BauBax Jacket

When a piece of clothing can double up as a backpack replacement

The context 

Some journeys are made for human comprehension. Train and road journeys, for instance, are comprehensible. You travel visible distances in real time, allowing for stops. You are allowed the luxury of becoming acclimatized to changing landscapes and people. 

Airline travel, in contrast, is hugely disorienting because it compresses space and time. You get into a metal bubble, travel through clouds and emerge in a new land with a new time, space and people. You comprehend this intellectually but your body and emotions take time to get accustomed. We call this jet lag—for a reason. Our heart and body lag behind our mind. How then to ease the emotional travails of air travel?

The fantasy 

The maharajahs of yore understood the pleasure and pain of travel. They journeyed with a retinue of people to help them get adjusted to new lands and also bring pieces of home into strange surroundings. So tents were set up, familiar food cooked, and comfort clothing laid out. 

Today, we do this all by ourselves, but still look for objects that can be points of comfort and familiarity. Some items lend themselves to this great pretense: a familiar backpack or handbag that travels with us wherever we go; a travel jacket that gives us comfort during cold flights and then beyond; or a well-used much-scuffed carry-on suitcase. 

These objects, through their ease of use, help us pretend that we are not on a mere "trip", but on a luxurious "journey". 

The reality 

Airline travel has long gone from being a luxury to being a necessity, if not a chore. We race through terminals like zombies. Security procedures, particularly in US airports, strip you not just of your shoes but of your dignity as well. 

A husband and wife team, Hiral Sanghavi and Yoganshi Shah, had a lofty goal: to create a multi-use, multi-purpose jacket that exuded style and comfort. They raised close to $10 million on Kickstarter ($9,192,055 to be exact). Media reports called the result “the Swiss Army Knife of jackets", that was the “most highly funded piece of clothing in the crowdfunding history". 

The product 

The BauBax jacket comes in four styles—a blazer, sweatshirt, bomber and windbreaker—and a range of colours. It looks like a jacket but aspires to be a backpack. In other words, it has enough pockets and compartments to fit your tablet, mobile phone, charger, headphones, passport, cash and everything in between. 

The sleeves extend out to become partial gloves. The hoodie that covers your head is similarly capacious. It comes forward to cover your eyes like an eye mask. Inside the hoodie is a neck pillow that can be inflated in two seconds, without you having to make your mouth a balloon. It deflates just as quickly. 

The video on the company website describes all the things that you can shove inside your jacket. Just watching it can make your head whirl and indeed this is the problem. Keep track of what goes into which compartment requires some mental focus. A useful addition would have been embroidered labels that stated what goes where: there is a pocket for your glasses but until you get used to the jacket, you will have to pay attention to where it is located. 

The best part is the zipper that you can pull. It extends out to become a pen or a stylus. Refill ballpoint pen cartridges are helpfully provided in the jacket. The lapel pocket can be used for drinks—not to pour into the pocket but to stick an airline cup of coffee into the pocket. The claim is that the pocket is built to keep fluids hot or cold. 

Lest you think that it is all bells and whistles, there are two standard pockets on the side, where they should be. This is an oddly comforting touch in a jacket that is, at first, intimidating in all the efficiencies it proclaims. 

The details 

Available online for $179 at baubax.com.

The verdict 

Any jacket that goes from being a mere covering to a conversational starter is itself a bonus. The BauBax takes some getting used to. The closest analogy is a diaper bag where everything has a place and there is a place for everything. But once you get the sequence down pat, you may never need a bag to carry your travel essentials. 

Disclosure: this product was loaned for purposes of this review.

Comments are welcome at feedback@livemint.com

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