The Northwave Ghost H2O Water Repellent Jacket is a stretchy top for keeping the wind and rain out in changeable off-season weather, coming with several neat features that add to its appeal.
The Ghost H2O is made from a polyester/elastane membrane fabric. It's heavier than a typical jersey fabric but it's not as thick as you get on a jacket designed for the coldest winter days. Northwave says that with its napped inner face this top is suitable for temperatures from 5°C to 15°C. I reckon that's about right if you use a long sleeve baselayer at the lower end of the range and a short sleeve baselayer towards the upper end, although we're all different. If you run hot you might be tapping out at temperatures below 15.
The H2O fabric stops the wind getting in and offers "up to 10,000mm waterproof protection", according to Northwave, which is enough to keep out mist and drizzle, and is sufficient even to cope with moderate rain for a while.
Typical of jackets of this kind, the Ghost H2O's seams aren't taped so you get leakage there if the rain starts hoofing down. That means you're going to need a dedicated waterproof shell when the forecast is really bad, but for showery rides and days when the weather just can't make up its mind this is a great choice.
The H2O fabric offers a decent level of breathability – not the greatest I've ever encountered but it's pretty good – and the Sitip Blizzard underarm panels, which don't have a membrane but are treated with an Acquazero durable water repellent (DWR) coating, allow more damp air to escape outwards.
As ever, whether you stay dry inside depends on the riding you do. For example, I went out on a steady three-hour ride wearing the Ghost H2O a couple of days ago where the temperature started at 8°C and finished at 12°C, and I stayed pretty much sweat-free throughout. Today, I nipped out for an hour at lunchtime – it was 13°C – and took in three big hills. Things got pretty humid inside on the climbs and I came home with a slightly sweaty baselayer but I was never uncomfortable.
Plenty of four-way stretch means you get excellent freedom of movement here. I've been wearing a size large and the fit felt right – close, certainly, and even a little tight across the chest when standing upright, but bang on when stretched out on the bike. There's enough elasticity in the fabric that it'll work fine even if you're more heavyset than me (that's not me in the photos, by the way; it's a closer fit on me) or you have the pockets full.
The fit of the collar is really good. It's close enough to stop cold air getting in to any noticeable extent while the fuzzy inner face feels super-comfy.
The full-length front zip comes with an inner storm flap to help stop wind and rain getting through. A flap at the bottom of the zip prevents wear and tear on your bib tights and another at the top does the same for your neck. The camlock zip puller is easy enough to find and operate with gloved fingers. It's not huge, but chances are you won't be wearing your biggest winter gloves when wearing a mid-weight jacket like this.
The sleeves are cut long enough to keep your wrists draught-free – at least, I've not had any worries there and I'm pretty long-limbed – and the cuffs feature an elasticated gripper that does a good job of holding them in place.
You get three pockets at the rear plus a zipped compartment for your phone or keys, but what's more unusual is that there's a flap over the top of them to prevent rainwater and spray rolling down your back and straight inside. You can still have something like a mini pump sticking out the top of a pocket, it just means that the flap won't work quite as well on a wet ride.
The bottoms of the pockets are mesh so if water does get inside it won't pool there. It's a similar idea to other brands using eyelets to allow water to drain out. I didn't have any issues with spray getting up into the pockets through the mesh, but you might want to keep a phone in a waterproof case just in case.
The main fabric used for the pockets is the same stretchy polyester/elastane as used for the body of the Ghost H2O, but they didn't head too far south when fully loaded up.
Reflective piping runs the full length of the pocket flap and all the logos are reflective, even though they look black in daytime conditions. The cuff grippers are reflective too for a little extra night-time visibility. The fluoro yellow colour option is an eye-catcher in daylight although a black version is available if you prefer things a little more subtle.
The Ghost H2O is a similar proposition to Castelli's Perfetto Long Sleeve in that it's a foul-weather top that sits at the point where jerseys and jackets meet. There's no doubt that the Perfetto, made with Gore's Windstopper X-Lite Plus fabric, offers an excellent performance, but the RRP (now £195) is considerably more than the Ghost H2O's.
The Kalf Club Men's Softshell Jersey was £120 when we reviewed it earlier in the year but it's £100 now. It's made of eVent membrane fabric and Dave said that it's really impressive in its ability to regulate moisture and temperature.
All in all, there's lots to like here. The Northwave Ghost H2O Water Repellent Jacket offers a close fit, very good protection from wind and rain and plenty of visibility. It'll get a lot of use in UK off-season conditions.
Stretchy, well-made jacket that offers very good protection from wind and light rain
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Northwave Ghost H2O Water Repellent Jacket
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the jacket 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?
It's a jacket for off-season riding in changeable weather.
Northwave lists these features:
The 3-ply main fabric has a napped interior and windproof H20 Flex membrane with up to 10,000mm waterproof protection and four-way stretch for exceptional freedom of movement
The BioMap construction positions cuts and seams for the most ergonomic fit
The aero design delivers a snug, second-skin fit
Breathable napped Sitip Blizzard® stretch fabric underarm inserts treated with Acquazero ensure water resistance for the first 60 minutes of wear and keep you insulated and warm
Shaped cuffs with reflective stretch insert
The ergonomically shaped collar with napped lining is custom designed for a race position
YKK full zip covered by an inner storm flap with camlock puller
3 back pockets and a zipped side pocket with protective flaps printed with a reflective design.
The mesh bellows bottom of the pockets makes them roomier and drain water faster
360° reflective inserts
Prolonged rain and heavy rain will get in via the seams, but it's a great option for showery days.
It's a slim fit so it won't flap on most people. There's enough stretch in the fabric that it doesn't feel uncomfortable.
It's true to size. I usually take a large and that's what I had here. It fitted really well throughout.
It's a medium weight for a jacket of this type – heavier than Castelli's Perfetto, for example, but not as heavy as Galibier's Mistral Foul Weather Jacket.
Its technical abilities, the stretchiness of the fabric and the chin guard at the top of the zip all help here.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Yeah, it goes in the machine with the rest of your bike kit and comes out looking fine. It hasn't lost a noticeable amount of colour during repeated washings.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performs really well to keep you dry and comfortable in a variety of weathers and is particularly valuable on damp days.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The fit, the stretch in the fabric, the water repellency.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
It's only available in fluoro yellow and black. I'm not a big fluoro fan but I'd like a bit of colour.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Castelli's Perfetto ROS is £195 and the 7Mesh Corsa Softshell Jersey that we reviewed recently is £189.99.
The Kalf Club Men's Softshell Jersey, on the other hand, is a chunk cheaper. It was £120 when we reviewed it and it is now £100.
The Northwave Ghost H2O sits somewhere between and it's worth the money for what's on offer here.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's an impressive jersey/jacket at a good price. That equals an overall 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.