Merlin Drifter D3o Explorer Review – Vintage Style with Modern Protection?

This British-made jacket promises comfort, versatility, and eco-friendly manufacturing – exactly what I look for in motorcycle gear.

In this review, I’ll share my hands-on impressions after wearing the Merlin Drifter on a long day ride through varying weather conditions.

I’ll cover the jacket’s key features, how it performed in real-world use, and how it compares to other adventure motorcycle jackets on the market.

But, the main question I will answer in this review will be: Is this the best waterproof motorcycle jacket for you? Let’s find out!

Merlin Drifter D30 Explorer


Key Takeaways

  • Highly adjustable for comfort
  • Fully waterproof membrane included
  • Extensive CE-rated armor protection

Main Features

DesignFutureproof, sustainable, and durable
MaterialMade with 100% organic Halley Stevensons ripstop cotton
Water RepellentOuter fabric treated with a water-repellent finish
Waterproof MembraneHighly waterproof and breathable Humax membrane
Impact ProtectionIncludes a five-piece D3O armor set for enhanced impact protection

An Overview of the Merlin Drifter Jacket

The Merlin Drifter is part of the company’s new Explorer Collection, designed for motorcyclists with an adventurous spirit. It aims to provide versatility for different types of rides while keeping sustainability in mind.

Here are the key features and specifications of the Merlin Drifter jacket:

  • Material: Outer shell made from 100% organic cotton with ripstop weave for durability. Water-repellent treatment enhances weather resistance.
  • Waterproofing: Texland HuMax waterproof yet breathable membrane built into the jacket. Fully waterproof without needing a removable liner.
  • Ventilation: Zippered intake and exhaust vents allow significant airflow. Keeps you cool in warm weather.
  • Armor: Level 1 CE-approved armor in elbows, shoulders, and back. Optional chest armor is available.
  • Safety Ratings: CE Level A safety rating. Approved for road use in the UK.
  • Pockets: Two zippered chest pockets, two zippered waist pockets, and three interior pockets.
  • Colors: Available in green or black. I tested the green version.
  • Price: $299.99
  • Sustainability: Made using eco-friendly manufacturing processes.

Next, I’ll share my real-world testing experience with the jacket.

Putting the Merlin Drifter to the Test in Varying Conditions

I was able to thoroughly test out the Drifter jacket on a long ride through country roads and highways. The conditions ran the gamut from cold and damp to warm and sunny.

Here’s how the jacket performed in key areas:

Weather Protection

The first part of my ride was in light rain. The jacket’s water-repellent outer shell beaded up moisture well.

After about 30 minutes of riding in a steady drizzle, my core remained perfectly dry thanks to the built-in HuMax waterproof membrane. No need for a separate rainliner was a huge plus.

Later as the sun came out, the jacket felt breathable and airy thanks to the direct-to-skin waterproof membrane. I stayed comfortable even during an hour ride in 65°F weather.

Ventilation & Temperature Control

I was impressed by how adjustable the ventilation was. When it was chilly out, I could zip up the jacket fully, and it blocked the wind very effectively.

Once the temperature rose, opening the two large zippered chest vents and two exhaust vents along the biceps was simple.

This allowed excellent airflow that prevented overheating. The direct ventilation was far better than membranes requiring a removable liner.

Comfort & Fit

The Merlin Drifter jacket lived up to its promise of comfort. The ripstop cotton outer has a smooth, plush feel. For all-day wear, it stayed comfortable without binding or ride-up.

I typically wear a size medium jacket, but I went with a small in the Drifter based on Merlin’s sizing guidance. The tailoring was excellent in the small – not too baggy but with enough room to layer underneath.

To fine-tune fit, the jacket includes several adjustable velcro straps at the wrists and biceps. These let you cinch it in around your gloves to keep air out.

Overall, the Merlin Drifter jacket offered outstanding comfort on long rides. The fit adjustments and smooth interior fabric were highlights.

Armor Protection

For protective gear, armor coverage and placement are crucial. The CE-approved elbow, shoulder, and back armor in the Drifter provided me with confidence in the jacket’s impact protection.

The armor fits tightly so it won’t shift in a slide. I also liked the option to add chest armor for extra protection.

Considering its price point, the included armor in the Merlin Drifter is excellent. It doesn’t cut corners on safety.

Storage & Convenience

The Drifter includes a whopping seven exterior pockets plus three more inside. That’s plenty of storage for wallets, keys, phones and more.

My favorite feature was the hand warmer pockets behind the waist-level zippered pockets. These are lined with a soft fleece-like fabric and fasten shut with magnets. It was perfect for slipping my hands into on a brisk morning.

For convenience, I appreciated that all exterior pockets are easily accessible while riding. Merlin avoided hard-to-reach pockets and ensured they were all functional when riding.

How Does the Merlin Drifter Compare to Other Adventure Jackets?

The Merlin Drifter goes up against other popular adventure-style motorcycle jackets in the $300 price range. Here’s how it stacks up to two top competitors:

JacketWeather ProtectionArmorVentilation
Merlin DrifterFully waterproof membrane + DWR coating. Excellent wet weather protection.CE Level 1 armor in elbows, shoulders, back. Chest armor optional.Direct ventilation via zippered chest and bicep vents. Keeps you cool in warm weather.
Rev’It! Sand 3Water-resistant outer, no membrane. Requires separate rain liner.Same armor coverage as Drifter.Mesh paneled for airflow, but not direct-venting.
Rukka ArmaxionGore-Tex waterproof + DWR outer. Better water protection.Additional armor in hips and knees.Large mesh vents, but no direct zippered vents.

The Merlin Drifter holds up very well compared to pricier options. It offers better weather protection through its waterproof membrane and more direct ventilation than the Rukka jacket, which costs $40 more.

The Rev’It! Sand 3 is the closest price but lacks a waterproof membrane and less airflow. Overall the Drifter combines excellent value with its features and performance.

Final Verdict: A Superb Value for All-Weather Riding

After my demanding testing session, I’m happy to recommend the Merlin Drifter jacket for riding in varied conditions. It truly bridges the gap between an affordable jacket and a premium touring-level jacket.

Here are the key advantages I found with the Merlin Drifter:

  • All-weather protection: Waterproof membrane keeps you dry. Vents and breathability keep you cool. Tough ripstop fabric resists abrasion.
  • Comfort: Slimmer but not tight cut with fine-tunable fit. Plush cotton is smooth against the skin.
  • Armor coverage: CE armor in crucial impact zones boosts protection.
  • Storage & convenience: Seven exterior pockets plus three interiors. Hand warmer pockets are brilliant.
  • ** Eco-friendly:** Sustainably produced using organic cotton.

Considering its very reasonable $299.99 price tag, the features and technology packed into the Drifter are remarkable. It offers comfort, convenience, and safety, rivaling options $100+ more expensive.

If you’re looking for a versatile, eco-friendly jacket ready for commuting, touring, or trail riding, the Merlin Drifter is a standout choice. It has quickly become my go-to jacket and is ready to handle whatever ride I take it on.

Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about the Merlin Drifter jacket:

Q: Is the jacket fully waterproof?

A: The Texland HuMax membrane integrated into the Drifter makes it fully waterproof without needing a rain liner.

Q: How is the sizing compared to other brands?

A: Merlin jackets run slightly large/roomy. I recommend ordering 1 size down from usual.

Q: Is the jacket comfortable in hot weather?

A: The direct zipper chest and arm vents allow excellent airflow to prevent overheating.

Q: Does the jacket include a thermal liner?

A: No, it doesn’t include a removable thermal liner. Layers can be worn underneath for warmth.

Q: What kind of armor does it include?

A: CE Level 1 armor in the elbows, shoulders, and back. Optional chest armor is available.


The Merlin Drifter motorcycle jacket exceeded my expectations as a high-quality, eco-friendly riding jacket ready for any adventure.

After thoroughly testing it across varying weather, from rain to heat, I’m highly impressed with its versatility, protection, and comfort.

Key strengths like the waterproof and breathable membrane, extensive venting, and CE-approved armor make the Drifter stand out at this price point.

It can truly handle multi-day touring and off-road adventures while keeping you dry and safe.

For riders looking for an affordable but feature-packed jacket, the Merlin Drifter is easy to recommend. Its combination of comfort, convenience, versatility, and sustainable production has quickly become my favorite jacket for daily commuting or weekend escapes.

If you’re in the market for reliable all-weather protection, storage, and versatility, the Merlin Drifter deserves a spot at the top of your list. I’m glad to have found such a well-rounded jacket that enhances every ride.

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