So for the last three months I’ve been trialling the Inov-8 Race Elite 260 Thermoshell, a reversible pullover jacket designed for keeping you warm when out running on a frigid hillside.
Aside from being a good option for chilly trail runs I could instantly see its potential as a mid-layer to combine with an outer shell for any other winter outing. To date it’s been on a variety of runs in cold, freezing, damp and drizzly, windy, ridiculously windy, calm and crisp and most combinations in between. It’s also been hiked up a couple of mountains in the Lake District at -1°C with just a base layer and waterproof shell for company, and so far I have been very impressed with its performance.
For starters its super light and remarkably warm for its weight, and given its close to the body athletic fit, it’s great for animated activities like running and climbing. I found that the elasticated hem and wrists helped to keep the jacket from jumping around when I was running, which probably also helps to keep you warmer.
My size medium weighs in at an insignificant 260g that in reality feels nearly weightless when wearing out on a run. When packed into its stuffsac it compresses down to about the size of a bag of sugar, which I found great for stowing in my rucksack when I took it out on hikes. If you are going to take it out on a hike and wear it underneath another layer, you’ll find that the silky Pertex® shell material makes it glide over other materials making it very easy and quick to get on and off. A very handy feature in my humble opinion.
The Thermoshell only has one chest pocket where you can keep the stuffsac and perhaps a phone or keys, so if you end up standing around for any length of time you’ll be at a loss for somewhere to put your hands. As a compromise Inov8 have added thumb loops to bring the jacket down further over your hands. All in all this is probably the best solution for a jacket of this type as ultimately you want it to be as light as possible and that is what they’ve achieved.
If you’re going to take it out for a run in the dark there are reflective logos on the front and back when worn both ways out so you won’t have to worry about being completely stealth. All in all I think it also looks pretty snazzy, in both its quilted blue and Pertex® Quantum black configurations.
Now to some nitty gritty…The Thermoshell’s main competitors come in the form of the OMM Rotor Smock and the Montane Fireball Smock, which in terms of materials are very similar indeed. They all use 40g/m2 insulation but in slightly different guises, the Thermoshell opting for Primaloft SPORT, the Rotor Smock using Primaloft ONE and the Fireball going for the earth friendly Primaloft ECO made from recycled plastic bottles. Essentially they all focus on providing warmth, water resistance, and compressibility though at slightly different performance levels. Primaloft ONE being the premium product with the SPORT and ECO following respectively.
With the shell fabric they’re once again all pretty much on a level playing field. As already stated, the Thermoshell is reversible and uses Pertex® Quantum as the best option for keeping the wind and rain out and warmth in. While not marketed as being waterproof I have found that when using it Pertex® side out that it does repel a very light shower quite well. Inov-8 also claim that when worn this way round, it delivers and extra 10% of warmth, which while I can’t scientifically validate, does make sense in principle. Keep wind out, keep warmth in, simple.
The Fireball also uses Pertex® Quantum for its outer shell, though OMM have opted to use PointZero fabric for the Rotor Smock. While I’m not completely sure I’m guessing by the lack of registered trademark symbol, this is a fabric of their own design and possibly cheaper, though it is lighter per/m2 and has a DWR finish for moisture protection. Make of it what you will but I’d guess both materials perform fairly similar.
The key difference for me that elevates the Thermoshell above the others is the versatility of the reversible function, coupled with the reversible neck zip for ventilation allowing you to stay dry yet keep the cold off your neck. I found it very useful being able to adjust the jacket for the type of run and weather conditions I was going out in.
So to sum up the Thermoshell in just one word it would have to be ‘versatile’! Never before have I had so much use out of one jacket in just a few short months of use. Aside from its functionality it is also very comfortable, feels well made and looks pretty smart to boot. It would certainly be a great addition to any runners wardrobe who’s keen on getting out, no matter how cold it is outside.