The Jacket that Wasn't There: SUGOi's HydroLite

Josh KingJosh King lives in Seattle, where he commutes by bike every day, rain or shine. He switched to full-time single speed commuting in 2010. You can read his thoughts on going gearless at

Raise your hand if you’ve been caught in a rain shower on the ride home from work – and your rain gear was happily ensconced in the garage or closet? Lugging rain gear around “just in case” isn’t may favorite option, and unless it’s actively raining when I leave in the morning I’m likely to leave it behind, rationalizing that I probably won’t miss it. Most times I’m right, but every now and then my gamble turns out spectacularly wrong.

SUGOi HydroLite JacketBut what if you had rain gear — or a jacket, at least — that took up so little space that you could keep it permanently stowed in your pack or panniers and not have to debate whether to bring the full-blown rain gear on iffy days? And would such a jacket actually, you know, keep the rain off your clothes?

To find out, I tried an entrant in the “no see-um” category of cycling rainwear, the SUGOi HydroLite Jacket, to see if minimal demands on space and adequate rain protection were both in the offing.

“Gossamer-like” would be the best description for the HydroLite fabric, which is nearly as transparent as a 1960’s era rain cape.

The jacket also packs down to about the size of a wallet, and when I checked the weight of my size L on the kitchen scale, it clocked in at only six ounces. So it certainly ticks all the boxes for stowabilty, but what of performance?

First of all, let’s be clear about one thing: the HydroLite is not going to be a substitute for a more substantial jacket. The relatively short tail, basic elastic cuffs and uncovered pit ventilation ensure you’ll get some water infiltration if going through a torrential downpour or extended ride in the rain. But the good news is that the fabric and taped seams kept the water off just fine when riding through typical Seattle drizzle, and breathability was adequate (probably thanks more to the pit ventilation panels than the fabric).

The jacket also has some nice touches, like a bit of fleece lining at the collar and Scotchliteâ„¢ reflective trim for added visibility.

SUGOi HydroLite JacketAnd my wife says it’s “cute”, so it’s got that going for it.

Like most cycling jackets, the fit is relatively close, so ordering a larger-than-normal size is mandated if this is going over street clothes. Retails for $120, but can be found online for about $80.


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4 thoughts on “The Jacket that Wasn't There: SUGOi's HydroLite”

  1. sygyzy says:

    It would be cool if someone did a roundup of five or so ultralite packable cycling shells. Maybe put some criteria on it like under half a pound (8 oz) and under $130.

  2. sylvain says:

    Hi, the plastic on my jacket got thin, and ripps everywhere. Do not buy this jacket. it is not a good item to invest in.

  3. JohnK says:

    I’m generally impressed by Sugoi products. However, the HydroLite jacket is advertised as water-resistant and in my experience it is not. I rode through a light rain for 45 minutes and at the end of the ride my back was wet. This is unfortunate as the fit is good and I like many of the other features (stretchy material, good fit). Perhaps it’s a breathability issue (wet from the inside rather than the outside) but in any case I would not expect a damp back after only 45 minutes of easy riding.

  4. JohnK says:

    Just a follow-up to my initial review. I tested the waterproofness of this jacket and it passed. Therefore, I believe the issue is breathability. The fabric does not breathe well and the pit vents aren’t adequate enough so you end up getting wet from the inside.

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