One of my favourite items of trail running kit, yet, one I’d rather not use out of choice. After all, if it’s on, it’s generally raining.
I received the Race Elite 150 last April, a few days after running London Marathon, on a trip to inov-8 HQ. Discovering some of the last snow of the season west of Ullswater, my legs were heavy from the marathon 5 days before and the soft snow collapsed below mine and Lee’s feet.
18 months on and the 150 Stormshell has had some great adventures. Lakeland 50, Ring of Steall Skyrace and Ben Nevis are some of the many locations and races I’ve worn or at the very least carried the jacket.
In a switch to the norm, lets start with the one main thing I’d change. The main zip. I love a smock, don’t get me wrong. There is less chance of water ingress, less seams and entry points to leach water and no chance of flapping away in highwinds. It is an athletic fit and this does mean I’ve sized up from my usual small, to a medium (thanks Lee for the recommendation). However, mid race, a full length zip is easier for getting a jacket on and off, and especually if you are looking to put it over your race vest/pack, it is SO much easier. On the flanks of the Devils Ridge at the Ring of Steall, I battled to get my 150 Stormshell over my pack, when Andy Jackson yelled at me to get a move on, subsequently dumping my pack and putting the jacket on, before putting the pack back on. A few years a go I wouldn’t be saying this words, but whereas before I thought it was odd to see the pros doing it. We’ll I’ve given in and see the logic. So there it is, my one main quibble…… but remember, inov-8 make full zip versions (both at the time the 150 was released and now with their NEW collection).Photo Credit – Andy Jackson
So, the good.
Constructed from a 2.5 layer Waterproof Fabric, it’s both waterproof and breathable, with 20K/20K ratings (General rule of thumb, the higher each figure the better they are for keeping you dry and getting moisture out). The fabric is soft and doesn’t cling to you like a bin liner when it gets fully soaked after hours on the fell. Combined with the athletic fit, it does stay relatively neutral in high winds and on the Ring of Steall, where I used it as both a wind and waterproof, it made a significant difference when the weather got gnarly. The last thing I wanted to do was worry about keeping warm and dry on the ridges.
The fabric kept out all nature threw at it and for a mountain jacket it breathed well. As a sweaty runner, in the middle of winter wearing shorts and T, it fared better than others I have tried. It needs a reproof, but that’s normal for all waterproofs that have had nature’s best try to saturate it, along with hours being compressed into packs and bags. DWR finishes will wear off, but despite this, it has held up and remains working.The sleeves are pretty long and as a short ass (5ft 7″), I do find them a little long when running in mundane conditions. Yet, when the wind picks up and you utilise the integrated thumb loops and hand protecting cuffs, that extra length is awesome at providing full dexterity when scrambling, all the while keeping your hands protected. Lycra bound cuffs keep the elements out and allow for easy adjustment on the fly.Around the waist, the No Ride Hem adjustment is good for locking down the torso of the jacket when you need it most and the slight drop keeps your back protected. What ever pack I use, they have the habit of drawing up the back material of jackets and jerseys.On the chest a waterproof chest pocket provides ample storage for a map/gloves/hat…. anything you need quick access to and the two way half zip, with internal storm flap provides easy ventilation, even when the hood is up. I never found the need to use the bottom zip ventilation in practice, but it’s a feature I could see coming in useful in low winds. But the best has been saved to last.
I love a hood!
No seriously I do. As a kid with a big head, I struggled to find jackets that would have a usable hood and having had some epics in the mountains, a proper functioning hood with mountain features really does make a genuine difference to your experience.If you don’t wish to you use it, it rolls away. I always leave it ready to put up. The Race Elite 150 has a wired peak! Designers, take note. Wired peaks are often overlooked for light running shell jackets and a stiffened peak doesn’t have the same usability. A wire peak can be moulded to suit the conditions and forms a proper brim when it really begins to lash it down. The 150’s is a gem and stayed put despite serious gusts bombarding it.
Along with the peak, it also covers the face, up to the nose. Like my point above, many jackets finish below the chin, leaving the face exposed to the elements. If I want my face exposed I can undo the zip, but having the option to hunker down on a bitter January day really is a big thumbs up for me.Adjustability. With a draw cord around the head and toggles easier side of the main zip make it a breeze to lock down into your preferred position. To add to these, there is enough extra material in the neck to allow full range of motion and doesn’t restrict the head.
In addition there are reflective logos on the arms, right rear shoulder and left chest to provide 360 visibility, though, you aren’t buying this jacket to be seen. My scales measure the jacket to be 194g for a size medium, which given it’s mountain features is worth the little extra for those touches.I’ve been using the inov-8 Race Elite 150 Stormshell for the past 18 months and have really enjoyed my experiences when I’ve had to put it on. Despite my little grumblings about the limitations of being a smock, it’s taken everything that’s been thrown at it and I have to say, it’s one I reach for more often then not when travelling to the mountains.
For more information on inov-8’s AT/C Stormshell, click HERE