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Sombrio Vapor Jacket: Reviewed

Versatile Cold Weather Jacket

Words by Matthew Lee. Photos by Morgan Taylor.
February 27th, 2014

With the way things are going, it looks like 2014 may be remembered as “the year with no snow.” While some people contemplated skiing in the sh*tf*ck conditions, I’ve found myself riding bikes far more than usual through the so-called “off season.” That called for a jacket capable of handling the weather. Enter the Sombrio Vapor.

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Subtle graphics and a muted colour scheme meant I could wear this jacket on non-bike excursions and still look like a “normal” human being.

As I tried on the Vapor, I noticed immediately that there was a bit more room in the fit when compared with other jackets in the price range (like the Race Face Chute). While it certainly wasn’t baggy I was able to comfortably fit my insulating mid-layer under the jacket – a welcome respite from the coldest of days. It also features some supremely heavy-duty waterproof zippers, an adjustable hood, adjustable cuffs, pit zips, and three zippered pockets.

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The fit also provides enough length to keep water, mud and snow from slipping down into one’s shorts. Always a bonus when it’s 5 below during a ride.

Going into the test period, there were three main things that I needed from said jacket. It needed to keep me warm, dry, and to hold up to my habit of using things hard and putting them away wet.

This winter was marked with a couple of significant cold snaps, yet despite the plunging thermometers, I never had to wear more than my cold-weather base layer under the Vapor jacket to stay warm while riding. The micro fleece lining in the pockets allowed me to warm my hands while not pedalling, and the soft chin guard meant I could protect my face somewhat while ascending. Overall, I was very impressed with the way the jacket kept me at a good riding temperature.

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The main zipper at full-pull. Super-burly construction helps keep the damp out, and the zip pulls are a much welcomed feature when wearing gloves.

When the rain did come down, the Vapor did an adequate job at protecting me from the elements. Sombrio claims a 10,000mm DWR finish, and the jacket is certainly capable of shedding water in “build an ark” conditions.

My biggest complaint with the Vapor is the lack of breathability in the fabric. The ventilation isn’t as bad as wearing garbage bags or a plastic shell, but it still doesn’t match my experiences with other Gore-Tex fabrics. This is a shame, because in all other respects, the jacket is quite lovely to use and wear.

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Pit zips help vent the excess heat on warmer days, and compensate somewhat for the lack of breathability in the fabric of the jacket.

The only other complaint I have about the Vapor is the hood. It’s just able to fit over my half-shell helmet but once there, it restricts my head movement enough that riding with it up is impractical. Being able to store it or remove it would be good alternatives to making it bigger.

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It fits, but just barely. Having the option to store or remove the hood would be a nice addition to future models.

Serving through the winter as my primary jacket both on and off the bike, the Vapor has stood up well: all the seams are still intact, the zippers still zip, and the fabric still sheds water. I have the terrible habit of putting things away wet after using them hard, and despite the abuse, the Vapor has yet to show significant signs of wear and tear.

On the whole, I’m rather pleased with the way this jacket has performed over the past few months. I’ve never felt uncomfortable wearing it on or off the bike, and while it’s not the most breathable jacket on the market, it does a bang-up job of keeping the heat in and the water out.

We’ve been in touch with Sombrio this week and the Vapor should run for $215 both in the US and Canada, and is available in a straight black in addition to the “Fromme” print seen here.


Do you look for a little more room in your breathable jacket?

  • PUNKY

    I own 2 Vapour Jackets, the OG Digi Camo and a flat black jacket. Both size small, both fairly roomy on a stick figure like myself. Camo for bikes (and it smells the part) black for around town and when acting like a beater on skis.

    Minimalist freeride based jacket, with stretchy materials. The hood is/was meant to be worn over a half-lid or under a full-face on the original versions. Doesn’t breathe well like stated, so I often climb up without a jacket, then throw the Vapour on for the down.