Review of Showers Pass Women’s Elite 2.0 eVent jacket 314 USD (approx. £195) including postage plus £65 customs charge
**UPDATE : Click here to read the updated review of Showers Pass new version of the Elite 2.0 and our second visit to their HQ **
**UPDATE following visit on 25 May 2012 to Showers Pass, Portland**
I’m pleased to report that we’re just back from a very positive visit to the Showers Pass offices in Portland.
I’d emailed them a link to my review, and received a quick and friendly reply inviting me to visit them. We met Kyle, one of the owners of the company (and a fellow Brit from the north of England), at their small office. He’d kindly stayed late on a Friday before a holiday weekend in order to meet us. I was impressed with the way he listened and responded to my concerns – he’s a very genuine chap, who is clearly passionate about his product, which he and his team are constantly reviewing and improving. He was mortified that I’d had a bad experience with my Showers Pass jacket, and keen to hear my feedback. We spent a good forty minutes with him, and he took great care to work out what the problems had been, testing my jacket and demonstrating new, improved features of the latest model of the Elite 2.0 eVent.
Kyle replaced my jacket with the new model (a men’s medium in a nice bright blue, which seems to fit me better than the women’s large), and a slightly larger hood, and stressed that he was keen for me to keep in touch and send updates from the road about how the jacket is performing. We will certainly do so – thank you Kyle for your genuine response and desire to make your customers happy. We will report back in a couple of months once the new jacket has seen some Pacific Coast rain.
Here’s more details about my specific concerns, and how Kyle addressed them:
The fabric. Kyle poured water on my jacket and rubbed it in hard in order to test whether it actually passed through the membrane. While the surface waterproofing (the DWR) finish had clearly worn away, water didn’t actually pass through. My getting wet therefore seems due to condensation caused by the inner temperature exceeding the outer temperature, which was exacerbated by the lack of DWR finish. Kyle admitted that the DWR appeared to have worn off much more quickly than usual, and undertook to send the jacket to the manufacturers of eVent for their opinion. It’s also possible I was washing the jacket too frequently – about once a month with a gentle detergent is recommended, while I was washing it about twice a month. Kyle advised me to reproof the jacket when water stops ‘beading up’ on the fabric. Nikwax spray-on is apparently more effective than the wash-in version.
The cuffs. Hurrah! The new version of the Elite 2.0 doesn’t have the stretchy cuffs which soak up water. Showers Pass have listened to customer feedback, and the new model has simple cuffs in eVent material, with a velcro fastening. Much better.
The zip. The new model has a new, more substantial YKK zip with a strip of fabric or ‘gutter’ underneath.
The collar. My replacement jacket is a men’s medium, which has a slightly wider collar than my women’s large model, and seems to fit me better. For women looking to buy a Showers Pass jacket online, it might be worth you contacting the office directly with your measurements to see which model will best suit you.
The hood. Kyle gave me a new hood, which is slightly bigger than my original. I could still do with a little extra room, however, and Showers Pass are going to look into making the hoods a little larger, with extra velcro to cater for those of us with larger heads.
The rear pocket. Kyle gave a detailed explanation of why the pocket zips on the diagonal: vertical pockets make it too easy to lose items if you forget to close them, and horizontal pockets gather rainwater more quickly. This does make sense, though I still prefer horizontal pockets for ease of opening on the move.
The rear vent. The men’s medium I now have to test has a higher vent, with more of an overlap.
Clearly, the people at Showers Pass listen to customer feedback – I’m impressed. I’m now awaiting our next rainstorm with anticipation – let’s see how the new model Elite 2.0 jacket performs. I’ll keep you updated!
I’ve been putting off writing a review of this jacket as, sadly, it’s not going to be a glowing one, despite my very high hopes. It’s a shame, as I don’t like writing critical reviews, and I really like the ethos of this particular company. But, here goes. I plan to send a link to Showers Pass to see if they have any comments. We’re in Portland at the moment, so I may try to visit them. I’ll update you if I manage this.
Why did I buy a Showers Pass Women’s Elite 2.0 jacket?
We’ve just completed a tour in extreme conditions in South America, camping almost every day, and are no strangers to rain. In fact, in Chilean Patagonia there was a period of unbroken rain which lasted over ten days. We’ll be on the road for about 18 months in total so, before setting off on our big trip, I did extensive research to make sure I bought a reliable, hard-wearing waterproof jacket.
Reliability of “waterproofness”, durability and breathability were important to me, so I finally decided to fork out a lot of brass for a Showers Pass Women’s Elite 2.0 jacket, in eVent fabric, marketed as being more breathable than Gore Tex. (From the Showers Pass website, the jacket “uses eVent™ 3–Layer fabric for assured durability and exceptionally breathable, lightweight waterproof protection. Seven venting options offer great protection with less overheating.”)
How much did it cost?
The jacket was not cheap: I couldn’t find a stockist in the UK, so ended up ordering it directly from Showers Pass, a company based in Portland, Oregon, USA. Including the £65 UK customs charge, the jacket and separate hood set me back £260. I wanted enough room to add a few layers underneath, so instead of my usual medium, I bought a size large, in bright red.
How did it perform?
After three months on the road, during which I’ve worn the jacket in weather conditions ranging from light showers, to snow, to torrential rain with 120kph winds, here are my impressions of the jacket.
The good stuff
The cut. The jacket has a very long rear tail with a higher cut around the front of the waist. While this looks slightly odd off the bike, it’s a good cut when on the bike. Hoever, if you wear non-cycling gear underneath, as I do, it tends to poke out under the front of the jacket.
The colour. I went for a bright, pillbox red (it’s also available in blue and yellow). I really like it. The colour is not a typical dayglo bright yellow, yet I’m told I’m still very visible when I wear it, be that around town or in the middle of the Argentinian Pampas.
The zip. I really like the idea of the two-way zip, allowing you to ventilate the jacket from above and below. There are also handy pit zips, which help matters of ventilation. However, see more about the zips, below.
Sadly, that’s about it for the good stuff.
The not-so-good stuff
The fabric. It’s hugely disappointing that this pretty fundamental feature of the jacket has let me down so soon. I bought the jacket in September 2011 and have worn it regularly on our tour from January to April 2012. But the fabric is simply not waterproof anymore.
During the first month, rain beaded up and rolled off the jacket, keeping me and my clothes dry. Then, the jacket started to lose its water resistance and rain now saturates the fabric, transferring to my clothing underneath within about ten minutes. For example, in a recent four-hour ride in heavy rain along the Carretera Austral, my merino wool baselayer was soaking wet within about half an hour of the rain starting, mainly where the rain hit me the hardest: down the arms, across the chest and across the shoulders. I even resorted to wrapping my arms in plastic bags attached with elastic bands to keep off the worst of the wet!
I’ve regularly washed the jacket, as advised by the eVent website, but this hasn’t done much to rejuvenate its waterproofness. I’ve not tried ironing the jacket as there appears to be conflicting advice about whether this is helpful: the jacket’s label says yes, the eVent website says no. I’ve emailed eVent fabrics in Europe (firstname.lastname@example.org) to ask their advice and am still waiting to hear back.
The cuffs. These are made from a thick, stretchy, wetsuit-like material, with solid velcro fastenings. They’re very comfortable, but as soon as the heavens open you begin to realise the fundamental flaw in their design. The cuffs aren’t water-resistant, and so immediately begin to soak up rainwater to the point of saturation, leaving you with a soggy, cold, dripping mass around your wrist. Ugh. They need to be wrung out when the rain stops, and take a long time to dry. Worse still, wetness from the cuffs is quickly transferred to whatever dry clothing you have on underneath. I usually wear a long-sleeved merino baselayer under the jacket, which slowly but surely gets wetter and wetter from wrist to elbow. Even before the eVent material failed to be waterproof, I’d end up with wet lower arms, due to the poor cuff design. To avoid this, I’ve resorted to pulling up the sleeves of my baselayer, and have even considered cutting off the ‘wetsuit fabric’ cuffs completely.
The zip. As I said above, I really like the idea of the two-way zip. However, about a month ago the zip began to fail: it’s now tricky to engage at the beginning, and I have to take great care to avoid the teeth separating. Not ideal.
The collar. I don’t have a particularly huge neck, but the collar of my size large jacket (remember, one size larger than usual, so I can put extra layers underneath), fits extremely snugly. In fact, when I have a thin base layer underneath, it fairly garrots me. With a thin Buff underneath, I have no chance at all of doing up the collar completely, and so have to leave it open to the elements. The fit is uncomfortable and bizarre. I’d prefer another centimetre or so of material to allow me to breathe.
The hood. The jacket doesn’t come with a hood as standard. I bought the separate hood, which is also made from eVent material. It fits to the jacket with three velcro tabs and is a reasonably good cut, although the brim could be a bit stiffer, as it flops about in the wind. However, its main drawback is similar to that of the jacket’s collar – it’s far too tight around the neck! With a thin buff underneath, I cannot fasten the velcro, and so usually have it flapping open.
The rear pocket. While this looks very stylish, the diagonally-zipped rear pocket is not very practical. Firstly, unlike a horizontally-zipped pocket, it’s almost impossible to zip up ‘on the diagonal’ while on the move using only one hand (which is not very handy – no pun intended – when on the bike). But, even worse, if you forget to close the zip, the pocket is at such an angle that it gathers rainwater at quite a pace, and, if you’re not careful, you’re left with an unfortunate puddle in your pocket.
The rear vent. The rear of the jacket has quite a large horizontal vent, which is intended to help let your sweat out. However, with a strong tailwind, the vent is so large and the overlap of fabric over the vent so shallow, that it gapes open, often letting water in. I should say that, in my case, this problem could have been exacerbated by the fact that I’ve chosen one size larger than usual.
I can only give the Elite 2.0 jacket one “oink” out of five. In summary, I had high hopes for this jacket, and thought has clearly gone into the design, but many factors disappoint. I’m going to attempt another reproofing session, but if that doesn’t work, I’ll have to look for an alternative waterproof. The next leg of our cycle tour will take us down the Pacific Coast, so we need to be prepared for rain.