With its rich collection of features and range of useful pockets, Scott’s Vanguard Evo Jacket protector shows huge promise in the best MTB body armour space. Even though it's comfortable and offers excellent coverage, a few flaws let down an otherwise fantastic bit of kit.
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Scott Vanguard Evo Jacket Protector - Technical details
The Vanguard Evo Jacket Protector is designed for use for trail and enduro mountain biking and it comes with an array of pockets, making it a substitution for a backpack. Built into its 69% polyamide, 18% elastane and 13% polyester fabric is an integrated water bladder pocket, complete with hose guides and an elasticated keeper for the mouthpiece.
And that’s not all the storage options as it aqlso gets two zipped pockets, one of the left flank and another padded zipped pocket at the lower back. There’s another open pocket on the opposite flank. On top of all that, there’s a pocket and elastic loop that makes a great home for a small pump.
At the heart of this protective vest is Scott’s AirFlex D3O back protector. This is designed to be lightweight and breathable thanks to loads of perforations. It also complies to Level 1 EN1621-2 certification and its built with a soft shell for comfort.
Scott Vanguard Evo Jacket Protector - Performance
This jacket offers both back protection and hydration storage but isn't an actual backpack by definition. And with its range of pockets and storage solutions, it looks set to replace a backpack completely,
The Vanguard’s fit is spot on. I chose a medium size which fits close to the skin without feeling tight and the shoulders are broad enough to comfortably carry the weight of a full hydration bladder and more. However, with a reservoir in the pocket, it has had me looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
With a good fit comes excellent coverage from that AirFlex D3O back protector. Like the shoulders, it’s broad, covering a good portion of the shoulder blades, right down to the lower back.
I’ve ridden with this back protector through a number of riding situations and it performed impressively. In fact, for uplift days it came particularly in handy as there’s no bag to remove when getting onto the van yet it can still carry a good deal of spares and water.
I managed to squeeze in a multitool, tubeless repair kit, a pump and snacks. Each pocket is easy to reach, too, as they offer easy access to whatever’s inside without having to take the vest off.
When riding, the Vanguard is comfortable and the breathability it offers isn’t too bad, although it does make things a bit toastier than usual. In terms of fit, it can also rise up a bit which misplaces the back protector as it sits higher than it should. This then means that there’s a bit of the protector that protrudes from the back and can nudge the back of a helmet every once in a while.
When loaded with a hydration bladder, the back protector curves around the contours of the bladder, rather than the rider’s back – effectively reducing coverage, thus affecting the overall comfort.
Though Scott’s integration of hydration bladder compatibility comes with some well-thought-out features: notably in the guides that sit on the shoulder and the little elasticated keep. These have kept the hose in place when rattling down descents while keeping water within easy reach.
Scott Vanguard Evo Jacket Protector - Verdict
The £175 sticker price places the Vanguard bang in the moddle in the back protector market. However, there are similar products on the market that come in at cheaper price such as Bluegrass’s Armour Lite which is £140. Its features are almost identical, however, its back protector isn’t D3O. Instead, it’s an EVA foam. Regardless, it certifies to the same safety standard.
Then there’s Fox’s Baseframe Pro Sleeveless body protector at £150. This one gets a D3O back protector but forgoes the storage options found on the Vanguard.
Thanks to its blend of backpack levels of storage and good back protection, Scott’s Vanguard Evo Protector Jacket shows excellent potential. It’s a seriously useful bit of kit that can easily replace a backpack, making it ideal for those, who like me, ride light or store a lot of tools on the bike. However, there’s a lot of room for improvement, such as its fit which tends to creep up the back and in how the back protector curves to a hydration bladder.