Rapha Explore Down Jacket Makes Winter Easy [Review]

The Rapha Explore down jacket is expensive, but has an exceptional fit and warmth for almost any activity in the winter.
Photos: Hannah Morvay

Rapha Explore Down Jacket

As I stood around a fire last week, I thought about why I used to hate wearing jackets when I was a kid. For more context, a friend had given me a compliment on this Rapha Explore down puffy jacket, which I’ve been wearing whenever a day lower than 40° presented itself in the past month-and-a-half.

On mornings before my walk to the bus stop or driving to school, I grabbed the mass of layers out of my closet and threw the jacket around my shoulders. The bulk of mid and outer layers consumed my upper body. Sure, I was warm. Thanks, mom. But I couldn’t stand the fit. It was big and boxy and I was short and skinny. The aesthetics were also not my favorite, but winter jackets are probably the most expensive piece of necessary gear if you live in a state with cold winters. And when you’re a kid, you take what you get.

As an adult, you look back on those parts of growing up and remember that things weren’t as bad as you thought they were, but you’re also happy where you are now. And if you want to skip the oatmeal, and have a few spoons of ice cream for breakfast, there’s also no one to tell you otherwise.

For me, sporting around this excellent Rapha puffy jacket over this winter has been a little like having ice cream for breakfast.

About the Rapha Explore Down Jacket

Rapha’s Explore Down puffy jacket is a light and packable down jacket made for the elements, whether you’re riding or not. The jacket smooshes down into an integrated stuff sack, in case you might be bikepacking and want to shove it in a bag. It’s filled with 750FP goose down for insulating power and packability.

Reviewer profile height: 173cm (5’8″) weight: 75kg (170lb) testing zone: Colorado Front Range

The jacket is also made with fit and articulation in mind. The hood is made to be worn under a helmet and there are cinches around the bottom of the jacket to get it tight.

The jacket weighs 328g in size medium, or barely more than a half pound. The jacket’s MSRP is $340.

On the trail

Fit is one of those aspects of a jacket that always seems to improve when you spend a little more money. The department store jackets of my youth and of today are made to fit a wide swath of shapes, whereas Rapha has more freedom to assume the fit of their target market — male cyclists in this instance — though they do make the jacket in sizes XS-XXL.

Somehow the medium felt as if it were tailored for my 5’8″ frame, with the sleeves extending sharply down my shoulders and concluding precisely at the ball of my wrists without bunching. The chest is secure but not too tight and the bottom of the jacket ends just above my hips. It’s probably the best fitting winter jacket I have ever worn. In typical cyclist apparel fashion, there is a bit of a drop tail in the rear, giving your undies and what not a little more coverage.

What makes the fit of even more importance is that it is the best fitting winter jacket that I have worn that actually keeps me warm in cold weather. I’ve gone out for morning walks in the 20s with nothing but a T-shirt on underneath and I’ve been comfortable. I’ve worn it standing around for hours in temperatures just above freezing and also been comfortable. That makes the Explore jacket a perfectly acceptable jacket for exercising below the 20s, if you’re into that.

As Rapha notes, you can treat it as a mid-layer too and throw a shell over the top for even more warmth or if you need a defense against wet weather.

The durability has been great so far. The jacket liner is made from nylon and you can see a little grid/ripstop frame throughout the material. It also has a water repellent treatment. I haven’t tested this fully, but I’d always recommend having a dedicated shell and not take the risk getting your down wet.

Despite some snags from branches and my dog’s nails (maybe the ultimate test), I haven’t had any tears on the Explore’s material yet. Rapha makes the jacket in four colors, but the good thing about black is that it’s easy to find a perfect match if you need to patch a spot later on.

The bad thing about the jacket, of course, is that it ain’t cheap and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to save money on a less expensive alternative. They are out there. But it’s also easy to find almost any type of brand’s apparel on discount at some point. If you want one of the best winter jackets with some cycling-specific features though, I can assure you the Rapha Explore doesn’t disappoint.

Bottom line

The Rapha Explore Down Jacket is a high-end puffy jacket with warmth and fit that is hard to match and cycling-specific features that make it more enticing.