This jacket doesn't offer the ultimate in waterproofing but it keeps you dry in most conditions and has the advantage of being hugely breathable. See it as an all-round jacket rather than as simply a rain jacket and it starts to justify its price tag.
The H2O is made from two different types of fabric. First, there are the black panels that are made from Nextec's Epic polyester. Rather than having a coating or laminate applied to the fabric, the individual fibres are encapsulated by silicone-based polymers. The idea is that it stays breathable, packable, and soft, and the protection lasts through the washing machine.
The white areas are AcquaZero, a new fabric that's exclusive to Santini for the next year. It's made from nylon and elastane so it's very stretchy and very breathable, and it feels like a soft thermo-roubaix with a fleecy inner face. AquaZero isn't as waterproof as a hard shell but it gets a Grade 4 water repellency rating in the international standards (Grade 1 being the lowest, and Grade 5 being the highest).
Okay, that's the theory; how does the Santini jacket perform out on the road?
The Nextec fabric is windproof and it has let no water through during some very, very wet rides - and it's still keeping the rain out after several washes in the machine. The AquaZero areas are less watertight although they'll keep out drizzle and light rain. For a fabric that's as breathable and stretchy as thermo-roubaix, it's pretty amazing. You think the water will just soak in, but it actually beads up and rolls off.
In heavy rain, water does eventually get through. The seams aren't taped so it can get in there, and it'll come through the AquaZero at higher pressures. The exact amount of time you have before getting wet depends on how hard it's raining, obviously, but we were surprised at how well the fabric performed. When it rained on and off for a few minutes at a time, we stayed perfectly dry. When it hosed down non-stop for 40 minutes, we got wet. But bear in mind that the AquaZero is used in areas that are less exposed to the rain - on the sides and the underside of the arms. The only exception to that is the area across the top of the shoulders, and that's where we noticed water getting in first during heavier rain.
So, if it's chucking down and you're going to be out for a long time, you're better off with a hard shell. And if you're a commuter, for example, and you have to ride at certain times come rain or shine, we wouldn't say that this is the best option.
But the H2O Epic jacket is a good choice when the weather is changeable or you're not sure what it's going to do. It's more comfortable than a hard shell because of the stretchy inserts and the breathability, so you don't feel the need to whip it off as soon as the rain stops. You can wear it whether or not it's raining on cold weather rides without getting ridiculously clammy. And when you do want to take it off, it'll roll small enough to fit into a rear pocket, just about.
Fabrics aside, the H2O Epic boasts some neat features that add to the performance. The zip, for example, is highly water resistant and it comes with a chinguard at the top and another fold of fabric at the bottom to prevent it scratching your Lycra. Elasticated inserts around the neck, cuffs and hem ensure a close fit and a zipped pocket in the lower back is big enough to take a pump, spare tube and the rest of your usual riding paraphernalia. There's quite a bit of reflective piping too, for riding at night.
Not quite as waterproof as many good hard shells, but more comfortable thanks to increased stretchiness and breathability
road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini H2O Epic Jacket
Size tested: Large, black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Santini call it the ultimate winter jacket. I think it's suitable for all year round use. It doesn't offer the best waterproofing out there because the AquaZero panels are water resistant rather than waterproof. That's actually less likely to be an issue in warmer weather than it is in winter.
Tricky to mark. It doesn't keep out the rain as well as some, but it has the advantage that you can comfortably wear it when it's not raining too.
It's expensive - but you won't find another fabric that's as stretchy, breathable and water resistant as AquaZero.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Hmm! The price would put me off
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they were looking for an all round jacket and they were flush for funds
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
The H2O Epic is a hard one to mark because it's not quite a hard shell, nor a soft shell -but that's its strength.
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.