Pas Normal Studio's Women's Essential Insulated Jacket comes from its most recent Autumn-Winter collection. It promises 'excellent breathability and a high level of insulation', while being 'soft and packable'. I've been testing it for several weeks in a variety of conditions and I'd say much of what is promised isn't actually delivered. While it fits well and packs down nicely, performance isn't impressive. With a high price tag, it might struggle to compete with comparable jackets.
If you're interested in something that can keep out the lovely rain, check out our guide to the best waterproof cycling jackets.
A well-made, lightweight shell can be an absolute lifesaver on a long ride: in the face of squally showers or chilly winds, to retain body heat if you misjudge your own energy intake, or end up being out on the road longer than anticipated (and it starts to cool down). The PNS Essential Insulated Jacket has some of these scenarios covered, but despite claims, not all.
The jacket is well-proportioned from neckline to base hem, sleeve length included. If you're not familiar with PNS kit, its sizing might catch you out. Its jerseys and jackets tend to be smaller than most, so don't be surprised if you are in a size bigger from your norm.
I tested a size large, which gave me plenty of room for manoeuvre, even with a thick winter jersey underneath.
The drop at the rear isn't that prominent, but it's not been cut too short, so there's sufficient fabric to pull down over loaded pockets. Provided you don't load the zipped pocket, the jacket stays in place thanks to the elasticated rear seam and silicone hem.
There's sufficient give in the cuffs to pull the jacket on and off over gloves.
Tipping the scales at just 120g, the jacket packs down well to fit into a rear pocket or frame pack.
PNS says the jacket is 'suited for rides in cold to mild temperatures. Ideal for rides in changing weather conditions'. 'Mild' is open to interpretation. I'd personally say that it's overbearing in temperatures nearing double figures.
The strategically placed panels of Polartec Alpha insulation do protect the core. However, when the temperatures really dropped, my arms felt the chill – insulation from the windproof Pertex Quantum ripstop fabric alone doesn't match the Polartec Alpha panels. I struggled with this somewhat; to have one part of my upper body warm and the other suffering from the cold didn't make sense or feel comfortable.
It's possible to regulate things somewhat with the two-way zipper. It's a smooth-running zip and the lower zipper has an easy-to-grab tab. It's a shame PNS hasn't replicated this on the upper zipper, though; that's a short one which isn't easy to handle with gloved hands.
As a barrier against the wind, the jacket works well, but I'd say breathability is average. It's not great if you're out for intervals or intense efforts, and you may suffer with a build-up of sweat inside all your layers which is never great if you ease off and begin to cool down.
Water repellency isn't great either. My first rainy ride in the jacket saw water bead and roll for a couple of minutes, but the treated fabric soon gave way under the weight of water, and kit underneath started to get wet. I've only washed the jacket a handful of times and it's now pretty much useless in even the lightest showers.
PNS has told us it's designed to be a wind jacket, not a rain jacket or shell, with the DWR treatment there to "avoid the material soaking up an occasional splash", but it does rate it 3/6 in this category, which I think is generous.
This is the second piece of kit I've been testing recently that's been treated with a PFC-free DWR (full review of the other coming soon). Given its climate credentials over a PFC alternative, I wish I could say it was effective, but it simply isn't. Rebecca wasn't overly impressed with it either, when testing the Pactimo Alpine Thermal jacket.
Attention to detail
If you're spending £195, you'd expect some attention to detail and quality, and undoubtedly, construction is excellent and the finishing is flawless too. The logo on the rear is showing zero signs of peeling to date.
There's a noticeable absence of reflective detailing, though. Given that both colour options are pretty dull – black or Dusty Purple – this might go against the overall appeal of the jacket for some. The logo is a bright white and hasn't faded, which is some consolation.
The rear pocket is roomy enough to fit a smartphone (up to 6in) and the zipper is glove friendly. Despite this, I tended to avoid using it for two reasons. Firstly, anything weighty pulls the jacket down to one side – the silicone gripper and elastic is only strong enough to hold the jacket itself and nothing more. Secondly, it means faffing with the contents if you opt to take the jacket off to scrunch it into a jersey pocket. On the plus side, it can double up as a storage pouch, if you want.
Value and conclusion
Although the Women's Essential Insulated Jacket is very well made, you can get comparable jackets for less, such as MAAP's Draft Team Jacket for £130 and Gore's Ambient Jacket for £149.95 (though neither offer Polartec Alpha insulation, and Lara didn't give the Gore a glowing review).
In fact you can pay a lot less: I'd be more tempted by something like Lusso's Primary Packable Jacket, which costs just £60.
> Read more road.cc reviews of women’s cycling jackets here
Overall, the lack of water repellency and disproportionate levels of insulation were a let down with the PNS jacket. That said, if you don't mind forking out for well-made gear and tend to ride in a dry climate, it might hold some appeal.
Decent in cool, dry weather, but a high price for a jacket that really doesn't shine
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Make and model: Pas Normal Studios Women's Essential Insulated Jacket
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?
PNS says, 'The Essential Insulated Jacket is a soft and packable windproof jacket with added insulation for fall and winter-rides. Combining the advanced windproof Pertex Quantum ripstop fabric with strategically placed panels of Polartec Alpha Insulation, the jacket has excellent breathability and a high level of insulation. All while being packable enough to still fit in your back pocket. The combination of materials enhances the insulating properties of the jacket. The fit accommodates one or more layers underneath the jacket. Comes with a taped back pocket, chest pocket and silicone elastic at hem.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
+Soft, light, packable
+Advanced fabric technologies for a high-performing jacket
+Pertex Quantum main fabric - ripstop
+Polartec Alpha Insulation
+Treated with a PFC free DWR
+Silicone elastic at hem
+Chest pocket with zip puller (men's only)
+Taped back pocket
+Made in Vietnam
Rate the jacket for quality of construction:
Rate the jacket for performance:
Good in chilly weather, but hopeless in the rain.
Rate the jacket for durability:
DWR is not durable. The rest of the jacket seems well made and looks like it should last.
Rate the jacket for waterproofing based on the manufacturer's rating:
Rate the jacket for breathability based on the manufacturer's rating:
Rate the jacket for fit:
Well proportioned throughout.
Rate the jacket for sizing:
Follow the size guide for a jacket that will go over other layers comfortably.
Rate the jacket for weight:
Rate the jacket for comfort:
Rate the jacket for value:
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Instructions were for a 40 cycle, delicate. I put it in with other kit at 30 (delicate), and it's come out clean. See the rest of the review for the effect on DWR.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Only performs in dry, cool-to-cold weather. Protects the core well in this scenario, but you'll need the two-way zipper to help regulate the core.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Nothing noticeable struck me about performance. It's nice to get a jacket that fits well in every aspect, but this wouldn't outshine the shortfalls in performance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Ineffective DWR and uneven protection – my arms suffered.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Much more expensive than jackets from the likes of MAAP and Gore.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? No
Would you consider buying the jacket? No
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
Performance for the price is disappointing. Its lack of effective DWR and specific (to core) insulation means it's got a limited window of use.
Age: 42 Height: 173cm Weight: 64kg
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
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, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
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