Monday, 27 May 2013

A brilliant running vest - Peal izumi Elite Barrier Vest

Stock Photo - Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Vest
How did this fish end up with a Pearl izumi Elite Barrier vest?

Last week I spent a bit of time researching for the perfect running jacket. It had to be light weight and packable (into the CamelPak), water proof/ resistant and breathable. Is that too much to ask?

I looked at all the running brands and some mountain specialists as well. There are some great offerings that seem to tick all the boxes, but with a price tag that is very hard to swallow. I’m not in the place right now to spend $150 - $200 on a running jacket. Then I stumbled on the cycling range. Yes, cycling. Why not? Although the style and cut may be a little different to a runners jacket, they need to be light weight. They need to be water resistant and they also need to pack small. They consider small to be the back of a jersey pocket or seat pack. These should fit the bill I said. I then thought a little more on it and started looking at the vests. What do I really want when I am running? I want my core to be warm and dry. I can whack on some gloves when it gets really cold and I am prepared to sacrifice getting a little wet on my arms if I can keep my core warm and dry without over heating.

This fish doing an Elite Barrier Vest selfie
Enter the Peal izumi Elite Barrier Vest (follow the link for the specs). Scouring the reviews it sounded perfect. People are raving over it’s water resistance/proofness and the way it allows them to breathe. I placed an order with on Thursday morning and Friday lunch it arrived at work. Brilliant work Cellbikes.
Reflection on the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier Vest

The vest is amazing. The Pearl izumi Barrier fabric feels incredible. It feels feather light and soft. Yet it also feels strong. I’d call it a premium feel over all my other jackets. I went with the white for greater visibility. The silver branding and strips are reflective under light. I’d happily wear this anywhere. It has a decent sized pocket on the back that is kept secure with Velcro. The labelling by Pearl izumi rates it 4/5 for breathable and 3.5/5 for water resistance. The collar is lined with a softer material and it has mesh vests under the arms and across the middle of the back. To me this means it will keep my front and shoulders dry while still allowing for good breathability where it is needed. It also folds away really well and fits in my CamelPak with ease.

Putting it on, the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier vest is light. Very light. I ordered the smallest size, their small and it was a relaxed fit. If an extra small was available I might have taken it, but I can comfortably wear either a compression top or long sleeve technical shirt underneath it. For cold runs I plan to wear a long sleeve tech or compression top, when it’s wet I want to wear my Under Armour Heat Gear compression shirt. The idea behind this is that the Heat Gear dries incredibly quickly. 
My first run was leaving at dusk and into the night. I did a 14km night run wearing the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier vest, a long sleeve New Balance tech top and an inov-8 Wragg under my Black Wolf Storm spot head torch. I kept my legs warm in a pair of Skins A400 compression tights.  The ambient temperature was 7-9 degrees Celsius. To put this into perspective, before I left I had the shakes as I was getting changed.

As I settled into my rhythm I found the vest to be very comfortable. It was neither tight anywhere or did it feel loose at all. I was able to keep warm without feeling the pinch. As I continued my run I went through some warmer areas and some lower spots where there was a real cold patch. After about 10km my running partner needed a toilet break so this was a good chance to see how well the vest retained its heat. It did a great job. I deliberately kept my legs moving but I did not start to feel cold at all. The pocket in the back was easily accessed quite a few times as I checked the distance on my phone. While it’s exhilarating running in the middle of nowhere in the dark, you do need to track how far and long you've been running. Getting the phone in and out of the pocket was a breeze.

This morning during my tempo run the temperature was a rather cold 4-5 degrees Celsius. I went with the above Under Armour Heat Gear shirt and the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier Vest combo. It was one of those sessions where gloves were essential and my hands were pretty cold for nearly the entire duration of the run. In contrast, my core was kept nice and warm and I did not feel over heated at all. I also had to remove my hat at one point to relieve some head heat. 

I've also been able to run in the rain with the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier vest. On my Sunday trail run it was 7 degrees Celcius and a constant drizzle/shower/light rain for the first 30 minutes. I wore the vest with my Under Armour compression shirt and a pair of gloves (as in the self pict above.) I also had a hat to keep the rain off my face. While it was wet I felt that my core and shoulders were kept dry. At the end of the run I took off my jacket and found that I was indeed dry. YES! A jacket that keeps me dry and allows me to breathe! 

24/11/13 An update... On Sunday I did a 20km LSD run - HR at 150BPM and ticking over ar just under 5min/km pace. It decided to rain heavily. For a while I was kept nice and dry, but ultimately I ended up soaked through. In heavy rain, it was a fail. And I so wanted the jacket to work! In a positive spin, the rain stopped and I didn't feel too cold or wet so it allowed me to breathe nicely. 

If I have one gripe, it’s that I will need to shave before a morning run. Because the collar fits quite snugly around the neck, I was getting some irritation from my two day stubble. Still, unzip it half an inch and there’s no complaints. It also helped breathability and ventilation a tad.

So, for future cold runs the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier Vest gets a big thumbs up and will be always with me. Pearl izumi might have it listed under their bike section on the web, but it’s a great running vest. I may even be tempted to pick up the Elite Barrier Jacket if I can find one at the right price.

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