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I'm a little bit conflicted about the Vulpine Waterproof Utility Jacket. On the one hand, it's probably the most waterproof outer layer I've ever used: there's nothing getting through. And the hood and cut mean it's more versatile than just a riding shell. On the other, the cut doesn't quite work in a road bike position and the decision not to give the jacket a water-repellent coating is an odd one, albeit easily fixed. Overall, it's plenty good enough that it gets a lot of use, both on and off the bike.
The Utility jacket is very smartly made from a soft-touch fabric that Vulpine rates as 15,000mm waterproof. That's high, and it's borne out in testing. I've deliberately gone out on my bike in the heaviest rain I could find – and I live in the South West, so that's pretty heavy – and come back bone dry. Well, my torso anyway. My feet and legs, not so much. The full length front zip has a storm flap behind to keep drips off your inner layers and nothing got in through the pockets or the seams either.
The hood is a good shape, and adjustable if you want to wear it and removable if you don't.
On the bike you can let down the rear flap to keep spray off your rear, and it has the added advantage of making you a bit more visible, since it's bright and reflective. Four magnets keep it stowed away if you don't need it. For generally being waterproof, the Vulpine gets top marks. It couldn't really be any more waterproof. Full marks for that.
The fabric is also rated as highly breathable, and for the most part that's true. If it's cold and dry then the moisture transfer works well, and it's aided by the fact that the jacket features three vents on each side, under the arms, to allow even more moisture to escape. If you're wondering whether these let in water when it's chucking it down: they don't. They're expertly positioned.
When the weather's foul and the jacket is wet, breathability suffers, but that's not a problem confined to this jacket, it's true of all outer layers. The Utility jacket doesn't have a water-repellent coating from new, though, and this means the fabric wets quite quickly. That doesn't affect its water resistance but it does impact on breathability, and also makes the fabric feel a bit clammy next to the skin if you're not wearing a long-sleeved top.
I treated the jacket to a helping of Nikwax TX-Direct and left it to dry over the radiator, and the next time I wore it in the rain it was markedly improved, with the water beading well on the surface and the jacket feeling a lot nicer for a lot longer. It didn't affect the breathability or the luxuriant feel of the fabric. So if you get one, do that.
Mostly, the jacket is very nicely designed and proportioned. I was wearing a large, which the Vulpine chart suggests should be just right for me. In the body it certainly was, but I found the arms just a bit too short, and I'm not sure the cuff design is the best for a foul weather jacket. I've got an ape index (ratio of span to height) of 1.01, so I'm a pretty normal shape. On a road bike I found that the sleeves rode up a bit: a few extra centimetres of fabric would have been good.
The sleeves have a soft internal cuff that's very comfortable, but on the bike it sticks out a bit and acts like a sponge, soaking up water and transferring it to your long-sleeved top, so your arms can end up a bit wet even though the sleeves are completely waterproof. That could do with a rethink: just setting the soft cuff a bit further up the sleeve and making the sleeve a bit longer would probably do it.
The Utility jacket's main plus point is its, erm, utility. It's a really versatile jacket. Sleeve issues aside, it's really comfortable to ride in, especially in a touring position when you're not reaching so far. It's great for commuting, and the reinforced shoulder panels mean it works well with a rucksack.
Off the bike it's just the ticket for walking, be that into town or over some kind of mountain. It's sufficiently neutral in style that it doesn't look too bikey, and there's plenty of pocket space for phones and wallets and such.
It's a front-of-the-coat-rack coat, for sure. It's well made, the fabric performs well, it looks good. You'll get a lot of use out of it.
Good quality do-anything jacket that's best-in-class waterproof
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine Men’s Waterproof Utility Jacket
Size tested: Large, Aqua
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Vulpine says: "Fully waterproof, with a removeable hood and splash guard, the Utility Jacket is designed as your every-season shell, with exceptional ventilation and breathability for hours of comfort in all situations.
"A cycling-specific waterproof that you can wear anywhere in a persistent heavy rain. The waterproof fabric is highly breathable, but without the crinkly plastic feel that makes them so off-putting. The texture is soft, comfortable and low key. A trio of large side vents down the torso help warm, moist air escape backwards out the jacket, preventing the excessive sweating that plagues waterproofs. A removeable hood and rear storm guard finish off this highly versatile jacket."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fully waterproof fabric, rated 15,000mm waterproof
3 large vents each side of torso, angled to allow warm moist air to leave but no rain to enter
Extremely breathable, rated 15,000mp breathability
Zip-removable reflective splash guard with retainer magnets to stow it away when not used
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Pretty well. It's very, very, very waterproof. I'm not so convinced by some of the details, nor of the decision to not add a water-repellent coating.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Very nicely made, very waterproof.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sleeves a bit short for an aggressive position, cuffs transmit water to long-sleeved tops, and the feel of the fabric when wet.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, especially once I'd Nikwaxed it.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, depending on what they wanted to use it for.
Use this box to explain your score
Overall, given that it's fairly expensive, I'd say the Utility jacket is a good investment. It's good for more than just cycling and is wearing well. The issues are relatively minor but they do niggle when you're paying over £200.
About the tester
Age: 43 Height: 189cm Weight: 92kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.