Sunday, March 18, 2012

Product Review: Magellan Classic Travel Vest

Last November Don Colley gave a demo of Faber-Castell Big Brush Artist Pens at Seattle’s Daniel Smith store. In addition to being dazzled by his amazing drawings done with these pens, I was intrigued by a multi-pocketed vest he was wearing, which enabled him to have his art supplies close at hand without having to lug a huge bag around. Given that he likes to sketch in public places, the vest allows him to be discreet.

I immediately decided I wanted a vest like that, too, which would enable me to sketch outdoors unencumbered. I found that a number of online stores offer multi-pocketed vests, usually to facilitate travel. But the essential component to my vest would have to be at least one pocket large enough to accommodate my Sakura Koi 24-color watercolor box. I e-mailed makers of several candidates (TravelSmith, Scottevest, Magellan, Lands’ End, L.L. Bean) to get the exact measurements of the pockets (manufacturers seem to think that saying “large pockets” in their marketing copy is somehow sufficient data).

After receiving detailed information from customer service that at least one pocket would have the right dimensions, I finally settled on the Magellan ClassicTravel Vest It seems reasonably well made for the price.

Shown in the photo, I’m wearing it fully loaded with my essential supplies. It’s zipped all the way up in the photo, but when I was out in the field, I unzipped it and fastened only the snap at the center front (a very nice touch – without it, the unzipped vest would gape open from the weight of the supplies), which allowed easy access to the inner pockets.

I have pens and waterbrushes in one lower pocket, and a pocket-size Moleskine sketchbook in the other lower pocket. (I show everything sticking out so you can see them, but they all fit nicely inside, and the Velcro flaps close easily over them.)

In the inside pockets, you’ll see my Koi watercolor kit in the largest (the only one that would accommodate it, but it fits easily without struggle), and Tombow, Akashiya and other markers in the second large/tall pocket. One small pocket holds folded paper towels. I could have put my smartphone and wallet into the two upper outer pockets, but I didn’t want all that bulk, so I put my phone and wallet in a small passport wallet that I take on short hikes, and that worked out well.

One downside is that the nylon fabric does not provide any insulation. I tried it on over a jacket, and it felt too tight and bulky, so I wore it with only a turtleneck and thin fleece hoodie underneath. I spent nearly three hours at the zoo sketching all the animals I could keep up with (therefore, mostly only the lethargic or sleeping ones!) and froze my tush off! But that bodes well for the late spring and summer – it probably won’t be too warm to wear over a T-shirt.

In summary, I love it! It meets all the needs I got it for. I’m looking forward to trying it out at a farmer’s market or other crowded public venue, where it is especially difficult to carry a big bag while also trying to juggle a sketchbook and paint box.


  1. Great useful review! Thanks! I came here from AMAZON!

  2. Tina, they now have a new color, a medium gray. I already had the black one when I searched for an art travel vest and found your post. I wore it all over Italy in the fall with my Macabi skirt which also has big pockets for art supplies ( Santa brought me the gray Magellan vest and I am pleased with how it looks with gray hair.

    1. Glad to hear you're enjoying your Magellan vests, Arlene!


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