It’s been a while since I treated you to one of my detailed and informative (ha!) product reviews, so today let’s have a little look at a lightweight jacket from our chums at Ron Hill.
As always, I’ll start off with the caveat that I don’t pretend to understand the various technical aspects of running gear (or of anything else, for that matter). My reviews will always be from the perspective of someone who is blissfully ignorant of anything other than the most obvious of features. For example, while I don’t know what “taped seams” are, I know enough to nod sagely and make approving noises when the man in the shop tells me that my new jacket has them*.
First impressions then. This was an unusual purchase in that I was paying with a gift voucher, so it didn’t really feel like I was spending real money (despite the fact that the voucher was given to me by my wife on my birthday, and paid for out of our joint account). If I had been handing over real jingly-foldy money, would I have paid £50 for this jacket? Honest answer: probably not. The first thing that struck me was that it was incredibly thin and lightweight, just a single cagoule-like layer so arguably not much material for your money. But I bought it anyway, because I’d read good reviews and, more importantly, it came to exactly the same amount as my fistful of imaginary cash so was (to my woolly little mind) free.
So if I hadn’t been shopping with a gift voucher I probably wouldn’t have chosen this jacket, which is a shame because if that were the case I would have missed out on a fantastic piece of kit. Let’s have a look at what makes it so great…
Firstly, the colour. It’s a kind of astroturf green, which makes a nice change from the usual choice of black or high-viz. While the main colour isn’t as reflective as others, it’s bright and garish enough to get you noticed by motorists (unless you happen to be running in front of a cinematic green screen, in which case you’ll blend right in. But they’ll probably just add the speeding car in later using CGI so, being pretend, it’s far less likely to run you over). In terms of safety, there are several strategically-placed reflective strips, so visibility shouldn’t be an issue, day or night.
Secondly, the features. These are quite low key (for instance, there are no airbags and it doesn’t have one of those special klaxons that wards off mountain lions), and instead it’s a case of “simple things done well” with several thoughtful touches. Although the vast majority of the jacket is made of ultra-thin breathable raincoaty stuff (“Activelite”, apparently), the collar is lined with a microfleece material that really adds a feeling of warmth and comfort. The drawstrings at the bottom are designed for one-handed use, which while not being exactly a deal-breaker is yet another example of the attention to detail to be found here. The only feature that really comes anywhere close to being a gimmick is the patch of Velcro in the centre of the back where you can attach a Ron Hill Vizion LED (not included). I didn’t buy one of those so I can’t comment on how good they are or how well they stay attached to the jacket, but I think it’s good that they offer it as an optional extra, rather than including one as standard and ramping up the price.
If I had to pick one gripe, it would be with the pocket. It’s small, which is fine as it wouldn’t take much to weigh down such a lightweight jacket, but the fact that it’s only pocketed on one side meant that when I first tried it out, I just found myself running round and round in little circles until I got used to the imbalance. Not really.
…well, okay, a bit.
Of course, the reason you’d wear a jacket while running is to protect yourself from the elephants elements, and so this is where we find out if the Ron Hill Advance Windlite is worth the money. I’ve worn it a few times now, and the first two outings were for long (15+ mile) runs in that horrible misty super-rain. You know, the sort that makes you feel like you’ve woken up in a carwash again after a night on the Drambuie. I didn’t set out to do any kind of empirical test of the jacket’s water-repellent qualities, and so it was difficult to judge whether any dampness was due to rain or sweat. The rain did seem to be beading off the surface of the material rather than soaking in, and the important thing for me was that while I might have been wet, I didn’t feel wet. I could see the rain pelting down, I could feel the icy wind on my face, but the jacket did a stand-up job of making sure that none of this had an adverse effect on my run***. And for me, that’s a resounding success.
So, back to the price. Before trying this jacket out, I would have lumped it in with the type of lightweight high-viz you can pick up from Karrimor for a tenner, so the £50 price tag did feel a bit excessive. But having put it to the test, I can happily say that you get what you pay for, and there are plenty of similarly specced jackets out there for a much higher price.
Their pathological aversion to the correct spelling of “light” notwithstanding, Ron Hill have done well here. This jacket has the feel of a product made for runners by runners.
What’s that? You’re not following me on twitter? Shame on you! If you want to see if I spout as much gibberish on there as I do here, just look for @borntoplodblog.
I bought the jacket at The Running Shop in Northampton (http://therunningshop.org.uk).
* I can’t remember if the particular jacket I’m reviewing today has these, but it does have a zip, if that helps. ** I’ve since had a look around, and several pieces of Ron Hill kit have the LEDdock, so I think the idea is that you only need to buy one light which you can then chop and change depending on what you’re wearing as an outer layer. I wouldn’t recommend wearing one of the lights under your outer layer, unless your vest is scared of the dark. *** My running had an adverse effect on my run.