Since we’ve had a much rainier Winter than usual in California, naturally more of our rides have taken place with a rain shell. This year we’ve been spending quite a bit of time in “the Sans”, a rather unique offering from Mission Workshop. Touted by the San Fransisco brand as being “one of the lightest waterproof jackets in the world” it most certainly is freakishly light, but still manages to have a bit of stretch built in, as well as some nice features, despite its anorexic minimalism.
- Fabric: 50 g/m2 3-Layer Entrant® by Toray® Japan
- Waterproof, windproof, breathable
- Laser-drilled underarm ventilation holes
- Comfort stretch
- Adjustable hood with anatomic construction
- YKK weatherproof zipper
- Zippered chest pocket
- Fully-taped seams
- Made in Portugal from fabric made in Japan
- Sizes: S, M, L(tested), XL, XXL
- 169 grams (size L – our scale)
- Lifetime warranty
- $475 US
Unlike many lightweight shells, the Sans has 3-layer Toray fabric, which improves durability. It also feels more substantial and comfortable than a shell with a polyurethane lining. More on the comfort part later…
There is just one single pocket, which, like the main closure features a weatherproof YKK zipper. A smartphone fits just right in there and stays plenty dry and is nicely placed above where the chest strap of a hydration pack would like. Unlike other MW jackets, the pocket does not feature a hole for headphones.
The hood features a snug fit, which means that you would wear it under, not over a helmet. It features a “visor” which is basically doubled over fabric that provides some additional shape and contour at the front.
The hood is adjustable and uses an interesting system for tension. There are big loops around the collar area, which are easy to reach and tug on. However, the toggle that cinches on the elastic cord bites down enough that it requires two hands to operate.
As you can see in the photo above, for a jacket with such a high waterproofing rating, there is quite a bit of stretch. Coupled with an excellent fit, this made the jacket seem to just disappear.
Back to that whole comfort thing. The lining is soft to the touch and textured. That means it doesn’t stick to your skin and feel rubbery. Mission Workshop shells we’ve tested in the past use the same inner layer and it’s like nothing else we’ve ever ridden. In fact, it is even quite comfortable with short sleeved tops.
The seams are all 100% fully taped, meaning there isn’t a stitch or a thread in sight, and they’re also better protected and waterproofed.
The aforementioned taping extends to the cuffs, which, in lieu of elastic cinching, feature a cutout wedge that help the sleeve nestle onto your thumb and sit slightly further down. It’s a subtle detail, but was quite nice on the bike.
Last, but not least – ventilation. Since the goal of this jacket is coming in at a light weight, instead of having armpit zippers, it has a series of carefully placed, laser drilled perforations in that area. Another feature of Toray’s microporous Entrant fabric is that, despite its waterproofing, it is still highly breathable.
On the trail
Starting with fit, as you might expect, the Sans fits a bit on the trim side, but not abundantly so – and keep in mind, it comes in 5 sizes. Also, as its fabric is strechy and it has a great cut that’s already nicely articulated for being hunched over a bike, it can afford to be a little trim. The size large fit our 6 foot tall, 185 lb, long limbed tester perfectly. There is a couple inches of drop in the fabric at the tail, to prevent plumber’s crack and a draft from flowing up your back. All in all, no tight spots, no chaffing, and very easy to move in. As it’s quite lightweight and compact, it’s easy to stuff the Sans in a SWAT bib or pack, and thus, it tagged along for quite a few rides.
We donned the Sans for a smattering of conditions ranging from just plain cold at the start, to raining fairly heavily. It did prove to be exceptionally waterproof and was very breathable, particularly given how well it kept moisture out. Most of the time that we felt damp inside was purely due to excess perspiration on our part, and that brings us to another point – it does breath extremely well and dries freakishly fast. We only had one small crash in the jacket and it was onto soft, loamy dirt, so we can’t speak that in depth on its durability, although now is a good time to mention that it features Mission Workshop’s exceptional lifetime warranty.
Freakishly lightweight, minimalist, high waterproof rating and extreme breathability…So what’s not to like? Oh yeah, at around double the cost of the average high performance shell, it is quite pricey. If you can afford such things and ride enough, in weather bad enough, we feel that the Sans is worth every penny. However, if you are a bit of a masher, have a tendency to blow through gear and prefer disposable products, then a shell like this is simply not for you. That said, in our experience, this is a brilliantly executed product that delivered unthinkable levels of comfort at times when comfort seemed completely out of the question. For that, it deserves high praise.