The Polaris Strata Waterproof Jacket is unashamedly an insurance layer for when the heavens open. At a decent price, with some good features and breathability, it's a wallet- and jersey pocket-friendly option.
Straddling the price-line between cheap 'n' cheerful and properly posh kit, the £85 Strata jacket features a few decent technical features, such as a waterproof YKK zip, reflective areas, and the ability to pack away into its own chest pocket for storage in a jersey pocket.
At 181g it's pretty light for a tape-sealed jacket, but omits the sort of features you might look for in an all-day waterproof such as sculpted cuffs, a dropped (enough) tail, or access to jersey pockets without lifting the rear of the jacket up. The Endura FS-260 reviewed here is my go-to benchmark for waterproofs, but then it's a slightly heavier, bulkier option and costs 50 per cent more to boot.
The fit of the Strata is bang-on for those with normal-dimensioned appendages – the medium fitted my 38in chest/32in waist perfectly, with no excess to flap about even at high speeds. My arms run two inches longer than the average bear for my height, though, meaning the cuffs came up a bit short – but not by much.
The rear hem sits higher than you'd want for full-bum road spray protection in the drops, but if you run mudguards or stash an Ass Saver under your saddle for a rainy day you'll be fine.
The neck sits reasonably high, and the zip has a garage to keep scratchiness at bay. There's also a drip-dry hanging loop on the outside of the neck at the rear.
The Strata's party trick is the chest pocket, which it easily unscrunches from when the skies open. Once you have the jacket on, the pocket is good for a decent-sized phone, some gels or anything else you want to keep handy – which is just as well as there's no easy access to jersey pockets short of lifting the rear of the jacket up.
Coming in black or the tested yellow (men's) or pink (women's), the Strata has plenty of reflective going on, as befits a jacket for poor weather. There are rubberised reflective inserts on each side midway down the back, plus on the front shoulders. Stylised reflective text wraps the outside arm from wrist to armpit, and there's a shorter strip down the centre of the back.
The cuffs and hem are very simple elasticated fabric, and the seams are single-stitched, so I wouldn't expect excessive ruggedness or adventurous longevity from this model, though it might prove me wrong.
I found the fabric to perform well enough for the price and intended purpose. On a 300m 1-in-5 climb I was comfortable enough to keep it zipped. During a 14mph-average nighttime pub-run in blustery winds then 12-13°C rain, occasionally working uphills, with a short-sleeved baselayer and long-sleeved thermal jersey underneath, the Strata kept pace with temperature needs. It was unzipped halfway up a couple of the climbs, the long toggle making this easy with two layers of gloves on. The arms felt good with no sweaty sensations, and once the rain set in for the final hour back home I remained dry.
All in all, for £85 the Strata is a good buy. Online it can be found for less than £50 at time of writing, which would be a bargain as a backup or commuting jacket that's no too painful to replace if nicked from the locker room. Others to consider – especially if you're long in the arm – are the Endura FS260-Pro Adrenaline Race Cape, which Ash reported as being 'well-thought-out' sleeve-length-wise, at £77.99 RRP, or for a little more Pearl Izumi's Pro Barrier Lite. Or for a lot more you could always go for the Gore One Active...
A good insurance layer for showery days, with the features making for a useful packable shell
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Polaris Strata Waterproof 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?
It's a good insurance policy at a decent price, for someone wanting to stay dry without breaking the bank.
Polaris says: "We've all been there, half way through a ride and the heavens open. Too late to turn back and not a tree to shelter under in sight. The Strata Men's Waterproof Jacket means you'll never have to be caught out by a downpour again. Featuring YKK Aquaguard zips and fully taped seams throughout, the Strata offers exceptional waterproofing for such a lightweight jacket.
"The Strata Men's Waterproof Jacket packs into itself and is compact enough to be stowed away in a jersey pocket when not in use. A generous fit allows for layering, whilst strategic reflective detailing ensures the gloom that often comes with a downpour will not be a problem."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Polaris lists the following:
Lightweight & Packable
Fully taped seams throughout with YKK grips
Jacket packs into chest pocket
Reflective detailing in key areas for increased visibility in low light
It's a lightweight jacket but has held up under testing.
The lack of a longer tail marks it down on performance (and the arm fit, for my dimensions).
It held up well enough, but the cuffs/hem do show signs of wear after a month's riding.
I stayed dry.
I didn't feel excessively clammy, but did have to vent. It's not a top-spec material so I didn't expect miracles.
Personally, I'd like longer sleeves. Otherwise good.
For those with normal arms, fit shouldn't be an issue.
It's light, but then there's not excessive tech.
The short sleeves were a wee bit of an issue, but overall it sat well on the body.
For £85 it's good, at sub-£50 it's great.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed up OK, though the cuff and hem fabric did show signs of grubbiness.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As an insurance layer, it worked well. I wouldn't want to launch into a four-hour-plus ride in decent rain though.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The size, and the reflectives. It's small and bright.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The sleeves and tail length – more please!
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? At below RRP, yes.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes, with caveats re arm length.
Use this box to explain your score
This is a good jacket. It works. With a few tweaks it could be better than good; a longer tail and sleeves and £15-ish cheaper would get it four stars.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling