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I find a merino vest is a winter essential, and Santini's Women's Wool Tech Sleeveless Base Layer makes a great addition to your wardrobe – albeit at a hefty price for such a minimal piece of clothing. Cost aside, it ticks all the boxes. Made in Italy, construction quality and performance are top notch, and its wicking ability is aided by the snug fit (it's a different model in the pics).
The fine-weave, super-lightweight fabric is two-thirds merino and a third synthetic, making it nicely breathable and also very fast-drying if it does get sweaty. It feels soft and cosy against the skin, with no irritation. It's ideal to wear under a long-sleeve jersey on cool spring and autumn days – Santini says use when 0-15°C – but if the mercury dips lower you'll probably want a more substantial baselayer.
The vest is simply made from just a front and a back panel – both decently long – with a racer back to prevent any shoulder strap slippage. The close-fitting cut is perhaps a little too high under the arms – I was aware of the seams there when I first put the vest on but soon forgot about them once riding.
Sizing comes up small – I had a medium but think I could have gone for a large (there are seven options from XXS-XXL). It only comes in this purple colour.
I like Santini's vest for its performance but there's no getting away from that high price tag – even Rapha's is 'only' £50 (Tass tested the short-sleeve version earlier this year). Café du Cycliste has an almost identical one for £46, while Mons Royale makes a merino blend vest that has a higher percentage of merino and a longer body for £47. If you want pure merino then Alpkit's Kepler vest looks great value at £29.
Good quality and comfortable merino blend vest that performs well, but you're paying extra for Italian style
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Santini Womens Wool Tech Sleeveless Base Layer
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Santini says: "Perfect to keep your core warm on cool weather rides. This extremely versatile base layer can be worn under a jersey or jacket and is breathable, warm and soft. The high performance wool blend is designed for a wide range of temperatures and provides optimal thermal balance."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The fabric is fine so needs to be kept away from Velcro and zips, but if cared for can't see why it wouldn't last well.
Great except I found it quite snug uner the arms.
Being Italian it comes up small, so size up.
Would be 10 if not for high underarm cut.
Is about £15 more expensive than similar vests from other brands.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Machine wash 30 degrees.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – it's warm and breathable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The decent length and contoured fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing really except the price, but the high underarm cut might irritate some.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Only at reduced price.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if on offer.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a very good tech vest but its high price brings the overall score down as you can buy similar-performing vests for up to a third less.
About the tester
I usually ride: Marin Point Reyes 29er My best bike is: Whyte T-130 RS
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, mountain biking, audax