Today we have a guest review from Billy Brown, super ninja, Hellfire Challenge survivor, and founder/editor of Trek Tech. He writes about outdoor sports, gear, lifestyle, and industry news for a variety of publications including Wired.
It’s not hard to make a decent running jacket. Make it light, make it warm, and make it windproof. But in a marketplace as crowded as running apparel, decent isn’t good enough.
The best running jackets take care of the basics, while adding some characteristic flair that makes their piece not only unique, but uniquely useful. Enter UK-based company Ashmei and their flagship softshell, the Ultimate Softshell.
The Ultimate Softshell lives up to its ambitious name with a terrific fit and feel, along with a host of smart little features. The running jacket includes extremely stretchy windproof and water-resistant polyester front and sleeve panels, coupled together with extremely breathable merino wool back and underarm panels. The highly elastic fabrics allow for a slim profile and snug, extremely comfortable fit, and the clean design looks great whether you’re running or sipping a latte.
I love the details like the asymmetrical zipper, which starts at the belt buckle region but edges to the right, preventing the zipper from irritating your throat, while the bite panel on the collar allows you to unzip with one hand. Thumb loops and merino mitts integrated into the sleeves provide more hand coverage, while the dropped hem sports gripper elastic to keep it from riding up and is equipped with a shock cord adjuster.
The running jacket sports two slim iPod pockets and cord organization clips, but since I run with my iPhone, I found the pockets too small to store much more than my house key and a few emergency bucks.
On brisk 30-degree morning runs, the Ultimate Softshell provided a ton of warmth. The poly front blocked wind and provided plenty of insulation. The thumb loops and merino mitts are so effective that I’ve been leaving my gloves at home. So far, the jacket has done a great job of repelling light rains, but since it’s water-resistant, not -proof, it may not hold up against a deluge.
I tend to heat up in the first mile or two of any run, but the merino panels kept condensation from building up and opening the two side vents helped regulate the temperature. Even on 10-mile plus runs, the jacket never felt too hot.
Bottom Line: Clean lines, sweet styling and a host of features make Ashmei’s Ultimate Softshell a warm, versatile layer whether you’re running in frigid conditions or just strutting around town lookin’ fly.
The Ultimate Softshell is available in either black or white, retails for £180 ($280), and is available from the Ashmei website.