High-Tech Apparel for the Wireless Lifestyle

As you become more and more involved with digital devices, you find that you need to carry them with you more often. First it was a pager; then a pager and a cell phone; then a pager, cell phone, PDA, ad infinitum. As a technical journalist, I've recently been getting quite a few press releases about products designed to make your digitally connected life easier by letting you carry these devices around more easily. And you've probably seen the Dockers' Mobile Pant commercials (http://www.dockers.com) that promote the company's new pant design for mobile electronics users.

I get a bit nervous when technology pushes into the mainstream consciousness. The ideas that play to the mass market don't always make sense from a technical perspective. For instance, consider the aforementioned pants: Dockers takes the cargo-pant concept, moves the pockets to the inside, and gives the pants a business spin. But what happens when you load up those pockets? Anything beyond the lightest digital devices will weigh down the pockets, and the lightest digital gadgets are usually the most fragile. Not many PDAs or lightweight cell phones would survive if you bang your leg on a desk or lean heavily against a counter. And I wouldn't want to toss my keys in the same pocket with my PDA or cell phone for fear of damaging the devices. Also, how long will it take you to empty those pockets at the airport security checkpoint? I realize that carrying a lot of digital devices clipped to your belt isn't the best solution, but neither is stuffing them in your pants pockets, no matter how well designed those pants are.

So what's the solution? For the last dozen years or so, I've been carrying the tools of my trade (cell phones, pagers) in a vest. Marketed as anything from photojournalist vests to safari vests to Ranger military vests, these lightweight jackets have lots of pockets for all your gadgets. When I get to the security scanner at the airport, I simply take off my vest and pass it through the x-ray machine.

Now it appears I should have patented the idea: A company called Scott eVest has introduced a line of patent-pending technology-enabled clothing (the company's words, not mine) starting with, ta-da!, a vest with lots of pockets. The vest also has Velcro closures inside that let you run wires through the pockets and lining to connect your various digital devices. Now you can be wired on the road.

Over the years, I've gone through quite a few vests; with daily wear and tear, they last about 18 months. I've paid as little as $19.95 for a Ranger vest from Sportsman's Guide to $75 for a Safari vest from Banana Republic. I've also purchased traditional photo-journalist vests, which usually retail in the $150 range, but the pockets for carrying lenses aren't very useful for smaller items. You'll find a variety of vests at military surplus stores or large sporting goods retailers such as Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops. My current choice is the Outback vest from Rothco, which costs $42.

On a daily basis, I carry wallet, keys, sunglasses, digital camera, cell phone, PDA, spare batteries, checkbook, business cards, pens, and notepad in what I guess is now a technologically backward vest--but it works. So if you need to be connected all the time, check out vest manufacturers, and if you want state-of-the-art electronic vestware, check out the Scott eVest. I'll be interested to hear what you think.

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