To hood or not to hood? We test two Morvelo jackets back-to-back.

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A waterproof of some description is an absolute must in any UK-based cyclist’s wardrobe. For rides of any good distance for three quarters of the year, at the very least I’ll have a small shell tucked into a back pocket. Water resistant softshell jerseys have meant that the shell maybe stays tucked away for longer, but I would still argue there is a place for a proper waterproof. The difference it makes on those truly grim days is transformational – it isn’t necessarily just about comfort, but also safety, particularly if your ride is taking you off the beaten path and into the hills.

Two jackets, some subtle differences, which would you choose?

What waterproof should you get though? There’s a multitude of options out there, ranging from the ultra-minimalist to the jacket equivalent of an expedition tent. There isn’t a “right” option out there, just ones that will better suit your style of riding, the weather conditions (both at the time of setting off, and you are likely to encounter during the ride) and personal preference around fit etc. Throw in budget requirements and there’s a whole load of variables to think about.

Morvelo has been expanding its range over the last few years, moving beyond its staples of jerseys and shorts. There are a couple of waterproofs in the Brighton-based company’s range now, both using the same fabric, but taking different approaches to the staying dry conundrum. Rather than just testing these jackets, we thought it would be interesting to look at them side-by-side. Why might you choose one over the other?

Hydrologic Rain Jacket

I’ve been testing this jacket all winter and it’s been the shell that I’ve reached for more than most, both on soggy commutes and local miles and longer jaunts at the weekend. It is a classic “road” waterproof, low on features but designed to be fairly lightweight and packable. It’s not race cape minimalist (Morvelo do also sell another jacket that is), but is designed to tread that balance between proper protection when the weather gets nasty and not being so big and bulky that you leave it at home.

High collar offers some protection

Features

  • 2.5-ply P4Dry waterproof fabric
  • 4 way stretch
  • P4Dry reduction in odour and condensation
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight and packable
  • Taped seams throughout
  • Bonded and zipped rear pocket
  • AquaGuard® water-resistant zip
  • Reflective details
  • Panelled construction
  • Neoprene cuffs with thumb loop
  • Available in black or “winter” camo

I’ve not come across the P4Dry before, but was pleasantly surprised by it. It uses recycled coffee grounds in manufacture, so it’s nice to think that I’m contributing to some new jackets as I down another flat white. What I don’t want is to feel like I’ve poured the flat white inside the jacket once I’m working hard. All hard shell waterproof jackets can get sweaty, but some are definitely more breathable than others. Morvelo claim that as well as being breathable, the P4Dry fabric also resists odours.

Roomier than it looks rear pocket

The jacket features a single zipped rear pocket, which is sizeable enough to swallow a big phone and a few other bits and bobs. Other than that, there is little else to it, by design.

Our thoughts

In use, I loved the stretch of the P4Dry fabric. It also has a softer outer face than many other waterproof fabrics making it much quieter. There’s definitely no crisp-packet like rustling going on. The inner face to the fabric felt a little clammy pulling straight on to bare skin, but that sensation was a passing one. Once on, the Hydrologic did what was asked of it and kept me dry. The DWR beaded well, even under the onslaught of some brutally wet rides. There is always a point at which all waterproofs get over-faced and start to absorb water on the outerlayer and the Hydrologic was no exception. This sometimes gets wrongly confused for leaking. The membrane means that leaking shouldn’t happen at all, but the waterlogged outer ceases to be breathable, leaving sweat and condensation nowhere to go. It took a good couple of hours of constant heavy rain to get to that point. The water resistant zip is exactly what it says. During light showers and even some prolonged rain, it kept all the elements out. After a while though, small quantities of water did bleed through. It’s a compromise that I’m willing to make to keep weight down and to not have the hassle of a storm flap while trying to zip/unzip the jacket while moving.

We love thumb loops. Not everyone is a fan though.

Cut-wise, the Hydrologic works well on the bike. The back of the neck is high enough to keep the elements off and the overall length is a little longer than some road-specific jackets we’ve used (which I appreciate at 6ft). My medium could have been a little closer cut if it were to tick my “perfect jacket” boxes, but it is a reasonable compromise between being practical to pull on over a few layers and fitted enough to not billow in the wind.

The durability of the DWR was a little disappointing, with much of it stripping off after a single wash in TechWash. It’s easy enough to reapply in the washing machine, but I’d normally expect a little more use before needing to resort that.

Sheds mud as well as rain

For most situations, the Hydrologic was ideal. It offered the right kind of protection for those days that I’d be out on the roads and low fells for a day. I started days riding in it, and it would just about bundle up small enough to fit into a jersey pocket.

Waterproofing was good initially, but durability was not quite as high as some

So, the Hydrologic is a very good jacket. Why might you want anything more than it?

Exile Rain Jacket

If I’m heading into the proper mountains and the weather forecast is likely to be anything other than very stable, I will almost always reach for a jacket with a hood. It is extra fabric, extra bulk, and there are some other downsides, but for me at least, the psychological comfort of being able to pull a hood over my helmet for some respite against the elements is completely worth it. As gravel bikes become more versatile, their ability to take us further into the wilds gets greater. So, while the Exile is Morvelo’s fully featured mountain waterproof and in theory it was originally designed for mountain biking, you won’t burst into flames if you take to a gravel bike with it. The P4Dry fabric is the same as the Hydrologic, but it packs a few more features in other than simply adding a hood.

Hoods FTW?

Features

  • 2.5-ply waterproof fabric
  • 4 way stretch
  • P4Dry reduction in odour and condensation
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Hood to fit over a helmet
  • Taped seams throughout
  • Zipped pockets
  • Zipped arm vents
  • Grip dots on shoulders for rucksacks
  • AquaGuard® water-resistant zip
  • Reflective details
  • Panelled construction
  • Neoprene cuffs with thumb loop
  • Available in black or “winter” camo

All my comments about the fabric hold true once again, so I won’t repeat them. The Exile feels a little more “structured” than the Hydrologic, with a few more panels sewn in. It is slightly longer in the body, but overall cut is similar, maybe a little more roomy. A draw cord waist cinches in the fabric, keeping any breezes out of the bottom and the hood also features a drawcord around the opening and another at the rear to tailor its volume. A soft peak is designed to keep the elements out of your eyes. The zips for two large hip pockets merge into pit-vents, although the two are separated behind the zipper. Additional vents are added to the arms as well.

When it’s not raining, sometimes you need to improvise

Our thoughts

We received the Exile at the tail end of winter, and I was concerned that it wouldn’t get a full work out for a few months. I needn’t have worried, as the Beast from the East and continued dire weather through most of March gave me plenty of time to take the Exile out in the worst elements. I have used it both on gravel bikes and mountain bikes, on casual local spins through to overnight epics in the mountains. I’ve even run in it on a couple of occasions.

 

A hood is welcome when conditions really close in

The hood has been a godsend on a couple of occasions, most recently as I hike-a-biked through a blizzard on an ill-defined and ill-chosen trail in Glencoe. The additional warmth and shelter it brought was invaluable, despite having a hat under my helmet.

I am not a huge fan of venting zips. I tend to find that they rarely make a huge difference to my temperature. I’m generally either too hot in the jacket or I’m comfortable, regardless of how many vents I’ve got open. They are completely unobtrusive on the Exile, but I’d probably prefer a slightly lighter, easier packing version without.

Pit zips and hip pockets

The jacket is obviously more bulky than the Hydrologic and while you probably could stuff it in to larger jersey pockets, it would be a real squeeze. As such, its the sort of jacket that I would wear on the kind of days that you know the weather is set to be grim from start to finish, or the ride is long enough that I’d be bringing a frame bag or waist pack to carry layers/food etc anyway.

Rucksack strap grips

My experience of the waterproofing was very similar to the Hydrologic, as you’d expect, but the DWR coating seemed to last a little better on this jacket. I stayed dry in some grim conditions for long enough to “enjoy” a long day out and get home – what more can you ask for? Well… actually, there is maybe a little more. I’ve not yet discussed price. £200 is no small amount of money for a jacket. It isn’t ridiculous – there are plenty of other jackets out there that cost up to twice as much – but it does put it in the same ballpark as some Gore-tex shells. The Exile gets cut, features and the shape of the hood pretty much bang on for me, so how does the P4Dry compare to Gore-tex? I have to say, I think Gore-tex performs a little better. It is more crisp-packet like and doesn’t stretch, but it breathes a better (in my opinion) and the DWR feels longer wearing.

Arm vents

Having said that, I loved the Exile jacket. I’ll keep wearing it after this test is published – on gravel bikes, mountain bikes and running. For me, it is the closest I’ll get to an all-round waterproof for the time being.

Summary – Which jacket? Both? Neither?

You probably already have an idea of what jacket best suits your needs. For low level, short, high paced rides where aerodynamics make a difference there is no contest. Equally, for me at least, I know which jacket I’d rather use in the mountains. Realistically, the great thing about gravel riding is one bike will let us do all of those things, with some compromises. Again, one jacket will but you’ll need to compromise too. What do you value most?

Morvelo has brought two excellent jackets to the market. I like their overall styling and the comfort of the P4Dry fabric. Neither are cheap jackets and they are competing with some excellent products from the likes of Gore, Endura and many others. I think both jackets hold their own and will hang in the wardrobe for a good time to come. Fingers crossed they can stay there for a while though… we are more than ready for summer to come.

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