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Marketed as a rain cape, the Hoy Vulpine Portixol jacket is understandably minimal. You don't get pockets, you don't get headphone holes or an internal MP3 player pocket, you don't even get the ability to tune the ventilation. What you do get is excellent performance.
Starting with the outer shell, it uses a 2.5-layer ripstop fabric with a 15,000mm hydrostatic head (how tall a column of water can be before it starts to seep through the fabric) and feels very thin to the touch – unnervingly thin when this is marketed as a jacket that will 'make the difference between a miserable ride or, in the worst conditions, hypothermia'. Strong claims indeed, so does the Portixol live up to them?
Firstly, making a miserable ride bearable... I've ridden in light rain to heavy downpours, the kind that you can hear on the roof slates when you're tucked up in bed, wondering if you should stay there or force yourself out to do the ride you had planned. There's been no second-guessing as to whether the Portixol is the right bit of kit for those rides, it has definitely made them more bearable – in fact I'd go as far as to say enjoyable.
The claims about hypothermia are hard to judge given that we've not had really severe weather this winter (yet), but the big test for anything that claims to keep you warm is the club ride puncture, where you stop and stand around offering 'guidance' and goodwill to your struggling clubmate as the wind howls through your bones. When this happened, I immediately dreaded it, thinking I'd soon cool down to an uncomfortable temperature, but wearing the Portixol this wasn't the case. This was in the mid-single digits, but still cold enough to notice the chill when you've been riding at a tempo just minutes before.
The gill-like vents are positioned under the arm near the ribcage and the shoulder blades. Consistent with the design approach of the rest of the jacket, they don't close – they are as decided by Hoy Vulpine. Whoever made that decision was on the ball; they work with the fabric's breathability without issue. I sweat a fair amount, even in winter, and even with baselayers moist from perspiration, the inside of the jacket has remained dry.
Up top, there's a fleece-lined collar that keeps your neck snug, but the zip is the star of the show here. Usable with thick winter gloves thanks to the long dangly Hoy Vulpine-branded tag, it's pretty easy to get up and down, which can sometimes be a pain on waterproof zips, and it's very handy for mid-ride temperature tuning.
The cuffs are elasticated, as is the rear of the jacket. Handily, it'll keep its form over rear jersey pockets stuffed with enough tubes/food/gels and so on required for any of your long winter training rides. In summary, it stays in place once it's on.
The result of the minimal design is that it also packs up very small. Not quite as small as a Windtex jacket, but you get so much more in terms of waterproofing, breathability and protection with the Portixol.
There were a couple of times when I missed not having a pocket. Even a small phone/key pocket would be good. I keep all work clothes/shoes and so on at work so my commutes are done without any luggage. A seat pack means the only things that need to be carried are keys, bank card and phone, which meant having to put on a jersey or gilet beneath the Portixol for the sole reason of using the pocket. It wasn't a huge problem, and the extra layer kept me warm beneath the jacket, but it's something to bear in mind.
Style is a subjective thing, but I think the red version we were sent looks fantastic. I'm not so sure about the black – there's enough black cycling kit available out there, so it would be nice to see a variation in colour.
The fit of the medium on test is very good, although I question the length of the front zip – it could be slightly shorter to stop the jacket bunching up slightly at the front. Its length does allow the jacket to be worn as a casual piece of clothing, though, so there's a trade-off. It's not fully race-cut, and on the bike it's not a problem, and there's plenty of waterproof coverage to the torso... so I feel like I'm nitpicking on this one.
Off the bike, it looks good enough to wear down the shops without someone thinking, 'Why is that bloke wearing a cycling jacket?' My husband-conscious wife didn't mind accompanying me to the supermarket while I had it on, and she's intolerant of me wearing my on-bike gear casually. The logos on the chest and arm are reflective but quite small; the one on the tail section is larger and more likely to be seen by other road users.
It has also washed well. Hoy Vulpine recommends washing 'about once a month, or more frequently if dirty'. Mine lasted three rides before it needed a spin in the Hotpoint. A 30°C wash, no fabric softener, and it came up like new having had the best of Scottish farming thrown all over it.
And so to price... The cost isn't small at £99 for something so lightweight, and I was sceptical at first, but I can see this jacket being a go-to piece of kit in all seasons, so it justifies its price tag well.
The Portixol is a jacket of all trades and master of them all
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road.cc test report
Make and model: HOY Vulpine Men's Portixol Waterproof Jacket
Size tested: Medium, Red
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?
Hoy Vulpine says: "Roll it up into your back pocket each ride, and deploy when the weather turns. A lightweight fully waterproof essential for every season."
Aimed at riders wanting a packable but waterproof and windproof jacket that looks good on the bike and just as good once you get to the café stop.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Waterproof 15,000WP and breathable 15,000MP
Tough ripstop face fabric
Waterproof front body zip with HOY branded zip
Elasticated cuffs and waist
Feels and looks premium.
Lovely to wear, dries quickly, supremely waterproof. Small amount of front bunching is the only downside.
Has worn and washed well, though the real test of durability will be in a year or two to see if it's still as waterproof and breathable.
Packs up nice and small, easily stowed in a middle rear pocket of a jersey.
Front zip is the only issue.
At £99, this jacket isn't cheap, but I think it's worth every penny.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well indeed. The only negatives in the review come from perhaps trying to get the jacket to perform beyond its design requirements. Hard to fault otherwise.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Pretty much everything! One of the most comfortable items of clothing I've tested or bought. The ability to keep your torso dry on even the most horrendous rainy days.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The lack of pocket for phone/keys if worn without a jersey beneath. The slight bunching up at the front of the jacket – difficult to decide whether this is a problem or not though, and I feel like I'm looking for something to highlight.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Without hesitation.
Use this box to explain your score
The Hoy Vulpine Portixol transcends the half-hundred boil-in-the-bag waterproof jackets that are readily available wherever you may care to shop, and gives real comfort, warmth and breathability along with versatility: it's something you can wear on or off the bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: Kinesis Racelight T (winter) Cervélo S2 (Summer) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking