Polaris Aqualite jacket  £39.99

8/10

Nice-looking, reasonably-priced windproof and showerproof jacket, with some good features

Weight 161g   Contact  www.polaris-apparel.co.uk

by Corinne Hunter   June 20, 2011  

Polaris Aqualite jacket

'Shrink it and pink it' is the approach some manufacturers take towards women's cycle clothing. While the female version of the Polaris Aqualite is available in dark pink, it's not just a smaller gents: it has a women's specific cut that fits very well around the body. The back of the jacket is longer than the front and there's an elasticated hem, so there's no flapping fabric when you're on the move. The sleeves also have elasticated cuffs, although the more generous cut around the upper arms means there is a bit of flap here when riding into a headwind.

But fit means nothing if a jacket doesn't do its job. On the Polaris website the Aqualite is billed as 'weatherproof', although it's made from a fabric called Hydrovent X which is said to be fully waterproof and breathable.

I've worn this jacket on chilly and breezy spring days, with just a thermal base-layer underneath, and it's kept me nice and warm. So it's definitely windproof. In fact, going uphill I felt a bit too warm, so I wouldn't want this jacket any less breathable. For winter riding, of course, this warmth would be less of a problem. Alternatively, I'd use the jacket for commuting, when I ride at a more sedate pace, rather than club-runs or audax rides. Polaris acknowledge that usage will vary and list the Aqualite in both their 'Road' and 'Urban' ranges.

I've also worn this jacket on a couple of rainy rides, and when I got home my base layer was damp. It's hard to tell if that was rain getting in or sweat not getting out. I was still warm and comfortable, however, which for me is the main thing. A second test standing under the road.cc hosepipe showed a bit of water ingress. But, to be fair, breathable fabrics often work better with a slight pressure differential between the inside and outside of the garment, which can only be created by exertion.

The Aqualite jacket illustrates the perennial problem cyclists have with rain protection. If you want something more waterproof, it's going to get clammy on the inside; if you want something more breathable, it's going to let in some rain. I'd say the Aqualite strikes a pretty good balance, although for milder conditions I'd favour something that's even more breathable and put up with a bit of water coming in.

With that in mind, I'd be much more likely to carry the Aqualite and put it on in the event of rain rather than wear it all day just in case. For this, there's a rear pocket with a horizontal zip, which the jacket packs away into when not being worn - although if just rolled up tight it makes an even smaller bundle, which fits better in the back-pocket of a cycling jersey.

There's also a full-length zip down the front of the jacket, with a baffle behind to keep the breeze out. It's good to see the baffle doesn't get stuck in the zip when you do it up with one hand (as you might do when cycling). Other features include a natty little draw-cord system to make sure the collar fits nicely, and some reflective piping over the shoulders. The zippers have tags for easier grip, so you can undo the jacket with gloves or cold hands.

If you don't like the dark pink colour, you can't have blue and black like the chaps but you can have flourescent yellow (as they can). I'd choose the pink for commuting, so I could walk into work without looking like search-and-rescue. But out on the road, when it's raining and conditions are murky, I'd go for day-glo any time.

The Aqualite retails at £39.99, which is fair value compared with similar items from other manufacturers. While you can get it cheaper online, I'd recommend buying in a bike shop though to make sure you get a close fit.

Verdict

Nice-looking, reasonably-priced windproof and showerproof jacket, with some good features

road.cc test report

Make and model: Polaris Aqualite jacket

Size tested: 10

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?

The Polaris website is refreshingly free of puff, and just lists the jacket's features, including:

Lightweight weatherproof jacket

Manufactured in Hydrovent™ X - a fully waterproof and breathable fabric

Fully taped seams & scooped back for full protection.

This aligns with our own test. The fabric may be waterproof and breathable, while the jacket is described as 'weatherproof'. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you know what you're getting.

* Lightweight weatherproof jacket

* Manufactured in Hydrovent™ X - a fully waterproof and breathable fabric

* Fully taped seams & scooped back for full protection.

This aligns with our own test. The fabric may be waterproof and breathable, but the jacket is described as 'weatherproof'. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you know what you're getting.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
8/10

The jacket seems well-made, with tidy seams and no loose threads.

Rate the product for performance:
7/10
Rate the product for durability:
8/10

I've worn this jacket only about 10 times, so it's too early to comment on durability, but it seems well-made and I think it should last a few years.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
8/10
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
8/10
Rate the product for value:
8/10

Did you enjoy using the product? See below

Would you consider buying the product? Personally, no. For spring/autum riding I'd go for something more breathable and put up with the rain getting in. For winter riding I'd go for something more waterproof.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they wanted a single garment that strikes the balance between being waterproof and breathable.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 39  Height: 5ft 2 and a half. don't forget the half.  Weight: 7 stone

I usually ride: a classic steel touring bike  My best bike is: another classic steel touring bike, with lighter wheels

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every week  I would class myself as: Novice

I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, general fitness riding, the occasional audax

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