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Best cycling gilets 2022 - Vests to keep your core protected from the rain, wind and cold

Best Cycling Gilet header image
(Image credit: Josh Ross)

The best cycling gilet, or the best cycling vest depending on where in the world you are, is an option that’s all about versatility. When it’s sweltering in the hottest part of the summer, it’s easy to pick from a list of the best cycling jerseys and stay comfortable through the whole ride. The same is true when you plan to head out in the dead of winter. You can pick something from our list of the best cycling jackets and feel confident that you will be warm and comfortable from the beginning to the end of the ride. Then there's the in-between days. 

In the fall and spring, the best cycling gilet can be a problem solver. When you aren't quite sure if it's cold enough for a jacket but it's definitely too cold for a jersey on its own, a cycling gilet will be your goldilocks garment. Not too hot and not too cold but also easy to pack. Cycling vests not only solve problems on their own but they also extend the usefulness of your favourite jackets and jerseys. The bottom line is that having a go to cycling gilet is all about adding versatility to your bike wardrobe. With that in mind, we've put together our list of the best options available. Each item has a unique set of features so read through and see what sounds best for your riding. 

The best gilets for cycling available today

Best gilet for cycling if you want lots of colour options

Specifications

Pockets: Three standard pockets
Sizes Available: S-3XL
Colours: Black, liquorice, beetle, sea moss, blue sea, red wine, yellow, dark gold
Two-Way Zip: No
Water Resistance: Wind and light rain resistant front panels

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional fabric feel
+
Lots of colour options
+
Cut in the collar for a crouched position

Reasons to avoid

-
One way zipper

It's easy to get caught up in the details of technical performance clothing. Sometimes you have to step back and remember that it's still clothing. The Sportful Fiandre Light NoRain Vest uses NoRain technology that allows sweat to escape without allowing rain in. It’s a light fabric so it’s not going to handle heavy rain but it’s helpful for cool days and light showers. It also has a small cut at the neck to allow you to stay comfortable while low on the bars and looking ahead. When it’s time to retrieve food, there are three very capable pockets. Beyond all of the technical details though it really shines in how it feels and fits. The fabric is extremely stretchy so you can wear it tight and have it fit perfectly. That same fabric not only stretches but it feels soft and comfortable to the touch. Yes, it's a technical piece but there are tons of colour options and it looks good and feels good too.  

Check out our Sportful Fiandre NoRain Vest review for more.

Assos Equipe RS Spring Fall Gilet

Best gilet for cycling when you are riding against the clock

Specifications

Pockets: None
Sizes Available: XS-XXL
Colours: Black
Two-Way Zip: Yes
Water Resistance: Weatherproof front panels

Reasons to buy

+
Reflective strip
+
Race fit
+
Softshell fabric doesn't make noise 
+
High quality zipper

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

When racing and riding extremely hard you might have a preference for a sleek gilet option. If that's what you are looking for then Assos has an option for you with their Equipe RS Spring Fall Gilet. You won't find any pockets and you won't find any extra material. The Assos aeroFit is even sleeker than their raceFit and the arm holes and hems are further streamlined with raw cut edges. If you need to access pockets then you'll need to rely on the dual zipper and your jersey pockets. What you will find is a unique softshell fabric that uses a three-layer design and is incredibly dense. It looks great, it’s warm, and it won't flap, or make noise, no matter how fast you are riding.  

To find out more, be sure to head to our Assos Equipe RS Spring Fall Gilet review.

Rapha Brevet Gilet With Pockets

Best cycling gilet if you need tons of pockets

Specifications

Pockets: 3 with the centre covering the full width
Sizes Available: XS-XXL
Colours: High-Vis Pink, Dark Navy/Hi-Vis Pink, Pink
Two-Way Zip: Yes
Water Resistance: Wind resistant only

Reasons to buy

+
Offset Zipper
+
Stylish
+
Lots of storage room

Reasons to avoid

-
Sizing doesn’t match the norms

Anytime you need to really stuff your jersey pockets there's the challenge of extra clothes. If you have arm warmers, leg warmers, and gloves that you need to store later in a ride they can compete with the food and other items you might already carry. The Rapha Brevet Gilet with pockets understands this need for space and handles it in a clever way. Clothes in particular aren't something you want to lose but they can pack in an irregular space. The Brevet Gilet has a central pocket that covers the full width. The shape is irregular, it’s accessible like any normal centre jersey pocket, but there's a lot of room that is perfect for storing extra clothes. It's also an option that exemplifies the classic Rapha style. Just keep in mind that Brevet garments use different sizing compared to pretty much anything else on the market. While I generally wear a size small, I've had to size it down to an extra small to get the right fit in this piece.  

Castelli Unlimited Puffy Vest

Best gilet for use as a mid-layer

Specifications

Pockets: Two large pockets plus a zippered chest pocket
Sizes Available: XS-3XL
Colours: Light Military Green/Dark Gray, Dark Gray/Black-Silver Gray
Two-Way Zip: Yes
Water Resistance: DWR coated outer

Reasons to buy

+
Polartec Alpha acts a lot like down
+
High-Quality Zipper
+
Double pocket configuration designed for gloved hands

Reasons to avoid

-
Just a little tight under the arms

Polartec Alpha is a bit of a wonder material originally designed for US Special forces. On the inside of the Castelli Unlimited Puffy vest the material is on full, bright orange, display and it's extremely obvious that this is a synthetic material designed to create loft. If you hold the vest from the windproof, and DWR coated, exterior it feels remarkably similar to a standard down garment. There's that same feeling of lightweight loft but in this case the design continues to hold heat even if it gets wet. It’s perfect on its own and at the rear you will find a two-pocket configuration that Castelli has adopted for most of its jackets. The idea is that there's enough room to get a hand in even when it's gloved. For anything you don't want to lose there's a front, zippered, chest pocket. It’s also perfect as a midlayer to bulk up a jacket when you need extra warmth. The only downside is that the cut under the arms is just a little tighter than we'd like. It's a subtle thing but the Assos gilet does it a little better.  

Sportful Supergiara Layer Vest

Best gilet for cycling if you want an ultra-packable emergency option

Specifications

Pockets: Two rear pockets and a mesh chest pocket
Sizes Available: S-3XL
Colours: Dark Gold, Black
Two-Way Zip: No
Water Resistance: DWR coated outer

Reasons to buy

+
Neckline is well tailored 
+
Stuffs into the chest pocket
+
DWR coating

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks a two-way zipper

If you like the style of a puffy vest but the Castelli seems a little too bulky then the Sportful Supergiara Layer Vest is a great option. Sportful and Castelli are under the same ownership and while they operate separately, there is some occasional sharing. That means there are some similarities here. The fit under the arms is also a bit tight and there's a similar two pocket configuration at the back. In the front things are different though. Although there's still a pocket on the chest, this time it's also a stuff sack for the vest. That's because this is really a vest version of an emergency jacket. It only looks like a puffy vest and there's no actual stuffing in it. Instead, it packs down into its own chest pocket and easily fits in a jersey pocket. It's perfect for a cold descent where you just need a bit of wind protection for your core.  

Specialized Prime Wind Vest

An excellent, super packable option for roadies

Specifications

Pockets: None
Sizes Available: XXS-XXL
Colours: Oak Green, Blaze, Dark Navy, Birch White
Two-Way Zip: Yes
Water Resistance: Wind only

Reasons to buy

+
Highly elastic arm openings feel great
+
Flap behind the zipper covers the whole length
+
Highly packable

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks DWR treatment

There are a lot of similarities between this Specialized Prime Wind Vest and the Sportful Fiandre Light No Rain Vest. They are both ultralight and feature styling with road cycling in mind, but hey differ in the fabric used. While Sportful sticks with a softshell that can handle light rain, Specialized has gone with a hard-shell design that's not meant for rain at all. In the end, it's just a bit more packable. There's no pockets on the Prime wind vest either. Instead, like the Assos design, you'll use the high-quality double zipper to unzip from the bottom and access jersey pockets underneath. The upper back is a lightweight mesh and one other really great feature is the finishing on the edge of the arm holes. It's flattened out and highly elastic for a great fit. If Specialized had added a bit of DWR this might be the perfect gilet.

POC All-Weather Vest

Best gilet for cycling if you want heavy duty weather protection

Specifications

Pockets: Centre zippered pocket and slits for jersey access
Sizes Available: XS-XXL
Colours: Uranium Black
Two-Way Zip: Yes
Water Resistance: Woven stretch fabric with DWR coating

Reasons to buy

+
Velcro in centre of chest keeps the vest closed while unzipped
+
Highly weather resistant
+
Accessibility of jersey pockets among the best

Reasons to avoid

-
Sizing doesn’t match industry standards

The Assos vest above has a heavy front but the back is much lighter and the whole design hinges on softshell technology. The POC All-Weather vest switches things up with less bulk but a hard-shell design and no material difference between the front and the back. If you are tackling the worst weather and you want a vest, perhaps to add additional protection to a softshell jacket, then this is the best option on the list. On its own it's not heavy but being a hardshell it will stop wind completely and it does as good as a vest can dealing with rain. The zipper is also worth mentioning because it's a high-quality two-way zip but it's also completely covered with a flap and in the centre of the chest the flap widens out and adds velcro. It has the unique option of staying closed while completely unzipped. It's not something likely to see a lot of use but it is an interesting option. The one thing you'll want to watch out for is the sizing. POC sizing moves around a bit from piece to piece and doesn't always match the rest of the industry. In most brands I wear a small but the POC All-Weather vest fits me best in an XS.  

How to choose the best cycling gilet for you

What kind of gilet do you want?

If you are just starting the journey down the path of cold weather cycling gear you might not realise the breadth of options. There are options available for nearly every layering strategy and wear use case you can think of. If you are racing and just want to quickly add extra core warmth that's one situation. Are you looking for something that can help warm up chilly descents and will only be a small part of the ride? There are options for under an outer layer or you might want to make the gilet the outer layer. Will you need access to jersey pockets underneath or do you need the gilet to have the pockets? 

The list of different scenarios is long. Start by considering what you have and what capability you are looking to add. Think about the weather you ride in and the weather that exists in your part of the world. At that point you can start sorting what's out there into options that will work for you. In most situations designs will work in more than one scenario but if you can narrow down the style you want that will help you find the right option. 

Do cycling gilets have pockets?

Some do, some do not. Part of narrowing down what you want is going to be deciding on pockets or not. For some people a gilet without pockets is automatically off the list. You might want to think that through a little bit though. There are some situations where no pockets make a lot of sense. For other scenarios pockets are a must. 

The most basic place to start is with your strategy for wearing a gilet and what is underneath. If you expect to only wear the gilet for part of the ride then pockets aren't necessary. Loaded up pockets will make taking it on and off more difficult. If that's your strategy, look for a design that makes getting to your jersey pockets easier. 

If you intend for the gilet to be part of the layers you keep on the entire ride then you probably want pockets. This is a great way to expand the usable temperature range of a favourite long, or short, sleeve jersey and in this scenario, you are replicating the jersey pockets. Having pockets on a gilet also makes it possible to wear something under it that has no pockets at all. You can pair a heavy weight winter base layer with a gilet that has pockets. It's another way to mix and match what you have to find the perfect option for any temperature range. 

Should I get a cycling gilet or a jacket?

This all goes back to the first question of what kind of gilet do you want? The reason you might choose a gilet is versatility. Compared to a jacket they are lighter, more breathable, and more storable. Gilets also tend to be a little cheaper. If you want to combine what you have and make it work in more situations, choosing a gilet can save some money and allow for more combinations, by adding a pair of the best armwarmers for example.

If you tend to run cold when riding and expect to keep your layers on, then a gilet might not make much sense. A jacket is going to be warmer and when you start to stack lots of layers it can feel constrictive. If you don't need the versatility that a gilet offers then choose a jacket instead. 

Why would you need a waterproof gilet?

It might not but you’d be surprised how much warmer you might be if your core is dry. Especially in warmer rain, just keeping most of you dry goes a long way. It can also come in handy for layering strategy. In some parts of the world a softshell cycling jacket might be plenty of warmth. The only problem with that type of jacket is that sustained rain will eventually come through. If it’s rare for you to spend time in sustained rain then adding a weather resistant gilet gives you an option for adding warmth to a summer jersey as well bulking up your winter softshell for the rare times you need it. 

How do we test the best gilets for cycling?

Bringing you the latest news and reviews about the best cycling gear available means riding a lot. We ride in the sun, the rain, and even in the snow occasionally. The testing never stops and that means we spend time testing shoulder season gear as well as summer gear. A gilet is an important part of any cycling wardrobe and it’s just as important to us as it is to you. We’ve ridden in the options we are presenting and we are recommending them because they are some of the best available.  

Josh Ross
Josh Ross

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutia of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Orbea Orca Aero, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Trek Checkpoint, Priority Continuum Onyx