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What to look for in a waterproof jacket + the best choices
  • Waterproof, breathable fabrics keep out rain, but let sweat through so you don't get 'boil in the bag cyclist' syndrome.

  • Even the best breathable fabrics can't transpire the sweat of a cyclist working hard, so look out for zips and vents to help.

  • Classic 'hardshell' fabrics combine a waterproof, breathable membrane with DWR (durable water repellent) coating to make water run off and usually an inner layer to protect the membrane.

  • 'Softshell' fabrics like Gore Windstopper are softer — the clue's in the name — and thick enough to provide warmth as well as water resistance; they're very well suited to British conditions.

The year-round unpredictability of the UK weather can make dressing for cycling tricky, so whether your typical riding consists of commuting to the office or 100-mile sportives, you need a high quality waterproof jacket in case you get caught in the rain.

Fabric

The fabric is the most important point to consider when you buy a jacket. Our advice is not to skimp if you want a decent high-quality jacket that is going to provide years of outstanding service. You really do get what you pay for.

Making a waterproof fabric is relatively easy; a bin bag is waterproof. Making a fabric waterproof and breathable, so it lets sweat out, now that is a lot more challenging, but it’s not impossible. With a hard-working cyclist inside a jacket producing a lot of sweat, the fabric needs to let water vapour escape outwards, while stopping the rainwater getting in. Fortunately, water vapour can pass through pores in the fabric that are too small to let water get through as a liquid.

dhb Cosmo jacket - lining

dhb Cosmo jacket - lining

There are all manner of fabrics on the market. Some have a waterproof treatment applied to the actual weave of the fabric (the lightest and most breathable option), some have a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) layer that causes water to bead up and roll off, and some have a membrane sandwiched between several layers. Many fabrics use more than one approach. Membrane waterproofs have a DWR coating that provides the first line of defence against the wet.

It’s also worth considering that many jackets will need to be reproofed regularly to replneishteh DWR. If water isn’t beading off your jacket, and it was when it was new, then it needs reproofing. There's plenty of choice of reproofing products. It's typically a matter of just putting your jacket through the washing machine with this special proofing product added.

Vulpine Womens Harrington Rain Jacket - pocket

Vulpine Womens Harrington Rain Jacket - pocket

Pay close attention to manufacturers' descriptions when buying a jacket. They can claim to be waterproof, water resistant or water repellant. To be considered waterproof, a jacket must be made from a waterproof fabric and have taped seams. Anything else is water resistant, which will hold up to some rain but eventually water will find a way in. Water repellant fabrics use a hydrophobic treatment that reduces the amount of water the fabric absorbs. A water resistant jacket might be okay for short showers, but if you're likely to be out in prolonged heavy rain you want a waterproof jacket.

Taped seams

Fully waterproof jackets will have taped seams to stop water getting in, while some might just have taped seams in key places. Fewer seams provide less opportunity for water to get in, but more panels, and therefore more seams, often lead to improved fit, and better fit leads to greater comfort on the bike. Some manufacturers are now combining different fabrics, some with stretchy panels, to improve fit.

Dropped tails and adjustability

Waterproof jackets regularly have dropped tails, to keep your lower back and bum covered up when you're crouched low over the bike. Some jackets even have a stowable drop tail.

Sportful Noirain Fiandre jacket - tail - crop.jpg

Sportful Noirain Fiandre jacket - tail - crop.jpg

For the same reason, the arms are usually given some extra length so they don’t ride up when you're stretched out on the bike, leaving your wrists exposed. The collar and cuffs are places for rain to get inside so look for a design that is close fitting with elasticated and/or adjustable openings. Drawcords at the hem and neck and Velcro cuffs let you adjust the fit.

Ventilation

Even the best fabrics are not breathable enough to cope with the amount of sweat put out by a cyclist working hard, for example while climbing a hill. A full-length zip obviously provides good ventilation, but if it’s raining heavily you don’t want to be opening it up and letting the water in.

Some jackets therefore have various ventilation options — zips on the sleeves or in the arm pits, for example — to let some of the moist air escape. Extra zips and features like pockets cost more money though and will push the price up, plus they add weight.

Mesh lining

The reason you get sweaty inside a jacket is because your sweat rate exceeds the capability of the jacket to pass the moisture out. For this reason some jackets have a mesh lining that helps remove the moisture and makes it a lot more comfortable and less clingy on bare arms, but all that mesh adds weight and bulk.

Top jackets for all budget — from £20 to £250

Waterproof jackets range from heavy duty, fully featured designs to ultra minimalist emergency jackets. There’s a huge choice, so you can choose the right hacket for your riding situation, whether it's a jacket for commuting, touring, racing, training or sportives. We've picked 13 of the best that represent the variety of choice and what you can expect to pay. Many of these jackets are offered in both a men and women's cut and different colours too.

B'Twin 500 High Visibility Waterproof Cycling Jacket — £24.99

The B'Twin 500 High Visibility Waterproof Cycling Jacket provides excellent rain protection with a coated membrane material and taped seams plus plenty of reflective details to help you been seen on the commute to work. There are vents and breathability is very good. For £25 it's a good deal.

Read our review of the B'Twin 500 jacket
Find a B'Twin dealer

Altura Microlite Showerproof jacket — £19.99

Altura's Microlite Showerproof jacket is designed to be packed down and carried for emergency use. It is a simple, single skin waterproof jacket more suited to light showers than prolonged downpours, but at this price (reduced from its usual £40) it's an absoliute steal.

Read our review of the Altura Microlite Showerproof jacket
Find an Altura dealer

Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket — £61.09

The Proviz Reflect 360's unique feature is that it's entirely made from reflective material. If you spend a lot of time on the roads in the dark it'll certainly get you noticed. The cut of the jacket is more commuter style than race so it's safe to assume that a streetlit urban environment is where the designers expect it to be used most.

The Reflect 360 is water resistant rather than Proviz claiming any waterproofing ratings but the material keeps out moderate rain for a decent amount of time backed up by taped seams and a storm zip. The rear drops slightly to which also adds protection if you aren't using mudguards.

Read our review of the Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket
Find a Proviz dealer

dhb Classic Rain Shell — £40

dhb Classic Rain Shell Jacket - riding.jpg

dhb Classic Rain Shell Jacket - riding.jpg

The dhb Classic Rain Shell Jacket does what it says on the tin, at a price that would get you an arm and half a collar from some other brands. It's not loaded with tech – in fact there's almost no tech on show – but if sixty quid is your budget it's hard to go past.

Read our review of the dhb Classic Rain Shell

Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape — £74.09

Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape - riding.jpg

Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape - riding.jpg

The FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape is a great garment from Endura, proving breathable race capes can be relatively affordable. Packable race-light 'shells' are usually either super-expensive yet breathable and comfortable, or cheap and boil-in-the-bag. I'm delighted to report here that the FS260-Pro straddles the two definitions.

It performs very well. Of course, there's a limit to how effective any breathable fabric can be. Even industry standard Gore-Tex meets its match in the right (or wrong) combination of humidity, warmth and exertion. But, if you're riding at a high tempo, the Endura keeps you as dry as I've experienced in a shell such as this. It works best in cooler conditions – and layering up too much negates its effectiveness – but it really is quite impressive.

Read the full review of the FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape
Find an Endura dealer

Showers Pass Pro Tech ST jacket — £95

The Showers Pass Pro Tech ST is a light weight, clear race cape, so that when the heavens open you can stay dry and your club or team kit can still shine through on race day or just on a training ride.

Read our review of the Showers Pass Pro Tech ST jacket
Find a Showers Pass dealer

Bontrager Velocis S1 Softshell — £109.99

Bontrager Velocis S1 Softshell Jacket - riding.jpg

Bontrager Velocis S1 Softshell Jacket - riding.jpg

The Bontrager Velocis S1 Softshell Jacket keeps the cold off your front, lets the heat out at the back and provides an impressive level of winter protection. It might have saved our tester Neil from a dose of exposure on one occasion.

Read our review of the Bontrager Velocis S1 Softshell 
Find a Bontrager dealer

Altura Podium Night Vision — £49.99

Altura Podium night vision waterproof jacket.jpg

Altura Podium night vision waterproof jacket.jpg

The Altura Podium Night Vision Waterproof Jacket is a bit of a gem: a slim-fitting jacket that provides very good waterproofing and packs down small enough to stow easily in a rear pocket.

Altura says the fabrics it uses (mainly nylon with stretchy polyester panels) have a waterproof rating of 7,000mm. That means this jacket should be able to withstand moderate rain, and that has been our experience. Water doesn't get through in these conditions. The zip isn't waterproof but it has a storm flap behind it that does a pretty good job of stopping water seeping through.

Read our review of the Altura Podium Night Vision 
Find an Altura dealer

Altura Podium Elite Waterproof Jacket — £95.99

Altura Podium Elite Waterproof Jacket.png

Altura Podium Elite Waterproof Jacket

The Altura Podium Elite Waterproof Jacket features added waterproofing to a well fitting softshell jacket. 

Stu had it out in the worst of weather and thought that "the rain beads on the outside for a while, but after 15-20 minutes or so of constant rain the fabric does get penetrated. You do stay warm, though, thanks to the insulation, so in my eyes it's not a major concern. I'd rather be warm and wet than dry and cold."

Polaris Fuse — £88.39

Polaris New Fuse Waterproof Jacket

Polaris New Fuse Waterproof Jacket

If you're after a highly waterproof jacket and are willing to accept a small amount of extra bulk over some other offerings, the Polaris Fuse is well worth looking at. Its waterproof quality is up with the best, keeping you dry in rain that, speaking from experience, would see others fail. It's really well made, and represents good value for money.

Made with lightweight stretch waterproof fabric, the jacket's breathability is good enough that you don't notice any uncomfortable overheating – even in our wet yet warm UK winter like the one we've just had.

Read our review of the Polaris Fuse 
Find a Polaris dealer

Pearl Izumi Women’s Elite WxB — £149.99

Pearl Izumi Womens W Elite WxB Jacket

Pearl Izumi Womens W Elite WxB Jacket

The Pearl Izumi Women's Elite WXB jacket is on the expensive side, but it will keep you warm and dry on horrible days. Lack of storage could be a problem, but there is room for that in your jersey. It is worth the sacrifice just to stay this dry.

The first thing you notice about this jacket is the high visibility colour scheme – in the bright yellow and pink you really shouldn't be missed. Love it or hate it, it's perfect for day time riding visibility, and there are enough reflective accents on the rear and the arms to make sure you stand out come evening too.

Read our review of the Pearl Izumi Women’s Elite WxB 
Find a Pearl Izumi dealer

Endura FS260-Pro SL Shell — £142.49

Endura FS260 Pro SL Shell - riding.jpg

Endura FS260 Pro SL Shell - riding.jpg

The Endura FS260-Pro SL Shell is an exceptionally breathable, fully-fledged miserable-weather jacket with a host of features but no excess faff. It's a cracker.

Endura has used a three-layer Exoshell40 fabric (in black or fluoro green) of amazing thinness and only 70g per square metre (for reference, even a thin merino baselayer is twice that). The fabric can apparently breathe 60 litres of moisture per square metre per day, and has a waterproofness measure of 18,000mm (meaning a tube of water 18m tall with a patch of the fabric over the bottom wouldn't seep through). The whole thing is fully tape-sealed – even around the small square stretchy panels near the hip. It's a masterclass in detailing.

Read our review of the Endura FS260-Pro SL Shell
Find an Endura dealer

Parentini Mossa jersey — £194.99

The Parentini Mossa is a race-fit waterproof and windproof jersey that copes well with the rapidly changing and impossible-to-predict British winter conditions.

The Mossa is actually fully waterproof, not just water resistant. This is achieved with the Windtex Membrane fabric, which comprises two layers sandwiching a membrane, plus a hydrophobic treatment providing water repellency. Water simply beads off the fabric and even on a ride of 2-3 hours in steady rain, the Mossa copes admirably.

Read our review of the Parentini Mossa

Showers Pass Women's Elite 2.1 — £195.00

Showers Pass Women’s Elite 2.1 waterproof jacket.jpg

Showers Pass Women’s Elite 2.1 waterproof jacket.jpg

There are waterproof jackets that are best suited to being emergency jackets, rolled up in a rear jersey pocket in the hope that they'll never actually be required. Then there are jackets that are there to be worn on the wettest, filthiest ride, giving all-day comfort and making a bad day not so terrible. The Showers Pass Women's Elite 2.1 Jacket sits firmly in the latter camp and does a great job of it too.

The first thing that's noticeable about the Women's Elite 2.1 Jacket – aside from the not inconsiderable price – is how well featured and how meticulously designed it is. This is not a walking or outdoor waterproof repurposed for cycling, it's a cycling jacket from the ground up.

Read our review of the Showers Pass Women's Elite 2.1
Find a Showers Pass dealer

Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0 — £99.99 (limited sizes)

Gore 30th Oxygen 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Jacket Front

Gore 30th Oxygen 2.0 Gore-Tex Active Jacket Front

Gore has been making bike gear for over 30 years now and some of what it's learned has been distilled into this Oxygen 2.0 Gore-Tex Active jacket, which is an excellent hard shell for winter riding in all conditions. At £200 it's expensive, but you won't be disappointed with the performance.

The Active in the name refers to Gore's Active membrane, which is "built for extreme breathability and ideal for highly aerobic, done in a day activities", according to Gore. "All components are built for optimized sweat management to ensure extreme breathability and optimum comfort in high aerobic conditions. The performance is also supported by a tight fitting and minimalistic garment design.' So there you go: expect a high quality race-fit top that's good for sweaty, high-intensity riding.

Evans Cycles has a wider range of sizes, in black, for £119.99.

Read our review of the Gore Bike Wear Oxygen 2.0
 Find a Gore Bike Wear dealer

POC Essential Rain Jacket — £191.25 (limited sizes)

POC's Essential Rain Jacket is pretty much the pinnacle of hi-viz cycling kit thanks to its fit and performance but at £250 is it also the most expensive. The POC is a three-layer waterproof. The outer layer of fabric has been treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating to give an added layer of water resistance. Next up is a membrane that keeps water out but has holes small enough to allow sweat out as vapour. Finally you get an internal layer for comfort.

Read our review of the POC Essential Rain Jacket
Find a POC dealer

For even more choice view all our cycling jacket reviews.

Gore Bike Wear One GTX Active — £220

Gore Bike Wear ONE GORE-TEX Active Bike Jacket - riding.jpg

Gore Bike Wear ONE GORE-TEX Active Bike Jacket - riding.jpg

Gore stands out in the cycle jacket market because it designs and develops its own fabrics, many of which are used by the leading brands in the market. Gore Bike Wear's stunning One Active waterproof jacket comes as close to the Holy Grail of perfect waterproof jacket as any we've tested.

Gore's One Active fabric replaces the durable water repellent treatment of its previous Active fabric with a new Permanent Beading Surface. This allows Gore to reduce the construction of the jacket from three to two layers, improving breathability, making it very easy to pack away and reducing its weight to not much more than an emergency gilet, It's the benchmark lightweight waterproof jacket.

Read our review of the Gore Bike Wear One GTX Active
Find a Gore dealer

Castelli Idro Jacket — £208

Castelli Idro jacket  - 7.jpg

Castelli Idro jacket - 7.jpg

This thing is crazy-light. At 123g, it's possibly the ultimate pocket-jacket. The idea is that it’ll go more or less unnoticed in a jersey pocket until you need proper protection from the rain.

The Gore-Tex Active technology with a new permanent beading surface is an innovative fabric construction that eliminates the textile on the outer face of the fabric, resulting in a two layer fabric that is lighter weight and doesn’t absorb moisture on the outer face,” says Castelli.

We're eagerly awaiting one to test.

Read our first look with more info from Castelli

Vulpine Women's Harrington Rain Jacket — £170

Vulpine Womens Harrington Rain Jacket

Vulpine Womens Harrington Rain Jacket

The quality of workmanship really shows in Vulpine's kit, which oozes attention to detail in both design and manufacture. The Harrington Jacket is no different; think of it as a high performing all weather guardian in the guise of high quality classic British tailoring. The men's version is just as good.

Read our review of the Vulpine Women's Harrington Rain Jacket
Find a Vulpine dealer

Sportful Fiandre Extreme NeoShell — £149.99

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Neoshell jacket - riding.jpg

Sportful Fiandre Extreme Neoshell jacket - riding.jpg

Dressing for the UK winter got a whole lot easier with the Sportful Fiandre Extreme Neoshell, a comfortable, warm and waterproof jacket that copes well with a wide range of weather conditions. It really is one jacket to rule in all weathers.

Like the rest of Sportful's Fiandre range, this jacket is designed to cope with variable and constantly changing conditions. It's been race-tested, like all Sportful's top-end clothing, by the Tinkoff-Saxo professional cycling team. It's designed to keep you warm and dry, and be breathable enough to avoid overheating.

Read our review of the Sportful Extreme NeoShell Jacket

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

15 comments

Avatar
hoffbrandm [37 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

all hail Gore Bike Wear One GTX Active

Avatar
Dr Concrete [15 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

Great guide and a wide range of options.  I would add another to the mix, the Tourmalet jacket from Galibier.  I bought the latest version of this a month ago and my first ride out was a 60 miler that took in wind, rain, sleet, sunshine and hail! The jacket kept me dry, inside and out, much to my surprise, despite several thousands of feet of climbing during the ride. The fit is quite snug, but their size guide is accurate. I am 1.93m and 95kg, the XL was a great fit for me. 

No I don't work for Galibier, nor do I get any kind of benefit from them.  I have posted this because I get a load of info from fellow cyclists via these comment sections and I wanted to share my experience in return.

Avatar
Drewcifer [8 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

Two thumbs up for the Endura Pro Adrenaline race cape.  Picked one up half price in Edinburgh Bike Co-op winter sale.  It's a brilliant extra layer when things turn nasty and it really does pack down nice and small in to a stuff sack.  Back pocket of the softshell and away ye go!

 

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dottigirl [763 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I see the Vulpine Harrington model has the same problem me and most women have with their clothing - too much boobage. I dunno about 'classic British tailoring', but it doesn't allow for curves around the front. Shame, as I like a lot of their stuff.

Avatar
brooksby [2506 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
dottigirl wrote:

... - too much boobage. ...

Is that even a word?     I presume you mean the female analogy to when a man tries on a jacket and finds it's been made for a professional cyclist instead of a commuter with some belly-fat?

Avatar
bendertherobot [1450 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:
dottigirl wrote:

... - too much boobage. ...

Is that even a word?     

 

Yes

Avatar
hsiaolc [357 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
Dr Concrete wrote:

Great guide and a wide range of options.  I would add another to the mix, the Tourmalet jacket from Galibier.  I bought the latest version of this a month ago and my first ride out was a 60 miler that took in wind, rain, sleet, sunshine and hail! The jacket kept me dry, inside and out, much to my surprise, despite several thousands of feet of climbing during the ride. The fit is quite snug, but their size guide is accurate. I am 1.93m and 95kg, the XL was a great fit for me. 

No I don't work for Galibier, nor do I get any kind of benefit from them.  I have posted this because I get a load of info from fellow cyclists via these comment sections and I wanted to share my experience in return.

Well from the spec it is nothing spectacular. 

If they have breathablity 20K above then sure it is great bargain and I will probably think about it. 

Its not that light too. 

Doesn't compare to the Gore One GTX which I will put my money on if I were to buy one jacket that will last for a long time and preform at the top of the heap. 

 

Avatar
hsiaolc [357 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
dottigirl wrote:

I see the Vulpine Harrington model has the same problem me and most women have with their clothing - too much boobage. I dunno about 'classic British tailoring', but it doesn't allow for curves around the front. Shame, as I like a lot of their stuff.

I like their stuff but not really like to wear it on the bike as compared to Rapha especially their jeackets. 

Their jacket is more geared towards the city look. Fine. 

Problem is they or he love this cotton fabric.  I have two actually and it is just way too hard and uncomfortable to wear and doesn't really stretch.  Their sizing is far worse than Rapha.  And their styling not as good as Rapha but they command the same prices ranges. 

I am still trying to wear in my Vulpine jacket. 

 

 

Avatar
dottigirl [763 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
brooksby wrote:
dottigirl wrote:

... - too much boobage. ...

Is that even a word?     I presume you mean the female analogy to when a man tries on a jacket and finds it's been made for a professional cyclist instead of a commuter with some belly-fat?

I think you'll find female pros have boobs too. 

IME (and that of a few sporty friends too), you have to be practically flat-chested for Vulpine garments to fit across the chest. Very few women are that flat. This is not a function of how fat you are - the rest of the garment can fit perfectly - but about Vulpine's seeming inability to recognise the vast majority of women have lumps out front and that a women-specific fit needs to take them into consideration. 

For something that is 'tailored', I would also expect a better fit around the waist and hips. It just looks blocky otherwise. Or as a comment on the review said:

Quote:

A women's specific fit that fails to take into account both women's bust and hips.. While being totally shapeless around the waist.

 

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Quattro95 [1 post] 5 months ago
0 likes

Many of these jackets have reviews from 2015, why not only show jackets that are 2017 models. I don't see two new options from Sportful, the Stelvio and the Hot Pack No Rain Ultralight jacket, these are 2017 models. In with the new, out with the old!

Avatar
brooksby [2506 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
dottigirl wrote:
brooksby wrote:

Is that even a word?     I presume you mean the female analogy to when a man tries on a jacket and finds it's been made for a professional cyclist instead of a commuter with some belly-fat?

I think you'll find female pros have boobs too. 

I know that: sorry   

I'd meant when a man tries on a jacket and finds it's been made for a man who is clearly a professional cyclist (ie. washboard stomach) instead of a man who is a commuter with some belly-fat?

(Is that any better or shall I stop digging now?  yes)

Avatar
Duncann [1080 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

I think the comment about the B'Twin's breathability in this article is a bit over-generous - the linked review is more nuanced. But overall it's brilliant for what it is.

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Chris Hayes [161 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

My Sturmprinz is superb. I've worn it in torrential rain and I've remained dry and worn it when it looks like it probably will rain and remained cool-ish whilst riding at (my) tempo (due to the massive vents at the back and differing material panels). It was a replacement for a Rapha hardshell that I thought would be difficult to beat, but the Sturmprinz is an improvement in the worst conditions.   

Bit of an investment, but donning my 851 Prosline Airblock jacket at 5am this morning reminded me that good stuff lasts...  I think that was GBP175 or so in the late 90s....but that's <10 quid a year.....

Avatar
Bluebug [95 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
dottigirl wrote:
brooksby wrote:

Is that even a word?     I presume you mean the female analogy to when a man tries on a jacket and finds it's been made for a professional cyclist instead of a commuter with some belly-fat?

I think you'll find female pros have boobs too. 

I know that: sorry   

I'd meant when a man tries on a jacket and finds it's been made for a man who is clearly a professional cyclist (ie. washboard stomach) instead of a man who is a commuter with some belly-fat?

(Is that any better or shall I stop digging now?  yes)

Stop digging.

Boob size isn't  just determined by body fat.

Avatar
cammackmartin [22 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

I'm amazed there's no mention of Stolen Goat Climb and Conquer or Orkaan. These are great price wise and approach the ultimate of a breathable soft shell that is waterproof due to the waterproof fibres rather than a DWR coating. I can attest to their water proof protection, wind resistance, comfort and quality - I have their climb and conquer and orkaan outfits. They are superb.