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 Essential is by far the best waterproof jacket I've worn for training and hard effort riding. For a start it's breathable. The Achilles' heel of most waterproofs is dealt with by laser cut ventilation holes under the armpits. They may be small but there is a decent number of them and they really work expelling heat from the warmest area of your upper body. Hard interval sessions wouldn't see you sweating any more than if you wearing a long sleeved jersey in temperatures below 10°C.
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. This one feels really soft against the skin and is a pleasure to wear for long rides. The seams are taped to keep the water out.
Keeping water out versus breathability is always a compromise which is why garments are graded in a water column test to assess their waterproofness which is measured in mm. The POC is rated at 10,000mm which means it should keep out the majority of rain and road spray unless it's heavy enough to overwhelm the outer layer and membrane. So far that hasn't happened and it's seen some pretty torrential downpours.
For me though the most outstanding part of the Essential Jacket is the fit. Starting at the top there is a high, close-fitting neck complete with a zip buffer to avoid any irritation. The arms are pre-bent at the elbow which means when you're on the tops or drops there is no bunching or creasing of material at all. The sleeves are also cut long with the top of the wrist being a good couple of inches longer than the bottom to keep a decent overlap over gloves. Adjustability is taken care of by Velcro straps.
The main body is a racer's cut being narrow and with no excess fabric whatsoever. The front finishes at the waist to avoid bunching of the material here, while round the back is a dropped tail to provide some backside coverage from road spray.
There is a rear zipped pocket big enough to chuck in a few essentials; a mobile phone, tube and multi tool for instance.
Zink Orange is the only colour option and to say it's bright is an understatement. It certainly stands out on bright and dull days alike and being orange rather than the usual yellow means it stands out even more. Should you use it in the dark there is a reflective POC logo on the dropped tail.
Okay we've ascertained that it's a brilliant jacket, but it's £250. Everyone who commented on it recoiled in shock once the cost was mentioned. "Two hundred and fifty quid for a hi-viz jacket!?"
It's not alone at this price point, though. The likes of Assos, Rapha, Castelli and Sugo all offer waterproofs at this price, and even a bit more.
I ride daily through the winter in all weathers, so for me the Poc Essential would be worth the long term investment especially if you can find it at a discount. It's a beautiful jacket to wear with no compromises and the beauty of riding hard, then stopping and not being soaked in cold sweat is a very nice feeling overall.
Hi-viz waterproof that fits and works without compromise for racers; the eye-watering price is borderline justifiable
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Poc Essential Rain Jacket Zink Orange
Size tested: Medium orange
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?
Poc market the Essential Rain Jacket as a waterproof jacket for the wet and cold. It's pretty much the best waterproof and the high visibilty of the orange colour is a bonus.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
*3 layer laminated DWR treated fabric. 10 000 mm water column
*Lazer cut ventilation holes for breathability
*Fully taped seams
*Velcro closure at wrist
*My Info-zip pocket for personal information and cell phone
*Reflective logo at back.
SIZES: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
COMPOSITION: 100% Polyester
Brilliantly put together.
Impressive performance in the wet keeping the rain out while being breathable.
Looks and feels like its going to last a long time.
On par with the opposition.
Feels great on and fits really well too.
Subjective but I think it's worth the money in relation to other stuff on the market. That doesn't mean it's great value for money though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly on all fronts.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fit, comfort, waterproofing, breathability, colour - I think that's it.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price is high.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but only just due to the cost.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
The Poc Essential is quite simply brilliant. I've worn one hell of a lot of waterproof jackets over the years and this is the first to get everything as close to perfect as possible. Obviously that comes at a price though but value and cost mean different things to different people so in my eyes this is worth the outlay just, its right at the limit of what I'd pay for near perfection.
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: Kinesis T2 My best bike is: Kinesis Aithien
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Stu knocked out his first road.cc review back in 2009 and since then he's chucked the best part of seventy test bikes around the West Country, a couple of them quite literally! With three alloy and two steel bikes in his fleet he's definitely a metal man (that'll be the engineering background) but is slowly warming to that modern carbon fibre stuff along with fat tyres & disc brakes.
It's not all nostalgia though, after spending the last few years in product design Stu keeps banging on about how 3D printing is going to be the next big thing and he's a sucker for a beautiful paint job too.