Let’s start with the givens. I live in Ashland. Basically, it’s Northern California in terms of climate, so with the exception of the dead of winter, there isn’t a LOT of need for a jacket. That said, it does rain here. For about 3 or 4 months out of the year, tops. And occasionally, it’s cold when that happens.
So…I am always on the lookout for a jacket that I can run in, that breathes, is comfortable, lightweight, will keep me dry and not turn into a sauna on the inside by mile 5 due to keeping in all my sweat and body heat.
My first take on the Pearl Izumi Fly Convertible Jacket ($105) was when I slipped it on early one March morning getting ready to head out for a 21 mile mountains run near Applegate Lake. I thought it would be a good test environment, I was very chilly at the start, but knew within about 5-8 miles I’d be looking to pack it into my hydration vest. The first thing that hit me was that there are holes under the arms. Holes big enough for my arms to pop out as though it were a vest. This is by design. At first, I did not understand said design, was slightly confused but just rolled with it. I am about6’1″ tall and weigh 155 lbs, so I wear a men’s medium in all my running tops (shirts, jackets, etc) so this one was the same. This is generally a bit dicey in
long sleeved things, such as jackets, as often the sleeves are too short for me while the torso fits very well but is sometimes short.
The fit of the jacket was comfortably snug; meaning not at all restricting and allowing full movement where I needed it, but it wasn’t going to flap around in inclement weather or turn into a sail if a gust of wind smacked me in the face. The sleeves were adequately long (meaning perhaps slightly short for my long arms, but not as much as most men’s M running attire, so I call this a win). While milling around waiting to get started, I examined the “sleeve holes” a bit more, and realized that the sleeves and “back flap” (more on that soon) could be zippered off to convert the jacket into a vest, and that there were (for lack of a better word) flaps to keep the holes covered in rain, thus keeping moisture out. Seemed promising, but given it was dry I wouldn’t get a chance to really check this out. The aforementioned “back flap” was actually an extension of the sleeves, connecting them so if you remove one they both zip off – thus making a vest. The flap portion of this covers several small openings that allow the jacket to breathe well during exercise.
Within about an hour + of climbing and running, the sun was starting to beat down on us and it was time to take the jacket off. That’s when I noticed just how much I had not noticed it –
even as the day heated up. Those arm holes and ventilation on the back allowed the jacket to breathe very well, keeping me cool despite the additional layer, and upon taking it off I did not feel like I had just stepped out of a sauna – soaked in my own sweat – as I usually do when removing a jacket, a real downer when you strip off a jacket in cold weather. While it wasn’t cold, the fact I was (relatively) dry led me to believe that if it were I wouldn’t instantly regret removing the jacket as I normally do in colder weather, but instead that it would be a comfortable outer layer on long, craptastic weather runs.
Stashability (it’s a word!)
The next test was packing it in my vest. In an attempt to simulate a race, I simply balled it up quickly and stuffed it in my hydration vest. It shrank into a very easy to pack size, stowed easily and added very minimal weight to my pack. Cold morning/nice day impressions – a great jacket to start with and easily converted to a vest or just packed away as the day progressed. So far, so good.
A few weeks later I was signed up to run the Gorge 100K. The weather predictions in that part of Oregon, especially in the spring, are all over the place. I packed everything from tank tops to tights, so this jacket seemed like a natural fit. I could make it a vest on the fly, after all. As that race started at 4 a.m., it was cold and rain was predicted for the first 8+ hours of the day, I opted for the full jacket, sleeves intact. The best thing I can say about it is that I didn’t notice it once the entire run. It sat very comfortably on climbs, descents, and flats. When we were sprayed by the waterfalls and when it began to drizzle/rain a bit, I stayed dry. Those “arm hole” vents and the ventilation across the back, despite their relative size, did not allow any water in that I perceived. Granted, it wasn’t a downpour, and I could see serious rain and wind pushing moisture into those openings, but frankly, what jacket keeps you dry in those conditions anyway? I easily wore my racing vest (Ultimate Direction SJ model) over the vest with perfect comfort. I ran with the jacket on for the first 50K of the race (just over 6 hours) and felt it held up perfectly, it breathed very well, the weight was not even noticeable and the fit held it in place so there was no rubbing or chaffing in any areas at all. By the halfway point it was pretty clear the rain was likely to hold off, so I dropped it with my friend simply to stay cooler in the coming midday heat.
In looking at it removed from racing and running, I will echo my earlier comment of how well it fits. Very comfortable around the waist without being too tight or snug. The sleeves are long enough for my gorilla length arms, and they taper enough to keep them in place without feeling restrictive on the wrist at all or making it impossible to wear a Garmin under it. It sits loose enough across my shoulders and chest, so there is no rubbing but not so loose there is any flapping at all, even when descending quickly. Once I got used to the idea, I actually very much appreciate the ability to remove the sleeves.
I can see this being an excellent jacket for very long runs/races, where the weather is a question mark and/or running through the night or at very different elevations.
The jacket has a single back pocket that the sleeves and shoulder flap fit very nicely into should you want to convert it to a vest on the run (I would prefer another pocket or two, perhaps on the chest or sleeve, but I’m also a notorious over packer, so this would just lead to me unnecessarily overfilling them!). I have had zero problems with any of the zippers snagging on the flaps, either on the sleeves or the jacket closure itself, it’s a very well made jacket. The material breathes very well, and yet keeps moisture out in rain/mist (like waterfalls). When coupled with the ventilation, makes this a great jacket to wear even as you get warm.
Excellent material and design
Compact and lightweight
Breathability in a jacket
Conversion to a vest is quick and easy
Keeps you dry in light rain (haven’t tested in a downpour, because we haven’t had one!)
Style/appearance. It’s a very 80s looking jacket in my opinion, and while sometimes that works, I don’t love it on this jacket. Of course, i don’t buy gear on appearance but instead on functionality, so if this is the worst complaint…
In summary, this is by far the best running jacket I have run in. The versatility of it makes it an absolutely perfect jacket for runs that will take you through a variety of climates (cold to warm, rain to dry, etc.) or that includes significant altitude changes. It packs up very small, so it’s very easy to stow in a very small pocket. It is 100% polyester material, washes well and air dries relatively quickly.
If you’re interested in purchasing this jacket, please visit your locally owned running specialty store or purchase it via this link. It’ll drop a few nickels into the URP bucket. Thanks!
Since I was on the DL most of the last two months–and we’ve had unseasonably warm weather in California–I asked Joseph Chick to review this jacket for URP. Full disclosure: Though this review was written prior to the announcement, Joe now runs for the Pearl Izumi Ultra Team. This review was written entirely by him and was not edited or influenced by his affiliation with the organization. The jacket was provided to him by URP. Hopefully he’ll buy me a beer next time I see him.