One of those things we just have to accept as cyclists is that the weather will not always be on our side. In the Philippines, the onset of rainfall can catch many unaware, especially those that aren’t prepared for it. For a pedestrian commuter, preparation usually consists of an umbrella of some sort. For cyclists, it’s a waterproof outer layer – usually a rain jacket.
Indeed, a rain jacket is a near-permanent fixture on my center jersey pocket on long rides. My particular jacket, though, a Sugoi Zap from 2014, is a bulky item. Rolled up into a cylindrical bundle, it hogs all the center pocket’s space, leaving no room for other items to carry in that location.
As far as waterproofs go, Sugoi’s first hyper-reflective rain jacket was decent. The Pixel fabric incorporated very tiny glass beads for the reflectivity, while taped seams took care of the battle against water ingress, and a mesh inner lining provided insulation. It even has a dropped tail hem to protect your ass from mud if you ride with no fenders.
It has its shortcomings. Breathability is decent, but the only choice you have for venting out your steamed-up sweat is the main zipper. The fit is a little baggy, which is great for riding with street clothes, but adds a bit of drag. I’ve seen the glass beads rub off the fabric, too, after years of living in my center jersey pocket…where its bulk makes its presence felt and seen, as mentioned.
Then I saw Carmela Pearson of Audax Randonneurs Philippines organize a group-buy for the Sportful Hot Pack 5 rain jacket sometime in late 2016. She had had a good experience with it, even riding with it to the Gran Fondo Marmotte in July of that year. I passed on it then, but chanced upon it again a little later, when it went on clearance sale at a discounted price.
- Advertised weight: 79 grams
- Made of Schoeller Nanosphere, a windproof, water-resistant polyamide/rayon fabric
- Reflective accents on the lower back
- Vented at the back and underarms
- Packable; comes with its own integrated stuff sack with drawstring
According to Sportful, this particular jacket is the base model – the “5” refers to the fifth generation of the Hot Pack since it debuted in 2001. Next up the hierarchy is the Ultralight version, which weighs even less at 50 grams, but offers the same benefits. Finally, there is the Hot Pack NoRain Stretch, which keeps the same shape and fit, but adds stretch panels in the back and taped seams for better water resistance – and heaviest of the line at 105 grams. Most of the Hot Pack line is offered in gilet (vest) form, too.
The first thing that struck me with the blue jacket I ordered is just how light and thin it is. It feels around one or two steps removed from flimsy…but remember that this is meant to be an ultra-packable rain jacket, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. The blurb about the Schoeller Nanosphere material is that it’s made up of very fine yarns that are woven very densely, hence the water resistance.
There’s got to be more to it than this initial impression, then.
Putting it on…it’s pretty snug. Mine is an XL sized item, same as the Zap, but the two cannot be more different in practice. Where the Sugoi was baggy, the Hot Pack 5 can almost be called “tailored” to the fit of a rider in a cycling jersey, such is the closeness of its fit to the torso. Naturally it will accentuate any bulges you already have, so getting the sizing right is critical. The material does have a bit of stretch and give, but much less than a typical cycling jersey.
The Hot Pack 5 advertises itself as a windproof, and one useful touch to aid this is found on the ends of the sleeves. They are elasticated and come with thumb loops, to ensure that the sleeves stay in place and do not hike up your arms while riding your road bike. Very neat.
Around the ribcage area below the underarms are overlapping slats cut into the black fabric. These, along with the vents on the back panel, are the Hot Pack 5’s concession to venting the heat and sweat buildup you will inevitably pick up when riding hard in the rain. There’s even a small center pocket, flanked each side by four pieces of reflective material along the lower back. These are placed well for road cyclists’ visibility, as they tend to be bent over the bike.
The real party trick of the Hot Pack 5, though, lies somewhere within the center pocket. Inside is a stuff sack with a drawstring. You can basically roll up the jacket inside this tiny stuff sack…
…and end up with a package as big as a typical “pandesal putok” bun. As it is, mine is just slightly larger than my fist. Rain protection in a package a quarter of the size of the rolled-up Sugoi Zap? Now that is awesome.
I’ve ridden around in this jacket a few times, and it does an admirable job keeping the wind chill out while giving relatively good water resistance. It can actually be rather sweat-inducing if ridden somewhere with no wind. As with many other rain jackets, it’s the arms that tend to wet out first in the rain, but considering that this has no taped seams, it’s quite effective. Your back and torso will stay quite warm and dry even if your forearms have dampened.
Given how light and packable this is, the Hot Pack 5 leaves you absolutely no excuse to not bring a rain jacket and prepare for sudden changes in weather. Again, though, it’s not perfect. Even though Schoeller touts Nanosphere is abrasion-resistant, I do worry about tearing the very thin material in a crash. It’s also not ideal for riding with bulkier street clothes; I think it will accommodate a base layer, a jersey, and arm wamers underneath – at most. It also leaves out some ultimate water resistance on the table by reserving taped seams for the more expensive NoRain version.