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We showed you the O2 Rainwear “Calhoun” jacket in a teaser a few months ago…and at the time, it was dry and hot here in Ohio. Well, as many of my neighbors told me it would, the rainy season set in around mid-October and hasn’t let up. Being cold is tough for a longtime Florida resident. And, as a Florida resident, I’ve gotten caught in many a rainstorm, but our rainy season there was during the heat of summer, negating the need for stifling raingear. Being cold AND wet is about my least-favorite sensation, and since it seems to rain about every other day here, the Calhoun received a thorough test before I put my thoughts together for the review.

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Let’s recap a bit with a list of the details of the jacket, straight from O2′s website:

Product Details
100% 2.5Layer Rip-Stop Nylon
Waterproof, fully taped internal seam
Waterproof, Breathable, Lightweight, Compact
Supreme Wind & Water Protection
Waterproof, full length front zipper with garage
Reflective elements for low light visibility
Welded waterproof front Napoleon pocket
Form Fit
Pit Zips for additional ventilation´╗┐
Breathability: W/R; MVP: 10,000g/m2/D
Waterproof: W/P: 10,000mmH2O;
Weight: Avg. 13 ounces depending on size

Normally, I wear a size small in cycling wear…as I mentioned in our sneak peek, Adam Ziskin, the owner of O2, sent me a medium based on my dimensions. As it turns out, the medium is just right — roomy enough to fit over an insulating layer on truly cold days. Thermal cycling jerseys/baselayers or even a fleece jacket fit under the Calhoun with no problems. Of course, like any self-respecting cycling jacket, the Calhoun has an extended tail to keep your butt dry in the rain. Off the bike, the jacket feels boxy…not particularly form-fitting and with gorilla-length arms. Once I got onto my bike, the genius of this jacket’s “cut” was immediately apparent: the jacket’s arms are long so that your arms are still covered when in the drops of a road bike, and there is no bunching or restriction as you stretch out into riding position. It’s still not a body-hugging fit and there is some flapping of the jacket’s material in the wind, but nothing I couldn’t live with.

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The fit can be tailored somewhat using the hidden drawcords at the waist and neck:

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The sleeve cuffs have simple hook-and-loop fasteners with enough adjustability to fit over heavy gloves or mittens…and help seal in the warmth.

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Because extra visibilty is key when the weather turns nasty, the Calhoun comes in neon yellow, and it has effective reflective accents on front, back, and sides. For those of you who don’t want that screamingly bright color, the Calhoun also comes in blue. Seriously, though, being seen by motorists when the rain is blowing sideways trumps fashion any day…yet it’s nice that O2 offers a choice.

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One thing that surprised me is that the Calhoun jacket doesn’t feel clammy when I put it on. I’ve worn some inexpensive rainwear over the years — you know, the stuff with the thick polyurethane lining or the rubberized fabric ponchos popular with campers. The Calhoun simply feels like a quality jacket. The interior of the jacket has a slick look to it, but it feels good against the skin, for what that’s worth. I can’t tell you how breathable the 3Flow Performance fabric is with any concrete quantifiers, but I never felt like sweat was bottling up inside the jacket. Granted, my rides have been in the teens to the low 40s and I just don’t sweat at those temps. When I did feel like I was starting to get a bit too warm, the pit zips did the trick to cool me down a bit. Simply unzip them, pull the main zipper down a bit and flush out the excess warmth before zipping it all back up. Worked like a charm!

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One of my favorite features is that the Calhoun packs up small…about the size of a big burrito (but perhaps a bit lighter). When the weather is iffy, the jacket can be rolled up and carried along in a jersey pocket, pannier or bag. A more practiced hand could probably roll this thing up even smaller!

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After all this, you’re probably wondering, “well, how does it work in the rain?” Rest assured, this jacket is waterproof to a fault. I still hate riding in the cold rain, but the Calhoun makes it substantially less miserable. And, the jacket’s fantastic windproof ability also makes it my go-to choice when it is clear and chilly. Take a look at the picture below — the coldest bike ride I’ve been on in 25 years or more, with starting temps in the low teens and highs in the low 20s. I was rocking a thermal jersey and baselayer, fleece-lined bibtights, wool balaclava, shoe covers and lobster gloves. I was afraid I looked like Randy from the classic “A Christmas Story”. What can I say? I ain’t designed for cold weather. Anyhow, the jacket accommodated all those layers and kept the heat in where I needed it. Thumbs up all the way!

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Perhaps my only gripe with the Calhoun is that the one chest pocket is nice, but I prefer to carry things in a pocket on my back. Perhaps I am just used to having jersey pockets for long rides, but a heavy smartphone just felt weird in that chest pocket. After a short time, I transferred the phone to my saddlebag. Luckily, O2 has other jackets to choose from that have other features you may desire. Also, I must say that at first, I was thinking, “gee, I really wish there was a hood on this jacket”, but I understand that hoods can be more trouble than they’re worth. I DO need to figure out a decent technique for keeping the rain out of my helmet, though.

The Calhoun jacket has an MSRP of $119.00. That’s pricey, but I feel you get what you pay for — this is a quality jacket that performs admirably when the weather turns sour. It looks nice, it has good features and visibility, and it is packable enough that there’s really no excuse not to bring it with you when you ride. Check out O2′s full product line by clicking here.

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