Cotopaxi Paray Jacket Review

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Basic summary: A hooded lightweight shell that has strong wind and water resistance and packs down into its own pocket for storage in a vest or waist pack. The Paray has a number of thoughtful design elements such as hand pockets, internal key storage, and thumb loops at the cuffs. It is one of the lightest shells we’ve tested this year, and provides great warmth and protection for its minimalist weight.

MSRP: $100

Features:

  • Weight: 3.7 oz / 105g
  • Fabric: 20D mini-ripstop nylon
  • DWR finish/polyurethane backing
  • Athletic fit
  • Elastic binding at hood, cuffs, and hem
  • Elastic thumb loops
  • Front hand pockets
  • Scuba hood
  • Internal key sleeve
  • Packs into interior chest pocket
  • Reflective logos

cotopaxi-paray-runner-750

Deep dive:
Cotopaxi is a newcomer to the trail running scene, but they have been steadily building their exposure and credibility in the outdoor industry over the past couple of years through two key pillars; making high quality gear, and commitment to philanthropy in underprivileged areas all over the globe.

These dual missions are reflected in the company’s simple motto: Gear for Good. Cotopaxi initially launched in 2014 as a benefit corporation, and donates at least ten percent of product proceeds to health, education, and business development initiatives in impoverished areas around the world. Their products are not available in retail stores, as the business model of direct online sales to consumers allows more profit margins that can be redirected towards their extensive charitable work.

It’s a company that outdoor lovers have felt good about supporting, and the Cotopaxi ethos is also a great match for the trail running community – but positive vibes only go so far if the gear itself isn’t solid. Fortunately, the company’s first foray into the realm of running apparel is a success: the Paray jacket is a very impressive entry in the lightweight jacket category that is on par with offerings from long established manufacturers.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the Paray is its weight: at a mere 3.7 oz, it is lighter than every shell we tested in our lightweight jacket roundup from our March 2016 magazine issue. The only jacket we’ve reviewed this year that is lighter is the Altra Stash Jack – but that’s almost not a fair comparison, since the Altra jacket has a giant hole in its backside.

Compressed Paray jacket next to 20 oz bottle

Compressed Paray jacket next to 20 oz bottle

Despite its light weight, the Paray provides a substantial barrier to wind and light precipitation; it’s an ideal piece for taking out of your pack above tree line to preserve body heat and protect your from strong summit winds. One design element we’d like improved is security of the hood, either through a cord or perhaps a Velcro chin attachment; the hood presently has an elastic hem that stays in place reasonably well, but comes loose in high winds, and is unable to be customized for situations like wearing a visor, stocking hat, or headlamp.

In the torso, the Paray has an athletic fit, which is intentionally roomy to accommodate layers and provide full freedom of movement, but some runners will find roomy if worn over a single T-shirt. The ripstop nylon feels comfortable against the skin, and the fabric provides decent ventilation when running at high speeds or in warmer conditions. The shell has also proven quite durable and abrasion resistant in our testing that has included trail running, hiking, camping, and other general outdoor use.

Nice design elements on the Paray include elastic thumb loops at the cuffs to keep the sleeves fully extended, and an internal key pocket that is large enough to hold a couple of gel packs if needed. The chest pocket storage is thoughtful as well, and helps the jacket compress to less than the size of a water bottle. It’s not the smallest compressed shell we’ve tested – but it’s close – and there isn’t a loop or clip in the packed down format for carabiner attachment, which would be a nice addition in the future. You can clip something through the Velcro closure, but that doesn’t feel quite as secure as an actual loop somewhere.

Elastic sleeve cuffs with thumb loops.

Elastic sleeve cuffs with thumb loops

Conclusion:
Cotopaxi is a welcome addition to the trail running community, and the Paray is a recommended piece for hikers, runners, or anyone else who spends long active days in unpredictable or rapidly shifting fall (or spring) weather environments. It nicely combines comfort and breathability in warmer temperatures with protection and insulation when conditions become challenging.

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About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, California native, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 25 years of experience in endurance sports. He was a collegiate rower at UCLA, then dabbled in marathons and Ironman-distance triathlons before falling in love with ultras in the early 2000s. His favorite locations to run include Marin County, CA, and the Sierra Nevada mountains, and he loves exploring America's National Parks. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

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