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Best gilet for cycling: Vests to protect you from the rain, wind and cold

Best gilets for cycling
(Image credit: Gore)

Some people call it a gilet, other people call it a vest, but whatever you say, it stands for versatility. Summer riding makes it easy to pick the right clothing but when the temperature is a little cooler or more variable, that's when things get tougher. For lots of cyclists, the gilet is the secret weapon. 

Choosing the best gilet for cycling is all about layering. Choose the right gilet and it can extend the use of your summer clothing. Adding a little warmth with some extra wind and rain protection keeps your best cycling jersey in rotation for just a little longer. That same versatility might also come into play when you've long since said goodbye to the summer kit. Add a gilet under a light outer layer for even colder rides or add it to a long sleeve jersey when the weather doesn't quite require you to break out your best winter cycling jackets

The value of the gilet is indisputable. There are different gilets for different situations and they cover a huge range of different price points. Keep reading to see some of the options we think are the best out there, or if you'd like to learn a little more, head to the bottom for our guide on how to choose the best gilet for cycling

Best gilet for cycling

Rapha Mens Brevet Vest With Pockets

(Image credit: Rapha)

Rapha Brevet Gilet With Pockets

All the style you’d expect plus a clever pocket arrangement that adds versatility

Pockets: 3 with the center covering the full width | Sizes Available: XS-XXL | Colours: High-Vis Pink, Dark Navy/Hi-Vis Pink, Pink | Two-Way Zip: Yes | Price: $125 / £90

Offset Zipper
Lots of storage room
No DWR treatment

Any time 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 late 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 but there's a lot of room. Perfect for storing extra clothes.  

Assos Equipe RS Spring Fall Gilet

(Image credit: Assos)

Assos Equipe RS Spring Fall Gilet

The definitive option when you are riding against the clock

Pockets: None | Sizes Available: XS-XXL | Colours: Black | Two-Way Zip: Yes | Price: $259 / £200

Reflective strip
Race fit
Softshell fabric doesn't make noise 
Zipper isn’t offset

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 the 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 its raceFit and the armholes 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, but what you will find is a softshell fabric that won't flap, or make noise, no matter how fast you are riding.

Sportful Fiandre Light No Rain Vest

(Image credit: Sportful)

Sportful Fiandre Light No Rain Vest

Sleek and stretchy with plenty of storage and light rain protection

Pockets: Three standard pockets | Sizes Available: S-3XL | Colours: Black, Sea Moss, Blue Sea, Red Wine, Yellow | Two-Way Zip: No | Price: $120 / £100

Exceptional fabric feel
Lots of colour options
Cut in the collar for a crouched position
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. It also has a small cut at the neck to allow you to stay comfortable while low in the front and looking at the road ahead. 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 feels soft and comfortable to the touch. Yes, it's a technical piece but it looks good and feels good, too. 

Endura Pro SL Primaloft Gilet II

(Image credit: Endura)

Endura Pro SL Primaloft Gilet II

Works well as an outer layer but also to add insulation to a shell

Pockets: Three standard pockets plus a zippered pocket | Sizes Available: XS-XXL | Colours: Black, Pumpkin, Kingfisher | Two-Way Zip: Yes | Price: $164.99 / £119.99

PFC-Free, non-toxic durable water repellent finish
Zippered pocket
Pockets are narrow and lack stretch 

The Endura Pro SL Primaloft II feels comfortable to wear. There's plenty of room for layering underneath it and the fit feels like it could work just as well paired with casual clothes as it does with cycling clothes. Think of your favourite puffy vest and you'll have an idea of what you are getting and it's that versatility that sets it apart. The PFC free DWR coating and Primaloft insulation would work as an outer layer. It works even better as an inner layer though. Carry a packable shell with you and you can mix and match throughout the day to match changing weather conditions.  

Castelli Perfetto Ros Vest

(Image credit: Castelli)

Castelli Perfetto Ros Vest

The perfect neckline to keep cold air away from your core

Pockets: Two plus a pump sleeve | Sizes Available: S-3XL | Colours: Yellow Fluo, Orange, Military Green, Light Black, Savile Blue | Two-Way Zip: No | Price: $179.99 / £130

Neckline is well tailored 
Pump sleeve
Lacks a two way zipper

There are certain things that Castelli does really well. One of them is the neckline on its jackets and jerseys. It might seem like an odd thing to focus on but it's a piece that sets the tone for the whole experience. The Perfetto Ros Vest has a nice tall neck that feels great against your skin and keeps chilly air at bay. It's not the only thing this piece does right either. You've also got a big plastic zipper that's easy to use and won't degrade over time. In the rear Castelli has chosen a two-pocket, plus pump sleeve, configuration that won't weigh down if stuffed full and includes drainage for wet weather riding.  

Black Sheep Cycling Essentials Team Vest

(Image credit: Black Sheep Cycling)

Black Sheep Cycling Essentials Team Vest

Add wind and water resistance to your favorite summer jersey

Pockets: Three | Sizes Available: XXS-XXL | Colours: Blue Hatch, Block Black | Two-Way Zip: No | Price: $99 / £58.33

Excellent pockets
Flap behind the zipper covers the whole length
No water resistance at the top of the shoulders

Black Sheep is a company that makes stylish performance clothes and rotates designs often. If you want to stand out on the bike this year's Essentials Team vest in Blue Hatch will do the job. What makes it special though isn't the print, it's the performance. There are different ways to use a gilet. If you like the idea of something light to extend your summer jersey use and you expect to leave it on the whole ride this is a great option. The front stops wind and water while the back is a barely-there mesh design. The cavernous pockets work as well as any jersey pockets so go ahead and load them up.  

Gore Ambient Vest

(Image credit: Gore Wear)

Gore Wear Ambient Vest

Small enough to bring along even when you think there’s no way you are going to need it

Pockets: No | Sizes Available: S-XXL | Colours: White, Black | Two-Way Zip: No | Price: $110 / £99.99

Competitively priced
Good fit and sizing spread
No two-way zipper system

Some vests have a design that works well when you plan to keep it on the whole ride. Other vests, like the Gore Wear Ambient Vest, have a design that works as an emergency option. There are unforeseen circumstances that pop up and the Gore Wear Ambient Vest is insurance. If you find yourself with teeth chattering at the top of the climb or with miles to go and suddenly cold you can pull out another layer. The best thing about it is that it's so small and packable there doesn't have to be a lengthy decision process at home. Just grab it, if you don't use it no big deal.  

Proviz Reflect360 Cycling Vest

(Image credit: Proviz)

Proviz Reflect360 Cycling Vest

Make yourself unmissable in the dark

Pockets: Zippered side pockets | Sizes Available: XS-XXXXXL | Colours: Matte grey in daylight/bright white under headlights | Two-Way Zip: No | Price: $85 / £54.99

So bright it looks lit up when headlights shine on it
Zippered side pockets
Lacks rear pockets
Not an aero fit

Proviz uses the R360 technology to stand out in low light. In daylight it looks matte and somewhat unremarkable. Under the light of a headlight though it becomes so bright it almost looks as if it has a light source of its own. The magic comes through the use of millions of tiny, highly reflective glass beads making the fabric astonishingly reflective. If you spend time riding in low light and want to make sure there is no reasonable excuse for not seeing you then the Reflect360 cycling vest is a great solution. It features a windproof, waterproof, front, and mesh back for all the technical features you need plus visibility.  

How to choose the best gilet for cycling

 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. The best gilet for cycling isn't based on one set of criteria, instead, 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 wearing beneath 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. Designs will usually work in more than one scenario, if you can narrow down the style you want that will help you find the best option. 

Do you want pockets or 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, like when racing, for instance. 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 so 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. 

Why a gilet instead of 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. 

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. 

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 minute details 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 is probably yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Look 795 Blade RS, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Priority Continuum Onyx