Ridden & Rated: 8 Lightweight Jackets for Springtime Adventures

Jun 1, 2022 at 16:50
by Nikki Rohan  


Hello, spring! With the rising temps the winter’s snow has (mostly) melted from all but the higher elevations, opening up trails here in the PNW that have been unrideable since late November. It’s the time of year when I cautiously pack away the Gore-Tex and pull out my short sleeve riding jerseys and shorts. But even as the thermometer starts touching the 70s, my ever-expanding wisdom tells me to never leave the house without a lightweight jacket stuffed in my riding pack.

As the years of riding have ticked by, I’ve found my rides getting longer and further away from civilization. Because of that, I am very specific about what I have in my pack. More importantly, I’ve narrowed down exactly what I find mission-critical when it comes to this stuffable piece of gear that so often comes to the rescue when the mosquitos attack, the winds unexpectedly howl, or it starts hailing. Below you will find eight lightweight, stuffable riding jackets (for men and women) that have been tested with a focus on price, weight, fit, and style along with personal impressions on breathability. (Note: most of these options have minimal features as the goal is stuffability and weight savings.)

Breathability for this type of lightweight, compressible “just in case” jacket is not something that can easily be determined outside of a lab. There are so many variables at play—base layer, humidity, exertion level, not to mention weave type, fabric thickness, and fabric blend—that determining breathability basically boils down to a perception or impression while in use. Additionally, most of these jackets also have a DWR to prevent the fabric from saturating with moisture because once the fabric “wets out” the spaces between the threads in the fabric weave become too clogged to allow easy vapor transmission. For that reason, occasionally reapplying a DWR to your jacket will maintain breathability as well as continue to help ward off the occasional drizzle.

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They all pack down quite small.



Specialized

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Specialized Trail SWAT Jacket - $140 USD
Sizes: XS - XXL (tested M)
Color: Black, Smoke (tested)
Weight: 127 grams

The Specialized Trail SWAT Jacket is a slim-fitting, breathable, wind-resistant lightweight jacket that includes a DWR water repellent coating, and single SWAT compatible built-in pocket that doubles as a stuff sack. The jacket (91% nylon, 9% spandex) has a full zipper, abrasion panels on the backsides of both sleeves from the elbows down, an under-the-helmet integrated hood, and elastic waist and cuffs.

During test rides, the Trail SWAT was exceptionally breathable on the uphill climbs–there were absolutely zero clammy interior or sweat issues. On the downhills, it retained heat well and kept the wind chill at bay. When zipped all the way up, the collar was comfortable, and for those who like under-the-helmet hoods, it is nice to have that extra protection when spring storms roll in.

Overall, I really really liked this jacket. It ticked all the boxes as far as fit, weight, style, and price point. It was the fifth lightest out of the eight jackets, coming in just 36g (a dozen pennies) heavier than the ultralight Pearl Izumi option. It has a fitted, yet stylish mountain bike look and feel, and easily compresses enough to fit in just about any small capacity pack or pocket.

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Pearl Izumi

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Pearl Izumi Women's Summit Shell Jacket - $100 USD
Sizes: XS - L (tested M)
Color: Sunny Lime (tested)
Weight: 91 grams

The Women’s Summit Shell Jacket is Pearl Izumi’s take on a lightweight, windproof, packable jacket for wind and drizzle protection. It features an “eco-friendly” C6 DWR coating, an under-the-helmet hood, a two-way YKK front zipper, a single interior envelope style stuff pocket, and elastic cuffs. This feather-weight item weighs in at a scant 91g (3.2 oz), the lightest jacket of this review.

Breathability in this jacket wasn’t our favorite on the climbs, but it made up for that on the downhills, with an excellent warmth to weight ratio when the temps dropped and the wind picked up. The overall fit is super comfy, and the robust two-way zipper is a nice addition for extra ventilation if you opt to keep it on during climbs. The collar is a bit too tight to fit over the chin and nose when fully zipped, but the under the hood design offers that extra bit of protection that’s sometimes needed when the weather catches you far from home. And the bright neon color and reflective elements definitely ensure that your riding buddies won’t lose you on foggy days.

If you’re looking for a “just in case” jacket, and weight savings is your ultimate goal, then this neon lime number is just the ticket for spring adventures with a super reasonable price tag. While there are no zippered pockets (just the interior stuff pocket) this minimalistic design is what makes this an ideal “don’t leave home without it” jacket ideal.

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Stio

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Stio Women's Second Light Windshell - $129 USD
Sizes: XS - XL (tested M)
Color: Mountain Shadow, Ripe Berry, Azalea Bloom, Storm Cloud Topo (tested)
Weight: 102 grams

This technical singletrack dance item from Stio is their stashable “light-and-fast” choice for unexpected weather. The jacket features a medium style fit, Meridian 100% nylon mini-Ripstop fabric with DWR coating, YKK zipper, adjustable waist hem, elastic cuffs, under the helmet hood, a zippered side stash pocket/stuff sack, and a fabric chin guard for when it’s all zipped up. It weighed in as the second lightest jacket, right behind Pearl Izumi at 102g.

The design of this jacket was less fitted than some others reviewed here, offering a comfortable fit over various riding layers. I tested it in a variety of conditions, including a cold and misty but very windy day with some longer climbs, and it both offered good breathability (on par with most of the jackets in this piece) as well as excellent wind protection. The DWR coating kept the light rain/mist from infiltrating in while it also handily retained enough heat to keep me warm on the descents.

Overall, I am stoked to see Stio enter the realm of cycling apparel and I feel this jacket is 100% worthy of being included in my pack for spring adventures. It’s ultra lightweight, stylish, readily disappears into a corner of my pack, and offers the basic wind and weather protection I am looking for at a super competitive price point.

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Giro

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Giro Women's Stow Jacket - $90 USD
Sizes: XS - XL (tested M)
Color: Dark Fade Teal, Midnight Blue, Black (tested)
Weight: 155 grams

Giro’s Stow jacket is a “durable barrier against wind and chill” that easily squeezes down into a pack or pocket. It’s crafted from a lightweight windproof fabric with a DWR coating, offers a relaxed cut, has a single secure chest pocket that doubles as a pack sack, includes a back exhaust ventilation opening, adjustable hem, and elastic cuffs. While this jacket does not offer a hood, it does have a soft interior collar and weighs in at 155 g (seventh out of eight contenders). Giro also offers a version of this jacket in the ‘Stow H20’ line, which includes a beefier 15,000mm waterproof fabric and fully seam-sealed design at a price point of $160 USD.

The jacket has a nice loose fit in the size medium, making it easy to slip on top of insulating layers on colder days or prolonged descents. For a more fitted option, I would recommend sizing down. During testing the Stow handled the wind and light rain on my rides exceedingly well, and I had zero issues overheating on the extended climbs. The rear ventilation flap is a nice added design feature that the other jackets lack, and was just what I needed when the sun poked out but the wind was still cutting.

A jacket like this is one of my go-tos for colder, drier rides where I know I won’t need a hood. While it is a little on the heavier side compared to the others reviewed here, the thicker material adds just that little bit more protection from shoulder season cold and trailside blackberry bushes. It packs down to almost nothing, like the majority of the options in this piece, and at $90, it is one of the best value purchases out there.

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Sombrio

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Sombrio Chinook 2 Jacket - $160
Sizes: XS - XL (tested M)
Color: Burnt OC, Mustard, Moss, Black (tested)
Weight: 203 grams

The Chinook 2 is Sombrio’s take on a minimalistic windbreaker for spring riding. The jacket fabric is S-Tek Lite (92% Nylon, 8% Spandex), which offers a bit of stretch. It features an over the helmet hood that toggles down to minimize flapping, elastic at the cuffs and waist, and a rear pocket that not only doubles as a stuff sack but also morphs into a mini fanny pack (straps included) as a wearable storage feature. Unlike the other jackets in this review, the Chinook 2 is a pullover design, with a zipper that comes down about mid chest.

The size medium Chinook is a looser fitting jacket that offers ample space to layer up underneath for those colder days. It does have a bit of stretch so if you prefer a more fitted design, size down. The jacket is a bit heavier than the other seven, but that translates into a little better heat retention and more wind protection. In terms of breathability, the jacket was a little on the hot ‘n heavy side for the longer climbs, but not at all unreasonably so.

All in all, this jacket is a great option for colder, windier days when that little bit of extra thickness in fabric is needed to ward off chill. The jacket was 203 g, coming in as the heaviest of the review, at about the same weight as two of the Pearl Izumi or Stio jackets, but that does include an attached waist belt.

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7Mesh

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7Mesh Women's Northwoods Windshell
Price: $175 USD
Sizes: XS - XL (tested M)
Color: Port, Yucca (tested)
Weight: 113 grams

The Northwoods is 7Mesh’s new lightweight breathable weather-resistant bike jacket. It features a 100% nylon fabric with a DWR coating, an over the helmet hood with draw cords for a secure fit, soft brushed hood brim and chin guard, elastic cuffs, and a packable side pocket with an elastic strap for attaching to the bike or the exterior of a pack.

This jacket offered excellent breathability when climbing and good protection when light rain and wind caught me far from cover. There was no interior sauna happening despite a few stiff climbs (which kept me happy). I am a fan of over the helmet hoods as I like to zip the jacket all the way up over my lower face when it’s really cold, so the brushed trim on the interior of the jacket was a nice addition. When the hood was not deployed over the helmet, however, it doesn’t stow away, meaning it flapped enthusiastically, making my photographer husband grumpy, but I guess that’s the price you pay for that kind of hood design.

This jacket was one of the higher-priced of this review (Rapha owns that top dollar distinction), but at a scant 113g, it performed exceptionally well and was extremely stuffable. And for those instances when you don’t have room in your pack for an after-dinner mint wafer, having the Northwoods strapped to your bike was a nice bonus design feature.

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Patagonia

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Patagonia Women's Houdini Air Jacket
Price: $169 USD
Sizes: XXS - XL (tested S &M)
Color: Smolder Blue, Rosehip, Olive Green (tested)
Weight: 105 grams

The Houdini Air is designed to protect you from the elements on those missions when breathability and a bit of weather resistance are exactly what the doctor ordered. The jacket features an ultra lightweight and breathable Pertex fabric (90% nylon, 10% polyester) with a DWR coating, adjustable over the helmet hood, and integrated zipper pocket stuff sack. The jacket weighs in at a paltry 105 g making it among the lightest of the jackets tested.

I have been using the standard Houdini as my go-to stuffable lightweight jacket for years. It’s a great “just in case” jacket, but breathability was decidedly lacking. So when it came to my attention that Patagonia had created a more breathable version of this venerable jacket, the Houdini Air, I just had to get my hands on one! I put this through the wringer perhaps more than any other piece tested here–it had big shoes to fill. But as advertised, while it performed just like the old Houdini as a lightweight wind- and water-repelling technological wonder, it was definitely mo’ better when it came to breathability. Unless I was working up a serious sweat, I stayed warm and dry while abusing it, and it easily warded off gusty spring showers.

I really love how small this jacket packs down. The overall fit is comfortable, and while minimalistic, the Houdini Air kept me well protected from wind and light rain. If I want pockets and fully waterproof protection, I’ll go Gore-tex; but for most of my spring riding, this jacket hits all the marks save one: the gargantuan Pemberton area mosquitoes can readily drill right through this thin fabric. But then again, they can also drill through Gore-tex.

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Rapha

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Rapha Women's Trail Lightweight Jacket
Price: $180 USD
Sizes: XXS - XL (tested M)
Color: Egg Shell/Blue Green, Black/Light Grey, Orange/Grey, Pink/Black, Light Grey/Black (tested)
Weight: 135 grams

This trail jacket as envisioned by Rapha is a lightweight, packable windproof wonder specifically designed for mountain biking in changeable conditions. It features a 100% nylon Ripstop fabric with DWR coating, a packable chest pocket that includes straps to attach to your bike frame, an over-the-helmet, adjustable hood, and elastic cuffs. The jacket weighed 135 g–6th out of the 8 options tested, but that’s only an ounce and a bit more than the Pearl Izumi Summit.

The medium offered a comfortably loose fit that allows room for a bit of layering. The jacket performed on par with the others in this review, offering great protection from the wind and good breathability on climbs, but nothing mind-blowing. While the jacket has a DWR coating to help stay dry in the fog or during a quick shower, just like the others in this review, it’s not an ideal pick for extended forays into heavy weather. All in all, in this category of jacket, it’s a solid performer.

I definitely give extra kudos to Rapha on the design of this jacket–it’s super comfortable, stylish, and performs well. And I also applaud their commitment to environmental sustainability–that dedication definitely adds to manufacturing costs. But…at the end of the day, while it packs down fairly small, and the elastic straps are a fun addition (like the Sombrio and 7Mesh), with a price tag of $180, it’s hard to pass up the comparably “heavy” lightweight 127 g Specialized jacket for $140 or even the comparably priced but featherweight 105 g Patagonia offering for $169 in favor of this one.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

To wrap things up, any one of these jackets would be worthy of stuffing into your pocket or pack as an emergency riding layer. They all check the stuffable and lightweight boxes, with just some minor differences in the materials and design features. Ultimately it comes down to individual preferences on style, fit, breathability (or lack thereof), and budget.

As for my top pick – it was a tough choice, but the Specialized Trail SWAT jacket was my favorite. I really liked the fit, the price tag, and the overall look more than any of the other options. The 7Mesh and Patagonia went hand-in-hand as the ‘top pick’ runner-ups with the much appreciated over-the-helmet hood design and company policies that support repair or reuse. Lastly, the Giro Stow Jacket wins the ‘best buy’ category as the most budget-friendly option that excels on those colder days.

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Author Info:
nkrohan avatar

Member since Apr 22, 2014
36 articles

67 Comments
  • 32 7
 It is now summer....
  • 19 1
 Not quite in the north west.
  • 11 0
 @ybsurf: Yeah, forget summer we haven't even had spring yet in BC.
  • 13 0
 We have these tall things called mountains in the PNW. They don't melt out until July most years. So yes, I carry a jacket in the summer, and really anytime I am riding more than an hour from home.
  • 7 0
 Last year in May I climbed Tiger and just before OTG a blizzard hit. Temperature dropped 40' and me and my buddy were suddenly in an emergency get-out situation, we rode the climbing trail in reverse.
PNW+mountains=Be Prepared.
  • 4 0
 @Mtmw: Same place and trail elevation, THIS May, 3days ago, my son and I had one of the most miserable hard rain experiences on bikes, borderline sh!t getting real, due to wet=cold. For sure not a blizzard but we simply were not prepared for conditions/temps to become *that* bad.

I had on a Patagonia Houdini that got overwhelmed. He had a Mavic something, slightly heavier fabric, that also became worthless.

Completely agree with the statement-----> PNW+mountains=Be Prepared, and I will add 'Err Purposely on the side of Safety'
  • 2 0
 @jcrr: Oh I live nearby and I know the storm you're talking about and it was bad at 1000 feet, sure you were in a bad spot at 3k. Hope you found a good way to get out. Mountains will turn on you in a minute, gotta respect them by packing ahead. I have a lightweight like the Houdini too, maybe it was overwhelmed but I'm glad you had it.
  • 4 0
 Not in Tasmania.
  • 1 0
 Not by the calendar.
  • 2 0
 Not in Nelson BC lol! brrr
  • 2 0
 * meteorological summer
Astronomical summer is a few weeks off
  • 2 0
 @Mtmw: It was a rough one. My head unit usually reads high and shows a temp of 4C. Not ridiculous, but when combined with wind and getting fully drenched from above and below, it became epic cold going down even at slower speeds.

One other lesson I learned (besides making better decisions to just skip a ride) is to really make sure to have good GLOVES. The loss of hand dexterity/tactile feel presented the biggest danger descending.
  • 2 0
 @jcrr: I had the same problem when the blizzard hit, my hands froze and i couldn't really feel the brakes. One thing I added to my carry list was chemical one-use heat packs.
  • 1 0
 @Mtmw: they make re-usable ones too (boil to refresh) called snap-heat or something

@jcrr: multiple pairs is a lifesaver in variable weather, spares is such a godsend
  • 15 0
 I didn’t know wearing a hood under your helmet was a thing
  • 5 1
 I wear my hood under my helmet when I've stopped on a mountaintop, removed my helmet, drank a few beers, and then used the hood under my helmet to avoid cold wet helmet syndrome when I'm ready to descend.
  • 2 1
 @rickybobby18: a drink is always good before descending
  • 15 4
 incredible how expensive that stuff is, especially because you can tear a jacket in one crash.
  • 7 2
 You can also scratch and break most things on a bike in a crash... Softshell fabrics are usually quite resistant to tears. If you do rip it, slap some tape on it and crack on.
  • 2 0
 Tenacious Tape
  • 1 0
 I crashed hard wearing the Sombrio Chinook jacket. My elbow was cut and bleeding, but there was not a mark on the jacket. Love this jacket and wear it year round.
  • 4 2
 Then just wear a trash bag. I'm sure it'll be perfect for riding.
  • 2 0
 The initial purchase gives my wallet a seizure, but then I bring abused clapped out stuff into Patagonia for repair all the time and they are awesome about it.
  • 5 3
 The Patagonia one is a joke in terms of breathability. The Patagonia Dirt Roamer, which they seem to have discontinued, is honestly an amazing jacket. Extremely comfortable, nice DWR coating, and feels nothing like a trash bag when you start sweating. It is my go to October through March, and any cold mornings in-between.
  • 1 0
 Agree. But for March through October I like something package and lighter.
  • 5 0
 Agreed that the standard Houdini is a trash bag, but the author reviewed the newer Houdini Air and specifically notes its improvement in breathability over the old Houdini.
  • 1 0
 @nkrohan: great review Nikki. Did you get any sense of which might have the best water repellency, or better than some of the others? Or which might have longer center back measurements? I’m tall and skinny, looking for something that can fend off a little rain while still fitting in a hip pack.
  • 3 0
 @CheddarJack46: I've used the Houdini for many years, and as long as I have a long-sleeve base layer on underneath have never minded. But a short sleeve baselayer is a recipe for trash bag syndrome for sure.
  • 5 0
 Patagonia Air Shed Pro is hands down one of the best outdoor pieces of gear I have ever owned. She didn't review it here, but worth a look IMHO. The versatility and breathability are amazing.
  • 1 1
 @merlin33: Yeah I heard great things. My only issue is that regardless of breathability I know I am always going to get hot even if it is way below freezing. I prefer to always ride with a full zip jacket that I can completely open up or take off super quick.
  • 1 0
 @pisgahgnar: I get the desire for a full zip. The Air Shed zipper is rather big so easy to pull over a helmet, for what that is worth. I also love the hood as it fits close to the head and doesn't flop around much like most shell hoods do when not on your head.
  • 2 0
 I've owned a first gen Northwoods jacket for a couple of years now and it is the perfect jacket for Colorado as we rarely need a full on rain jacket but deal with lots of wind and the occasional spurt of rain.
  • 4 0
 Check out the Black Diamond Alpine Start, fantastic for spring riding, super breathable and packable
  • 1 0
 I have it and love it but wish the cut was a little more fitted for riding
  • 2 0
 Bingo. The Alpine Start is the most versatile lightweight jacket I’ve used. I carry it for most months of the year and takes care of everything but long steady downpours. The Schoeller fabric is an awesome balance of breathability, windproofing, and waterproofing.
  • 5 0
 Rapha, clear winner. Look how happy she is in that one
  • 1 0
 I really can't get behind $150+ for a nylon jacket whose only waterproofing is a DWR coating that will wear off while it is folded over on itself in my bag waiting for an emergency. If I'm carrying an emergency jacket, it should be good for an emergency, which on the trails I ride, is rain.
  • 1 0
 That's a bit disingenuous, the DWR finish won't wear off just sitting there packed. It's got to be worn off, so pulling it out, putting it back, wearing it, laundering, etc will do what you are stating. Just sitting there in case of emergency the coating will be fine. In use though you are correct that almost all DWR finishes, even on rain coats with a membrane, will start to wear off over time.
  • 2 0
 Hoods, hoods, hoods. I hate hoods on biking jackets. More than once I've snagged a hood on a branch and almost had my head ripped off. Hoods on cycling jackets are a fatal flaw IMO. Don't change my mind.
  • 3 0
 I love my Sombrio Chinook pull over, fits well, durable and it doesnt say Rapha on it
  • 1 0
 That's why I drive a leaky barely running old Toyota, it doesn't say Tesla on it.
  • 2 0
 I absolutely can not do jackets because my arms get way too sweaty and then the sleeve are drenched and sticky. Vests are the bests.
  • 2 0
 As long as weather is warm Id rather be wet from rain than sweating in a bag. Dont even think you need a vest. If its not warm a vest is useless
  • 1 0
 @pen9-wy: Vests are perfect for 50°-56° F. Anything warmer is to hot for a vest. But in the lower 50’s, a vest keeps the chilled wind off your core.
  • 3 0
 They forgot the Rab Vital jacket
  • 2 0
 That's what I use, but obviously far too good value for this review.
  • 3 0
 No Members Only jacket review?!?!
  • 2 0
 I would appreciate if sometimes they would include some more affordable options in tests like these
  • 7 5
 Patagonia wants to keep bikes out of the wilderness.
  • 3 3
 So?
  • 1 0
 Super wet and cold (e.g. down to 6 c) here in Melbourne. Good timing, I need a new jacket
  • 2 0
 But why do all the jackets not have two way zippers?
  • 2 0
 Yeti Anorak is dope IMO
  • 1 1
 TLD Shuttle jacket please & thanks.
  • 2 1
 Colours are so drab…
  • 4 5
 This article is perfect timing!... for a two months ago.
  • 5 0
 spring in S2S area is more like winter.... plus not everyone rides midday.
  • 1 3
 I see no ratings, this is just an ad.
  • 4 0
 There is a table at the bottom where I note my favorite, second pick, etc… try reading the article before making ignorant comments.
  • 1 2
 @nkrohan: my bad, didn't see that in the table. Could be sorted better, 1st to last? How is this table sorted, scatter plot?
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