even after doing this for possibly more years than i can remember, i'm still not sure if there's a formula or an art to product reviewing. if there is, then it has escaped me completely, because i still treat each individual review on the basis of what it is, when it is, and how it is. undoubtedly, it would be a piece of cake (so to speak), to take some appropriate photographs of said object in a style befitting the professed market at which the subject matter is apparently aimed, before telling you all how good a product the manufacturer says it is and which boxes it ticks. but doing so is not only an abrogation of any implied responsibilities you think thewashingmachinepost has, it is plainly not fair to the purveyor who has been kind enough to send product for review, and it pretty much takes you lot for a bunch of mugs.
fortunately for me and you, that is most definitely not the way i see this sort of thing going: rapha sent the latest version of their stowaway jacket for review at just the right time, when the weather falling on the principality was considerably less than dry and temperate. on the basis of a review, the very name of the jacket -stowaway - sort of gives the game away as to its intended purpose in life; if rapha had called it a triple layer, goretex arctic stormbreaker, you and i both would be less expectant of something that could be scrunched in a rear pocket and brought out only when the odd shower sneaked up from behind during a shiny spring/summer's day.
but then its intended purpose gives rise to possible double entendre: if rapha consider it as a paper thin (i actually have toilet paper that's thicker than this), breathable, temporary rain jacket with, at the very least, water resistant properties, then surely it would be a brilliant idea to wear it over a sportwool summer season jersey on a sub-zero day out on the bike? and an even better idea would be if there was the odd gale force wind kicking about, bringing freezing rain, sleet and hail. apparently, on islay, that's just what sundays are for, and midst the enveloping greyness that always accompanies the preceding weather, the stowaway's bright orange ensured that ditching in the sea would be unlikely to hinder the helicopter search and rescue mission.
you'd figure that the foregoing would be quite enough to alarm the unsuspecting stowaway jacket, but just to add the icing on the cake, i added the debbie card test to the small debbie pocket on the front.
i'll not pretend that central heating was my middle name - a winter jersey under the semi-transparent orange would doubtless have been a more pragmatic idea, but as my mum always used to say 'pride bears no pain', and the jersey, of which you will hear more of another day, added too much style to the coffee stop to be replaced by anything else in thewashingmachinepost wardrobe. however, provided a healthy pace was maintained during the uiskentuie echelon, overall temperature was merely a smidgeon below comfortable. granted a low body temperature is unlikely to aggravate the breathable properties of this impossibly thin technical fabric, but there was never really any danger of that jersey or armwarmers acquiring a thin film of condensation at any point of the 70km ride. i do so love it when a waterproof jacket exhibits tiny beads of precipitation upon the surface, all the more so because water droplets on the outside would tend to suggest that they have not made it as far as the interior.
but i realise that the over-riding question that you are all dying to ask is how did the debbie test go? for those too young to remember the origination of the debbie test, allow me to enlighten. in keeping with the trend exhibited by many a barista refuge on the mainland, debbie happily provides her patrons with a small card on which boxes are ticked on purchase of a cup of coffee; collect eight ticks, and a ninth cup is free. this debbie card is custom designed to fit in the pocket on the front of rapha's stowaway and the debbie test checks to see whether the card is still dry and intact, with no blurring of felt tip pen ticks after the dunking provided by the sunday ride. in this case, all thumbs were up.
probably the part of the equation that was likely to cause the least consternation was the jacket's stowawayness. rapha's first incarnation of this garment from around three or four years ago (a pink version of which still resides amongst the waterproof section of my wardrobe) consisted of a thicker, and arguably more waterproof, lined fabric which occupied a not inconsiderable proportion of one of those three rear pockets. this new, lighter fabric all but disappears into the depths of a similarly sized repository on the back of a sportwool or lycra jersey. this obviously fits well with rapha's intended usage factor. the fit is better than that ageing pink version too - it's a progress thing.
the zip follows the, by now, rapha trademark of being offset from centre, the tail flap is long enough to cover the tail feathers when on the drops and there are reflective strips and logo in case surrounding or impending traffic didn't quite catch the orangeness on first approach. altogether, the rapha stowaway (also available in black or misty blue) ticks the appropriate boxes, except that i have undergone at least 70km of pain and suffering in the cold and wet, just to make sure.
rapha's stowaway jacket is available in sizes extra small all the way up to xxl, obviously becoming slightly less stowable at each stage, at an unchanged cost from 2008 of £175 ($290). perhaps more than you'd thought of paying for a so called showerproof jacket but it does do more than it says on the tin.
posted on monday 9 march 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................