Sportful's Survival Jacket is, as the name suggests, designed for when you need a jacket that is going to allow you to survive just about the worst weather you could possibly imagine riding in. It's a lot of money, but protection of this sort doesn't come cheap. And it's packed with the sort of details and features that make it a standout jacket.
Like most of Sportful's higher end clothing, it's been developed in partnership with Saxo Bank, the professional team they supply clothing to. Having riders racing thousands of miles a year in all sorts of challenging weather gives them a huge amount of feedback, which they've channeled to excellent effect in this jacket. Top level racing puts a lot of pressure on equipment and the riders won't settle for inadequate kit, even clothing, when it comes to bad weather.
The Survival jacket is a waterproof jacket, designed to keep you dry when it's coming down like stair rods. It makes use of Gore-Tex's Active Shell fabric. It's the fabric manufacturer's latest fabric, many years in development, and is the lightest they have ever produced. That means less heft when you're wearing the jacket as it weighs next to nothing.
It's a 3-layer laminate made using a thinner version of the Gore-Tex membrane. A new lamination process integrates the backer textile directly into the membrane, which allows for the improved breathability. Sweat is better transported from the skin through the new fabric, yet it's still fully waterproof. The result is a thinner fabric with greatly improved breathability.
And it works, it really does. I don't mind riding in the rain, part of me actually enjoys it, that sense of battling on regardless. And I've had some really shocking weather to test the Survival jacket. Each time I've come away amazed at how well it's protected me from the elements. I've done the sort of rides that you hope never happen, hour after hour of heavy rain with no let up in, just relentless. In these conditions the Survival absolutely steps up to the challenge, and has allowed me to stay out in such weather, keeping me dry and protected from the weather.
Breathability is the challenge with waterproof clothing. It's very difficult to design a fabric that lets vapour from sweat escape while keeping the wind and rain out. They're getting closer, and the Active Shell is one of the closest fabrics to achieving this goal. It's still possible to exert enough energy so as to overcome the fabric's ability to cope, but you have to try extremely hard with Active Shell. I've comfortably worn it in excess of five hours with a good deal of rain, and not felt like I'm about to boil to death.
In case you feel too hot though, Sportful have added two pit zips under the arms. And there's always the full-length zip for adjusting temperature.
It's a jacket designed for racers and that shows. Firstly, it's the usual Sportful slim cut, but it's a little roomier than normal so you can wear over a couple of bulky layers. It's all very fitted around the shoulders and waist, the arms are the right length so there's a good overlap with gloves. Being available in seven sizes means getting the jacket to fit nicely shouldn't be a problem. And there are drawcords at the waist for further adjustment of the fit.
As it's the sort of jacket you might only wear for a short while, and is designed for racing, the full-length zipper is lined with sections of Velcro. So, in a race, you can pull the jacket on and just seal it up at the front using the Velcro, until you get a better opportunity to tackle the zipper. I've found for those brief but heavy downpours the Velcro is more than adequate until the rain passes and I can return the jacket to a pocket.
Details that help this jacket stand out include the optional drop tail. Held in place with a series of poppers, it's useful when riding on rain soaked roads sans mudguards, keeping some of the spray off your bum. Another nice detail is the long zipped cuffs; these make it easy to pull on and off over winter gloves, so you don't have to remove your gloves just to get the jacket off.
It doesn't fall in the emergency category of jackets though, as it doesn't really pack all that small. You can roll it up to fit in a pocket, but it'll take up an entire pocket. That's fine if you don't have pockets stuffed with food and pump and tubes. Instead, I've found it's the sort of jacket you're more likely to wear for the entirety of the ride, and factor it in when layering up. Those days when you might consider abandoning riding plans, those are the days the Survival is intended for. No excuse not to ride - whatever the weather. And because it's so breathable you can wear it as an outer layer for several hours without fear of overheating.
If you want to ride in the rain you need the best protection you can get, and the Survival is up there with the very best waterproof jackets. Its attention to detail and features make it a fantastic high performance jacket for the demanding performance cyclist.
Designed with racing cyclists' feedback and the most advanced waterproof fabric: impressive performance in the worst weather imaginable with a price tag to match.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Survival jacket
Size tested: Medium
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 Survival jacket was built to the exact specifications of Team Saxo Bank/SunGard, to keep the riders comfortable and healthy through the worst and wettest of conditions. Racing and training is demanding on your body, equip yourself to survive.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Ultra lightweight GoreTex(R) Active Shell for total waterproofness with minimum weight.
Fit and construction as developed with Team Saxo Bank.
Camlock zipper at wrists for easy on/off even wearing gloves.
Armpit zippers for extra venting when needed.
Wheel spray protection flap buttons away when not needed.
Zipper flap with velcro pads for easy closing when on the bike.
Excellent attention to detail making it a highly functional jacket on the bike.
For the most horrid weather, the Survival is up to the task. Impressive protection in the wind and rain while providing good breathability.
It's been abused plenty this winter in horrible weather and is standing up to it just fine.
It's very light for a waterproof jacket, but it's not that packable.
The fit is Sportful's usual excellence.
£200 is clearly a lot of money but I think the Survival justifies it. Uses the latest Gore-Tex fabric combined with features you just won't find on any other jacket, designed by racers for high performance cyclists.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed brilliantly in the wind and rain.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Bad weather protection, fit, Velcro closure, cuffs.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
There's very little to fault. Colour options would be nice, maybe a black and a high visibility yellow option.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
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.