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Best packable cycling jackets: protect yourself from the wind and rain

Cyclist magazine
26 Oct 2020

Lightweight and packable, pocket jackets are ideal for variable conditions. But which is best?

Whether you’re starting your ride early in the day, uncertain of what the weather is going to throw at you or you just like to cover your climactic bases, a pocket-sized jacket will stand you in good stead.

Ready to chuck on the moment it starts chucking it down, a packable cycling jacket is vital insurance against changeable conditions. 

Finding one that fits the bill isn’t as easy as you might think since ‘packable size’ is such a vague notion. However, each of the jackets in our round-up will fit in an average jersey pocket.

All offering some degree of waterproofing, each of the packable jackets here has the capacity to save its wearer from the misery of being caught out by the cold and the rain.

Here are our favourites...

The best packable cycling jackets

1. Best mid-range packable cycling jacket: Bontrager Circuit

Buy now from Trek for £99.99

Buy now from Trek for £99.99

With the Trek-Segafredo team using Bontrager kit you’d be forgiven for thinking that the products were for racers only but it’s not so; this rain jacket is the most relaxed fit of all the models on featured and comes in six sizes, covering most riders.

Bontrager describes the fit as semi-fitted. This sees the front of the jacket cut fairly low, meaning it’ll look normal off the bike, while this also leaves it a versatile piece of kit that’ll suit commuting or even hiking.

Fairly low in weight, the whole jacket is self-packable into its zipped side pocket. In the interests of cutting bulk, this single pocket, plus elasticated cuffs and a short collar are about all you get in terms of features. Still, what more do you need?

Made of a non-stretch material, waterproofing and breathability are good. Available in grey, red or charcoal, we reckon it’s a stylish looking jacket. Given its slightly relaxed cut, racers might want to look elsewhere, but for everyone else, it comes recommended.

2. Best value packable cycling jacket: Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline II

Buy now from Endura for £79.99

Buy now from Endura for £79.99

A simple throw-over jacket that can easily be tucked in a pocket or secreted about your bike is a cycling staple.

This race cape from Endura is a great example of the genre. It scores highly thanks to its decently breathable ExoShell20ST fabric. Promising breathability of 20,000 gm/m2/24hrs, it’s streets ahead of some cheap boil-in-the-bag alternatives, although still a way behind wonder-jackets like the Gore Shakedry.

However, at a third of the price, it’s good value. An uncommon degree of stretch to the material along with a racing cut keeps everything looking trim, while its see-through styling won’t obscure your race number if you’re competing.

Something every cyclist should own, the Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline race cape makes a solid pitch for being the throw-over cape in your wardrobe.

3. Best money-no-object packable cycling jacket: Gore Wear C7 Gore-Tex Shakedry

Buy now from Wiggle for £279.99

Buy now from Wiggle for £279.99

Flatout the best packable jacket you can buy. Given that you’ll be paying several pounds per gram for this jacket, you’d expect it to be too!

Almost unbelievably breathable and super waterproof, Gore’s Shakedry material is genuinely magical. Cutting away the traditional face fabric, its durable water repellent surface forms the fabric itself. With nothing to wet-out, water just beads on the surface, allowing you to snap the rain off the jacket at will.

Also, unlike other materials we’ve tried, this ability is permanent and won’t wear out.

Small enough to fill half a jersey pocket, it’s also incredibly light. So; easy enough to carry, yet comfortable enough to wear all day. This 120-gram jacket is streets ahead.

Finished with a minimum of details, you get a zip down the front, an ergonomic collar, and a rear pocket in which to fold it all into. Plus the knowledge you’ll be as well outfitted against the rain as it’s possible to be.

Read our full review Gore Wear C7 Gore-Tex Shakedry Jacket

4. Best for commuter use and high visibility: Altura Firestorm Waterproof Jacket

Buy now from Altura for £79.99

With a claimed waterproofing and breathability rating of 10,000mm/g the Altura Firestorm jacket scores decently on both fronts, potentially giving a reasonable window of time before you get wet either from without or within.

Packing away into its rear pocket, its stowed size is moderate, just about small enough to occupy a jersey pocket. Once unfurled, this translates into a relatively relaxed cut, meaning layering up underneath won’t be a problem.

More of an issue for racers will be the comparatively shallow drop of the jacket’s tail. Leaving a bit of a gap between the jacket and your bum should you reach for the drops, this means it’s better suited to more upright riding styles.

However, while this jacket might not be the best for throwing on mid-race, it’ll certainly suit commuters.

Furthering this quality is the Firestorm's party trick. Barely noticeable in the daytime, dotted all over the jacket are thousands of reflective dots. Lighting up when hit by a car’s headlights, it’ll leave zero excuse for drives to miss seeing you in gloomy conditions.

A solid option to keep with you on the commute or a solid option for less aggressive road riding.

Buy now from Altura for £79.99

5. The best ultra-lightweight packable jacket: 7Mesh Oro jacket

Buy now from 7Mesh for £250

Incredibly light, remarkably waterproof and with a premium price tag, 7Mesh’s Oro jacket weighs a startlingly slight 96 grams. Packing down to the size of a satsuma, the technology powering all these feats comes courtesy of fabric maker Gore.

Using the same Shakedry material as its own highly rated jackets, 7Mesh push this even further by stripping its jacket back to the absolute minimum.

A lot of this is managed with clever tailoring. Like how the collar and cuffs are finished to ensure no excess material or elastic is required. Similarly, rather than add a storm flap, the zip itself is waterproof further cutting bulk.

Features-wise, vents in the rear provide ventilation and allow access to jersey pockets are about the extent of it. Tested in some serious downpours, we can attest this jacket really can do it all, delivering a lightweight jacket that packs down smaller than the average jersey pocket and will keep you dry in the worst conditions.

So small there’s no reason not to take it, so breathable you can leave it on all day, you can read our full review here.

Buy now from 7Mesh for £250

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