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Inov-8 PROTEC-SHELL jacket review

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Monday 23rd October 2017
Until recently, if you were doing a mountain race, or a multi-day that could throw some pretty nasty weather at you, you could rely on inov-8 for most bits of kit but you had to look elsewhere for a serious jacket. Inov-8 have always done good waterproofs, suitable for most conditions (e.g. the STORMSHELL which we’ve reviewed here) but you’d be more likely to look at somebody like Montane or The North Face for a tough enough kind of walking/high activity hybrid jacket. 
But now inov-8 has come out with the PROTEC-SHELL, their offering for this market. It’s a 3 layer waterproof which is made of Pertex Shield Pro, a highly breathable water and wind proof fabric, designed for extended use in extreme conditions. It’s also a very tough fabric, so it will withstand brambles and the odd tumble. As you’d expect it’s got taped seams, and is waterproof to 20,000HH, so it would get through any kit check. Its weight is 360g in the men’s version. 

Protec shell 1

This jacket is made for serious protection. Despite getting it towards the end of the summer I have been able to put it through its paces in wind and rain in the Brecon Beacons and the Lake District, nasty conditions in Scotland and even in the Alps in snow, so I feel like I’ve given it a pretty suitable testing. 
It was a good fit on me as it felt tailored enough for it to be snug and not swoosh around on the run, but roomy enough to get some layers under. You definitely feel very protected in rain, snow and wind. However, this is a running jacket so it’s all about how it performs on the run. I ran with it mostly with just a long-sleeved merino top underneath and this combination was pretty perfect for me. The jacket is breathable enough to keep you from getting too damp inside it. I did try it with a mid-layer as well, in snow, and this was also ok, though I got pretty warm once I started heading uphill. But I’d be confident that this combination would keep me warm and dry once up high. 
So far, fairly similar to jackets like the Montane Spine or the Alpkit Gravitas. However, the thing that sets this jacket apart is the attention that’s gone into the details. Pockets. Seemingly a minor thing but they can be pretty important if you need to lay your hand on a compass, map or phone in a hurry in horrible weather. The PROTEC-SHELL has one breast pocket on the inside of the jacket that’s exactly the right size for a phone. Then, it has two side pockets which are a decent size but they open in the opposite direction to normal (i.e. from the central zip to the outside of the jacket). These ‘crossover pockets’ are designed so that you can access them easily when you’re wearing a pack. They take some getting used to but all in all I think it’s a useful innovation.
The hood is pretty important for keeping the elements out and it can be massively annoying if it won’t stay up easily in high winds. This jacket has a very adjustable hood, with elastic adjusters across the back and sides, so you can get a really snug fit. It also has a bit of a peak which is good for glasses wearers.
Another bit of detail on this jacket is that the zip curves away to the side slightly at the top so that you don’t end up with it digging into your chin. There’s some nice soft fabric inside, which sits against your chin instead. Again, this does seem a bit odd at first but trust me, you’ll be glad of it when you’re zipped up and running for hours. 

The L-shaped design on the sleeves (left) and the off-centre zip (right)

One other little innovation is that the sleeves have a sort of L-shaped design in shiny material on the cuff. I thought this was just to look cool but it turns out that it’s to draw water away from your hands. The idea is that it follows the ‘L’ and rolls off to the side, rather than down. I couldn’t really say if this works but it’s a good example of the level of thought, detail and design that inov-8 has put into this jacket. 
You can see inov-8’s video about all the technology in the jacket here.
Like anything I’ve got some minor gripes with this jacket. I found the sleeves a little short. I like to pull sleeves down over my hand but I couldn’t really do that with this jacket (but that could just be a sizing thing, or it could be that I’m picky as I normally complain that sleeves are too long!). I also would have liked it to be slightly longer at the back, but again, that’s a minor thing. 
All in all I think this is a great jacket for races where you may be exposed to the elements for long periods of time. It’s perfect for whatever the mountains will throw at you, or for Winter ultras in the UK where you’ll be out in all weathers for many hours. It’s not cheap - at £225 - but it’s a jacket that is built to last for a long time. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re looking for a serious Winter running jacket. 
Find out more here

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