MUSA Women's English Jacket
What we have here is an expensive rain jacket; expensive by most standards—for sure our personal standards—but not big name/ haute couture standards. It’s $430. You can find more expensive rain jackets, and a $1 garbage bag is more waterproof than it, but somewhere between the garbage bag and the $1,000 rain jackets there is room for a $430 one, and that is what we opted to make.
Tech and fit details to follow, but let’s talk about what it is and isn’t, what it can and what it can’t do. It is a rain jacket in the old-fashioned, pre-internet flaming sense, before the time when somebody might think a $430 rain jacket should be 430 times as waterproof as a $1 garbage can liner with a hole for your head. Before the times when anonymous cheapskate meanie can shoot arrows at it and rip your heart out because he found a surplus unit for $15 that works just fine, so the years of working on it must make us stupid.
This Model 430 jacket repels water nicely, but not like plastic. It'll keep you dry in an hour-long downpour, but after eight hours of cats and dogs you'll see seepage on the inside, but the outside wouldn’t be soaked. It’s not seam-taped, like nylon jackets are. Its existence doesn’t prevent you from spending hundreds less on a more modern jacket.
We could just call it a really nice fog jacket, and avoid any complaints, but that would be disrespecting the fabric.
The fabric is Italy’s modern version of England’s Churchill-era Ventile (“ven-teel”). Like Ventile, it is all cotton, and gets its water-resistance from its tight weave, not from coating. This means there’s nothing to peel off or delaminate. You might not think that cotton could be woven tight enough to repel water, but Ventile has been doing that for about 70 years, and H2O has been at it for several now. Is Ventile more advanced, or better? Ventile is the old favorite, but the Italians are good at fabric, and when they set out to develop a product that can go head-to-head with Ventile, you can bet they didn't call it a wrap before equalling or bettering it. I believe H2O has a higher tear strength, although this is a seat-of-the-pants guess, not proven in a lab. (I tried to get lab test comparisons, but they were unavailable.)
The design is our own, our taste. We wanted enough pockets, but not a Trsv-L-Jac. It has (2) lower zippered hand pockets that gently scratch your hands as you insert and withdraw them; (1) breast pocket, also zippered; and (2) inside pockets for … insidey things, whatever they might be. Neither is zippered, so they aren’t carnival-ride compatible. There are (0) back pockets, because the pockets have to stop somewhere, and you can carry other stuff in a bag or pack.
It’s orange-zippered, and they look nice and contrasty against the grayish green jacket. The zipper flap closes with toggles and tough plastic (!!) O-rings. Most of the toggles are bamboo from (yes) a master ‘boo craftsman in Taichung. He signed every one. They were made for this jacket, cost about $1.75 each, and are the only such bamboo toggles in the world, but they don’t work any better than regular wooden ones. Maybe yours will come all normal wood. Wouldn’t that bum you out? It shouldn’t.
The webbing is USA-made military spec nylon, which only means it’s good enough. It’s thin and strong. The brass buttons are Swedish and have the RBW logo on them. They’ll develop patina in time. We could have ordered “distressed brass,” but you should do it yourself.
The lining is textured nylon. Don’t be bummed. It’s the same stuff we use on our “butternut” MUSA pants, and is remarkably light, tough, cottony in feel, and quick drying if it gets wet. There are two-layer Ventile jackets, and we could have made this two layers of H20, but then we’d have a much more expensive jacket that weighed a lot more and was harder to pack. If you’re an overkill obsessive, sorry, but if you’re not, be thrilled with a single layer; it just makes more sense.
We enter this in no raincoat wars. There are lots of good ones out there. If you like the style and you trust the quality and can afford one, it’ll serve you well for a long time and you’ll never throw it out.In retrospect we should have included three-inch squares of fabric to use as patches in case it gets a hole or something, but it’s too late for that now, and nobody else does that, do they? We’ll see what we can do, but buy it assuming it will never happen. There’s a really great aftermarket product called “Tear-Aid.” You can get it on line, if not locally.
A few factoids:
- We were originally going for English Ventile fabric, but found this Italian 100% cotton, supertight woven H20 fabric which is lighter than Ventile, definitely lighter than waxed cotton, more waterproof, and while not cheap by any means, cheaper.
- It's still got toggles and a cut like a classic English cycling jacket, so it's still called the English Jacket
- The cuff snaps are brass, Swedish, and stamped with the RBW logo
- Made in Oakland, and apparently a pain the the neck to make, but top notch quality
- Nylon inner lining exactly the same butterscotch as our shorts/knicks.
- Waterproof orange zippers.
- Collar can be closed at the top to keep rain out of your shirt.
- It will be your go-to rain coat for years, on and off the bike.
This is a fine female-cut rain jacket, the finest we know of. The cut is on the full side to allow for wearing layers underneath as shown on the model. She's 5'1" wearing a small, normally an x-small in most items, but this jacket is never meant to fit tight so wiggle room is good. Sleeves are a little longish too because when you're on the bike reaching for the bars you don't want cold wind coming through the wrists. They can be tailored by your local seamstress.
We don't expect to sell a ton of these and since they ship free in the lower 48 you can afford to maybe pick a size and exchange if it's not right.
Fifteen each in sizes s, m, l.