Pearl Izumi Summit Shell NSMB AndrewM.JPG
EDITORIAL | REVIEW

Emotional Support Jackets (Featuring The Pearl Izumi Summit Shell)

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date May 15, 2020
Reading time

Averting Tragedy


Ever waited while a friend fixed a flat on a cold, wet, night ride?

An Australian, a Mexican, and two Canadians start up a North Shore climbing trail on a moist and misty winter's day. It sounds like a joke set up but it's actually the introduction to a tragedy. One of the Canadians is wearing a merino hoody, the other a rain jacket, and the two southern-born riders are in lightweight summer jerseys. Neither is packing an extra layer. Let's just say that 'The Whining' isn't a Steven King novel, but this was so intense it certainly has potential.

Between a decent resilience to the cold, some intelligent layering, a mother who raised me to have a bit of stoicism, and my self-respect, the conditions aren't bothering me any, so in the spirit of capitalism I offer up my emergency shell for a few bucks rental fee. You know, to the highest bidder. Yes, it was cheeky.

No money actually changed hands because what are friends for other than carrying spare gear so you don't have to? I was paid back in radiant smiles from the victorious party and that was its own reward for the torturous task of carrying an extra 109 grams of gear in my hip pack.

Pearl Izumi Summit Shell NSMB AndrewM (9).JPG

A hood? A Hood! The key feature missing from most emotional support jackets (ESJs).

Pearl Izumi Summit Shell NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

The hood fits snugly, but usably, over this Quarter MIPS, which is not a small lid.

It takes up about as much room as an extra pair of socks, and I lend it out to friends as much as I wear it myself, but nary a week goes by, year-round, that I don't get some reminder of the key status my ESJ has in my kit. I usually ride from home and the trip straight down the road after a wet pedal can be an experience unto itself. Pulling on a dry wind and water-resistant layer to bomb down the hill is a luxury I really appreciate when I'm cozy and my friend's nipples could etch titanium.

I usually wear my GoreTex vest if I'm expecting less than a deluge and a proper jacket if steady rain is a certainty, but I'm not hauling either piece around if I may not need it. What about all those North Shore days when the forest suddenly goes black and a sheet of rain crashes down through the trees? With my ESJ, if it starts drizzling, I don't have to plan my exit. These lightweight shells are neither waterproof or breathable but when I'm marinated in moisture and the temperature drops, pulling one on to block the wind and trap some body-heat turns 100-grams of paper-thin fabric into a tonne of smiles.

Just this week, my wee one and I bumped into a trio of mountain bikers beating a full-on trail retreat when pounding precipitation arrived on Fromme sooner than expected. They were bailing on their ride and they were surrounded by bitter vibes. It was sad. I wanted to give them each a big hug. But you know how it is in the time of 'rona so instead, I #dadsplained the merits of an Emotional Support Jacket to remain calm, comfortable, and collected when weather comes in. Ever waited while a friend fixed a flat on a cold, wet, night ride?

Pearl Izumi Summit Shell NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

One gram lighter than claimed! And, that's with a high quality, decently heavy gauge zipper that never sticks.

Pearl Izumi Summit Shell NSMB AndrewM (1).JPG

The whole jacket, including the helmet sized hood (thank you Pearl), stuffs easily into this little pocket in less than thirty seconds.

I'm always open to suggestions, and the Pearl Izumi Summit Shell is the best example of this style of jacket I've come across thus far. Firstly, it has a hood. A hood that fits over a helmet. Amazing. In a perfect world, Pearl Izumi (P.I.) would add a couple of % to the volume and stop marketing the under-helmet fit of this hood but I'm happy to say that I can comfortably run it up over my skid lid rather than have it interfering with the function of my safety equipment.

I really like that the stuff-pocket, where the jacket lives most the time, doesn't have a little zipper. After all, that inevitably is the first thing that fails. Speaking of zippers, P.I. did not skimp to cut grams or costs. The Summit zipper is a beefy YKK two-tab affair that goes both ways.

Huh? Zip the jacket up to the top and then zip the jacket open from the bottom. Like a cloak with sleeves. It will help keep your fanny pack dry, if you don't have a weatherproof one, and is a great way to manage sweat on climbs since the garment isn't breathable.

Oh, and the Summit Shell comes in five sizes with four colour options. It's really important to pick a bright one that reflects like this Pine or their Lava Orange. Because of cars? Well yes, that too, but mostly so if I lend it to someone on a ride I see it and remember to get it back after.

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I run hot, and the Summit Shell heats up quickly. Which is actually ideal for this use case. From grumpy & gruff to smiling and ready for another lap in a couple of switchbacks.

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Even with stuffing the Summit back in its pocket, this is a 30-seconds on/off affair so it's a costume change that is easily accomplished in the time it takes a friend to pee.

The Pearl Izumi Summit Shell runs 100 USD | 150 CAD, which is fairly standard for a jacket in the 'lightweight extra layer' category. Most options either lack a hood or don't pack down as small as the P.I. but they are all very basic in terms of materials. This means a purchase should be based on price, fit and features - like the solid YKK 2-way zipper in this case.

I have plenty of friends who have questioned my love of the ESJ. Questioned, past tense. They only borrow it once, even just shivering around at a post-ride coffee, and they're believers. "But Andrew, why not put that money towards a really good GoreTex jacket?" Rain jackets are a lot like cameras. Your DSLR takes amazing photos but you're using your cellphone camera all the time because it doesn't weigh a few pounds. I love my 7Mesh Guardian to bits but I'm not lugging it along just in case. The Emotional Support Jacket is not a substitute for a good rain jacket, but watch if its cost-per-use doesn't make it one of the best investments you make.

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Comments

speedster
+3 Andrew Major Kenny Pete Roggeman
Speedster  - May 14, 2020, 11:33 p.m.

I agree! I usually carry a 20 year old Race Face jacket with me.  It doesn’t pack down the smallest, but it has saved my hide countless times!  I’m a NICA coach in Montana, and we require our student athletes to carry a jacket with them as part of their kit. An ESJ will save the day!

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AndrewMajor
+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - May 14, 2020, 11:50 p.m.

The issue in the days of fanny-pack, or no-pack, riding is that every gram and every mm³ really counts!  It's no problem to port a proper jacket even with just a small pack, but it seems a lot of folks have dropped the extra layer when they switched to the booty-bag. 

Personally, I always carry an extra lightweight merino T along with the ESJ. No reason not to be comfortable while you're out killing yourself on a bike. Big props for teaching self-sufficiency and personal gear-responsibility.

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Jotegir
+2 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major
Lu Kz  - May 19, 2020, 9:02 a.m.

I'm reminded of the gentleman who died last year from exposure after crashing on his local trails in the California mountains behind his house - S&R didn't wanna do a night search so they left him out there. No jacket, summer day, home trails. Not to say that he wasn't too concussed to put on a jacket had he brought one, but it may have helped even the odds.Never a bad idea to have a bit more stuff. It could literally save your life.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 19, 2020, 8:35 p.m.

It's pretty amazing how fast things can go downhill. Even on a nice day the few times I've had to hike out carrying a bike, rather than ride out, the extra time v. food, water, gear can get uncomfortable.

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Kenny
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Kenny  - May 17, 2020, 7:45 a.m.

Same. Not fancy and people complain about them due to unrealistic expectations I think, but I think the RF Nano fills this role well.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - May 17, 2020, 1:11 p.m.

It all comes down to managing expectations. How light does a jacket have to be that I'll always carry it v. how well does it have to perform to make it acceptable in that role? My brother has had a Nano for years and it absolutely does that job.

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Vikb
+4 Bushpilot Andrew Major Michael Pete Roggeman
Vik Banerjee  - May 15, 2020, 6:25 a.m.

Backcountry Research Super-8 Strap on the TT is the perfect place to stash a ESJ if there is no room elsewhere to easily stow it. It has the benefit of being right there in front of me so I can decide to put the ESJ back on or take it off fast without stopping the ride to faffle with a pack. I use this on my FS bike.

My ESJs of choice are a Patagucci Houdini Vest and Jacket...just depending on the conditions.

On my hardtail I run a half-frame bag so I'll often just bring both ESJs with me and a spare pair of gloves because I've got room to spare. Double stacking both ESJs is at the very least a morale boost in grim conditions even if the results aren't a whole lot different than just wearing one.

Reply

Bushpilot
+3 Andrew Major Michael Pete Roggeman
Bushpilot  - May 15, 2020, 7:57 a.m.

+1 for the Houdini.   Pretty decent water resistance, tough, weighs nothing, ok breathability and goes for $125 brand new (and you can often find a sale price).

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AndrewMajor
+2 Vik Banerjee Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - May 15, 2020, 9:15 a.m.

Interesting! I’ll check out the PataGucci option when I can. Don’t love the zippered stuff sack but at least they use quality zippers. Does the hood fit over a helmet?

Vik, do you strap it on in a bag or just on its own? 

Spare gloves for sure. All the gloves. That’s 90% of my hip pack since I moved my irregularly-used tools to a frame bag that jumps between bikes (Wolf Tooth EnCase in the bar changed some habits).

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Vikb
+3 Bushpilot Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Vik Banerjee  - May 15, 2020, 3:38 p.m.

I don't usually use the built-in stuff sack. If I'm wearing the vest/jacket and riding from home when I no longer want it I just roll it around itself and stuff it into the Super-8 or into my frame bag. If I am carrying the jacket as a just-in-case item I'll roll it and put it into a ziplock bag. The bag protects it and I have occasionally needed a ziplock bag when out and about on my bike. Putting it in its stuff sack is a hassle as it's tight and it gets super wrinkled that way. I know I am a fashion victim! #soSAD Rolling it gets it nice and small, is easier and it comes out unwrinkled!

https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/49773627862_48e32d5dc2_b.jpg

Photo with the vest stored in the Super 8. ^^^

The jacket's hood is generous enough to fit over my large IXS Trail RS helmet. I'd say the coverage was good, but not excellent. The hood could be bigger, but then it would be too large for non-helmet use so I think they've struck a reasonable balance for a generic jacket.

Patagonia will repair the jacket including the zippers free for the life of the item as long as it's a fair use failure. They do any repairs at a low cost even if it's abuse. So either way you know you can get a lot of use from this item.

As Bushpilot notes they are often available on sale if you are not picky about the colour. I wear the vest a lot as it covers a huge range of likely Van Isle riding conditions and with the zip I can adjust my core temp on the fly really well without stopping the bike. Too bad the vest is not being offered currently.

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geraldooka
+3 Bushpilot Vik Banerjee Pete Roggeman
Michael  - May 15, 2020, 12:33 p.m.

PataGucci Houdini is a brilliant piece and my most used jacket its just so bloody versatile. Its heavy use in my jacket rotation has meant the DWR coating is long gone but it still keeps me warm if a little damp. I did splurge on one of those 7mesh units but I can't bring myself to take it beyond commuter status because it is literarily the nicest article of clothing I own.

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Vikb
+1 Michael
Vik Banerjee  - May 15, 2020, 3:40 p.m.

It's true. He wears it a lot!

Reply

mrbrett
+1 Andrew Major
mrbrett  - May 15, 2020, 6:03 p.m.

Velcro tape is a good way to hold a rolled up jacket to your handlebar or top tube, especially if the jacket is wet. Leave a little coil of velcro on there, use for jacket, replace when finished. Easy, light and maybe $10-15 to buy a whole roll.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 15, 2020, 9:26 p.m.

I used to have a pair of CoreRat pump straps that were perfect for this job on a handlebar. Now I have one... how it goes. I actually have a small roll of Velcro and I should wrap some in my kit just to have. I carry tape wrapped around my pump and it has saved my ass so many times for ~ 0-grams.

Reply

Brigham_Rupp
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Brigham_Rupp  - May 15, 2020, 8:53 p.m.

Another option: I highly recommend the Black Diamond Alpine Start jacket. Wind proof, water resistant, quite breathable, and super comfy. Can get it with or without a hood. Packs into the pocket. It’s officially for climbing, but I use I throughout the year from biking to running to skiing when I just need to take the edge off. At certain times of the year you can find one for $60 or so. Black Diamond Alpine Start Jacket

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Brigham_Rupp Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - May 15, 2020, 9:20 p.m.

Thanks for the recommendation! I haven't owned very many Black Diamond products but everything I have used has been very good. The fact it's Schoeller is a big seller for me!

I received a message recommend the Outdoor Gear Helium II as well. It's a bit heavier (180grams) but that's similar to the Alpine Start. It apparently folds up almost as small as the P.I. and is "actually waterproof."

Some interesting options for sure.

Reply

geraldooka
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Michael  - May 15, 2020, 9:26 p.m.

The OR Helium or Helium II (the II has a nicer cut) is great if you could only bring just one jacket jacket. Its much more akin to a true rain-shell though and not a very breathable one. Its an order of magnitude less breathable than the 7mesh (or several orders). However its my go to for travel where I only want to carry the one shell. Though that was before the 7mesh and now I think I may just opt to take it for the small additional hit on weight, bulk etc.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 16, 2020, 7:15 p.m.

Sounds too sweaty to me? If I want a full on rainshell I bring my Guardian.

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Brigham_Rupp
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Brigham_Rupp  - May 15, 2020, 9:43 p.m.

Ya. BD is pretty new to the outerwear game, but I’ve been giving it a go since I’ve been happy with so much of their hardgoods in the backcountry and climbing. I’ve been impressed. Got a couple different jackets using Schoeller and I really like it. I’ve tried a good variety of wind shirts/windbreakers/light rain jackets and I feel pretty good saying this is the most breathable I’ve used while still actually blocking wind and keeping me dry in mild rain.

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JBV
+1 Andrew Major
James Vasilyev  - May 16, 2020, 11:10 a.m.

anything made by Schoeller is amazing usually with the price tags to match. their line of 'dryskin' fabrics was often found in a number of high end softshell pants, but they priced themselves right outta the market.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 16, 2020, 7:06 p.m.

They’re dead now, but I lived in my Schoeller knickers from Swrve. Sadly that brand is a lot less core cycling now because they were worth every penny. Not much of a brand whore but if it says Schoeller I’m immediately 50% more interested.

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GladePlayboy
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Rob Gretchen  - May 17, 2020, 6:59 p.m.

RF Nano jacket for me.  It's just right for those I wish I packed another layer moments.

Reply

knarrr
+1 Andrew Major
Andrew McKee  - May 18, 2020, 10:56 p.m.

I recently stumbled upon the Summit Shell, and its been a constant companion. It now resides mostly in a hip pocket of my bum bag, ready at a moments notice. I ride primarily in dry, sunny SW Colorado, so my ESJ make infrequent appearances, but there is nothing that will improve morale at 13,000' when the weather blows in than a jacket that you forgot was there.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Andrew McKee
Andrew Major  - May 19, 2020, 8:33 p.m.

"...there is nothing that will improve morale at 13,000' when the weather blows in than a jacket that you forgot was there. "

Exactly!

How many washings would you say you've put your Summit Shell through? I'm only at a handful but it's as new so far.

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knarrr
+1 Andrew Major
Andrew McKee  - May 19, 2020, 9:51 p.m.

I have washed mine only once, as it gets pretty minimal use in this climate. But its been in and out of its pouch countless times, often for very short deployments before being stuffed away again, and is no worse for the wear.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 19, 2020, 11:25 p.m.

That's the thing with lending out your ESJ... some of my friends smell a lot better than others. 

I run hot, so I tend to wash it if I've been hitting climbs in it. Certainly, most deployments are quick on/offs. That's why I tried to emphasize the lack of a zipper for the stuff pocket and how fast it is to bunch up.

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