Group Test: Waterproof Jackets

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A dozen UK-esque waterproof jackets tested.

If you ride all year round in the UK, a decent waterproof jacket is as essential an investment as the bike you ride or any upgrade you may convince yourself you need. A good jacket can make all the difference, turning a bad day’s weather forecast into one worth venturing out into and away from the lure of the sofa.

This year’s round of jacket testing was blessed (blessed?) with perfect wet and windy winter conditions for seeing just how waterproof they all really are. So we’ve been riding through a series of miserable and grim weather days in a selection of 12 jackets, with a full range of prices from £50 upwards, to bring you the results.

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Adidas Cycling Trail CP Storm

Price: £99.99
Weight: 260g
From: Chicken Cycles 01582 873583 www.chickencycles.co.uk

Breakdown:
A non-adjustable fl eece-lined collar. The front zip is waterproof and asymmetrical; the top of the zip is off to one side so won’t irritate your neck when hunched over. The shoulder panel is slightly stretchy which helps keep it close-fi tting in all riding positions. Strangely, the back panel has long pleats in it so you can wear it over a small rucksack – there is an exit for the bladder hose hidden under the logo on the chest. Another quirky feature is a plastic see-through
‘watch window’ on the left forearm. The hem drawcord is single sided – good for on-the-fl y adjustment. The cuffs are elasticated but non-adjustable. The seams are taped but some of them appear to have been perforated by post-taping stitching. There are a pair of very small side vents. Single ‘Napoleon’ chest pocket.

Performance:
The cycle-specifi c tailoring on this jacket is some of the best on test. It’s cleverly cut on the lower arms, which gives an excellent fit whether on the bike or off. This also means that rainwater runs easily off, rather than collecting in ridges and folds. The high front hem and
rear drop tail are well executed too. The collar lets the side down, being little more than an inch high, acting as an air scoop. The fabric proved to be surprisingly waterproof but is disappointingly not very breathable.

Overall: A very niche cycling jacket with the hydration pack space but the fi t is very good indeed. Sadly the material is not quite as good as the jacket design.


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Altura Crosslite

Price: £79.99
Weight: 300g
From: Zyro 01845 521700 www.zyro.eu.com

Breakdown:
Waterproof front zip with zip garage. One pocket on the chest and another on the lower back. Velcro adjustable cuffs that also have elastic – which is a bit unnecessary, bunchy and reduces venting potential. The hem and collar have drawcord adjusters with decent garages. All seams are fully taped. Napoleon chest pocket and large rear pocket.

Performance:
A nice compromise between low weight and features, the Altura takes up a minimal amount of space in a Camelbak making it ideal for those ‘just in case’ days. A very cycling specifi c cut with low back and longer arms, and plenty of adjusters allow fine-tuning venting and fit. The jacket proved to be very breathable and waterproof. Our only niggle is the back pocket which is inaccessible and useless if wearing a backpack.

Overall: A well performing jacket, with excellent and adjustable fit.


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Endura Phoenix

Price: £69.99
Weight: 510g
From: Endura 01506 497749 www.endura.co.uk

Breakdown:
Three layer fabric for durability – although fairly heavy. Fully seam sealed. The front zip isn’t waterproof but has a storm flap. There are pockets on the front and rear, again with non-waterproof but stormfl apped zips – same goes for the pit zips too. The cuffs are
Velcro adjustable but with elastic which (like the Altura) are a bit unnecessary, bunchy and reduce venting potential. The collar has a drawcord adjuster but isn’t fleece-lined. Decently sized droptail cut.

Performance:
Another jacket featuring a cycle-specifi c cut with plenty of adjustment to cinch down in foul weather or vent when needed. Again we’d quite happily lose the back pocket due to inaccessibility when wearing a Camelbak, and the front pockets too (commuters’ opinions may
differ). The Phoenix is a warm jacket that needs vent management to maintain inner dryness on changeable days. The fabric feels tough and resisted scuffing well.

Overall: Hardwearing jacket that will resist the foulest weather. More suited to winter than summer riding due to its warmth.


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Gore Path

Price: £179.99
Weight: 560g
From: W.L. Gore 01506 678 316 www.gore-tex.com

Breakdown:
Mesh drop liner. Collar and hem have draw cord adjusters – all of which are fully captured so they don’t fl ap about. Front zip is not waterproof but has a stormfl ap ‘placket’. Pit zips have waterproof zips with a zip at either end. Fold-away droptail. Napoleon pocket, stow pocket, mobile phone pocket and a rear pocket with non-waterproof zip and stormfl ap. Jacket folds into back pocket. Cuffs are Velcro adjustable but with elastic (unnecessary, bunchy and reduce venting potential).

Performance:
First off, who decided that off-white was a good idea for a winter jacket? We applaud their optimism at least. The Path is actually the size it claims to be, which hasn’t been the case with many jackets on test and the fi t is snug, but with room for a couple of layers if needed. The drop liner snagged on Velcro and brambles (and who needs a liner on a drop-tail anyway?) but surprisingly not on the pit-zips, which ran very smoothly, as did all the zips. Gore XCR is the most breathable of the Gore range and did a pretty good job of shifting moisture, though nothing works perfectly in our recent warm-but-wet winters.

Overall: A nice, simple jacket, though we’re still not fans of drop-
linered jackets, but a hefty premium to pay for the name on the fabric.


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Fox Trooper

Price: £100
Weight: 590g
From: Fox Racing 0191 487 6100 www.foxeurope.com

Breakdown:
All the zips are waterproof. All the seams are taped but some have been perforated by post-taping stitching. There is abrasion resistant paneling on the forearms and sides of the torso. Not particularly good on-bike tailoring – the back isn’t low enough and the front is
too low. Velcro adjustable cuffs. Two draw cord adjusters for the hem – not on-the-fl y adjustment friendly. Three pockets on the front (two belly and one chest). There are a pair of small vents on both the front and the rear of the jacket. Non-adjustable, non-fl eece collar.
Mesh drop liner inside. Built-in routing for earphone cabling.

Performance:
Quirky Americana,with mini -vents instead of the normal pit-zips and a very fl appy cut. It doesn’t really cut the mustard for the worst of UK riding. The mesh liner was very sloppy and
breathability was low. Without doubt the most ‘urban’ in styling and that might swing it for people that are playing more in town than slithering over rocks.

Overall: Urban stying, maybe not the best for full winter UK riding


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Howies Drizzler

Price: £125.00
Weight: 460g
From: Howies 01239 615988 www.howies.co.uk

Breakdown:
Features a mesh drop liner inside and all seams are fully taped. The hood can be rolled away and cinched, with adjusters held inside the jacket out of the way. Two chest pockets and two belly pockets both with mesh inners assist through-fl ow when open. Single-sided draw cord waist. Simple Velcro adjustable cuffs. Very slight drop tail cycling cut.

Performance:
A well vented jacket, probably the best vented on test, assuming you keep the pockets open but tending towards the warm end of the scale due to its mesh liner. We liked the attention to detail, like the logo’d zip extenders which make adjustment when wearing gloves particularly easy. The hood can be rolled out of the way when not needed though the resulting collar can feel uncomfortable compared to others’ fleece lined offerings. Anyone put off by the ‘school trip
cagoule’ orange will be glad to know it’s also available in Jungle Green.

Overall: An all rounder jacket that feels compromised for bike use. Orange will appeal to extroverts, commuters, and anyone wanting to summon assistance on the fells.


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Pace 3×3 eVent

Price: £99.95
Weight: 320g
From: Pace Cycles 01751 432929 www.pacecycles.com

Breakdown:
The front zip is waterproof but still has a baffle to reduce wind penetration. Huge rear pocket. Simple Velcro adjustable cuffs. The collar is cut quite high to prevent wind penetration and has draw cord adjuster – although the elastic reaches all the way round the collar which can lead to annoying bunching against your throat. The hem is non-adjustable. The tail is nice and low but so is the front which causes the belly area to bulge out.

Performance:
Now that Gill have stopped making jackets for the cycle market, Pace is one of the only companies making lightweight, minimalist jackets out of eVent fabric. This fabric has some very strong fans who consider it to be the best material for mountain biking because it’s very breathable (even from a ‘cold start’) and it resists abrasion fairly well. Nit-picking, the collar on the 3×3 could be better (cinch adjustment is bunchy and it lacks a fl eece-lining), the non-adjustable hem will be draughty on skinny riders and the front could do with being cut very slightly higher. Having said that, it costs less than £100 and performs fantastically so we can excuse these niggles.

Overall: With a longer collar and a little better cut and it’d be perfect.


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OMM Vail Run/Ride

Price: £99.00
Weight: 240g
From: OMM www.theomm.com

Breakdown:
All inner seams are fully taped. Single chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack complete with bumbag-style waistbelt. Cuffs slightly elasticated and have thumbloops. The collar has draw cord adjuster that can be operated by one hand. No adjustment on the slightly elasticated hem. The sleeves are pre-shaped and articulated. The Gelanots fabric is four-way stretchy – with a bit more vertical stretch than horizontal so fi ts snugly in all cycling positions. Non-waterproof
zips but with rear stormflap – complete with stiffener.

Performance:
This is the very essence of modern minimalist mountain wear for high-energy activities. The close-fi tting nature of the cut won’t be favoured by larger chested (or bellied) riders, but if you’re more whippet than bulldog then this jacket is worth your strong consideration. It is very breathable and comfortable to wear (due to the lack of pointless pockets and paneling) but can get over-faced by extended downpours – although it is very good at combating wind chill (helped no end by the thumbloops that fi t under gloves for draught-free envelopment).

Overall: For the low fat go faster type… A very soft, stretchy jacket that’s super light weight as well.


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Polaris Tungsten

Price: £69.99
Weight: 510 g
From: Polaris 01246 240218 www.polaris-apparel.co.uk

Description:
Fully taped seams. Water-repellent (though not waterproof) zips with storm fl ap. The pit vents are mesh lined. Two rucksack-strap-friendly front pockets, two rear pockets. Drop tail cycle cut. The hem has a draw cord adjuster that is fully captured. Simple Velcro adjustable cuffs. Mesh drop liner. Front zip lacks a garage.

Performance:
On the face of it this jacket seems very good value for money, there are a lot of features for not a lot of cash. However, in use some of those features were sadly lacking. The zips were the stiffest we’ve ever come across on a jacket, with the front zip being genuinely hard to use. The same goes for the pit zips which we ended up leaving in the open or shut position as they are such a pain to alter. The usual hassle of trying to make the mesh stay in the jacket ensued (that’s a criticism of drop liners in general not the Tungsten particularly). On the plus side the material didn’t suffer from the ‘crisp packet’ rustling effect that many of the jackets at this price seem to suffer from and if you need a bit of extra insulation the jacket was certainly warm.

Overall: Very warm, but hard to get in and out of.


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Race Face Aquanot

Price: £134.99
Weight: 460g
From: Silverfi sh UK 01752 313253

Breakdown:
Three layer fabric for durability – although this adds weight. Waterproof zips throughout. The cuffs are Velcro adjustable but with elastic too (unnecessary, bunchy and reduces venting potential). Very large pit zips. The collar is fl eece-lined but non-adjustable. Two big inner cargo pockets – not particularly accessible and potentially reducing breathability. Lacking a drop tail. The hem has two draw cord adjusters.

Performance:
This jacket is a proper armour-plated monster, the material feels quite like Gaberdine and in normal riding conditions you’d be venting it very early on. However if you know it’s going to be torrential rain all day with 40mph winds it could be the perfect garment for you. The back of
the jacket could defi nitely do with a couple of more inches and the hem adjusters are also very fragile.

Overall: The quintessential ‘shore jacket Very tough, but not that breathable.


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The North Face Prophecy

Price: £149.99
Weight: 370g
From: The North Face www.thenorthface.com

Breakdown:
Not a specific cycling jacket but aimed at general high-energy outdoor activities. The hood can be kept under control by two draw cords at the neck – but these adjusters are uncaptured and bounce around annoyingly while riding. The collar has a brushed, lightly fleeced lining. Non-waterproof zips but have inner and outer storm flaps. Two chest pockets and one pocket on the upper arm. Double draw cord hem adjusters – not very easy to adjust on-the-fl y. Lacking
a proper cycle cut with no drop-tail. The cuffs are nicely offset and Velcroed with a broad range of adjustment. Very discreet, unbunchy pit zip venting. Has the usual TNF multi-paneling design for a close anatomic fit but this also means the use of much more seam tape and
therefore reduced breathability.

Performance:
For a non-cycling jacket it didn’t perform too badly. The material helps as it’s so breathable and the pit zips were very unobtrusive and were easy to open. Where the Prophecy fell down was the
cut, it made that typical ‘pelican bib’ type water collector when leant forward on a bike, and the hood really needed to be rolled away when not in use to protect you from being whipped to death by it.

Overall: Not a bad compromise as a general outdoor jacket but cut does let it down on a bike.


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Tenn Light-Flo

Price: £49.99
Weight: 490g
From: Tenn www.tenn-outdoors.co.uk

Breakdown:
All seams are fully taped. Mesh drop liner – which pokes through ends of the sleeves. Short pit zips that are mesh lined. Rear vent flap across the shoulder – not especially rucksack-friendly. The collar is fleece lined and has a draw cord adjuster. One rear pocket, two side pockets. The drop tail folds away and is kept in place by two press-studs. The cuffs are Velcro adjustable but are also elasticated (unnecessary, bunchy and reduces venting potential). The front zip
has a storm flap that is Velcroed along its entire length.

Performance:
Firstly if you’re on a budget, buy this jacket. At £49.99 you’ll stay warm and dry (well from the rain anyway) and it will quite probably be more durable than many of the more expensive jackets on test. However, less is more and at this price more so than most, the full length Velcro guttering makes undoing the jacket almost impossible and the drop liner is annoying as it slides through cuffs. The material isn’t terribly breathable and it soon gets very hot wearing the jacket.
However the decent cut, proper drop-tail and a bargain price makes it worth looking at.

Overall: A real genuine bargain, it won’t be as light or as breathable
as more expensive garments but you will stay fairly dry.


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GROUP TEST CONCLUSION:

One of things that really came through in this test, was that the cut and the material was a lot more important to how the jacket performed in use than any peripheral whistles and bells you may apply. Jackets that slip on easily when you need them, are light enough to take ‘just in case’ and not so warm that they’re unbearable to wear in wet and mild weather (which seems to be the norm in Britain, rather than wet and cold), were much more popular with our testers than those that seemed more useful for Alpine exploration. All of the jackets we tested will keep you comfortable at the end of the day but a few performed far better than the others and really stood out. For a ‘wear all day’ jacket, the Pace 3×3 jacket is our favourite. Simple, breathable and reasonably priced for the quality.

A worthy contender too is the Altura Crosslite which is well featured and compact enough to always keep in your pack.For those on more of a budget, while the Tenn jacket isn’t perfect, for £50 it’ll keep you warm and dry and not break your heart or wallet if you land on it. Talking of which, the Race Face Aquanot is beefy and warm, but with a similarly beefy price.

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