Patagonia gilet
Review Words : Phoebe Smith | 13 September

8 of the best gilets (sleeveless jackets) on the market

Gilets (light sleeveless padded jackets, or bodywarmers) keep your core toasty without restricting movement, great for active travel in colder climes. Wanderlust's editor Phoebe Smith tests a selection and recommends the ones worth buying

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

 

Comfort: Look for an elasticated or draw-chord adjusted waist to guarantee that there are less gaps, ensuring that the heat stays close to your body. Also, look for covered elasticated cuffs around the arm holes for maximum comfort. 

 

Fabric: The key aspect is wind resistance (to help keep in the warmth) and water repellency helps too - especially if the fill is down (see below), which is less efficient when wet. A gilet won't withstand heavy storms but ideally it should at least be ok in a light shower. 

 

Fill: To keep you warm, insulated gilets are packed full of fibres in baffled compartments. This filling is usually down (from ducks or geese), which is great for offering maximum warmth-to-weight ratio (look at the fill rating; the higher the number, the warmer the jacket – as a guide, less than 600 is low and 800 is high); of synthetic – generally heavier and bulkier than down but it still works when wet.

 

Fit: You should be able to wear a baselayer underneath the gilet, so make sure it allows for this without being over generous and baggy. Also look for a scooped hemline to keep your lower back covered when moving around – length is important.

 

Draught excluders: You wear a gilet to keep warm, so make sure it’s designed to trap heat where it can. Look behind the main zip for a draught excluder – basically, a thin strip of fabric that covers the back of the zip, to help do this. Also for added comfort, look for a chinguard at the top.

 

Pockets: Given the conditions when bodywarmers are needed, external pockets are usually there to keep your hands warm. Look for lining to add to this. Internally, a zipped pocket is handy for keeping cash, phones or passports and tickets close to hand. 


CRAGHOPPERS

Compress Lt £50

(Wanderlust Value Buy)

The test: At just £50 it’s no surprise that this gilet is heavier – in fact, at 236g (UK Size 10) it’s the third heaviest here. It also lacks some finishing touches – there’s no draught excluder behind the zip and there’s no chinguard – but then this hides a nifty feature that’s great for travellers – it’s reversible (explaining the absence of the above). Wear it black side out and get two hand-warming, lined pouch pockets and two internal zipped security pouches. Flip it and you get inner pouches and zipped outer pockets. The scooped hem is elasticated and covered for a good fit as are the arms. It is a baggier fit than others but has a decent length. The fabric is water repellent and windproof and the synthetic fill will keep you warm even in damp conditions. For the price tag it’s a great versatile option.

Features: ★★★★✩

Design: ★★★★★

Versatility: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★★

Overall: ★★★★✩

 

COLUMBIA

Flash Forward £70

The test: Throw in an extra £20 and you get duck down filling with a decent 650 fill and water resistant fabric. There’s still no chin guard or draught excluder behind the zip, but there are covered elasticated arm holes and bottom hem to help with comfort and keeping the heat inside. There are two zipped outer pockets and two internal pouch ones. But by far the best feature of this gilet is the length: the Flash Forward is the longest of all on test here, meaning there’s no rising up if you’re active and it offers a fit that’s generous enough for a layer underneath but close enough to keep you warm. At 215g (UK size 10) it’s fourth heaviest here.

Features: ★★★✩✩

Design: ★★★★✩

Versatility: ★★★★✩

Comfort: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

 

RAB

Microlight Vest £110/£120

(Wanderlust Best In Test)

The test: For the same price (for women anyway) as the synthetic-filled Patagonia, you could get the down-filled Microlight. Boasting an impressive 750 fill power, the down is also treated to repel water (‘hydrophobic’), meaning that even when damp this gilet still works hard to keep you warm. The outer fabric is water repellent and wind resistant and there’s two generously-sized hand-warming pockets niftily zipped away. It also has a chin guard and a generous draught-excluding zip – there’s even a zipped internal pocket too. The scooped hem is draw-chord adjusted and the arms elasticated – however there is no covering on this which does has rubbing potential for some. The fit and length are good, though the extras make it heavier (237g; second heaviest). But for hydrophobic down you can’t beat the price.

Features: ★★★★★

Design: ★★★★✩

Versatility: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★★

Value: ★★★★★

Overall: ★★★★★

 

ARC’TERYX

Atom LT £120

The test: For something a little less full-on, there is this hybrid design from the Vancouver-based brand. Made partly from stretchy fabric on the sides and insulated panels (on the front and back where they’re needed most), this is a great option for those intending to be more active. The fabric is water and wind resistant while internally, it’s packed full of synthetic insulation. It has two handwarming zipped pockets (with nice, discreet zips), an internal zip pocket (great for a phone/passport), elasticated arms (covered for comfort), a generously scooped waist hem (there’s no draw-chord or elastic, but the stretch panels ensure a great fit) and a draft-excluding zip and chinguard. The length is ideal and at 184g (size 10) it’s the second lightest.

Features: ★★★★★

Design: ★★★★★

Versatility: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★★

 

MONTANE

Glacier (women’s)/ Prism (men’s) Vest £85

The test: The Glacier offers both a good draught-excluding zip and a chinguard for maximum comfort. The waist hem is elasticated and covered as are the arm holes. There are two zipped pockets on the outside, but no internal ones, which some may miss for security. The fabric is good though, being both wind and water resistant as well as fast drying. The insulation is PrimaLoft Silver Eco, a synthetic fabric made from 70% recycled material (each kg is made from 28 plastic bottles) so you can keep warm and feel smug with your green credentials. The cut is a little more athletic, fitted and shorter than many, but there is a scooped hem. At 198g (size 10) it’s the third lightest on test.

Features: ★★★★★

Design: ★★★★★

Versatility: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

 

FJALLRAVEN

Abisko £130

www.fjallraven.co.uk

The test: Up your budget by a little more and you not only lose some weight (180g; size 10 – lightest on test), but you also gain the additional feature of a double zip, which allows you to unzip from the bottom for extra venting if required. Behind that is a good draught excluder and a chinguard at the top; it’s also got two external zip pockets (covered by baffles to help keep heat in) and two internal pouch pockets. The arms and hem are elasticated and covered for comfort. Inside it’s filled with recycled synthetic fibres for warmth and outside the fabric is wind and water resistant. It fits well, close but allowing for layers underneath – just a shame the waist isn’t scooped.

Features: ★★★★★

Design: ★★★★✩

Versatility: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★★

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

 

SMARTWOOL

Corbet 120 Vest £135

www.smartwool.com

The test: At the top end comes a luxurious feeling wool-option hybrid from Smartwool. The Corbet offers insulation provided by merino wool baselayer-type fabric at the back and sides, with two insulated panels on the front. The fabric is wind and water repellent and, being merino also naturally anti-smell. The fill is actually also mainly wool (75%, 25% synthetic insulation), meaning great warmth that’s also breathable. There are two external zip pockets, two internal pouch ones and one zipped security one too (great for passport/phone). There’s a draught excluder behind the zip; an elasticated, covered waist (sadly not scooped); and arm holes and a chinguard for comfort. The length is nice and long, while the fit’s very good, thanks to the stretchy wool – it clings to you perfectly. It’s just a shame that the wool makes it a little heavier at 262g (size 10) it’s the heaviest on test here.

Features: ★★★★★

Design: ★★★★✩

Versatility: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

 

How we did the test…

We asked gear manufacturers to submit insulated gilets that they felt were most suitable for travellers. Wanderlust's magazine editor Phoebe Smith took the 17 we were sent out on the road to see which performed best. The eight here are all ‘Wanderlust Approved’, with Value Buy and Best Buy indicated; where names and prices differ depending on gender are indicated too.