The ArroWhere Dark Waterproof Jacket is an interesting stealth design. Standards of detailing are generally good, but breathability falls short of similarly priced competitors.
- Pros: Keeps out wind and rain, retro-reflectives are effective
- Cons: Breathability is challenged in milder temperatures
The ArroWhere's 100% polyester shell is claimed to be windproof, waterproof and breathable. At this end of the market, ratings of 10,000 for waterproofing/breathability are the norm, which means a garment will resist and expel perspiration at 10,000mm per hour.
As a rough'n'ready guide, this is fine for the sort of speeds and distances associated with commuting. That said, my preference is for something nearer 15,000, since you'll stay drier longer, especially if your commute is done at a higher training pace.
With this in mind, you can imagine my surprise learning that the ArroWhere only has a waterproof rating of 8,000 and 5,000 for breathability, though zippered ventilation panels on the sleeves and sides permit some additional airflow.
I have to admit, those ratings didn't inspire me with confidence. I had feared I'd be feeling like a microwave ready meal, given 10 miles at a moderate pace. Much to my surprise, I remained refreshingly dry and comfortable in temperatures between minus 3 and 8 degrees when riding at 17mph average, but milder conditions left me feeling decidedly moist at comparable speeds. Slightly lighter designs with better breathability ratings are much nicer to wear.
Icy winds along exposed roads were kept firmly at bay, and at worst only caused minor flutter. A fleece-lined collar is a helpful detail, banishing chill and keeping rain from trickling inside without becoming uncomfortably warm.
Persistent rain and wintry showers haven't made any inroads either, even after 90 minutes or so – which, let's be honest, is a long commute for most riders.
By day, the retro-reflective 'arrow' and details are charcoal grey but turn striking silver when graced by vehicle and street lighting. The 'science' behind the arrow is that it apparently 'helps to tell others where you are and how to move around you'.
On the one hand, there's no doubt this technology brings the garment to life, making you stand out (along with decent lights, obviously), but then again I'm of the opinion that any road user deemed competent should be able to spot and pass another with care and precision. Unfortunately, most of us – myself included – can recount dangerous encounters all too frequently.
The actual technology generally delivers on the stealthy/highly conspicuous design brief, so can't be faulted for that. Conversation with friends suggests it comes alive from around 80 metres, maybe further along pitch black lanes. However, I haven't noticed any pronounced advantage or difference in driver behaviour compared with when I'm wearing dhb's Flashlight Force or Endura's Luminite DL. I've swapped between the three jackets over a week, riding the same roads at approximately the same times.
The jacket has a breast pocket that'll swallow compact cameras and wallets/similar valuables, and two zippered hip pockets, which are fleece-lined for comfort and will swallow a decent amount of cargo without sagging or bouncing.
As well as the fleece-lined collar, the rear tail offers decent protection from rain, wind and spray. Drawstrings allow a more relaxed or tailored fit, depending on whether you're in civvies or technical attire.
I wasn't surprised to find a mesh lining inside. These help to protect the outer shell from premature wear, while assisting the wicking process, making for a more comfortable inner climate. Adjustable Velcro cuffs allow easy tailoring to provide seamless overlap with winter gloves.
One thing that mildly annoyed me was the intricate zipper tags on the pockets. These made access while wearing gloves (especially mid-ride) a real pain. That aside, the pockets have proved extremely comfortable parking points for hands, whether mooching around town or spectating at cyclo-cross races.
Sizing follows the increasingly common 'medium is the new large' narrative (it's not me in the photos, by the way). There's scope for drawing it in closer around the waist for a more fitted effect when it's really blustery. I'm proportionately short in the torso but relatively long limbed, and I'm pleased to report sufficient length at the arms along with enough clearance around the front to prevent it catching on the saddle's nose when dismounting swiftly.
The cut also facilitates unrestrictive alternating between tops, drops and hoods, with no hint of wind or wet stuff being funnelled in via the cuffs.
A damp cloth wipe-over has been sufficient to dismiss superficial grime, but as there are no electrical components it's fine to bung in the washing machine. Like most jackets, it emerges reasonably dry, but being 100g or so heavier than the dhb and Endura mentioned above, it takes a bit longer to dry thoroughly.
The ArroWhere has been a better jacket than I was expecting, and may be a good option if you are particularly susceptible to the cold, or living in particularly cold regions. However, there is a lot of competition around this price point. An extra £20 buys the dhb, and £15 less, the Endura, both of which are, in my experience, markedly superior, especially if you're looking to ride longer distances at a smarter pace.
Some nice touches, but scuppered by poor breathability – there are much better designs for £100
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road.cc test report
Make and model: ArroWhere Dark Waterproof Jacket
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the jacket is for
ArroWhere says: "We took one of our more popular jackets and blacked it out. Using a unique color-infused retroreflective material, this ArroWhere Dark Waterproof Jacket appears to almost be completely black during the day, but is visible and reflective in low-light and nighttime situations (where light reflects off of the material). It is scientifically fashionable.
"The ArroWhere Effect remains intact with the solid ArroWhere Arrow, as it helps to tell others where you are and how to move around you. The jacket is 100% polyester, waterproof/breathable, and windproof."
I'd say it's a good stealth design with a decent cut and plenty of pocket options for commuting, but breathability and waterproof ratings are much lower than I'd expect.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
-Waterproof, windproof, breathable
-Zippered armpit vents
-Adjustable waist and cuffs
Great in really cold, wintry conditions, but limitations become apparent when the mercury climbs beyond 11°C or so.
Seems rugged and washes well so far.
The benchmark for most sub-£100 commuter jackets is 10,000, so I was surprised to find the ArroWhere was 8,000. In practical terms, the elements have been firmly locked out, even after 50 minutes of rain/sleet, so it's unlikely to be a problem for most commuters doing round trips of 10-12 miles or so.
In cold weather it felt fantastic, but the limitations quickly became apparent when temperatures crept close to 12°C, even at a moderate 16mph. Pit vents and the front zipper can be opened for additional ventilation but a 5,000 breathability rating is pretty poor – half that of a typical commuter model of comparable price.
Great in the cold, but below average when things turn milder.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very straightforward. Machine wash at 30.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the ArroWhere has potential but is frustrated by mediocre breathability. This is particularly apparent compared with other commuter models commanding £100 or, indeed, less. While the stealth retro-reflectives work well, I'm not sure the pattern has any impact upon driver passing behaviour – on these shores at least.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Decent cut for more spirited riding, plenty of pockets. Great in really cold weather.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Relatively heavy and waterproofing/breathability is below the standards I would expect from this end of the market.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? I welcomed it in the really cold snap, but otherwise, indifferent.
Would you consider buying the jacket? No
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? No, there are much better jackets for the money.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It has some nice touches but the technical specification is relatively low alongside some long-established and cheaper models.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
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: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)