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Wondering whether the Ultralight Wind Jacket from Showers Pass might be right for you? Take a look at my review to see why I think this flyweight windbreaker is so good for dodging blustery weather and light showers, and why you need to find a (very small) space for it in your cycling closet right now.
At long last, the weather here has taken a turn for the better. It’s somewhat drier although, whilst the middle of the day has a better chance of blue skies, sun and some warmth, the mornings and evenings still tend to be on the cool side.
For me, choosing what I’m going to wear for a cycle in these conditions is tricky.
If I err on the side of caution (wearing long pants, long sleeves, base layer, lots of midlayers, and a thick waterproof winter cycling jacket) then I’ll be quite smug at the start of the ride, but much less so when I’m sweating my way up a steep incline with the sun blazing down on me.
And, what happens when I decide to throw caution to the wind and not take the winter jacket and extra layers? Then that’s a surefire way to guarantee that a chilly breeze will start before I’ve gone half a mile and steady drizzle will follow soon after. I could nip back to the house for extra gear, but I’m too stubborn. So instead I’ll spend the entire cycle shivering in the wind and cursing a lot.
Clearly this isn’t fun for me or anyone that has the misfortune to be riding with me that day.
But there’s an alternative which gives protection from the wind and light rain in a package that tucks away easily into a jersey pocket or saddle bag when the weather eases up and the sun comes out to play.
Showers Pass call it their Ultralight Wind Jacket. I call it the Giving Myself Options Come Rain Or Shine And Not Being Forced To Swear (Too Much) In Front Of My Friends jacket.
It’s not as catchy, sure, but it’s a jacket that I think you’re going to like a lot.
For the current Ultralight Wind Jacket pricing, click here.
- Exceptionally light (Large: 5.3 oz / 151 g)
- Easily stowable (stuff sack included)
- Blocks wind (whilst allowing heat to vent easily)
- DWR finish keeps light rain out
- Stretchy underarm panels
- Soft and non-crunchy fabric
What I like about the jacket
Let’s start with the details. This jacket is available in two colors – Red Orange and Sky Blue – both of which give you great visibility on the bike, particularly in gloomy conditions. The reflective elements at the shoulders and lower rear hem also help you to be seen when cycling on the road.
There are 6 sizes available – Small through XXXLarge – and the jacket is a unisex trim fit. For comparison, the Cloudburst jacket has a similar fit.
There are two broad situations where you’ll have this jacket about your person – stowed in a pocket during good weather and on your back in windy and showery weather – so let’s look at the jacket’s features in both of these cases to see how it performs.
Ultralight Wind Jacket = Wearing it
Shoulder seasons are the trickiest to find appropriate apparel for. There’s a rule of thumb that you’re supposed to start a ride slightly too chilly, so that by the time your muscles have gotten going and your blood is pumping a little faster, you’ll have warmed up to the perfect temperature.
This is sound advice. However it somewhat misses the point that you’ll be uncomfortably cold at the start of the cycle, probably at the end when you stop cycling, and doesn’t allow for any worsening weather conditions mid-ride. Like most rules of thumb it needs to be taken with a generous pinch of salt.
My preference is to have cycling gear with me that is versatile and can allow me to adapt what I’m wearing depending on whether I’m warmed-up or not and what the weather is like.
For that reason, the Ultralight Wind Jacket is a winner.
At the start of rides you can pop it on until your muscles and the weather heat up. Once you’ve hit a comfortable temperature you can take the jacket off if you want to. But, here’s the interesting thing. Take a close look at the construction of the jacket and you’ll see the large black panels which go from the lower hem, up to the armpit and out to the wrist. These are made of a stretchy tight weave mesh that allows excess heat to escape allowing you to keep the jacket on even as the mercury climbs higher. I’ve found this to be particular useful on rollercoaster type cycle rides where you’re climbing one minute (and sweating) but then blasting down a chilly descent the next. It saves having to keep taking off layers and putting them back on again.
The main fabric of the jacket is a single layer that feels light and barely there (more on this in a moment) it’s also refreshingly soft to the touch and crinkle-free – a big win in my book vs the sort of waterproof jackets that crunch noisily with the slightest movement.
Whilst being a lightweight construction, the jacket is a heavyweight when it comes to protecting you from icy gusts and, because it has a trim fit, it won’t flap about like a flag.
The Ultralight isn’t billed as a waterproof but it does have a DWR finish on the main fabric (although not on the underarm panels). I was pleasantly surprised how well this kept out the rain when it started to fall. True, in a prolonged downpour, this will throw in the towel eventually but in intermittent showery conditions this is a better option than a heavier rain jacket.
Ultralight Wind Jacket = Stowed away
So, on your back, the jacket performs really well for keeping out the chill and light showers.
When your muscles are warmed up, the wind drops, and the sun comes out it’s great to be able to strip off a layer and get a dose of Vitamin D. With thicker cycling jackets this can be a challenge to find somewhere easy to stash it – do you tie it around your waist or bungee cord it to the handlebars? Neither is ideal and I often find that I just opt for the simpler Vitamin-D-free plan of leaving it on and sweating it out. Not nice.
How does this compare to the Ultralight jacket?
Well, it couldn’t be much more different. The Ultralight is the epitome of portability:
On the kitchen scales, the jacket weighs in at a mere 5.3 oz / 151 grams for the Large size (5.7 oz when you add the stuff sack). Compare this to the also very lightweight Cloudburst jacket which is almost exactly double the weight (10.5 oz / 299 grams).
The jacket is very light and it also packs up incredibly small too. Using the included stuff sack, the jacket can pack up to a tiny 4x3x3 inches / 11x8x8 cm. Compared with the Cloudburst at 8×6.5×3.5 inches / 20x16x9 cm.
Both size and weight mean that the Ultralight fits easily into the back pocket of your jersey and won’t ruin the lines of your sleek silhouette as you pedal into the sunshine.
What I dislike
We’ve seen that the Ultralight is a great option for cycling in changeable weather conditions – when it’s sunny one minute, windy and showery the next. It’s also very useful for cycling on rollercoaster type terrain – sweating up hills then getting cold on the downhills.
I really like the jacket but there are a few downsides that I need to mention.
Firstly, I’m not a big fan of the stuff sack. It’s fine and it does its job, but for me it’s one more thing that I’m going to end up losing. I’ve actually found that, instead of using the stuff sack, I just flip the jacket inside out and stow it inside one of its own side pockets, zipping the zipper as far as I can take it the wrong way around. It’s not a big deal, but many other packable jackets (including others in the Showers Pass range) have this feature, along with an extra internal zip and I’m not sure why it wasn’t included here.
Secondly, there’s no rear pocket on the jacket. True, there are two very generous, zippered side pockets and two internal dump pockets (and, if it doesn’t fit in those, then you’re carrying too much gear). But, it’s just that I like a rear pouch pocket for the simple reason that things in front pockets tend to conflict with my stomach when I’m hunched over the handlebars on my road bike. Again, this isn’t a deal breaker, and it will possibly spur me into taking fewer cake stops in future.
Finally, the Ultralight is currently only available in a unisex cut. This gives a comfortable fit for me, however my wife would like me to point out that it’s an oversight that needs to be addressed. Marital strife aside, she does have a point. With a trim fit jacket, where you don’t want loose fabric anywhere that will flap in the wind, having one shape of jacket isn’t ideal. But, if you remember earlier that I mentioned the black mesh underarm panels? Well, the stretch in these (which effectively covers the whole of each side of the jacket) allows the Ultralight to accommodate any size of bust, hips or (in my case) belly. In fact, my wife did grudgingly admit that she rather liked the fit of the jacket and could see herself borrowing it from time to time. Sigh…
I think you’re going to like this jacket, I really do.
For the wintertime we all have our favorite heavy duty bad weather waterproofs.
For the summertime, it’s good to head out in a jersey and feel the sun on our arms.
But, for those shoulder season rides, where the wind is blowing, the sun is struggling to make an appearance, and there’s a chance of a shower or three, then the Giving Myself Options Come Rain Or Shine And Not Being Forced To Swear (Too Much) In Front Of My Friends jacket may be just the new packable cycling windbreaker you need.
Go on, treat yourself.