Specialized Trail SWAT Jacket review – packable weather protection

Is Specialized’s packable shell worth having when the weather turns grim?

Specialized SWAT jacket
(Image: © GuyKesTV)

BikePerfect Verdict

The Trail SWAT Jacket gets a full zip, hood and reinforcement bonuses in a wide range of slim men’s and women’s sizes but still packs up small. Price is high though and it's quite sweaty.

Pros

  • +

    Small pack size

  • +

    Full zip and snug hood

  • +

    Usefully weatherproof

  • +

    Reinforced forearms

  • +

    Lots of sizes

Cons

  • -

    High price

  • -

    Not very breathable

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Specialized actually did SWAT cargo carrying clothing before it did SWAT internal bike storage, but this lightweight shell jacket is designed to be carried easily, not for carrying stuff easily. Minimising pack size doesn’t mean it has skimped on features or cost but it does mean the fit is slim and fabric performance is average rather than amazing.

Specialized actually did SWAT cargo carrying clothing before it did SWAT internal bike storage, but this lightweight, waterproof MTB jacket is designed to be carried easily, not for carrying stuff easily. Minimizing pack size doesn’t mean it has skimped on features or cost, but it does mean the fit is slim and fabric performance is average rather than amazing.

Specialized SWAT jacket

The contrast sleeve panels use a reinforced material to increase durability (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Design

Specialized doesn’t go into detail on the fabric besides saying it’s “breathable, wind-resistant fabric with a DWR water-repellent coating”. We have asked the company for the breathability and waterproofing numbers, plus any recycled content or carbon DWR information, so we’ll update if we hear from them.

The body fabric is light without being so thin it's see-through and it's reinforced with tougher fabric on the outer forearms. The same fabric is used for the zipped left-hand chest pocket which is big enough for a phone or to swallow the jacket for storage. You get a close-fitting ‘scuba’ hood that goes under a helmet and has elastic edging to keep it snug. The sleeve and bottom edge hems are elasticated too, with reflective detailing on the latter. You get a full-length zip with zip garage, distinguishing it from Specialized’s Trail Wind jacket which only has a half-zip. It’s also a much closer fit than the Trail Wind jacket overall, but comes in a wide range from XS to XXL in both male and female cuts.

Specialized SWAT jacket

The elastic hem 'scuba' hood fits under helmets to add significant warmth while keeping pack size small (Image credit: GuyKesTV)

Performance

Getting the right size of clothing is obviously a big part of the performance, so it’s worth noting that half the consumer reviews on the Specialized site say it comes up small (and I’d agree). However, it does make it a flap-free jacket that’ll work great for faster XC/Trail MTB or the more ‘fitted’ world of gravel and road riding. It’s not short in length though and the elasticated hems and hood keep it really well sealed from drafts. The fabric itself keeps wind away, adding noticeable warmth to whatever I was wearing underneath even when wet. While the new DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating did a decent job of hold off showers too. Lack of taping or a membrane in the fabric means serious rain will get through fast. Like most DWR coatings it doesn’t take long for the surface beading to reduce in effectiveness on exposed areas either. You can prolong performance by washing your SWAT jacket as little as possible and reproofing when needed.

While weather protection is OK, breathability isn’t that great so you can expect the inner side to start getting clammy fairly quickly if you’re working hard. The full-length zip helps ventilation though and it does dry fast if it gets wet. Considering you get a hood it packs down usefully – if not spectacularly – small and weight is low too. There are no attachment loops once bagged though and you can get similar jackets at a lower cost.

Verdict

Specialized’s Trail SWAT Jacket is relatively expensive and you’re likely to get damp quickly if it rains significantly or you start sweating underneath it. It’s a useful windbreaker with a snug hood for added warmth and a close fit that faster, thinner riders will appreciate. Reinforcement should extend longevity too and it packs down small despite the features and full-length zip.  

Tech specs: Specialized Trail SWAT jacket

  • Price: $140 / £110 
  • Sizes: XS-XXL in men’s and women’s fit
  • Options: Tropical Teal (pictured) Black, Smoke (women’s only)  
  • Weight: 158g (men’s medium)
Guy Kesteven
Technical-Editor-at-Large

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect's technical editor-at-large. Hatched in Yorkshire he's been hardened by riding round it in all weathers since he was a kid. He spent a few years working in bike shops and warehouses before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. To make sure he rarely sleeps and to fund his custom tandem habit, he’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and talks to a GoPro for YouTube, too.


Rides: Pace RC295, Cotic FlareMax, Specialized Chisel, Vielo V+1 gravel bike, Nicolai FS Enduro, Landescape custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg

With contributions from