Altura's Airstream windproof jacket packs up really small, keeps the wind and modest rain showers at bay and doesn't cost the earth. However, the zip is fiddly to adjust with one hand and I would have liked a more fitted cut.
Lots of manufacturers claim their jackets are lightweight and packable, but Altura's Airstream takes it to another level. At a claimed 84g (94g on the road.cc Scales of Truth), it's quite a bit lighter than the emergency jackets we've reviewed recently; browsing through the reviews archive I couldn't find any that are less than 100g. As a result, it packs down really small – think the size of a small apple. It'll go in your jersey pocket like many do, but with this one you'll forget it's even there.
The fabric is made from 100 per cent nylon. It's obviously very thin and almost transparent. There's a grid pattern in the fabric which you can only really see if you hold it up to light, presumably reinforcing the fabric. It doesn't feel too flimsy, although I wouldn't expect it to last a long time for off-road use and I would probably also choose something a bit sturdier if I expected to use it often under a backpack.
The fabric uses Altura's retro-reflective Darkproof technology. In daylight the fabric is grey, but under bright lights in the dark it turns brilliant white making it harder for other road users to claim they didn't see you. There's also some reflective detailing stitched into the elasticated hems used on the collar, arms and waist.
There's some soft mesh under the collar to stop chafing on the neck. You also get a couple of vent flaps under the shoulder blades to aid breathability.
There's a single pocket on the back which the jacket itself can be stowed in. Its size is generous for this purpose – you can probably fit two of these in there if you tried. This is nice, because it means this jacket can be squashed flat in your jersey pocket. A normal sized phone will fit in, but a plus-sized phone won't.
The full-length SBS branded zip works fine in isolation, but in combination with the stormflap and the lack of resistance in the fabric, it's fiddly to adjust on the go. I'd have probably preferred to compromise wind and rain repellency in favour of adjustability by not having a stormflap.
Although the features listed on the Altura website mention a 'narrow silicone taped hem', I can't see any evidence of this. There's not really anything there other than the elastic to stop it riding up, although as the fit is fairly relaxed I haven't found this a particular problem.
Testing the jacket at this time of year, it's been used with just a short sleeve jersey underneath. The fabric feels comfortable next to the skin, none of the plasticky feel that you get with other jackets. It's been perfect on slightly colder windy days and on showery rides. Altura doesn't claim this jacket is waterproof, instead marketing it as 'repellent to both wind and rain'. Rain beads up on the fabric initially, but it doesn't take that long for the fabric to get saturated. It does dry quickly when the shower's passed. For me, this makes it a good companion in spring and summer when you're just not too sure what the weather is going to do.
To make this a perfect companion for me in said circumstances, I'd have liked the fit to be more snug. At 178cm (5ft 8in) tall and 77kg, I'm usually a medium. If you're going by the pictures, it's not me; that's Dave who would usually be a large. As you can see, it appears to fit him fine. Actually using the jacket, the sleeve length is perfect for me, so I suspect they'd be too short for Dave when he's in the riding position. Based on this, I'm going to continue my comments on fit here on the basis that this is a medium and aimed at my size rather than Dave's.
I also need to mention that that Altura doesn't bill this as a racing fit – on its website it talks about a 'relaxed fit' and a 'semi-fitted' design. I would translate that into too loose in the chest and too generous in the arms. Even with a long-sleeve thermal jersey underneath. And I'm not particularly under-developed in the arms or chest either.
The fit in the chest I'm happy to put down as a design choice and is subjective anyway. The cut of the arms and the size of the cuffs I found a bit more annoying as the sleeves are so loose they ride up almost all the way to the elbow with enough wind resistance. Like when you're riding down a hill, or into the wind; the kind of conditions this jacket is designed for. This is probably less of an issue with a long-sleeve jersey underneath.
Compared to other jackets, its RRP is a fiver less than dhb's comparable Aeron, and it's quite a lot cheaper than the Assos Mille GT Clima Jacket Evo and ashmei's Cycle Emergency Jacket we reviewed recently.
At a penny under £50, and substantially less if you shop around, there is a lot to like here: it feels comfortable, it packs down small enough that it's no hassle to take it on every ride, it keeps out the wind and some rain, and it works in the dark. At this price and given that the important stuff is covered, I can live with the niggles. It's one to consider if you're looking for an emergency type jacket, but check the fit before you buy.
Keeps the wind out and packs extremely small, but sleeves should be more snug and the zip is fiddly
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Altura Airstream Windproof Jacket
Size tested: M
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?
Altura says, 'The Altura Airstream Windproof Jacket is the ideal packaway jacket for when the weather changes. Lightweight at just 84g with a relaxed fit it is repellant to both wind and rain whilst offering high levels of breathability. The Altura Darkproof tech and reflective trims offers a level of hi-visibility to keep you safe and seen."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Packs away into rear pocket when not in use
Narrow silicone taped hem
The length of the sleeves is right for a medium, as is the waist, but the cut in the sleeves and cuffs is too generous, meaning the sleeves ride up going downhill or into the wind.
Good value, a fiver cheaper than dhb's comparable jacket with similar features, and a lot less than some.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It keeps most of the wind out and will stand up to a light shower, which is what I'm looking for in a packable jacket like this. However, when going down steep hills I found the arms ride up and it's hard to do the zip up while riding because the stormflap gets in the way.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Its packability and lightness.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
I'd have liked the cut to be a bit more snug in the chest for a medium, the zip is annoying to adjust on the go, and the arms don't stay in place.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Maybe
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your overall score
This jacket is very light and packs away extremely small. It keeps the wind out and will protect you from light rain at a price that won't break the bank. It does have some niggles, though: the arms have a tendency to ride up and the zip is fiddly to adjust on the go.
About the tester
I usually ride: All of them! My best bike is: Cannondale CAAD10
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,