Every runner needs a decent waterproof jacket in their arsenal. Our first concern is normally 'will it pass a mandatory kit check?' - this usually means does it have taped seams? Then, 'how lightweight can I get away with it being?' With more extreme races entering the thoughts of many runners, people are heading to more inhospitable environments where they are more exposed than ever to the elements. With these races and challenges in mind, running waterproofs are now entering a new phase, where lightness isn’t the primary factor, but rather durability and protection.
The inov-8 AT/C Protec Shell is, in their own words, “designed for keeping mountain runners and multi-day ultra racers dry and warm in the foulest of conditions.” It certainly seemed to work for Jasmin Paris when winning the Spine Race this year. I got my hands on one in the middle of April, just as the weather started to brighten up. Luckily since then we have had some heavy bouts of rain and I have been to both the Lake District and Scottish coast; two locations guaranteed to test the credentials of any protective gear.
The first time you wear the AT/C Protec Shell the build quality is obvious. Unlike my previous waterproof running jackets which can often felt like running in old cling film, the inov-8 feels robust and durable. It’s not heavy by any means, coming in at a shade over 330g, but you will notice the difference if you are used to 160g options like the inov-8 Stormshell. Unlike many hardshell jackets there is a good degree of stretch which helps alleviate the stiff and box like feel associated with some jackets of this type.
The sleeves are well designed and allow for plenty of arm swing and a big windmill on the downhills without riding up. The cuffs also have a directional rubber L designed to divert water away from your hands, it’s not 100% effective but does lessen the amount of water ending up on your wrists and making its way inside and up your arms.
A design feature I am a big fan of is the pockets, it may sound like an odd thing to get excited about but it really does feel revolutionary. Rather than being on the side at hip level which can often be inaccessible when running with a pack, they are either side of the main zip- accessed with the opposite hand. This not only helps with access but also gives added protection from the elements with rain less likely to make its way in.
Sizing is accurate; I’m 5’7 with a 38”chest and a small is a comfortable and mobile fit. The form fitting design is not so snug that an additional base and midlayer make it feel tight and restrictive. The low hem on the rear gives an extra bit of protection from the water and mud kicked up by heels on the run. The main zip is waterproof and includes a storm flap to protect you from any leaks. It also curves away from the chin to the right and is backed by a nice soft fabric meaning no irritating zip rub on your chin when running.
I am very happy to report that all the above combine to make a phenomenal jacket. Throughout my time with the Protec Shell I have not experienced any leaks or points where water can get in. Even in heavy downpours it remained extremely water repellent keeping me warm and dry, it also stood up to high winds; deflecting them well and avoiding any nasty chills. The hood moves with the head, allowing for great peripheral vision while the peak keeps the majority of water out of your face. For a hardshell it is surprisingly breathable, I run hot and only got a little damp from sweat on my runs. Some under arm ventilation zips may help in future iterations.
The AT/C Protec Shell is an out and out running jacket with the quality and features you would expect from a brand like inov-8, it also looks fantastic and wouldn’t be out of place in the bar pre or post race. It is only available in black which will suit the trail ninjas out there, I usually like a bit more colour and if there was a neon yellow option i’d be all over it (maybe next season guys?). If you are looking for something with a bit more protection than a lightweight waterproof and are looking at some bigger or multi-day challenges the inov-8 AT/C Protec-Shell is definitely a jacket you should explore.