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Northwave Extreme Trail Vest



Warm, feature-rich insulated vest for long, cold days on the road or mountain bike
Water-resistant Primaloft insulation
Two-way zip opens from bottom too
DWR-treated back helps resist showers
Nice high collar
Doesn't pack as small as down-filled options
No rear pockets

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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The Northwave Extreme Trail Vest is a warm gilet for awful conditions. With water-resistant Primaloft insulation and some nice features, there's much to like here.

To my mind, gilets come in two types: those that disappear in a jersey pocket, and those that won't. Pocketable gilets tend to have no insulation at all, relying on simple windblocking to provide (or more accurately, retain) warmth. You might have a light layer of down, but unless it's fully protected it will get soggy and cold with rain or sweat.

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Synthetic insulation meanwhile, such as the Primaloft used here, can resist clumping when wet, thus still keeping you warm when damp the way a good Merino sock does. Originally designed for military use, Primaloft claims the same thermal efficiency as goose down, but is 80% recycled polyester.

Weighing in at 275g and rolling into a just-barely-pocketable-but-sticking-out sausage, the Northwave Extreme Trail Vest is more something you'll leave on for the duration of a ride, or perhaps fetch from a backpack, bumbag or pannier.

I'm a 39in chest, and the Large (sized for 40in) was pretty snug over a base layer, let alone a winter-rated jersey. You'll want to size up, most likely. The cut around the arms and shoulders is snug too, though that's as you want in a wind-blocker, and the collar is high. There's a zip garage to prevent scratching under the chin.

The length is generous though; I'm 6ft and the hem sat on my hip bones at the front, while the tail covered half my bum. You could wear it over jeans and it wouldn't look too silly. Around the hem there are silicone grippers and elasticated sections to keep it all snug.

2021 Northwave Extreme Trail Vest - hem.jpg

There are two front pockets with glove-friendly zip pulls, and they're easily able to swallow a big modern phone. Northwave says the collar is 'brushed,' but while it's soft on the skin, it's definitely not 'fluffy'.

2021 Northwave Extreme Trail Vest - Primaloft logo.jpg

The main zip is bidirectional – meaning you can zip it open from the bottom – which is handy if you're climbing and need to get some breeze going. The lower zip doesn't have a locking function, but when pulled all the way down it clicks into place and doesn't work loose. You may struggle to get the zip started in gloves, though, and I wouldn't try to put this on whilst riding – it's a bit fiddly.

> 19 best cycling gilets – get to know this wardrobe essential

During testing I was mostly e-mountainbiking in ice and snow, with this on over a winter-weight merino jersey and under the fabulous Showers Pass Elite 2.1 jacket. Along the tops into heavy and biting sub-zero winds, I could really feel the benefit without suffering any notable bulk or restriction.

2021 Northwave Extreme Trail Vest - back.jpg

I tend to ride fairly actively on the ebike, sitting around 75% of max heart rate, and I didn't notice any buildup of sweatiness; Primaloft is breathable, and the ability to easily zip up and down helps too.

2021 Northwave Extreme Trail Vest - side.jpg


Last year I gave the Endura Pro SL Primaloft Gilet II four stars at £119.99 – it's the same price today, the major difference being it has rear pockets like a traditional gilet, instead of the two handwarmer pockets Northwave offers here. The Endura is cut much higher at the front too, so no way are you getting away with hiding its cycling kit nature.

Especially for £20 less I prefer the Northwave, but then I don't need tons of external storage.

Probably the closest match for the Northwave is the Alpinestars Denali vest, which is now £100 and available in black. At less than half the price (£48.25), the Galibier Izoard Quilted Gilet could be up your alley, especially as it's reversible for brightness. Bear in mind it's padded at the back though, so may be too warm for some.


I rate the Northwave Extreme Trail Vest: it's warm where and when it needs to be, has some good tech features, fits well and looks sharp on or off the bike. The price is midrange for premium insulated vests, but the performance is great – you shouldn't be disappointed.


Warm, feature-rich insulated vest for long, cold days on the road or mountain bike

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Make and model: Northwave Extreme Trail Vest

Size tested: Large

Tell us what the product is for

Northwave says: "...with this vest you'll no longer be forced to choose between protection from the cold or freedom to ride. This is the ideal choice for bikers who want an additional layer, light and imperceptible protection over a long-sleeved thermal jersey."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?


- Vest with front panel in Primaloft Black Insulation

- Back in abrasion-resistant material with DWR treatment (recycled polyester material)

- Double slider zip that allows opening the jacket both from the top and from the bottom

- Seamless jacket bottom (heat-sealed)

- 2 front pockets with zip

- Silicone inserts at the bottom help the jacket stay perfectly in place

- Brushed inner collar

- Zip with puller to facilitate use with gloves

Technology: Primaloft

Weather conditions: Intense cold / Rainy

Gender: Man

Rate the product for quality of construction:

Everything seems really well assembled, no issues.

Rate the product for performance:

Kept me very warm in the face of arctic blasts.

Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for fit:

I love the high collar and low hem.

Rate the product for sizing:

It's on the small side. You'll probably want to size up, to layer over thick winter jerseys.

Rate the product for weight:

It's not the lightest, but isn't trying to be.

Rate the product for comfort:

The fit is very comfortable.

Rate the product for value:

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Only washed a few times, but still looks new.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Kept me warm and comfortable - job done.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The high collar, low hem and nice fit.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The pack-down size - but that's probably a limitation of Primaloft.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

It's middling - you can defnintely spend more (Endura), or quite easily spend less (Galibier).

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

At £100 this is midrange for big-brand tech thermal vests, and the performance and features don't let the value calculation down. If it packed a bit smaller it might be more versatile still and score higher, but it's very good as it is.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 183cm  Weight: 77kg

I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe  My best bike is: Nah bro that's it

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L

Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.

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