Inov-8 Race Ultrashell HZ jacket review

Last updated: 13-Feb-19

By Fiona Outdoors

Fiona is a keen runner, preferring off-road and hilly to flat and road. She lives in Scotland where the weather is fickle so needs to be prepared for all conditions.

Whether you are racing or training, a lightweight waterproof jacket will be on your list of essential kit. The inov-8 Race Ultrashell has been designed for mountain and ultra athletes who want to run as light and fast as possible yet stay protected from the wind and rain.

Inov-8 Race Ultrashell – Features

  • 2.5-layer waterproof fabric with 10,000 HH and 10,000 B-1 breathability
  • It is transparent
  • Taped seams
  • Four-way stretch
  • Over-head design with long half-height front zip
  • Thumb loops
  • Reflective detailing
  • Packs into the hood
  • Weight: 4.5oz/125g
  • Male and female-specific fit in a range of sizes, XS to XL
  • The jacket sells for around £90

PROS: What’s good about the Inov-8 Race Ultrashell?

One special feature of this jacket – and it’s something that makes it very different from all other jackets – is it is transparent. This means that a race number, worn on a vest or long-sleeved running top, is still visible through the jacket when runners suddenly need to put it on due to a change in the weather. inov-8 were asked to design it this way by runners and were happy to oblige.

The jacket is super light to carry and takes up very little space in a pack or waist bag. You hardly know it’s there and this is good news if you are trying to keep down the weight of your extra kit.

The shell is also very lightweight to wear. It feels almost as if you are not wearing it. In addition, the fabric is “rustle-free”. This was another request from runners: That the fabric does not make a noise when running.

Many runners find that waterproof fabrics make too much noise when out in the countryside, yet most waterproof jackets do crinkle and rustle.

inov-8 have somehow managed to create a rustle-free jacket that is waterproof but also has a soft-feel noise-free fabric.

The fabric feels okay against bare skin, too. Many waterproof fabrics cling and make you sweaty but the inov-8 Ultrashell can be comfortably worn over a vest or t-shirt.

The jacket is a fairly neat design so it fits well on an athletic build. This is important if you are running in the wind because the jacket will not billow.

The fabric is also quite stretchy so it gives a high level of freedom and does not restrict around the shoulders, arms or hood.

If in doubt about the size of the jacket, buy one bigger for extra comfort.

The half-zip at the front of the jacket makes it easier to get the garment on and off, even if you are wearing headgear such as a buff or hat and a head torch. A shorter zip might hamper the process of putting the jacket on or off but Inov-8 have thought about this and fitted a longer zip.

The zip also allows runners to adjust the amount of air circulating the torso. If you are too hot, simply undo the zip a bit more. If you are feeling cold, you can zip the jacket right up to the neck.

A soft feel zip-back guards the chin when the zip if fully up.

The hems of the sleeves and waist of the jacket are simple elastic. There’s nothing fancy about this and you can’t adjust them but because there are so many jacket sizes to choose from I don’t think this will be a problem.

The hit fits neatly and has a small amount of rigidity at the peak to stop it blowing down in the wind.

CONS: What’s not so good about the Inov-8 Race Ultrashell?

While the waterproof rating and breathability are high, both at a claimed 10,000mm, the jacket will not withstand torrential rain for hours on end. This isn’t unusual with lightweight running jackets but it’s something to keep in mind if you know the day ahead will feature heavy rain.

The HH rating (Hydrostatic Head) of 10,000 mm means that the fabric withstood a pressure of 10 metres tall before it leaked. This is an excellent rating.

However, in the real world, there’s wind, gravity and sweat to take into account. A 100% waterproof jacket, such as one made from oilskin, will keep all rain out but will not allow the vapour from sweat to vaporise. This means the inside of the jacket will become wet from sweat even if it keeps the rain out.

A jacket that offers greater levels of breathability, and thus allows sweat to escape as vapour through tiny holes in the fabric, will naturally not be as waterproof.

In my experience, the inov-8 Race Ultrashell keeps most of the rain out and allows lots of sweat to escape when the weather conditions are light rain or short, sharp bouts of heavy rain.

However, when tested over four hours of very heavy rain there was some leakage. The leaks were mainly around the neckline, where rain can penetrate from above but also, the fabric eventually became saturated.

This is not a poor reflection on the inov-8 product, it is simply what will normally happen to most lightweight waterproof jackets in very heavy rain.

Saying this, the breathability is excellent and in most running and racing conditions the waterproof factor will be adequate to good.

The addition of taped seams helps to keep rain out.

The thumb loops are just about adequate but they’re really only a length of thin elastic so I found them a bit annoying when running. They tended to dig into my skin but it’s worth noting that I have long arms for my height so the arm length may have caused this irritation.

The jacket does roll into its own hood but there is nothing to fasten it and keep it in a neat ball. I think a small pocket integrated into the jacket would work well as a stuff bag.

The alternative is to use a stuff bag from another garment.

Conclusion

I confess I was doubtful about the waterproof qualities of such a soft and pliable fabric. I could tell it would be breathable but I wasn’t convinced it would be waterproof. However, the jacket proved to very waterproof in most situations and also very breathable.

It’s super light and quite stretchy and the transparency adds an extra detail that many runners who race will appreciate.

This is another well-designed product from inov-8. 

Scores  
Design 9/10
Features 8/10
Performance 8/10
Value 7/10
Total 8/10

 

 

 

 

Other jackets you may want to consider:

inov-8 Race Elite Raceshell Full Zip – £117 to rrp £130
Montane Minimus Jacket – £126 to rip £140
OMM Kamleika Race Jacket 2 – £128 to rip £160
Ronhill Trail Typhoon Smock – £77.50 to rip £125

Have you used the inov-8 Race Ultrashell HZ jacket? Don’t agree with this review? What’s your opinion? Add your own comment to this review and share your experience and passion for running with others.

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Read about the inov-8 Race Ultra 10 trail running rucksack.

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OUR RATING:
4/5
YOUR RATING:
0.0/5

"The jacket is super light to carry and takes up very little space in a pack or waist bag"

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