The Pearl Izumi PRO Barrier Lite Jacket offers excellent wet weather protection – it's very packable, and capable of shedding even torrential downpours for a short period of time.
Some packable jackets on the market claim waterproofness, but in reality fall short of it, only able to deal with showers before being overwhelmed by their own fragility. The Barrier Lite is no such garment – it really could claim to be waterproof.
Taken out in a wintry deluge – and I mean a real deluge – it lasted the full 10 minutes I could bear to be out in it, keeping me dry underneath. Even when used for intermittent showers on longer rides, it was a dream in this regard, with water beading off effectively and efficiently. It only begins to come unstuck in prolonged rainfall.
It's a good start, and there's more. The cut of the jacket is slim without being restrictive, which means water has a hard job sneaking down your neck and up your wrists, and features a long tapered back to help protect your rear from spray. It's helped all the while by elasticated cuffs that superbly retain its position against the wrists and around the waist and neck, whatever position you adopt on the bike.
The fit is almost guaranteed by the thin softshell panels that run across the shoulders, down the flanks and down the middle of the back. While still waterproof, they offer that ideal amount of stretch around the relevant areas – a real bonus around the shoulders I found, with my swimmer's build. The sleeves don't feature this stretch, but their length means you have enough to play with in terms of fit anyway.
When not required, it packs down well, squashing into a single pocket. You may get a touch of overspill if you have small pockets and because of the slight extra material the softshell panels result in, but it's definitely not a deal breaker; as long as the bulk of the jacket is packed away, it'll stay securely in place. And when required, it opens up without fuss on the go.
Breathability is always a question mark with packable rain jackets – no one wants a boil-in-the-bag situation – and happily, I can report decent performance here. Although it doesn't quite match the Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline race cape in this regard, it's still mightily impressive, only undone by wearing too many layers underneath in tandem with riding at a high tempo.
Taking it off after a four-hour ride for which I had overdressed, moisture had condensed on the underside but I'd never felt cold or wet, which suggests it had done a good job of diffusing the moisture outwards.
Additional features? On the test piece I had, in gloom-ready grey and hi-visibility green, that green features on the high-quality and easy-to-use zip and over the single, centrally positioned rear pocket. There are also flashes of reflective material in the logo on the chest, and branding on the tail.
All in all, this is a well-rounded packable jacket, definitely suitable for cool conditions and capable of repelling a good amount of water. It's a smart buy, and though expensive it's worth the asking price, I'd say, as it'll last and see you through much of the winter season – if you can avoid really prolonged rainfall.
Excellent packable jacket that offers even better protection and performance than Pearl Izumi claims
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier Lite Jacket
Size tested: Medium
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?
Pearls Izumi says: "For incredibly packable weather protection, look no further than the PRO Escape Barrier Lite Jacket, which features a much improved fit for 2016 thanks to its construction featuring panels of Softshell Lite fabric along the spine and underarms for maximum comfort and range of movement whilst avoiding 'flapping'. This super light, DWR coated ripstop emergency jacket and packs down smaller than a soda can. Expanded stretch panels create a svelte fit, and the tall collar adds neck protection whilst the 2-way zipper offers easy access to jersey pockets or added ventilation. Ideal for unpredictable weather or chilly descents."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
- PRO Barrier Lite fabric provides ultra lightweight wind protection and water resistance
- New Softshell Lite panels for improved fit and stretch with optimal wind and water protection
- Full-length, two way zipper for venting with zipper garage
- Reflective elements for low-light visibility
- Elastic waistband holds the jacket in position
- Lightweight and packable into back stow pocket
- Form Fit
- Weather forecast: Cool and windy
- Temperature range: 5 to 15 degrees
- Fabrics: Body made of 100% polyester clear rip stop with weight of 36 g/m2 and Panels of 100% polyester with weight of 120 g/m2
Fabrics bond together well, creating a smart-looking jacket.
Great packable waterproofness, with a little added weight for extra security and stretch for better fit.
Slight extra weight over normal wafer-thin packables makes the PRO Barrier Lite feel very durable.
Only claims water resistance, but is really excellent despite this. Nice to see a brand that doesn't make claims if it can't emphatically live up to them – which here, ironically, it probably could.
Gets a 9/10 here simply based on the complete lack of breathability claim. No, it's not an industry leader, but still very good in context.
Excellent, form-fitting, with comfortable stretch from the thin softshell panels.
Sizes up slightly larger than a standard jersey, but that's no bad thing as it's a jacket. The fit will take care of you, so buy your normal size unless you know you usually straddle two, in which case: go for the larger.
Light enough to pack away without fuss.
As a packable, it's amazing thanks to the stretchy softshell fabric panels.
£89.99 isn't cheap, but then you're getting a whole lot of quality and flexible use for your money.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Wash delicately, then hang up on a hanger, and that'll do the job.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly – this would definitely become a go-to jacket.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Fit, comfort, underrated waterproofness and breathability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Nothing. It's strong all-round, even justifying the price tag.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
This is a great all-round packable rain shell for those days when you just don't know what's coming.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding