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Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket



One of the best of the bunch for showery days, but shop around for a discount

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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On those cooler days when the weather just can't make up its mind to rain or shine, you need a lightweight, packable waterproof jacket, and the Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield is one of the best on offer. It comes at a price, though.

The Acqua Pro is part of Northwave's Rainshield Hi Plus range, which uses a membrane bonded to the fabric to keep the wind and rain out, well, to a degree anyway. Waterproofing is rated by how much water the fabric can deal with before it gets overwhelmed, and the Northwave can withstand up to 5,000mm in a hydrostatic head test. In the real world that means drizzle and light to average rainfall, the sort of conditions that the Acqua copes admirably in, helped by the fully taped seams. That membrane also keeps a chilly wind out.

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Making something waterproof often has a negative effect on breathability, and this type of 100% polyester race cape often suffers quite badly. The Northwave can still get clammy, but it is definitely one of the better ones.

Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket - reflective detail.jpg

Around the 10°C mark, with a mesh baselayer and short-sleeved jersey on, I noticed the jacket starting to stick to my bare arms due to perspiration. That was at a reasonably brisk training pace, and while my jersey was also starting to get the same clammy feeling, it wasn't something I noticed while riding, only when I stopped.

Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket - riding.jpg

Bearing in mind Northwave pitches this jacket for winter riding, I'd say it's acceptable because at, say, 3-5°C everything is fine, plus you can always undo the zip to let air flow in the front and out of the rear shoulder mesh vent. You soon learn how to regulate your body temperature.

Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket - back.jpg

The jacket's easy to get on and off while in the saddle, and folds down small enough to fit in a rear pocket so you don't have to keep it on for the entire ride.

It has a very race-orientated fit with a slender body that prevents any flapping in the wind and a very long dropped tail that's great for keeping road spray off your rear. A reasonably high neck stops draughts, and the arms are long enough when in a racing tuck to stop gaps between the elasticated cuffs and your gloves. (They have thumb loops too, if you want to hold them in place.)

Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket - collar.jpg
Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket - thumb loop 2.jpg

You get a large pocket around the back and it's zipped for security. I wasn't really a fan of carrying too much in it, though, because the extra weight can make the jacket sag a bit and cause stuff to bounce around.

Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket - pocket.jpg

Colour-wise you have a couple of options: clear for that pro look, allowing your kit to show through, or the one we have here, part of Northwave's Be Visible range of fluoro gear. The material used means it isn't the brightest jacket out there, though.

> Check out our guide to the best rain jackets

Overall, the Northwave Acqua Pro is a great ambassador for the race cape genre, but you have to pay for that. At £99.99 it's one of the most expensive I've tested, and it's a little difficult to justify at full price, especially with the breathability being a slight issue.


One of the best of the bunch for showery days, but shop around for a discount

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Make and model: Northwave Acqua Pro Rainshield Jacket

Size tested: Medium, Yellow Fluo

Tell us what the jacket 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?

Northwave says: "Defend against the downpours over the colder seasons. The Acqua Pro features Rainshield Hi Plus fabric in a fully seam taped assembly for complete wind and waterproof protection. A lightweight and ergonomic protection layer for committed winter cyclists."

It's an ideal jacket for those showery days when the weather can't make up its mind.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?

Main Fabric: 100% polyester tricot with internal breathable membrane

Protection Rating: 5000 mm waterproof & windproof

Zip: Reversed custom zip with camlock puller

Vent Inserts: Rear panel

Pockets: Rear pocket

Reflectivity: Front and rear reflective piping and print, extra safety left arm printing

Fully seam taped inner

Ergonomic Sleeves

Extended rear panel

Water control elastic cuff

Rate the jacket for quality of construction:

Neat and tidy.

Rate the jacket for performance:

Keeps light rain out but not the most breathable.

Rate the jacket for durability:

A solid feeling zip and tough material.

Rate the jacket for waterproofing, based on the manufacturer's rating:

5,000mm should resist 'light to average rain' and that is exactly what the Northwave does.

Rate the jacket for breathability, based on the manufacturer's rating:

Around the 10°C mark things start to get a bit clammy but as Northwave aims this jacket at the winter months I'd say it's acceptable.

Rate the jacket for fit:

A slim race fit to stop any flapping, with a long dropped tail for protection from road spray.

Rate the jacket for sizing:

The sizing in reality matches that of the sizing chart.

Rate the jacket for weight:

Weighs next to nothing and barely noticeable on your back or in a jersey pocket.

Rate the jacket for comfort:

The material can feel odd against bare skin but that is the only issue.

Rate the jacket for value:

At £99.99 it's at the higher end for this type of jacket. It goes a long way to justify it though, with its cut and quality.

How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Northwave recommends a simple 30°C wash and natural dry. The odd mud stain was left over after washing if it had been a seriously wet ride.

Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose

As a windproof and waterproof the Northwave does its job as you'd expect, and although breathability isn't brilliant it's one of the better options for this style of jacket.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket

The fit.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket

The high price.

Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes

Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes, if I could get a decent discount.

Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

The Northwave Acqua is a very good jacket compared with its rivals. I've worn this style of jacket from various brands over the past few years and this one is a little bit better than the rest all over. That high price stops it scoring a 9 for exceptional though.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 37  Height: 180cm  Weight: 76kg

I usually ride: This month's test bike  My best bike is: Mason Definition

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

As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!

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