Review: five packable shell jackets

Words and photos: Adam Newman and Jon Pratt

Having one of these lightweight, packable layers handy can make the difference between a miserable experience and getting home comfortably. If you’re going to put in long rides in the rain with a pack on, we recommend grabbing a jacket with tougher materials (and none of these are super-duper waterproof). Keep one of these in the bottom of your pack just in case you get caught out in the rain, cold breeze or get chilly at your after-ride beverage hangout. 

Patagonia jacket

Patagonia Houdini

  • Price: $99
  • Weight: 108 grams
  • Fit and shape: Designed for all-purpose use, it has a horizontal hem and baggier fit.
  • Material: Nylon with DWR treatment
  • Packability: Packs into its chest pocket with zipper closure
  • Hits: Non-cycling style makes it more versatile
  • Misses: Non-cycling fit catches more wind as you ride
  • Best for: Bike to casual crossover
  • Also available for women

Sugoi jacket

Sugoi RS Jacket

  • Price: $80
  • Weight: 112 grams
  • Fit and shape: Slimmest fit. Designed for road cycling it is the least flappy in the breeze. No hood.
  • Material: 100 percent polyester
  • Packability: Packs into its own rear pocket, with zipper closure.
  • Hits: Extra straps allow the packed jacket to stow under your bike’s seat.
  • Misses: Slimmest fit might not be as practical for everyday trail riding or non-bike use.
  • Best for: Cross-counry racer types, roadies
  • Also available for women

Nau jacket

Nau Slight Pullover

  • Price: $135
  • Weight: 158 grams
  • Fit and shape: Pullover design saves weight and has no zipper to break. More generous fit, with hood.
  • Material: Recycled polyester with a crunchy feel and DWR treatment.
  • Packability: Packs into its chest pocket, with zipper closure.
  • Hits: Thickest fabric of the group seems more durable.
  • Misses: Lack of zipper means you have to remove your headgear to put it on or take it off.
  • Best for: Harder use
  • Available for women as a full-zip jacket

Novarra jacket

Novara Stowable Bike Jacket

  • Price: $70
  • Weight: 111 grams
  • Fit and shape: Slim cycling fit, but still big enough to wear over a flannel shirt. Back vents allow access to jersey pockets. No hood.
  • Material: Nylon shell with glossy sheen.
  • Packability: Packs into its chest pocket, with zipper closure.
  • Hits: Sold through REI with its generous return and exchange policy.
  • Misses: Sold only through REI.
  • Best for: Mountain biking, road riding, commuting
  • Also available for women

Kitsbow jacket

Kitsbow King Ridge Windbreaker

  • Price: $179
  • Weight: 112 grams
  • Fit and shape: Mid-range fit keeps it from being baggy. Size down if you want a slim, road riding fit. No hood.
  • Material: Nylon with DWR treatment, sewn in America.
  • Packability: Will fit into its own chest pocket, but no zipper closure.
  • Hits: Off-center zipper is more comfortable than having a zipper in your throat.
  • Misses: Price is significantly higher than the competition.
  • Best for: Riding with some luxury
  • Not available for women



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