeve vents, rather a large under-arm zippered vent, further adds to the clean look of this jacket. It also has two long chest vents (which don’t appear would stay open very well), but the chest pockets have the First gear famous CSS or Cargo Storage System. These pockets contain an organizing system for cell phone, map, keys, pens and pencils and the like. Like the rest of the Kilimanjaro, the theme here is simplicity and convenience. To me, the Kili has an oddly placed rear exit event. It’s placed rather low and I first thought it was the fanny pack opening, but in fact it does not have a fanny pack. I wonder if this low placement of the rear vent would impede airflow. The Commander jacket does have a fanny pack and also has two sleeve, two chest, and one long horizontal exit vent in the usual location on the upper back, near the shoulder area.
On both jackets I would say that the shoulder and elbow armor seem just as tough; both use CE armor. I would give the nod to the back pad on the XDR Commander. Also the arm straps on the XDR are Velcro and therefore provide complete adjustment within their range. Meanwhile on the Kili there are snaps placed at 1” apart so you better hope one of those fits you. Both use stretch materials in key areas, the Kilimanjaro on the front of the jacket via waterproof stretch material; the Commander has corrugated flex areas on the back of the jacket. The Kilimanjaro uses a simple waist adjuster while the XDR’s adjusts from four points. The Commander has slightly more reflective material and offers an optional hydration pack. Both are available in tall sizes and both offer warranties on materials and workmanship- First gear jacket gives you two, Scorpion three.
To sum up, I think the choice boils down to what type of rider you are. If you need absolute weather impunity with snug-as-a-bug fit to combat all conditions, then you need the Scorpion Jacket. If you’re like me, you don’t want to be too weighed down, you like to keep it simple, and you know you’ll never ride beyond a certain temperature range- I’d choose the Firstgear Jacket. I rated both of these jackets on their own merits; I did not factor in price. The Kilimanjaro’s MSRP is $299.95 the Commander retails at $365, but with it now being sold on closeout at $179-$225, now we have a dilemma. You decide.