One of the best things about mountain biking is that it gets you outdoors. And, one of the worst things about mountain biking is that it gets you outdoors and places you in an often unfriendly environment. Wind, cold, rain, snow, heat…sometimes in combinations all on the same ride…and it is easy to see why most folks just stay couch bound.
Poor souls. They miss out.
But what can make or break a ride in changing weather is having the right technical clothing. Apparel is not always thought of as gear, but really it is. Being warm, cool, protected, etc…all begins with core gear like a good base layer and ends with an appropriate jersey, windbreaker, or jacket. Enter Endura, stage left. Based in the UK (you know…Great Britain, etc), a place that sure knows all about fast changing and inclement weather, Endura offers a wide variety of technical clothing that applies to cold and wet weather. Now in So Cal, we get less rain in one season then some parts of the UK get in a week so rain gear is a so-so requirement depending on how hard core you are. But what we do have here is the ability to begin at low elevation, climb for hours into the clouds and wind, drop like a stone, then do it again. And, being able to ride all year round will almost guarantee that some rides will shadow us with the chance of a change in the weather.
We were sent a sample of the Pakajak, a minimalist outer cover-up that is really more windbreaker than rain jacket, but advertises itself as ‘showerproof”. I think that means you can wear it into the shower…or not. In any case, a good windbreaker is gold. Mountain biking is full of ‘sweat like a pig for an hour long climb’ then ‘drop like a stone for ten minutes of wheeee!!!’ and that often requires a cover-up for the descent to ward off the chill. So what I look for in a good windbreaker is a snug fit with good closures at the wrists, neck, and over the zips, a long tail for
plumber’s cyclist’s crack coverage, stuffability, and some ability to breath/vent.
Taking a look at the packaging of the Pakajak is kinda humorous. It comes in a little stuff sack that is like a little burrito of coated nylon. I could not believe how tiny it was, nearly fitting into the palm of your hand. Ok…stuffability/packability 100% covered. But can I ever get it back in there? Hmmm? With the cat out of the bag and trying the Pakajak on, the LG size fit my 6’2″ frame and semi-ape arms well. It was a snug fit, but enough room for a couple of layers underneath. Getting the wrist closures over cycling gloves is a bit of work, so it fit snug there and the collar was tall and rigid enough to keep that area sealed. The zipper is odd though…it is on the wrong side of the garment…must be a UK thing in keeping with the way they drive on the wrong side of the road. Oh well. There is a long cut tail section and no pockets or any extras other than some reflective strips here and there. very basic.
I have used the Pakajak now for several months and it has become my go-to item for dealing with changing ride conditions or descents. The small packed size, and yes, I can get it back in the stuff sack, is super for packing light or living out of a jersey pocket. It does a great job of cutting the wind and I cannot feel any wind getting around the front zipper or collar/sleeves. It has some pit and back area venting, but you can expect to heat up in it if you are working hard enough. Opening the front zipper while riding does allow for some airflow around the body and out the back vents, limiting the balloon effect. Typical windbreaker performance here. Now I was curious to see how the water resistance was and so I went riding for an hour or so into a steady but moderate rainfall. I got wet, but not terribly wet, as the front of the arms and the shoulders soaked through the Pakajak. So I would expect that it would keep you pretty dry in a heavy mist or quick, light rainfall, but it cannot be considered a rain jacket nor does it advertise itself as such.
Kept within the boundaries of the intended use it is a fine piece of technical gear, but I have some suggestions. The tail piece will ride up on the backside so perhaps some bit of rubberization here is in order. And, that tiny stuff sack that keeps the jacket protected in your pack has no place to go when the jacket is in use. I do wish I had a clip or something inside the Pakajak, maybe at the tail section or the chest area, that I could use as a stuff sack keeper if I wanted to or someday that little gossamer bag will float away into the wind when I am grabbing for snacks, etc.
Other than that, it is a keeper and at just under $70.00, it is decently priced. Well, there is that odd ‘zipper on the wrong side’ deal, but I will overlook that in the interest of international brotherhood and understanding. Maybe after they fix the wrong side of the road driving thing we can work on zippers together.
NOTE: The Pakajak was provided at no cost to twentynineinches.com We were not paid or bribed and we gave our honest opinions of this product.