BauBax, a travel jacket created by Northwestern Kellogg MBA student Hiral Sanghavi, was a crowdfunding smash hit: It raised $9.2 million on Kickstarter and $11.5 million on Indiegogo On Demand, becoming the most successful crowdfunding project out of Chicago and among the most successful apparel crowdfunding campaigns of all time.
The jacket boasts a whopping 15 features, including nine utility pockets, an attached pen stylus, and even a built in neck pillow and eye mask. In a time when people are traveling by plane more than ever, it seems to have struck a chord with the jet setting crowd.
However, given BauBax originally set out to raise just $20,000, the enormous amount of attention and preorders set them back–it was supposed to be available before the holidays in 2015, but there were several delays and backers just started receiving product over this past spring and summer (leaving many a frustrated customer according to some Facebook reviews).
Now that it is finally available, during my recent holiday travels I decided to try out every one of BauBax’s features to see if the “world’s best travel jacket” lives up to its hype.
BauBax offers four styles: windbreaker, sweatshirt, blazer and bomber jacket, with prices ranging from $200 to $300. Since I most frequently travel between Chicago and Minnesota (where I have family) I went with the Bomber jacket in black (price: $300, though currently on sale for $179) which is a little bit heavier and structured than the other options. I liked the style, and though BauBax says the jacket runs small, I found it to run pretty true to size (I’m usually a women’s small, and the women’s small fit quite well).
While waiting for a flight, I tested out all 15 features. Here’s my immediate reaction to each:
Gloves: The gloves, which are essentially long t-shirt sleeves with a thumbhole that pull out of the end of the jacket are a nice touch for someone who is perpetually cold on flights (me), and could fold back into the sleeve without being too obtrusive.
Hand warming pockets: The pockets are fleece-lined, which definitely keeps hands more insulated than your average pocket. My only complaint is that the pockets are pretty small, and don’t have a zipper or button to keep them closed, so I wouldn’t rely on keeping my phone or wallet in them.
Charger Pocket: This pocket is meant to be for a phone charger or portable phone charger. But since I don’t carry a portable charger, this was the perfect size for sticking my phone inside my jacket (also helps if you’re wary of pickpocketing or tend to lose your phone). BauBax is currently experimenting with a built-in charging system, which would definitely be a welcome touch.
Tablet Pocket: This pocket is HUGE—definitely big enough to hold an iPad, Kindle or Samsung Galaxy tablet. I personally don’t travel with a tablet, so I used it as a notebook pocket. It felt a little bulky (you are putting a solid object inside a coat) but definitely a nice touch if you don’t want to dig through a bag to grab your tablet.
Blanket Pocket: This feature would be ideal…if the jacket came with a blanket. That’s a separate purchase you’ll have to make. The pocket can be used for anything else passport or phone sized, so it could be used to stow additional documents, tickets or whatever else you need to store.
Telescopic Pen: Attached to the zipper, there’s an expandable pen. As someone who writes—a lot— I am pretty particular about the ink flow, grip and point size of my writing utensil. Luckily, this pen works just as any of my favorite Bics—and comes with replacement ink cartridges as well.
Stylus: On the other side of the pen, there’s a rubbery stylus. I haven’t used a stylus since the days of palm pilots, but I tested it out on my smartphone and can confirm that this works. So if you’re a stylus user, this could be a nice feature in a pinch.
Earphone Holder: This was a pretty nifty feature—there are a series of small loops behind the neck, allowing you to weave your headphones into the jacket, so you’re not fumbling with tangled chords in your jacket or backpack pocket.
Drinking Pocket: This is neoprene lined pocket located on the left side of the chest, meant to hold some sort of drink. To be frank, the pocket is so small, I’m not even sure it could hold a Red Bull can. This is one feature the BauBax could have probably left off.
Passport Pocket: It does indeed, hold a passport.
Sunglasses Pocket: A dedicated pocket for sunglasses–why not? There’s also a small elastic loop where can hook your glasses so they hang outside the pocket for easier accessibility.
Microfiber cloth: Inside the sunglasses pocket, there’s a small microfiber cloth for cleaning sunglasses or glasses. Microfiber clothes are extremely key to anyone who wears glasses, but a small piece of fabric is also ridiculously easy to lose. Nice that this one is attached to a string inside your pocket—this would definitely come in handy.
Neck Pillow: Inside a pocket in the hood, there’s an inflatable neck pillow. You pull it out of the hood, and with two puffs of air you have a fully inflated neck pillow (and with one press of the air valve it deflates). It also features a removable, washable cover, a nice feature for anyone who drools in their sleep (hey, happens to the best of us). This is a pretty standout feature in my opinion—anyone who’s attempted to sleep with their head on a tray table knows how important a neck pillow is to travel, and the fact that it can be neatly folded into the hood is a really efficient touch. However, if you don’t take care to fold the neck pillow, it can get bunched up in the hood, which makes it a little bulky.
Eye Mask: This mask is tucked into the top of the hood, and can be pulled down to shield your eyes. Though not quite as effective as a wraparound eye mask, it definitely would provide some needed darkness if your seat mate has the overhead light on.
Though this jacket wouldn’t replace my backpack (I travel with an obnoxious amount of books and notebooks), its multitude of pockets did save me from digging through my bag for my wallet, passport, phone and earbuds like I usually do. Though a little more expensive than your typical jacket, it runs about the same as a Patagonia or North Face jacket, and is more geared toward the jet-setter than the outdoor gear enthusiasts.
Some features are more helpful than others (the neck pillow being the most helpful, drink pouch being the least functional), and when you utilize all its features—such as the nine pockets—it can feel a little bulky. So then it becomes about personal preference—would you rather your essential gear be in a purse or bag off your body, or in various pockets attached to your body?