Review: Higher State Running Jacket Reviews
Written By: Josh Westwood
For anyone running regularly on the trails- or anywhere else for that matter- a jacket is one of the most essential items of clothing you can invest in. Uses may include keeping out a chilly breeze, protection from a heavy shower or potentially even saving your life! Certain jackets can also make you more visible when running in low light. All of this means that it can be a tricky choice when choosing which one to buy and the truth is, just like trail running shoes, one jacket won’t be suitable for every application.
The range of jackets from Higher State aims to provide fantastic quality and performance alongside a very affordable price tag. There are a variety of different jackets within the range and in this review, I will take a quick look at the options available. As always, the items have been provided to me by SportsShoes but I am under no obligation to leave any particular feedback. All comments and reviews are my own opinions and experiences.
With all of the jackets in this review, I have been testing them during winter in the Yorkshire Dales. Not the driest or calmest place on Earth so a great test for the Higher State range! I have also been testing these jackets keeping in mind that they are positioned at the more ‘affordable’ end of the market. There is absolutely no point comparing these jackets to my big Gore-Tex hardshell jacket which cost about seven times the price. They are not designed for that market. If you are looking for a great every day running jacket that won’t completely empty you bank account, then this review will explore the options available in the Higher State range.
Here I’ll be reviewing each of the following Higher State jackets:
- Mountain Stretch Waterproof Jacket
- All-over Reflect Running Jacket
- Trail Ultra Lite Half-Zip Jacket
- Trail Waterproof Lite Jacket
- Windproof Reflective Jacket
- Padded Jacket
MOUNTAIN STRETCH WATERPROOF JACKET
The Mountain Stretch is the most substantial feeling jacket in the Higher State range and is designed to combine protection from the elements with après-run style. The most noticeable feature from the other jackets in this range is the soft feel of the outer fabric. It definitely helps the Mountain Stretch to feel more like a quality jacket, and all but eliminates the annoying rustling noise which many jackets suffer from. Features include a hood, taped seams, side pockets and reflective detailing. I was particularly impressed with the hood. They can often be absolutely useless on jackets of this price point but I have found this one to be very user-friendly. It can be adjusted from both sides and back, sits comfortably on the forehead, doesn’t slide down whilst running and is a close enough cut to prevent it becoming a sail when running into a headwind. I have used jackets that cost three times as much with worse hoods. There’s even a soft ‘beard guard’ behind the hood to prevent your chin from getting rubbed to bits.
I tried to save the Mountain Stretch for some of the longer, soggier outings I’ve had over the last few weeks. I figured that this jacket is the one which Higher State have designed to offer the most protection and comfort especially during longer runs. Overall, I was impressed. For a £50 jacket the Mountain Stretch represents excellent value for money, and on a very wet, windy 16 mile fell run I had very little to complain about. If I was being really picky, I’d say that I’d like a little more breathability. I noticed a difference in how soggy the inside of the jacket was post-run compared to more expensive offerings on the market, but that’s why you pay the big bucks! That’s a minor criticism though and I found that, when used as an outer layer in combination with a good mid layer and base layer, the Mountain Stretch provides a fantastic level of protection against the elements.
Featured: Higher State Trail Ultra Lite Half Zip
TRAIL ULTRA LITE HALF-ZIP JACKET
The Ultra Lite Half Zip was the first jacket I tested from the Higher State range. I originally thought that it was a lightweight thermal layer, but it seems to just be a lightweight weatherproof layer. The website states that the jacket “works diligently to prevent the ingress of water”- which I immediately took to mean “showerproof”. First impressions show that this seems to be the case, and I took the jacket for a spin on a very windy, drizzly day. My initial reaction to jacket was the incredibly poor fit. The sleeves are so wide that I could fit my leg through them, and the torso is sized incredibly generously. All jackets that I have tested from Higher State have been Medium including this one, and the sleeves etc all seem to be the correct length, but I can’t understand the need for such a loose fit on this particular one. This became more of an issue once the wind caught hold of me, and I was flapping around like a flag as I tried to run up the first hill! The noise created by this was also extremely annoying.
Moving away from the fit, the Ultra Lite does provide a degree of protection against wind and showers. I wore it combined with base and mid layers and, despite the annoying flapping, I didn’t feel as if I needed a heavier jacket on. On a longer run, or in worse conditions, I feel like it would be out of its depth fairly quickly though. The main problem for me is what purpose I would purchase the jacket for. Despite the fact that the Ultra-Light is very packable, for a lightweight protective layer to pop in my bumbag I would look for a slightly more substantial alternative such as the excellent Higher State Trail Lite Jacket. For a really awful day I would probably use my more expensive Gore-Tex jacket. On a cold day I’d use a thermal layer with the Trail Lite jacket as backup. The only use I can think I would have for the Ultra Lite would be during the warmer months as an emergency layer, when the weather is such that you know it will never get very cold but may need to take the chill off at some point when running or if I became incapacitated. It might also be useful for racing in warmer weather, but the fact it does not have taped seams rules it out of many kit lists.
Unfortunately, my least favourite jacket in the Higher State range. One or two decent features are let down by a poor fit. Improving the cut and adding something as simple as the ability to fold the jacket away into its own pocket would go a long way towards making it quite a useful emergency layer to stuff in your bag just in case.
TRAIL WATERPROOF LITE JACKET
The Trail Waterproof Lite was one of the first jackets I used from the Higher State range. I instantly placed it into the same category as the jacket I would carry the majority of the time in my bumbag. This being the type of jacket that will offer me excellent protection if the weather goes south, but pack down to a nice compact size when not in use. For a jacket that is currently available for under £45 on the SportsShoes website, my first impression was excellent. The Trail Lite is complete with all of the features I would normally look for in this type of jacket: waterproof; windproof; adjustable hem; fully adjustable hood; outer pockets- one of which the whole jacket packs away into. It also features taped seams which will satisfy the kit list requirements of many fell races. There’s an integrated waist belt too just in case you want to travel light with just the jacket around your waist. This appears when the pocket is turned out to pack the jacket away.
My first test of the Trail Lite was on a night-time moorland walk with my girlfriend. Walking behind me with a headtorch, she commented on how brightly the Higher State logos lit up on the back and the left arm- another very useful feature. There is also a small reflective logo next to the chest pocket. The jacket is available in six colourways so there should be something to satisfy every fashion taste. I was sent the Green/Orange one which I absolutely love. Being a proper country boy, I’m always a fan of a good green jacket!
In use, the Trail Lite did not disappoint in the slightest. The fit is excellent and can be tailored to suit the weather and the user’s preferences thanks to the Velcro cuffs and full adjustment in the hood and hem. The hood in particular is excellent and, very much like the Mountain Stretch jacket, it is surprising to see a hood which fits this well on a jacket of this price point. There’s nothing worse than being caught out in driving rain with something that’s more of a ‘head cover’ than a proper hood. Waterproofing and windproofing is also very effective, and there was no point where I felt as if the elements were getting the better of the Trail Lite. However, as with many affordable jackets, breathability falls short of more expensive offerings. I felt like the inside of the jacket was definitely wetter after a run than other more costly jackets I own. I don’t hold this against the Trail Lite though as it more than holds its own for the price tag, and I would much prefer my jacket to stop the elements coming in from outside and sacrifice a little bit of breathability. After all, when taking part in prolonged hard activity such as running, there isn’t a waterproof jacket in the world which will be bone dry on the inside afterwards.
The Trail Lite is my favourite jacket in the Higher State range. It is packed with features and has an excellent fit. There’s even a hanging hook to use when you get back home- something I think is borderline unacceptable to miss out on a jacket at any price but it’s surprising how many don’t! Suitable for packing away and keeping in your bag for when the weather turns sour, I would have no problem throwing the Trail Lite on to get me home. I’d happily head out already wearing it on a rainy day too so it’s not just an emergency jacket! If you want a lightweight, waterproof, windproof general purpose running jacket at a fantastic price then you could do a lot worse than this one.
Featured: Higher State Windproof Reflective Jacket
WINDPROOF REFLECTIVE JACKET
The Windproof Reflective is the simple, no-frills jacket within the Higher State range. It is an inexpensive, lightweight garment which is not packed with features, but is designed to be a layer to throw on in the event of cooling weather conditions or when you need to boost your visibility. In fact, the only features to note are a small pocket on the rear and a basic hood. The main feature is the reflective detailing surrounding the jacket which is both stylish and effective. The fit is close, but still allows more than enough movement for running. It is the type of cut which would look just as good worn with jeans to the pub as it would out on the trail. There is no adjustment available here though, so what you see is what you get! The same goes for the hood which is more of a ‘head cover’. It wouldn’t stay on your head for long when running in a breeze.
I was intending to use this jacket for a 4-mile trail race in cool, drizzly conditions, but I decided against it just before the start as the Windproof Reflective was keeping me surprisingly warm for a thin layer. On that day (and on several runs since) I was pleasantly surprised by how effective this jacket was at keeping the wind off. It isn’t designed to be waterproof, but a light drizzle didn’t seem to bother it too much. As with the other jackets, it’s not the most breathable, but due to its lightness and full zip, it was pretty easy to keep the temperature down during a run. I just need to give it a wash before I wear it to the pub!
A basic, affordable, lightweight jacket which is always extremely useful to have on the hanger. Great for throwing on when just one layer isn’t quite enough or when you need to be seen easily- both in and out of the pub!
Featured: Higher State Padded Jacket
The Higher State Padded Jacket is a new addition to the range, and is designed to be a lightweight, packable thermal layer for when the mercury drops a bit too much. It is the type of jacket which I would normally carry in addition to my waterproofs during the winter months just in case my run turns out to be colder than I thought. I was excited to try this jacket as the one I currently use retails at four times the price of the Higher State. Features include a hood (also available without a hood), two side pockets, one chest pocket, adjustable hem and elasticated cuffs. It comes in a full-zip design unlike my more expensive one which only has a quarter-zip.
The Padded Jacket is certainly warm! On all of my test runs I only wore a thin base layer underneath it to see how long it took for me to start feeling cold. I’m pleased to report that it never happened, and I was kept perfectly warm throughout. This includes during short stops to take in the view and the odd photo. I have the hooded version which is more of a ‘comfort hood’ than one which is useful during a run, but given that the hood features no adjustment whatsoever, I didn’t find that it bounced around on my back too much whist running.
The fit of the jacket is straight up-and-down but didn’t quite feel like it was hanging off me. There would definitely be room for a couple more layer’s underneath too. My only real issue with this jacket is its lack of breathability- it does get pretty soggy from the inside out during the course of a run. Most especially during longer outings. Personally, this didn’t lead to me getting cold, but I don’t think having a soaking wet thermal layer on in the event of an emergency would be the most reliable. Having said that, if you want all that extra technology, go and pay four times the price! For a mere £29, this represents something of a winter bargain!
The Padded Jacket did a cracking job of keeping me warm on a few very chilly winter runs with only one other layer underneath. Runners who need a very breathable, packable thermal layer may want to look elsewhere, but if you need an inexpensive thermal jacket which will keep you warm on shorter outings then this will do the job very well indeed. I have even been wearing it on my journey to work (after I’d washed it!) and have had several compliments on how well it looks with jeans. People look even more surprised when I tell them it only costs £30! Versatility as well as warmth- not bad at all Higher State!
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