Vaude has built a solid reputation for the quality of its products and the Vaude Chiva Softshell Jacket is no exception. It's windproof and rain-resistant, warm yet breathable and on top of that, it is comfortable, nicely tailored for a flattering yet functional fit. It has well thought out features and is well constructed, all for a reasonable price considering its high quality.
The jacket is made from Vaude’s Windproof Pro, a combination of 100% windproof fabric and breathable 80% wind-repellent fabric where you need it – the upper back and underarms above the elbow. This breathable material is super stretchy, giving you superb freedom of movement, aided by the articulated cut of the sleeves.
I’ve worn the Chiva in temperatures from 0-12ºC with a single baselayer and found it to be adequately warm and surprisingly breathable, as often materials don’t live up to breathability claims. Sometimes when pushing the pace my lower arms get a bit sweaty, where it is full windproof fabric, but on an exposed ridge when the windchill kicks in I’m very glad of its 100% windproofing.
To keep you dry, the Chiva’s outer face is treated with Eco Finish, Vaude’s environmentally-friendly durable water repellent coating, which is produced without harmful fluorocarbons (PFCs). And it works extremely well – rain just beads and rolls off, and even after a sustained shower when the material finally wetted out, water didn’t penetrate through inside. The outer also dried off fairly quickly. And this remains the case after several washes, as long as you reactivate the DWR coating by tumble drying or ironing.
Vaude makes no claims that this jacket is waterproof though, just water repellent, so if heading out into a heavy downpour I’d stick a thin shell over the top.
The Chiva has done me proud in the recent Arctic winds, thanks to its cut as well as excellent fabric. I really like the way it zips up high under the chin and the hood keeps your neck warm. If it’s really cold the hood fits neatly under your helmet without restricting your vision or head movement, and it has a drawcord to adjust it. The zip has a chinguard and storm flap behind it, and it’s easy to pull both up and down while you’re riding along, which is a bonus – often zips are too stiff to operate one-handed, and this one has a nice long zip tag that you can grab with thick gloves. Same goes for the pocket zips.
For warmth, it has a cosy fleece lining, textured on the windproof sections and smooth on the breathable panels, plus you can pull in the hem with the drawcord. The two front hand pockets are capacious, and the mesh inners are sewn so they double as deep internal pockets, which is handy for stashing a Buff, tissues or the like. Reflective accents at the back provide a bit more visibility if you’re on the road in the dark.
So far so excellent, but the Chiva has a couple of shortcomings (literally) for me – but they might not be an issue for you, depending on your build. Despite the drop hem at the rear, I feel it could do with being longer to protect your backside from wheel spray. Likewise, the sleeves came up short on me – I want them to be long enough to keep my wrists covered when hanging off the back of the bike on steep descents.
Also, I think the elasticated cuffs are the Chiva’s Achilles heel – they’re not water-resistant so you’ll get wet wrists if it rains, and they’re not big enough to fit over thick glove cuffs meaning water will run inside. I much prefer wide cuffs that you can cinch in yourself with Velcro tabs because they’re easy to fit over gloves. An elasticated inner wrist gaiter for added warmth, as Vaude’s men’s Morzine softshell features, would be welcome. If the cuff design was improved (and sleeves and back longer), this would be a strong contender for my perfect cold-weather riding jacket.
Although £140 is a fair wad, I think you get what you pay for here, and therefore it’s good value. This jacket is the Chiva II and currently widely available online at a decent discount (one place for a total bargain £60), as it’s been recently superceded by the Chiva III, which is pretty much identical apart from coming in different colours. You can find the III discounted too, but obviously not by so much.
If you’re concerned about using your consumer power for the greater good, Vaude is an innovative and responsible company that cares a lot about its green credentials. The Chiva bears its Green Shape label, which gives assurance that both its materials and its manufacturing methods are as sustainable and energy efficient as possible. The label extends to cover fair working conditions along the entire supply chain of its products, among other things.
You might also like: