The Vulpine Portixol is a rain jacket rather than a packable shell, and as such is aimed more at the commuter than the hardcore roadie. The more casual, urban styling underlines this, but it matches technical hardshells in its performance.
Under its new owners, British brand Vulpine has been working on new designs and reworking some old ones. The Portixol jacket was originally a stripped-back, race-orientated shell that has been given an urban makeover, re-emerging with side pockets, an extendable flap, a two-way zip and a contemporary style that successfully blends fashion with on-bike functionality. Crucially, it retains the foul-weather capability that we praised the old version for in 2016.
Vulpine uses a ripstop fabric that supplies that same level of waterproofing as the earlier version – 15,000mm, which is the height that a column of water can reach before it starts to seep through – and the seams are taped.
It has the crosshatched threads of a ripstop fabric, which makes it tough as well as fairly unyielding. It doesn't have the stretch of some modern waterproofs, but since it's designed to be looser fitting rather than figure-hugging, stretch is not necessary.
I mostly wore it for the tandem school run in March before the lockdown, as a top layer over ordinary clothing such as a T-shirt and shirt. The lining has a tackiness that feels slightly clammy on bare arms, but the collar has a fleecy band sewn into it, so no issues in that area.
As I mentioned, it doesn't really pack down small enough for carrying in a rear jersey pocket and at 300g is on the heavy side for that anyway, so it's the kind of jacket you put on and keep on – and its waterproofing and windproofness coupled with its breathability make doing that entirely comfortable.
I have to admit that I didn't get to test it in anything too biblical – by this point we were in that interim period between Chiara and Dennis and the lockdown – but in the rain I did catch, the fabric kept out every single drop.
Water beads off the surface of the fabric thanks to the DWR coating, and even a sustained under-the-tap test failed to wet it out. While bench-testing it in the bathroom, however, I did discover that if water is going to get in, it will come through the front zip. The previous Portixol had an AquaGuard-style genuinely waterproof zip, swapped out in this version for a two-way zip that still has a polyurethane coating but normal non-watertight teeth. However, in standard UK rain I found it was enough.
Like the other garments in Vulpine's latest range, the Portixol jacket is packed with thoughtful details.
The earlier version had no pockets at all, making it impractical as a commuter jacket. Now it has two well-placed zipped pockets on the front for keys, travelcard, phone and so on.
There's an extendable rear flap held up inside the jacket with magnets that can be easily deployed on the fly.
It has printed reflective details and, although you can't spot this in the pictures, the back of the flap is in Vulpine's signature green colour – a quirky designer touch that adds character.
There are ventilation flaps at the back of the neck and under the arms, and you can let in more air via with the two-way zip, which works very smoothly.
The medium size was perfect for me at 1.85m and 68kg (it's not me in the pictures). The sleeves have enough length for reaching forward to drop handlebars, and the cuffs are elasticated and are comfortably close-fitting to stop rain getting in.
Like the earlier version, it's still on the long side, meaning extra bunching at the front when you're on the drops, but Vulpine has clearly wanted to keep it looking 'normal' so that it can easily be worn off the bike without it looking like a cycling-specific garment.
The same approach seems to have dictated the colour schemes on offer. As well as this burnt orange – which is as close to brown as it is to orange in real life – it is available in 'charcoal'. I am not a high-vis evangelist by any means but I would like to see some stronger colours that make it stand out on the road a bit more.
DWR coatings will wash off and eventually need reapplying; I've washed the Portixol once, with no effect on its performance.
For a jacket that performs this well and looks this stylish, £100 is great value. Rapha's Commuter jacket is the same price, but Matt found it didn't perform well in terms of breathability.
The Vulpine Portixol combines technical performance with urban style: it is not only waterproof, breathable and durable but also works as a casual jacket. The lining feels a little clammy next to bare skin from the off, so it wouldn't be my first choice for summer rainy riding, but as a rain jacket for the other three seasons over long-sleeved clothing, on and off the bike, Vulpine has done a great job. I would also like to see the Portixol available in some stronger colours than just burnt orange and charcoal. Overall, a very good jacket for the price.
Stylish commuter jacket with the performance of a technical shell at a competitive price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Portixol 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?
Vulpine says: "A lightweight fully waterproof essential for every season, the Portixol waterproof jacket has your back when the weather takes a turn. It uses a highly breathable and lightweight ripstop fabric offering 15K waterproofing and 15K breathability to keep you comfortable and dry when you need it. A waterproof zip ends in a snug fleece collar to firmly lock out unwanted cold and wet. Superb attention to detail as ever, with reflective logos and a splash guard that folds away neatly with magnets."
This is on the whole an accurate description, but it's not lightweight compared to packable waterproofs, which I would say makes it a bit heavy for the summer. Additionally, the lining feels sticky next to bare skin, making it better as a top layer in autumn, winter and spring over long sleeves.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Vulpine lists these features:
Durable Ripstop fabric
Fully taped seams
Reflective logos and splash guard for visibility at night and poor conditions
Very nicely made with neat embroidered logos.
Able to keep out the rain and wind very effectively with good breathability.
Ripstop nylon is very tough.
Superb waterproofing, although when pushed (ie run under the tap) the zip eventually let in water while the fabric stayed completely waterproof.
Breathability is good, but I found the vents and the zip worked better for temperature regulation than the fabric. With bare arms, the sleeves became clammy inside during a hotter ride.
The more casual fit is flattering and easy to wear, not looking out of place in a non-cycling situation. For sportier cycling you would probably want something more figure hugging with some stretch.
In the size medium the sizing was perfect for me (185cm, 68kg). The sleeve length was spot on, as was the collar size.
It's not a lightweight jacket (as the manufacturer's claims) compared to packable shells.
Very comfortable as a casual jacket in a non-cycling situation, but on the bike the front is long and it does bunch slightly – you can't have it all.
£100 is a very fair price for the way the jacket performs and looks.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It has a DWR that will eventually wash off, so I have only washed it once in the test period. Our pre-production sample didn't have a label or printed instructions of its own, but we're told all jackets sold will.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
There are lighter, more cycling-specific jackets with airtight/watertight zips that make them totally waterproof, but as a practical and stylish commuter jacket it offers very good performance indeed for the price.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The waterproofing is great, keeping out all the rain in the test period, only beginning to breach at the zip when held under a running tap. I also liked that the styling doesn't shout 'cyclist', making it perfect for non-cycling situations where you don't necessarily want your chosen mode of transport to become your entire identity.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The feeling of the lining against bare arms, mostly.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The last commuter jacket I reviewed, the Showers Pass Transit CC has a list price of £160, while Vulpine's own Softshell Harrington is twice the price. Rapha's Commuter jacket is also £100 but breathability isn't great. In the performance-to-price ratio the Portixol represents good value.
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
The Vulpine Portixol is a good quality, stylish, non-packable commuter jacket with the performance of a technical shell. It does a great job of bridging the gap between the two arguably quite different types of outer layer, and the price is very competitive, especially since Vulpine has always aligned itself with premium brands like Rapha. I'm not keen on the tacky feel of the lining against bare skin, and I'd also like to see more colour options, but overall it's very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Racer Rosa custom alu My best bike is: Colnago Master Olympic
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: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, School run on a tandem
Simon finished his Masters in online journalism back in 2003 when the internet wasn't very exciting or popular yet. So he got a job as a sub editor on Britain's biggest weekly cycling magazine, where as well as taking out commas and putting them back in again he got to review a lot of bikes and kit.
As a keen time triallist he has spent many hours riding up and down dual carriageways early in the morning and has a national medal, a 19-minute 10 and a few open wins in his palmarès.
He and his seven-year-old son do the school run on a tandem, beating the traffic in car-choked Reigate and getting a great workout at the same time (for one of them).