Regardless if it’s summer or winter, the weather can be a fickle beast and in many places it can almost be expected that rain will be encountered at some point – even during the warmer months.
Whilst you can go all out and wear a fully protective waterproof jacket, often most are just a little too bulky. When the rain stops and the time comes to just peel off the layer to prevent overheating it might prove to be nigh on impossible to pack away. This is where a lighter, packable jacket can pay dividends. And of course, even if it isn’t raining having an additional layer to take on and off can make the difference on cooler rides in drier conditions.
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As technology has advanced it’s often no longer a compromise in weather protection when opting for a lightweight packable. Single layer Gore Tex Shakedry and other comparable technical materials pack in the weather proofing of multi-layered fabrics, ensuring that not only can a packable remain waterproof for extended periods but also be incredibly breathable, avoiding the boil in the bag feel of thicker jackets.
We’ve compiled a selection of our favourite and best performing packable jackets below, so hopefully taking the guess work out of which jacket to get.
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The best packable rain jackets reviewed
Castelli Idro 2, £320
Without doubt one of the best performing full waterproof jackets we have ever tested, let alone in the packable category. The Idro 2 uses Gore-Tex Shake Dry fabric to ensure complete weather proofing yet a quick shake and it is dry enough to comfortably put back in your pocket. The fit is excellent with plenty of length in the arms and a tall collar. It is an investment and lacks any additional features but the performance more than makes up for any shortcomings.
Altura Firestorm Jacket, £79.99
Altura’s packable Firestorm jacket utilises a proprietary waterproof and breathable fabric to deal with everything the weather can dish out. It’s a little bulkier than some of the other jackets here but that provides a little more warmth for really cold days. Plenty of reflective features add another dimension to the Firestorm and make it a good choice for riders getting out in the early mornings or evenings.
Albion Rain Jacket, £180
Having already established a range of jerseys and shorts, the Albion Rain Jacket sees the London brand break into new, water resistant territory. It features a fully taped seam and the jacket body has three layers of waterproof and wind resistant construction. To touch, the jacket feels lightweight and doesn’t feel bulky or heavy in your hands. In fact, one of its best features is its packability, and it easily fits into a rear pocket.
Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Jacket, £220
Rapha’s entry into the Shakedry jacket category actually proves to almost be a bargain compared to its rivals. Our tester had this to say about it ‘the sophistication of Shakedry’s technology means that cyclists can finally ride in waterpoof material that doesn’t boil them in a bag and the Rapha Pro Team jacket is no different. Whereas I’d usually avoid wearing a waterproof at all costs, I was happy to wear the Pro Team jacket from the beginning to the end of the ride, and I never felt sodden like I would have done in a standard jacket.’
Santini 365 Scudo Jacket, £95
The 365 Scudo is an ultra lightweight jacket that has a little less waterproofing than some of the other jackets here but still offers 100% wind proofing, making it ideal for those days when the weather just can’t make its mind up and threatens showers. Packing down to less than the size of an apple it will fit into a jersey pocket with space to spare.
Endura Pro SL Shell Jacket II
Scottish brand Endura know a thing or two about creating weather beating kit and the Pro SL Shell jacket is no exception. It’s on the bulkier side of the packable jacket spectrum but will still fit into a pocket. What it does have is an exceptional fit and a three layer fabric that is as tough as it is weatherproof.
What to look for in a packable jacket
Above all else the material used in the construction of the jacket is what makes the biggest difference in performance. Ideally you want a fully waterproof material that also has a high degree of breathability. Some hi-tech modern fabrics such as Gore Tex Shakedry manage to combine both aspects into a single layer of material making it not only high performance but also extremely light weight. The only issue with such fabrics is they usually come with a high ticket price. At the entry level you can still expect solid performance but don’t expect fully waterproof materials to be anywhere near as breathable or pack down as small.
Most packable waterproofs follow the same vein as the traditional race cape, i.e. will be tight to the body and offer a fairly articulated cut to fit best in a riding position. If you prefer a looser fit or plan on wearing more layers underneath then you might want to go up a size from your usual choice. A good packable jacket should have a long sleeve length and a dropped tail to keep your backside and lower back as dry as possible.
Of course there is always going to be a compromise when choosing a jacket with a tiny pack size and that normally comes in a lack of extra features. Don’t expect multiple pockets, additional drawstring closures or even zipped vents in most cases. The construction will also be a little less robust, fabrics and zips might not be as durable, so you will need to use a bit of extra care when using.