Ronhill ShakeDry Jacket Review

When I run, I generate quite a lot of heat and tend sweat a lot. For this reason and like many runners, I find that breathable waterproof jackets don’t breathe enough for me. I get hot and the sweat runs down my arms and pours out of the sleeve of the jacket. So, I am as wet on the inside as the rain is making the jacket on the outside! This makes me uncomfortable and dehydrates me, which leads to feeling fatigued on longer runs. As a result, I tend to stick to a good base layer that keeps me warm and comfortable when wet with a gilet to keep the wind off. When I am out on the hills or trails for a long run then I do carry a waterproof jacket and pants and if I get cold then I’ll put them on to warm up. I am the perfect reviewer for the new Ronhill Gore-Tex Shakedry waterproof jacket, as my expectations for all waterproof jackets are low!

Ronhill have teamed up with Mountain Equipment and Gore-Tex to make a lightweight, highly breathable fully waterproof jacket. The jacket is made from Gore-Tex Active with Shakedry technology. Unlike most waterproof fabrics used to make jackets this waterproof material has no external fabric stuck to it. Instead the membrane provides a fully waterproof and windproof barrier. By not having an external fabric stuck to the membrane this makes the material a lot more breathable while reducing the pack size and weight. To prevent the jacket from feeling plastic like next to the skin the membrane has a very thin, ultralight backing.

Shakedry has been specifically developed in order to breathe enough for it to be used comfortably while doing high output activities like running.

The material is called Shakedry because it is so highly hydrophobic that the water simply rolls off. The material never gets wet. A couple of shakes of the jacket and the water just falls off. You get no saturated face fabric to make the jacket cold and heavy. When the rain stops and you want to store the jacket you simply give it a shake and pop it in your bag as it’s almost totally dry.

The material is made of a membrane that is made of millions of tiny micro pores, too small for water droplets from rain or snow to pass through. Gore and Ronhill have tested this jacket for many hours and it is guaranteed to keep you dry even in heavy rain and be totally windproof.

As you would expect with such a light material Ronhill have developed a light minimal jacket. It is designed to function on the run and nothing more. The jacket weighs in at around 100 grams in a men’s medium. Despite this the material doesn’t feel supper flimsy and light like some of the lightweight windproof jackets. The cut of the jacket is snug so that it doesn’t flap around in the wind but, still roomy enough to get a few layers underneath it on a cold day. I found the hood to fit comfortably over my running hat and move with my head. You can adjust the volume of the hood with a tape at the back. So, you can make it a perfect fit for the size of your head.

I am 5 feet 11 inches tall, 10 stone and found the medium to fit well with enough length in the sleeves. The sleeves came slightly over the back of my hands. So, on a cold wet day there was no gap between the jacket and my gloves. The cuff has thumb loops that are elastic and comfortable. These hold the sleeve in place.

The zip, although a waterproof rubber zip, isn’t too heavy or stiff. There is a tape and a stud at chest height so you can stud the jacket closed with a slight gap. This means that you can undo the zip to vent the jacket if required without the jacket opening up and filling with air and reducing the chance of the rain getting blown in.

The Ronhill Shakedry has one small chest pocket. This is big enough for a light pair of gloves or hat. It’s not really big enough for a phone or designed for one. The phone would bounce up and down too much and is better carried in the back pocket of your tights or shorts or a waist pouch. Also I wouldn’t risk putting a door key in the pocket either as over time it will wear a hole through the material.

The inside of the jacket is nice and soft and feels nice next to your skin. Although I would suggest that it’s best used with a long sleeve breathable base layer underneath it (not cotton that hangs onto any moisture, gets heavy, cold and rubs).

From this description the Ronhill Shakedry jacket sounds too good to be true. I had already run for a few hours with Matt Bond from Ronhill on a mild dry day when Matt was wearing a shakedry. He had a merino wool baselayer underneath and the jacket was dry on the inside and so was Matt’s baselayer. This did seem pretty amazing and I put it down to Matt not having to work that hard to run at my pace.

My first run in a Ronhill Shakedry was a 30 minute one. By the end of the run I was quite warm in the jacket and starting to sweat a bit. The temperature was about 10 degrees and it was drizzling. The water did fall off the outside of the jacket and it was dry on the inside but, I thought at that point that if I was to run for longer I would still get too warm in it and sweat buckets.

The real test came one wet Friday morning when it was raining in biblical proportion. I had planned a long run and so this was the perfect test for the Ronhill Shakedry. After 30 minutes or so despite the heavy rain and the cold temperature I was warm. However, the ground was very wet, muddy and slippy and this distracted me and I just kept running in the jacket. The rain never let up. It wasn’t until I was on my return after an hour and a half that it dawned on me that I hadn’t got too hot. I wasn’t sweating buckets in fact I was snug, dry and comfortable. This seemed pretty unbelievable. When I got home the jacket was bone dry on the inside. The water was easy to shake off the outside and my baselayer was no more than slightly damp. This was a massive improvement on any waterproof jacket that I had tried. However, it had been a very cold day. Would it still be as good on a milder day?

Since then I have used the jacket over lots of varying length runs on days as warm as 12 degrees. The same thing happened. I initially got quite warm but, then the breathability caught up and I was comfortable and snug and not sweating unduly inside the jacket. The reason this happens is that the material requires some pressure to push the warm air that you are generating inside the jacket through the pours. The pressure comes in the form of heat. So, you have to get warm in the jacket in order for the breathability to start working.

In summer it might be that you get too warm in the jacket and the breathability won’t be able to keep up. It’s hard to test this at the moment as it is quite cold and wet. However, I have used the jacket on tempo runs where I have been working quite hard and only felt the need to unzip the jacket slightly to not over heat. So, the jacket might be breathable enough to cope with summer running too.

When running hill reps or intervals I generate enough heat that I don’t need to wear a jacket. I used the Shakedry during the warm up and warm down and tied it around my waist during the efforts. This worked perfectly as the jacket is so thin that it isn’t bulky when it has been twisted around the sleeves and the material both ties and unties easily without working loose while running the efforts.

We often get asked in the shop how durable the waterproofing would be if a ruck sack was worn over the top of the jacket. I haven’t tested this but as Shakedry is such a light material I wouldn’t recommend using the jacket underneath a heavy ruck sack. However, one of the Ronhill designers has been running to work and back with a light race vest over the top of the jacket for over a year. The jacket has no signs of wear and the water still beads off the outside of the jacket.

It’s worth mentioning here that it’s often a better idea to wear the jacket over the top of a race vest. This not only reduces the chance of rubbing damaging the jacket but, it makes it easier to put the jacket on and take it off without having to remove your race vest.

All in all this is an amazing jacket. The only downside at the moment is the inability to get it in different colours!

Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle

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