Review of Lewiskit T4 Softshell Jacket
Lewiskit asked me to review their new £70 T4 softshell jacket at the end of November and I’ve been wearing it for the last month, enough I think to review, though I had intended to test it in rainy conditions which have not materialised. It’s advertised as a jacket with a windproof , water repellent outer layer (“WindshieldTM”) bonded to soft, warm fleece; suitable for biking, running or relaxing. My first impression was that it would also be ideal for walking and rock climbing with it’s shaped fit and flexibility in the shoulder area…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
First off, I wanted to see what the competition was. There is a page of softshell jackets on Wiggle and I noticed immediately that it looks very similar to the Endura Air Defence Jacket but is £5 cheaper – in fact, this makes it cheaper than any of the items on Wiggle apart from a basic woman-specific Ron Hill model. There are other Softshell jackets, made by various outdoor companies but my web search didn’t show up any below £100. Finally, the December issue of 220 Triathlon has a review of the Sugoi Radius jacket which is slightly more expensive (£77) and looks like a similar but simpler jacket which is more bike specific. So, keenly priced; and with a list of features that generally matches or exceeds those of the other jackets, even the more expensive ones…good news up to now.
Once the jacket arrived, I did a thorough check of seams and build quality, no problems there, in fact the stitching and detail were excellent. The fit is very snug, ideal for cycling as no billowing around, though it is important to be careful when sizing as the jacket is close fitting but not stretchy. It’s also very light and flexible for a windproof. There’s a neat zip guard at the neck and two draw cord adjustment points at the hem which are very easy to use, even with gloves. Two big zipped pockets under each arm will hold maps, energy bars and compact pump and there’s also a rear pocket (which I found ideal for the mobile phone as it can move about in the larger pockets) and an internal one for valuables. The styling is understated, which is very much to my taste – black with grey side panels and silver, reflective beading either side of the arms. The Lewiskit logos are on one arm, with the “happy” figure also on the neck. Very nice.
I think it’s fair to say that the softshell is more suited to biking than running, unless it’s very cold or like me, you’re going to venture out for multiple hours in the hills at relatively low effort. I’ve already mentioned that it would be ideal for hill walking as it is light, windproof and warm. The longer tail covered my bott well and that stayed warm and dry on the bike with the jacket dealing with any spray [it also kept my bum from getting cold when sitting on the patio, playing with the cats]. On the bike, I found that movement wasn’t restricted at all and I stayed warm even though the weather this December was pretty chilly for the UK. My 6 hour ride in the Lakes the week before Christmas was the only time I encountered any drizzle and I didn’t get cold once, plus the pockets accommodated my map and food with ease. Given how light the T4 is, this was a surprise for such a long, relatively low speed excursion. Turned inside out, the jacket dries very quickly after use. I found that to run in it, I needed to dispense with a base layer, otherwise I was too warm. Personally, I prefer to wear two layers so don’t think I’ll be using it on the roads unless it gets very cold again. However, if you feel the cold, then this will keep you much warmer than a simple windproof layer. The pockets will take hat and gloves with ease if you get too warm and I found that the rear and internal pockets take keys without any annoying jangling, unlike my normal windproofs. I also used the jacket in the garden and around town with good effect; it is much less bulky for the same degree of warmth than my other winter wear so I was able to rake leaves without looking like the Michelin man. The pockets are in quite strange places for walking round town but I soon got used to that.
I have to say that the couple of minor quibbles I have are pretty trivial. Working at higher intensity on the bike, you will get sweaty and like all other jackets, the breathable outer layer won’t be able to get rid of the water as quickly as you produce it. This was only a problem for me on the one occasion that I wore a short sleeve base layer beneath the T4 – my arms did get a little clammy by the end of the ride. Hence, I’ve always used long-sleeve base layers since (obviously, the flip side of this is that if you want any sweat to disperse, you can’t wear a windproof layer and hence are more likely to get cold – warm and wet seems to get most peoples’ vote these days over cold and dry). I've already mentioned that it's a bit too warm for general running for me. Secondly, the draw cords at the waist do have a tendency to loosen over time, more so running than on the bike, but you will need to regularly pull them tight. Finally, the rear is not particularly reflective if you’re out in dubious light so you might want to wear a reflective band or similar.
I found the T4 to be an excellent all-round jacket, great for cycling and stylish enough for wearing round town. I really noticed that it was windproof compared to a standard fleece and not restrictive like a waterproof shell. Ease of movement is excellent around the shoulders for such a fitted feel. The level of features are high compared to the other jackets I looked at whilst preparing this – however, having not actually seen or used them, it’s not fair to make direct comparisons, other than to note that the T4 is one of the cheapest options. What is clear is that you get a lot of jacket for £70. I’m a little reluctant to give a score given that I’ve not compared the T4 directly against any other jackets but it gets a 9/10 from me compared to the other tri equipment I’ve bought over the past few years.
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