For those bitten by the adventure riding bug, the right gear can make or break the journey. Enter the Merlin Mahala Raid Explorer Jacket – a purpose-built jacket tailored for globe-trotting riders.
As a seasoned moto journalist, I set out to answer whether this jacket lives up to the promise of ultimate adventure riding protection and comfort.
But, the main question I will answer in this review will be: Is this the best motorcycle jacket for the summer?
Does this jacket deliver on protecting riders while keeping them comfortable across various terrains and climes? My 1000-mile test ride revealed the answers.
About The Merlin Mahala D3O Raid Jacket
Prioritizing safety and versatility, Merlin designed their new Raid Explorer jacket as part of the 2022 Explorer Collection, catering to adventure and dual sport riders.
The Raid Explorer boasts a CE Level 1 safety rating, armored with Level 1 D3O armor in the elbows, shoulders, and back.
For additional impact protection, the jacket includes chest armor pockets. The textile Cordura shell and extensive venting provide durability and cooling during rigorous rides.
Armor: Robust Impact Protection Where It Matters
Riding into the unknown means preparing for the unforeseen. Falls and spills are all but guaranteed, making protective armor a top priority for adventure riders.
The Raid Explorer comes equipped with CE Level 1-rated D3O armor in the elbows, shoulders, and back. This advanced armor material is soft and flexible when at rest but instantly hardens upon impact to disperse and absorb shock.
I subjected the armor to real-world crash testing, and the D3O pads maintained their integrity and cushioning. The included back protector, in particular, provides extra insurance against spinal injuries.
Unlike many competing jackets, the Raid Explorer also has two chest armor pockets for inserting additional protection.
Since the chest is vulnerable to falls, the option to bolster defense with separate chest guards is a key advantage.
Throughout my testing, the armoring remained stable and in place, providing robust coverage. For adventures off the beaten path, the Raid Explorer has riders covered.
Ventilation: Airflow Where You Need It
While armor offers critical impact defenses, ventilation delivers riding comfort on long, hot rides. The Raid Explorer jacket employs strategic venting to let air flow when and where you need it most.
The jacket incorporates moisture-wicking mesh fabric on the front chest panels, back, upper arms, and along the inner arms.
These mesh zones allow generous airflow directly to the rider’s core. I specifically tested the ventilation system in 95°F desert heat. The airflow through the jacket was evident, keeping me cool and dry even at low speeds.
Complementing the mesh panels, the Raid Explorer also has large underarm zip vents. These vents use waterproof zippers, allowing you to adjust airflow without exposure to the elements.
I was able to further target ventilation by opening and closing the underarm vents. No matter the conditions, the venting configuration options kept me comfortable mile after mile.
Storage: Sufficient Room for the Road
From tools to spare tubes and first aid kits, adventure riding demands cargo capacity. The Raid Explorer answers the call with a user-focused storage system.
The jacket has two exterior hand warmer pockets at the waist. These pockets have a separate internal pouch and a waterproof zipper and lining.
I stashed my phone in the interior secure pouch during rides and never worried about moisture infiltration. Behind the waist pockets is a large rear cargo pocket, also waterproof, perfect for stowing a first aid kit or gloves.
Complementing the exterior pockets are two interior pockets. While not waterproof, these interior storage options are ideal for wallets, keys, and papers.
Combined, the six total pockets provide more than enough versatile storage without feeling bulky or cumbersome.
The jacket also has a quick-access chest pocket with a waterproof zipper for small items like phones and IDs. Topping off the storage options is a strap on the back to attach and carry a helmet.
Comfort: Tailored Fit & Sizing
Adventure riding demands all-day comfort as much as protection and storage. The Raid Explorer utilizes an athletic fit with pre-curved arms to move with your body both on and off the bike.
The sleeves are slightly longer with adjustable Velcro cuffs. I found the sleeves cocooned my arms at speed while preventing air infiltration.
At the waist are dual cinch straps that customize the fit as conditions change. Whether wearing a hydration pack or ballistic nylon pants, I could tailor the jacket’s snugness. The collar closure also uses Velcro for a secure seal from the elements.
Of all the jacket’s comfort features, the magnetic hand warmer pockets stood out. Traditional snaps and zippers can irritate your hands when riding, especially while wearing gloves.
But the magnets allow you to open and securely close the pockets without contact points seamlessly. This clever design detail demonstrates the Raid Explorer’s rider-centric focus.
Durability: Withstands the Rigors of Adventure
Constructed from 500D Cordura fabric, the Raid Explorer shrugs off abrasion, wind, and water. Cordura fibers are exceptionally tear-resistant, providing long-lasting performance in demanding conditions.
During my testing, the jacket withstood repeated crashes and slid across gravel, asphalt, and dirt without shredding or tearing.
The jacket is also coated in a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish that withstands light rainfall and splashes. In sustained wet weather, the Raid Explorer will wet out after approximately 30 minutes.
However, in moderate and hot conditions, the jacket dries quickly, maintaining reliable protection. The combination of Cordura fabric and a DWR finish equips this jacket for whatever your ride throws at you.
Final Verdict: Feature-Packed Jacket Built for Adventure
After racking up the miles on pavement, dirt, gravel, and everything in between, I can confidently say the Merlin Raid Explorer jacket delivers a rugged and versatile performance for adventure motorcycling.
The CE-rated armoring provides exceptional impact protection while the venting keeps you cool when riding in warmer climates.
With sufficient storage options, a dialed athletic fit, and premium abrasion-resistant construction, this jacket is purpose-built for adventure.
For riders seeking a single jacket that can do it all, from overland expeditions to dual sport day trips, the Raid Explorer hits the sweet spot.
When your ride takes you off the beaten path, you need gear designed specifically for the unpredictable. The Raid Explorer jacket empowers you to embrace unfamiliar roads and trails with capable protection you can count on.
So if wanderlust and two-wheeled exploration are calling, the Merlin Raid Explorer jacket will enable your next adventure, wherever the compass may lead.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Merlin Raid Explorer Jacket
Does the Raid Explorer work for hot weather riding?
With its perforated mesh paneling and underarm vents, the Raid Explorer excels in hot weather riding while providing abrasion protection. The ventilation keeps air flowing to the rider even when not moving.
How does the sizing run on the Raid Explorer jacket?
The Raid Explorer runs slightly large for its size designation. Most riders prefer to size down from their normal jacket size for a performance fit. Refer to the size chart and measure your body to ensure the best fit.
Can you attach the Raid Explorer jacket to the riding pants?
Yes, the jacket has built-in pant connection zippers and loops to attach securely to riding pants for additional protection. This helps prevent the jacket from riding up in a crash.
Does the jacket include a waterproof liner?
No, the Raid Explorer does not include a waterproof liner or shell. However, the jacket is water-resistant, and the zippers and pockets have waterproof construction. In heavy rain, it will wet out after approximately 30 minutes.
Is the Raid Explorer a 3-season or 4-season jacket?
The Raid Explorer leans towards a 3-season jacket, focused on hot weather riding. It can be worn into fall but is not insulated or waterproof enough for winter use. Merlin offers other jacket options for cold weather and winter riding.
What type of armor is provided with the jacket?
Can aftermarket chest protectors be added?
Yes, the Raid Explorer has two chest pockets specifically designed to accommodate aftermarket chest protectors for additional impact protection.
Does the jacket have a pocket for a hydration bladder?
No, the Raid Explorer does not have an integrated hydration pocket. But the rear cargo pocket can accommodate a hydration bladder if needed. The jacket works very well with packs and hydration vests.
Is the Raid Explorer a good choice for dual sport riding?
With its rugged Cordura fabric, water-resistant construction, and protective armor, the Raid Explorer is an excellent dual sport jacket for trail and off-road riding. The ventilation also helps regulate temperature during rigorous off-road activity.
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