I was really looking forward to testing the Sportful HotPack NoRain W jacket, having been very pleased with the windproof version I've used or carried around for the last four or five years. The NoRain version keeps water out really well and would certainly be my choice if rain was forecast, but it doesn't fit me as well as the older windproof option, and doesn't pack away as easily.
As far as the 'NoRain' bit goes, the HotPack does what its name suggests. All the seams are taped, and on a few wet rides I haven't noticed any rain getting in anywhere, although on one wet but warm day there was a bit of moisture build-up in the lower half of the sleeves. I gave it an extra check by wearing it in the shower, over a long-sleeve cotton top, and there wasn't a trace of water getting through.
The info from Sportful is that it's made with Acqua Shield waterproof fabric on the main body, and Micro Shell Stretch panels 'where extra stretch is needed'. I could have done with extra stretch around the hem – more on that in a minute.
It also has stretchy Lycra cuffs with thumb-holes, and there's a curve to the cuff shape that really tucks the waterproof fabric right down and under all but the shortest mitts/gloves.
The moisture inside the sleeves that I experienced suggests it's not that breathable if you were having to wear it for long periods in wet weather, but I did use it as a windproof on a cold but mostly dry three-hour-plus ride and didn't feel at all clammy. There was the odd spit-spot of rain that encouraged me to keep it on when I might otherwise have removed it on a long climb, but I certainly didn't feel boil-in-the-bag or anywhere close to that.
The only disappointment – for me – is that the new NoRain jacket has been redesigned to have a slimmer, racier fit, which helps explain why I had to go from a medium to a large. (The photos are of me in the medium.) But even then the large is tight around the hips; there doesn't seem to be any particular shaping for a typical woman's curves, and I'm not particularly hippy (somewhere between size 10 and 12 trousers). Stretching the hems of both the old and new jackets as wide as they would go, the windproof – in medium – has nearly a couple of inches more than the large size NoRain.
The other issue is that it doesn't pack away as small as the older windproof version, and it takes more time/patience/technique getting it to fit into its own bag (in the rear pocket). I'm not criticising it for that – you're getting a lot more protection here, the windproof couldn't keep me dry in heavier, more persistent rain – it's just something to be aware of.
As far as value goes, £125 isn't cheap for such a tiny, ball-sized bit of kit you hope you won't have to use, but there aren't many that compare in terms of weight and protection. Lighter options (which we've tested men's versions of) include Gore's One jacket, which is only 103g but will cost you £220, or there's the 7Mesh Oro at 93g and £249. You could buy a windproof/showerproof for less, but then you'd be comparing it with the £80 HotPack.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the jacket's performance, and it's certainly the one I'd choose to squeeze into my jersey pocket if the weather was looking at all iffy. But I'm less pleased with the fit; I do wish Sportful had given a bit more thought to a woman's hips.
A very good lightweight waterproof, if not as packable as the windproof option or as forgiving of curves
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful HotPack NoRain W Jacket
Size tested: Large
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?
Sportful says: "The lightest, most compact fully waterproof jacket we've ever made
"Fully waterproof fabrics and construction in a jacket that easily fits in your pocket means that you're ready for anything when you venture into the mountains or challenge the weather."
My thoughts are that it isn't quite as packable as the windproof version, but it does offer significantly better protection against rain.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Acqua Shield waterproof fabric on main body
Micro Shell Stretch panels where extra stretch is needed
Full waterproof construction with taped seams
Reflective heat transfer on back and sides
Long tail for extra coverage
Waterproof YKK® coated zipper
Thumb-loop wrist closure
Silicone gripper elastic at waist
Ergonomic fit to minimize flapping in the wind
Folds down small to stash in jersey pocket
Fabric seems tough – tougher than the windproof version (though I've had no problems with that...).
An hour in the rain and nothing got through; standing under the shower to check the moisture on the sleeves was sweat-induced and not rain getting in confirmed that it definitely keeps water out.
There was moisture on the inside of the sleeves after an hour riding in the rain, which I'm convinced was rider-generated rather than rain seeping through (confirmed by standing in the shower when not sweaty). I also used it as a windproof on a pretty chilly three-hour ride and didn't get at all sweaty. It was right nippy though. So not the most breathable, but not bad.
The new 'improved' cut is very tight around the hips; the old windproof version had a lot more give – a couple of inches more width around the bottom hem at full stretch in the medium, compared with the large NoRain on test.
I was a medium for the older windproof version and it fitted perfectly, but I had to go up to a large for this newer one, and it was still tight around the hips.
Heavier than the windproof (67g on my kitchen scales), but you're getting extra protection for it. And it's hardly heavy...
Not cheap, but it's reassuring having the extra protection ready and waiting in your pocket.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Machine wash at 30°C. Not washed it yet, other than in the shower – dries quickly.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Keeps rain off very well, keeps wind out on a cold ride, doesn't make you too sweaty.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The tight fit around the hem, and the fact that it doesn't pack away as small as the windproof version.
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
It's very good at its job of keeping you dry when needed, and packing away when not – though it's not as packable as the windproof. A bit more shaping for a typical woman's curves – or at least a bit more give to suit more curvy women (and I'm not especially!) – would bump the score up.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Venon My best bike is: Paulus Quiros
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding
Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.