Pearl Izumi's Pro Escape Softshell Jacket is a very warm, well-made and breathable softshell that keeps all the bad stuff out and all the good stuff in. It's Pearl Izumi's top-of-the-line jacket, designed to be used in temperatures from -10 to 0 degrees, which – 'luckily' – the UK has managed a few times during the review period.
The jacket's primary role is to keep you warm, which it does through fleece sides and a fleece panel down the centre of the back panel. As it isn't throughout the main body, it leaves a decent area for breathability, which works well. I didn't find myself overheating when using the jacket up to around 5 degrees, although any warmer than this and it gets a little too warm – though there are two well placed vents either side of the front panel, and these help with ventilation. It also has a full-length wind flap-backed YKK zip with a large handle that's simple to use even in gloves, so zipping/unzipping is simple.
Pearl Izumi has used a three-layer membrane system, which kept out everything that a UK autumn/early winter threw at me, from driving rain through to vicious winds, despite the seams not being taped.
It isn't just about the material though, it is also nicely designed to keep you warm and dry, with elements such as the high fleece-lined neck and the longish back panel stopping your lower back getting soaked when in the drops. This back panel feels different to the rest of the jacket, more like neoprene, while elsewhere it feels more like traditional softshell material.
The jacket has two pockets: one huge zipped one at the back with divisions to keep things separate, and one smaller one on the chest for valuables. Both are zipped, but although they aren't completely watertight, even in intense downpours only a small amount of water got in. The back pocket can fit a large amount in – I even managed to fit a medium size pump horizontally across the bottom – while the smaller chest pocket is just large enough for an iPhone 6, though that's probably the upper limit.
In terms of fit, the jacket is closer to racer than casual on the sliding scale, but by no means too tight; Pearl Izumi describes it as 'Form Fit' and it manages to hit a decent sweetspot. A smooth wrinkle-free fit helps water to flow off the jacket, and makes it more comfortable to wear. One thing that helps here is the contoured shape of the sleeve, with a seam/flap at the elbow; it can look a bit odd off the bike, but looks absolutely fine while on it. The jacket does jersey duties well, too, worn under as well as over other layers.
There are also some other elements you might expect from a modern softshell, such as reflective elements on the sleeves, back and front panel, as well as silicone grippers to keep everything in place when riding. The reflective details are relatively small but work surprisingly well.
It comes with an RRP of £169.99, which is about what I'd expect to pay for a well-made, warm softshell that keeps the elements out and the warmth in. As well as that, it has a decent fit, loads of storage and breathability is also strong. Yes it's at the pricier end of the scale, but ultimately those who are prepared to spend over £150 won't be disappointed. It would be good to have taped seams and taped zips on the pockets, but it was only found wanting in the heaviest rain, and even then it took close to an hour for anything to seep through.
A warm, well-made and good looking jacket for the coldest weather
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Pro Escape Softshell 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?
A jacket designed for the worst the weather can throw at you, from freezing winds to pouring rain.
Pearl Izumi says: 'Winter riding demands versatile protection, and the PRO Escape Softshell delivers, with three-layer membrane construction. Key ventilation panels help regulate temperature, and stamped design elements add subtle style.'
This seems an accurate description: the jacket performs well, keeps the heat in but also lets the sweat out.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
PRO Level 3 layer Softshell Panels for wind and water protection in key areas
Insulating Fleece on sides and center back for warmth and breathability
Contoured, shaped sleeve hem for an anatomically correct fit
Full-length internal draft flap seals in warmth
Zippered side vents allow for maximum temperature regulation
Large, zippered back pocket for storage with internal dividers
Small chest security pocket
Reflective elements placed for maximum visibility on the bike
Weather forecast: Cold and windy
Temperature range: -10 to 0 degrees
Fabrics: Body made of 39% polyester 36% nylon 13% elastane 12% polyurethane with weight of 320 g/m2 10,000 mm waterproof 20,000+ g/m2/h and Thermal Panels of 94% polyester 6% elastane
Really well made jacket with strong stitching, well thought out design, with features like indented embossed marks and thick zips.
Kept the stuff you don't want out and the stuff you want in.
Well made, with thick, strong zips and good choices of material. Can't see anything going wrong any time soon.
Seems about right, nothing got through despite the lack of taped seams, although it would be good to have taped zips on the pockets.
Good breathability, thanks in part to the ability to both unzip the front, or open vents on the side.
Really nice fit, not too tight to slip over a jersey, not too baggy to be used as one.
The medium fitted as I would expect from a non-Italian fit.
About what I would expect.
Really nice fleece lining combined with features like the silicone grippers to keep everything in place and working well.
About what I would expect for a jacket with this kind of quality.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Everything stayed in place, no shrinking or fading at a 30-degree wash.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, it was great to use during some of the more dire weather we've had of late.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The size of the pocket at the back may seem like a small thing, but it was genuinely useful and well designed.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Would be nice to have some taping on the zips.
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
Pearl Izumi has done a good job, as you would expect from its top-of-the-line jacket; it does everything I wanted and expected from it.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Evo 6 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.