For some people, summer riding doesn’t need much defining, it’s either hot or very hot. However, for a lot of us, things are a little more complicated, and there’s no better example than the UK this week, where temperatures hit record highs but it also rained. More and more as summer begins to fade, many of us will head out the door not quite sure what the weather will bring. You might alternatively be heading out the door and expecting to climb for an hour or two in the sun before descending from a cold and windy ridge line. Times like these are when an emergency jacket makes sense.
Our collection of the best waterproof cycling jackets reflects a desire to handle some of the worst storms. If you expect a day of riding in the rain, there are options on that list to fit the need in a variety of ways. What if it’s more complicated than that though?
No one is more well known for its offerings in this corner of the jacket market than Sportful so we have put the brand’s latest offering to the test. We’ve been riding with the Sportful Hot Pack No Rain jacket since the spring and now we are ready to discuss all the ins and outs. If you are looking for a lightweight jacket to bring along just in case keep reading to see if the Sportful Hot Pack No Rain is something you should add to your options.
Design and aesthetics
There have been a lot of versions of the Sportful Hot Pack No Rain jackets and they have been around for a long time. Even the current model year offers both the No Rain and the Easylight version. This review covers the slightly heavier, slightly more fitted, and waterproof No Rain version.
Colour-wise, it’s a mostly monochromatic jacket with color options covering black, white, and orange. We had a chance to spend time with the white version of the jacket and that means a very bright jacket with only a few, small, color deviations. The bottom hem uses an elastic, although not high-stretch, edging that’s entirely black. Just above that detail is another bit of black which helps keep most of the tail looking a bit better by adding a black section. Then, the only other piece that’s not white is a bit higher where the rear pocket uses black seam tape. On top of the white panels, there’s a bit of reflectivity in the form of a Sportful logo on the chest and over the pocket.
The pocket, which Sportful has highlighted in black, isn’t actually for holding riding gear. It’s not impossible to use it like that but it’s somewhat small and it’s quite tough to access because of the flap that covers the top. Its primary purpose is as an integrated storage pouch, and for this, it works very well.
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Within a few moments, you can stuff the jacket into this pouch, and the flap holds it all together. It weighs a total of 123 grams, and it takes up 150mm x 100mm x 64mm without any particular compression effort. This transformation is what the Sportful Hot Pack design is all about. When the rain comes or the cool descent begins, pulling it back out of the pouch takes less than 10 seconds to do.
The bulk of the jacket is a polyamide fabric that has an almost paper-like feel to it. The outside is the more paper-like of the two surfaces while the inside has a non-functional dot pattern and is a little more plastic feeling to the touch. The only place where the outer surface touches the skin is at the neckline where it is doubled over.
A slight variation in color comes in when you look at the smaller panels placed strategically all over the jacket. You can find these panels making up the end of each sleeve, then heading up the underside of the arm, down each side of the jacket, and over each shoulder. The composition changes from polyamide to 86 per cent polyester with 14 per cent elastane while the texture changes to a soft rubbery feeling that’s the same inside and out. The black section at the bottom of the tail uses this same softer, stretchier, fabric as well although it’s much more obvious given the color change.
Both materials have the same ability to resist water intrusion but differ in other ways. The most obvious advantage of the inserts is that they are stretchy, they also breathe, but they have drawbacks as well. The temptation would be to build the whole jacket from the insert material but it’s heavier and less wear-resistant.
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This is the sixth generation of the Sportful Hot Pack concept, and over all of those previous iterations, one of the common complaints has been noise while riding. This latest version addresses that issue thanks to stretch panels, which has the added benefit of improving its fit too.
The added stretch results in a jacket that’s slimmer with better side tapering and no extra material on the shoulders. The weight has increased compared to the lightest of the previous options but at 123g, it’s still not much. More importantly, the packed volume isn’t drastically different.
In the spring, I spent a lot of time carrying the Sportful No Rain Hot Pack jacket around in my jersey pocket. For morning starts I’d wear it out of the house, packing it away into the bottom of my jersey as the day warmed up, where it would share space in most jersey pockets with my ride food. In unpredictable weather, it’s ready to keep you dry at a moment’s notice, and wearing it for an extended time was perfectly comfortable. The fit and stretch feels just right and the neckline is a particular high point.
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The one major issue with the Sportful No Rain Hot Pack jacket is the zipper. Major is perhaps an overstatement but it does stand out on such a good jacket and it contributes to the breathability issues. The zipper uses nylon teeth and it’s the smallest N3 format. In this case, it’s attached in a reversed format which leaves the smooth side, when closed, outward facing and there’s a backing flap the whole length. None of those details add up to something that slides easily and when combined with an ultralight jacket it’s a recipe for a challenging experience. You will need two hands to unzip it so you might find yourself leaving it up at times when allowing some airflow would be ideal.
As someone who rarely unzips a jacket, and never a jersey, I noticed this at a time when this jacket actually excels. As the seasons changed from a cool, wet, spring into summer I found myself still carrying the Sportful jacket just in case. Riding in the mountains in late afternoon rain is sometimes an issue so on the first ride of a recent trip, I had the jacket just in case. The morning was hot and the group I was with climbed for over an hour before finding the top of the ridge. As we lost the protection of the mountain it was suddenly quite a bit cooler and windy. We were all soaked from the climb and pretty soon teeth were chattering. I put on the Sportful jacket and was able to warm back up. As we descended, I kept it on and stayed comfortable.
It was at the bottom of the descent that the zipper issue became apparent. Given the option, I would have opened up the jacket but kept it on. Not being much of a bike handler though I opted to keep both hands on the bars and deal with the quickly warming air as I continued down to the valley floor.
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There are all-day rain jackets, and there are just-in-case cycling jackets for rain and wind. If you are looking for the latter, the choices are actually quite slim. Sportful has made a name for itself filling the niche over the years and the latest version has only gotten better. An improved fit means a more comfortable jacket in general and flapping in the wind shoulders are a thing of the past.
If you are looking for an easy-to-carry solution for summer bikepacking, protection for long descents, or a just-in-case solution for rain, the Sportful No Rain Hot Pack is a great option. The lightweight design means it’s not super breathable and the hard-to-use zipper doesn’t help that situation but the drawbacks aren’t a surprise. Sportful is capable of fixing them with added weight but it has prioritized lightness and packability. If that sounds like what you are after, this will be a mainstay in your table of options for years to come.
|Breathability||Not super breathable but that’s expected||5/10|
|Neckline Comfort||Really one of the best features||10/10|
|Protection from the elements||Not meant for all day in bad weather but it does an excellent job for what it is.||8/10|
|Packability||This is the point of this jacket. Ultra packable and easy to bring just in case.||10/10|
|Fashion appeal (does it look/feel good)||Not the most fashion oriented piece in general but the fit is excellent and it looks good.||8/10|
|Value for money||There are similar solutions at half the price, but these often miss out on flap-free stretch panels||6/10|
Tech Specs: Sportful Hot Pack No Rain Jacket
- Price: £170 / $170 / €149,90 / AU $274.95
- Weight: 123 grams in size small
- Size availability: S-XXXL
- Color Options: Black, White, Orange SDR
- Packaged Size: 152mm x 102mm x 64mm