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The Altura Night Vision is a relatively heavy-duty waterproof and windproof jacket and a classic piece of cycling kit, with several versions appearing over the years. The most recent iteration includes all the favourite aspects from previous editions, plus some new features which most cyclists will find useful, although some of these features could be further improved with a slight re-design.
Any decent heavy-duty cycling jacket needs to do two things: protect you from rain and let perspiration escape. Having tested this Altura Night Vision in some of the lovely British weather we've been having recently, I can confirm it does just that.
Wearing this jacket over normal cycling kit, you can ride through showers or storms without worry. The outer fabric is a 'soft touch' (that is, slightly less shiny) waterproof nylon which definitely keeps out the rain.
This jacket will also keep warm, which means - as with any jacket of this type - you'll sweat more, and will get damp on the inside of the jacket, especially if you're pushing hard, but overall the breathability on the Night Vision is very good. You'll probably need to wear less kit than usual under the jacket to keep your body temperature at a comfortable level.
Breathability and air-flow is further enhanced by the mesh inner lining (that's a full lining, including sleeves as well as torso) as well as by a horizontal ventilation flap at the back of the jacket and by vertical zipped vents from under the armpit at each side of the jacket.
The zipped vents at the sides open into the areas between the outer layer of the jacket and the mesh liner, effectively turning them into big pockets, which is handy, although anything heavy will move to the lower part of the jacket near the zip, which doesn't make for comfortable cycling. That's no problem though, as there's a reasonably-sized zipped pocket on the lower back of the jacket, and another small pocket on the chest.
With the level of venting provided, the Altura Night Vision jacket is ideal for commuters, tourists or anyone taking it reasonably steady on the bike. If you're racing, training hard or just cracking on, you may prefer a lighter jacket with more breathability, although it will probably be less waterproof. It's all a question of balance for the type of cycling you're doing.
Another point to consider is the size and bulk of this jacket. If you take it off mid-ride, it won't roll down small enough to fit in a back pocket of your cycling jersey. This is no problem if you've got panniers, saddlebag or backpack. But if you're more of a minimalist, once it's on it's on.
As you might expect of a jacket called Night Vision, features include reflective patches to help you get picked out in car headlights. On the front of the jacket there are four main reflective patches (two near the shoulders, two near the lower hem) plus a reflective Night Vision logo and line around the chest pocket. The back of the jacket has just two reflective patches on either side of the rear pocket, plus another logo.
Each sleeve carries the 'Altura' logo in reflective material, and there's also reflective piping horizontally across the back and vertically beside the zip on the front. There is certainly more reflective material than some jackets out there supposedly suitable for night riding, but it's still not up to the levels of reactivity you might find, for example, on the safety tabards worn by road workers. Whether it's enough for your own purposes depends on personal preference and the type of cycling you do.
For daytime visibility the jacket comes in vivid day-glo yellow, as well as a more sombre orange. The jacket is also available in black (which some riders may regard as counter-intuitive for a garment designed to help make you visible).
There's also a small red LED light incorporated into the back of the jacket, which is a great idea in principle, although the simple press-on-press-off switch means the light can be accidentally turned on as you stuff the jacket into your saddlebag or collapse into a chair in the office after your morning commute. A less sensitive switch would be a great improvement.
Other features include a fleece-lined collar, which feels cosy when you put on the jacket, but after an hour of rain the fleece holds the water like a rag. In reality, lining the collar with mesh or the same material as the rest of the jacket would probably be more comfortable in the long-run.
On the upside, the collar has an elasticated drawstring, fastened under a very neat little tab at the back of the neck, as well as a small cover to stop the zip digging into the skin at the front of you neck when the jacket is fully done up. There's also a drawstring around the base of the jacket.
On size, our test model is Medium. I found the cut around the torso and shoulders fine, fitting over three layers of clothing (base, thin racing jersey, thick long-sleeved jersey) just right, ie close enough not to flap in the breeze, but not too tight to be restricting.
However, some riders may find the sleeves a tad on the short side. To get longer sleeves you'd need to go up in body size, which might result in the fit being too baggy. To get the right fit for you, try before you buy.
One other comment about the sleeves: As is common on many jackets, there are large tabs around each cuff on the Night Vision that you can wrap around the cuff to tighten it and stop cold air going up your sleeves. However, on this jacket the bits of Velcro to hold them in place are misaligned, so you can't actually do the cuffs up tight. This is OK if you have thick clothing protruding beyond the jacket's cuffs, or big gloves to go over the cuffs. But if you haven't got either of those, you'll get cold arms.
On price, the Altura Night Vision retails for a penny under £70. There are many similar jackets from other brands in the £60 to £80 range, making this about on par. You can also get cycling jackets for less than this, but generally the cheaper models are not as waterproof or as breathable. On the other hand, you can pay double this price for something only slightly better. Overall, the price for the Altura Night Vision is fair for what you get: a reliable, comfortable waterproof and windproof jacket to help you keep cycling through winter.
Well-made and highly dependable waterproof cycling jacket at a fair price. Many great features, although some could be improved with minor tweaks.
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Make and model: Altura Night Vision Jacket 2013
Size tested: Medium, Fluo Yellow
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?
This product is a jacket designed for cycling in cold wet conditions. The manufacturers/distributors website says: 'The 2013 Night Vision jacket features the addition of an integrated rear i-Lume LED and a new soft touch fabric' and goes on to highlight the following aspects:
*Waterproof, breathable and highly durable 2 layer fabric with mesh liner
*Reflective zips and surrounds
*Pit and rear vents
*Chest and rear pockets
*Fleece lined adjustable collar
*Critically positioned highly reflective trim for 360o visibility
Main: 100% Polyester
Lining: 100% Polyester
Breathability Rating 10,000
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Just for the record, the Night Vision jacket we're testing here is the windproof-and-waterproof model. Altura also produce a similarly named version which is windproof only, and a more elaborate (and more expensive) version called the Night Vision Evo.
Construction seems very good. All internal seams are neat and there are no loose threads
This jacket's key aim is to keep you warm and dry in bad weather, and on that count performance is excellent. However performance is impaired slightly in some of the minor features such as the inability to tighten the tabs on the cuffs, the sensitive light and the prone-to-damp fleece collar.
It's too early to say for sure, but this jacket is likely to be durable, based on the quality of construction, and on the long-term performance of other Altura stuff in my wardrobe.
Comfort is very good. I found the cut around the torso and shoulders fine, ie close enough not to flap in the breeze, but not too tight to be restricting. Some riders may find the sleeves a tad on the short side, but to get longer sleeves you'd need to go up in body size, which might result in the fit being too baggy. To get the size just right, try before you buy.
Value is fair, with the price tag of £69.99 on a par with similar jackets from other brands.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall performance is excellent, in that this jacket keeps you warm and dry and bad weather. However performance is impaired slightly by design oddities in some of the minor features such as the tabs on the cuffs and over-sensitive LED light.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It fitted well, and kept me warm and dry.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not the end of the world at all, but I didn't like design oddities in some of the minor features such as the misaligned Velco tabs on the cuffs and the over-sensitive LED light.
Did you enjoy using the product? yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably. It does its main job very well. The small design oddities mean this jacket isn't perfect, but they're not deal-breakers
Would you recommend the product to a friend? I'd definitely recommend they try it.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Overall, this jacket is potentially an excellent piece of kit. Its key performance is excellent, in that it keeps you warm and dry and bad weather, fits well, has some great features and helps keep you safe in condistions where visibility is poor, and on that count it would score a well-deserved 9. However, the price, although fair, isn't a bargain, and some of the minor design aspects don't quite make the grade (such as the inability to tighten the tabs on the cuffs, the over-sensitive light and the prone-to-damp fleece collar) which together knock off a couple of points, giving an overall score of 7.
Age: 51 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp, or an old steel classic My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex (can you see a theme here?)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Trail riding - aka rough-stuff (off road on a road bike)