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A lightweight jacket/gilet combo is a godsend for year round use, and the Pearl Izumi Women's Elite Escape Convertible Jacket combines low weight, a compact pack size and good levels of protection in a performance fit. Check the sizing though – it's a slim fit.
Available in two extremely visible colours, this lightweight top is great for being seen while keeping dry and warm. As it has zip-off sleeves that are part of a bolero-type affair that fastens to the main jacket with Velcro, it's ideal for mild or changeable days too.
It's made from a very light 100% polyester fabric – Pearl Izumi call it ELITE Barrier – that's windproof and water repellent. It packs down very small and just about fits into a jersey pocket, or it can be rolled into its own zipped pocket (which also has a strap for fixing it to the bike).
The rear pocket has a mesh lining and reflective trim, while the two side zip pockets are also mesh lined and useful as extra ventilation. The sleeve section also has mesh ventilation where it fastens to the shoulders.
Elasticated wrists help keep out wind and water, and there's a gripper at the softly elasticated hem for a secure fit. The front zip has a storm flap and a glove-friendly zip pull.
I found it a neat, close fit (it's not the right size for the model in the pics) – streamlined and athletic, rather than the 'semi form fit' Pearl Izumi claims. If you're borderline on sizing, or want space for winter layers, consider going up a size.
That said, the contoured fit is flap-free and great for performance, and there's good length in the torso and sleeves. The fabric hits the sweet spot of windproofing and breathability, and I never overheated even when working hard – something I put down, at least in part, to the ventilated shoulder section.
The water repellency is reliable and effective, even in heavy rain, although a dedicated waterproof obviously outperforms it at the expense of extra heat and weight.
The sleeve section removes and attaches reasonably quickly and easily, but the tiny zips are a little too fiddly and flimsy-feeling for on-the-fly attachment. Once off, the sleeves stash easily in a rear pocket, and if you take it all off it's small and light enough to easily stow. The low weight, handy packsize and high visibility meant it very quickly became my iffy weather garment of choice.
Convertible jackets are thin on the ground, so it's no great surprise this looks expensive for a windproof and water repellent jacket. However, if you look at it as a lightweight performance jacket AND gilet, it's a much more palatable price, and actually very good value.
It compares favourably with the Ashmei Men's Cycle Emergency Jacket and the Assos Mille GT Clima Jacket Evo, as well as cheaper jackets combined with cheap gilets such as the Liv Delphin Rain Jacket and Endura Pro SL Lite Gilet II. For a two-in-one protective garment, it's great value.
What's more, at the time of writing Pearl Izumi is selling it discounted at £69.99.
The Pearl Izumi Women's Elite Escape Barrier Convertible Jacket works really well. It's light, versatile and very useable, and the slim fit is aero yet unrestrictive. You may need to size up if you're on the cusp, and some care is needed with the tiny sleeve zips, but beyond that it's a cracking choice and great value.
Versatile and protective lightweight weatherproof jacket AND gilet – and worth the cost
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Womens Elite Escape Convertible 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?
Pearl Izumi says, "Versatile like no other, this jacket can easily convert into a vest mid-ride, or even stuff into itself and, using an integrated strap, be stored directly on your bike."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
100% polyester windproof and water repellent ELITE Barrier fabric
Two zipped mesh-lined side pockets
Rear zipped mesh-lined lumbar pocket with strap to fasten jacket to bike if desired
Zip-off sleeve yoke
Converts to lightweight gilet with mesh panel at shoulders
Elasticated cuffs and hem
Available in sizes S-XL
Machine washable at 30
Fabric is high quality, though sleeve zips are very lightweight and feel a little fiddly and flimsy.
Performs very well as a windproof and water repellent jacket, and also as a gilet.
Pretty tough and should last well, although sleeve zips could be a long-term weak point.
Delivers excellent levels of wind protection and keeps water (even heavy rain) out for reasonable periods.
Surprisingly breathable for a windproof jacket. Creates little overheating.
Neat and contoured with good torso and sleeve length.
Comes up small – if you're borderline on sizes, or wear a lot of layers, consider sizing up.
Very lightweight and packable.
Worth the investment for its versatility and performance.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washes very well at 30 degrees, easy to look after.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Effective and versatile.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Style, versatility, weight and pack size.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Fiddly zip fastenings for sleeves, price.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's more expensive than most convertible jackets, but very highly specced and higher performance too. Functioning as both a lightweight performance jacket AND gilet, it's actually very good value. It compares favourably with the Ashmei Men's Cycle Emergency Jacket and the Assos Mille GT Clima Jacket Evo, as well as with cheaper jackets and separate gilets such as the Liv Delphin Rain Jacket and Endura Pro SL Lite Gilet II.
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 overall score
This is a light, well-made and well-considered jacket that works really well in either form. It's very versatile, comfortable and an easy eight.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.