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These pieces provide solid protection for chilly early mornings
The Stormshell is a fast (and stealthy) favorite
The bright colors mean we’re way past winter
TAYLOR: Welcome, Inov-8. Everyone, please take a moment to wave across the pond to the UK-based company that’s quietly been slaying dragons with its high-quality, ready-to-rip gear for a while now. Why hasn’t Inov-8 made it big in the US yet? It’s a mystery to me too.
Much of Inov-8’s gear is specifically tailored to its Lake District home base, which is characterized by soft ground, technical terrain, and moody weather. That means Inov-8’s gear is almost always technically sound and sometimes maybe a bit extreme for trail runners in a more moderate area.
Today we have some apparel that flows in that same river of design. Both the Stormshell Jacket and Race Elite Tights crave high performance in the toughest of conditions. It’s no surprise to me that Inov-8 delivers quality gear, yet again.
ALEX: Striking the balance between breathability and protection in a rain jacket is no easy task, and while many brands claim to achieve this, I find that most fall short. I often find myself peeling off a wet shell with just as much moisture on the inside as the outside.
The Inov-8 Stormshell is one of the best. I found it lightweight, protective, and more breathable than the Arc’teryx Norvan series, which has been my go-to option for the past few years. It’s not the only piece of gear that Inov-8 sent over, so let’s get into it all.
TAYLOR: Light. Protective. Fitted. Inov-8’s Stormshell Waterproof Jacket ticks all the boxes that many jackets do not.
It uses a Pertex Shield Fabric as the main protective layer, and it could keep out a tsunami if needed. The material itself is extremely waterproof and lighter than most jackets. I find that most waterproof materials have no flex in them whatsoever, but the Stormshell shows that even just a little bit of flex can go a long way in terms of comfort and function. Inov-8’s Pretext Shield Fabric is definitely a showcase in waterproofing.
The Stormshell’s slimmer design and lightweight package make it an easy choice for race day or to throw in the pack for those “what if” scenarios. The Stormshell fits neatly around all edges. I would normally expect this to be restrictive, but again, the Pertex Shield has a touch of stretch to it, and that makes all the difference. Some may still find the shoulders, forearms, and waist of the jacket to be snug.
The hood was both a blessing and a curse on the Stormshell Jacket. I loved the way the neck zipped up to cover everything from your chin down, and the hood fits wonderfully around the head and has a cinch cord to create a waterproof tunnel. Both the fit and the slight bill kept precipitation out of my eyes and face. However, when the hood came down and the jacket unzipped (even a little), the hood became a lot of material flopping around. On a positive note, if the Stormshell Jacket is on, it’s most likely raining. So, the hood will be up anyways.
I typically wear a Medium in US men’s sizes, but I had to size up to a Large for the Stormshell, so plan accordingly.
Overall, the Stormshell jacket gets Grade-A rankings for its light, slim, and completely functional design to keep you dry on race day or any outing, for that matter.
ALEX: The Stormshell is made with a waterproof Pertex Shield Fabric that provides protection from the elements while still allowing moisture to escape, keeping you dry and comfortable. My experience with Pertex is limited to shoes, and when compared to Gore-Tex, I’ve found it to be more breathable but less durable. The jury is out on the long-term durability, but in the meantime, the quality is standing strong.
The Stormshell has a waterproof rating of 20k HH (Hydrostatic Head), which means it’s built to withstand over 20,000 mm of rain in a 24-hour period. My mind doesn’t naturally compute Hydrostatic Head and millimeters of rain per hour, but this seems like a great thing when I consider that I stayed dry on multiple runs with steady rain.
My favorite thing about the Stormshell is how soft and quiet the material is. I’m easily distracted on runs, and nothing’s more irritating to me than unnecessary swooshes, crinkles (see my Naked T/r review), clicks, or crunches. I’m out there to hear nature, not my gear. This one is wonderfully silent.
Remember that horrible compostable Sun Chips bag? I’ve tested shells that sounded similar. Just like there’s no sneaking a chip from that absolute trash Sun Chips bag, there was no sneaking up on the enormous, cranky farm dog that I used to try to sneak by on every run. I blame the jacket for more than one of those unfortunate encounters. I know I could get by unscathed in the Stormshell. This should probably be part of every prototype/test process.
My primary complaint about the Stormshell is the lack of a waist draw cord for a customizable fit. I appreciate the somewhat relaxed fit to accommodate layering and even a hydration pack underneath but ultimately found that the elastic hem felt and looked really awkward. Without the ability to cinch it down, you lose protection from the elements, and the longer length makes it feel a little too wide at the hips. Brands should always err on the side of adjustability, even if it means adding a few grams; approximating body shape is not something that typically ends well and can result in a one-size-fits-one outcome.
Overall, the Stormshell is a solid choice for lightweight, waterproof protection. It has a simple design while maintaining attention to detail (minus the waist hem thing), including a small pocket, adjustable hood, and a high protective collar.
At the end of the day, however, $230 is a lot of money.
PRICE: $230Shop Inov-8 Stormshell - Men Shop Inov-8 Stormshell - Women
TAYLOR: Here in the Rocky Mountains, I get more runs in tights than I do in shorts. It may be self-proclaimed, but I think I fall into the expert category when it comes to the matter. Like Alex, I wore these for a lot more than just trail running, and my expert opinion on the Inov-8 Race Elite Tights is thumbs up.
Inov-8 is committed to using quality materials on fully functional apparel, and I’m here for it. Integrated pockets around the waistband make it easy to stash necessary items like a phone, gels, and keys. The pockets themselves are stitched into a broad waistband, which is plenty comfortable.
I used Inov-8’s Race Elite Tights for cool to cold runs (upper 20’s and in drier climates) and found them appropriately warm. The fabric is a medium thickness with some reinforced panels, which allow for skin protection without sacrificing movement — isn’t that exactly what you want from a tight?
It’s important to note that I sized up from my typical Medium to a Large for the Inov-8 Race Elite Tights. In many ways, I wish I would have gone with the Medium (the waist and length were too large), however, if you have larger calves like me, consider the size up.
ALEX: The Race Elite Tights are awesome. They’re super comfortable with a high waistband that lays flat and has built-in pockets. Inov-8 gets points for its soft and stretchy material, and I’ve worn the tights for skiing, trail running, and road running. They allow for a full range of motion and fit securely without feeling restricted. The high-back waist has gripper tape on the inside, and at first, I thought it would feel sticky and uncomfortable, but I never even noticed it once I had them on. The flatlock seams prevent chafing and contribute to the overall smooth feel of the tights.
A small rear zipped pocket and a larger mesh pocket offer secure, easily accessible storage for small personal items and gels. Reinforced durable fabric panels on the calves officer additional protection, and the ankle zips allow for quick and easy on and off.
Overall Inov-8’s Race Elite Tights are great. They have thoughtful details and are super comfortable to wear all day. One thing to note is that they do not have wind panels or insulation and are intended to be for higher output efforts. Still, I tested them in 30-45 degree temps, and they performed very well.
PRICE: $95Shop Inov-8 Race Elite Tight - Men Shop Inov-8 Race Elite Tight - Women
Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.More from Taylor
Alex is a trail and ultra runner from the upper midwest who loves Minnesota’s long winters and logging miles on the rooty, rocky, steep trails of Lake Superior’s North Shore. She was the first female to set a supported FKT on the 310 mile Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) and enjoys multi-day events and races, especially if they involve snow and -20 degree temps.
All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Speedgoat Evo, Hoka Tecton X, Altra Timp.More from Alex