A jacket that turns into a pillow? It has to be a gimmick, right? That's pretty much what we were thinking before we got our hands on the women's Switchform waterproof jacket from Royal Robbins. The Switchform range is all about versatility, with some jackets turning into pillows like our model, and some changing into tote bags or daypacks for when the weather changes.
First, let's talk about the Switchform as a jacket. One thing we noticed straight away is the unusual outer fabric. At first glance, you wouldn't think you're looking at something waterproof, as the material looks and feels more like a textured cotton or canvas - soft and not at all crinkly.
In fact, it's an 'Eco DWR' (durable water repellent) fabric that is waterproof, windproof, breathable and can stand up to a bit of rough treatment. The fluorine-free waterproofing treatment is friendly to the environment without compromising performance.
All of the seams are fully taped and the fixed hood can be cinched at the front to help with the fit and keep the damp at bay. However, the hood is a little floppy with not much structure to it, so you'll need to use the adjusters to keep it in place.
A soft lining and generous cut add a good level of comfort and freedom of movement, also allowing for layering underneath if needed.
Pockets wise, on the outside there are two drop pockets with flaps at the waist, as well as two zipped hand pockets in the same place. Internally, there is another small drop pocket, a good size for a pair of sunglasses or train ticket, plus a zipped phone pocket with a hole for your headphone wires.
Then we move onto the large inside pocket at the small of the back - the key to its transformation. It turns out that in the case of the Switchform waterproof jacket, the ability to change into a pillow is actually a useful feature rather than an almost-but-doesn't-quite-work attempt at something helpful.
The jacket stuffs down with ease into the large interior zipped pocket, turns inside-out and voila! Unlike most other jackets we've tried to wrestle into tiny stuff pockets, the fact that the Switchform isn't trying to reduce in size for easy stowage, but transform into a sizeable (60cm wide!) pillow, means that the process is a breeze.
There is a diagram on the label which has careful step-by-step instructions of how to fold and manoeuvre the fabric to get the neatest results, but if you're in a rush, just grabbing and stuffing works just as well.
And, wonder of wonders, the finished product is actually comfortable and could easily be used on an aeroplane, car ride, wild camping trip or any other adventure. The bulk of the jacket provides just enough cushioning to be fit for purpose, and the elongated shape of the pillow means that it can be easily folded in half to make it thicker and provide more support if needed. Plus, a microfleece facing and handy strap also add to the useability and comfort of this jacket when used as a pillow.
Obviously, you wouldn't want to pillow-fy the Switchform if it's still wet from a recent deluge, but after a quick dry out you'll be good to go.
The jacket comes in three low-key colours, 'Jet Black', 'Falcon' and 'Slate', any of which should fit into any hiking wardrobe.
Overall, we like that Royal Robbins has actually thought about the design of the Switchform waterproof jacket and have produced something that works in both incarnations. Not everyone in the market for a waterproof jacket will have use for a travel pillow, but those who do will love it, and the fact that the extra feature doesn't compromise the design and wearability of the jacket means it can be viewed as a fun extra on an already successful bit of kit.