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A down gilet like this Pas Normal Studios Men's Escapism Down Vest is a useful thing to have on multi-day adventures. It keeps you warm on chilly starts and late finishes, and it packs down small. This is a good one, all told, but the sizing is odd and the pricing is prohibitively high considering what else is available.
What you're getting here is a large-baffle, ripstop nylon gilet with a filling of ethically-sourced 900 fill-power goose down (Pas Normal Studios (PNS) works with Allied Feathers to make sure the down is traceable for welfare standards). You can have it in the 'cinnamon' we have here, army green or black.
It's well-supplied with pockets. There are two zipped ones on the front and, helpfully, another at the rear which is useful for riding. Inside there are also two big open pockets. They work well: the front pockets are cut higher than usual to stop things jiggling about so much, and the rear one easily swallows a big smartphone.
The Escapism vest does a good job at keeping the wind out – the neck is a snug fit, there's a drawstring around the lower hem, and the arm holes have elasticated cuffs – plus the full-length front zip can be released from the bottom for extra ventilation if you need it.
I've been using this gilet on and off the bike, and it's performed pretty well. It packs down nice and compact into the supplied stuff sack, so it's easy to bung in a bikepacking bag as an extra layer for either end of the day.
It's not really dropped at the rear so it looks normal about town, and the kind of bike you're likely to be riding while wearing something like this is likely to have a fairly upright position anyway.
Pas Normal says this is treated with a C0-rated DWR treatment, which it claims will help with 'keeping you dry through those seemingly relentless rain showers,' but I found the protection average at best. Down is useless once it gets wet, so this isn't a top choice for wet rides.
The sizing is miles off. The Pas Normal size-ometer suggest that at 1.88m and 95kg I should squeeze okay into an XL, which sounds right, but here I am sitting in a M that's not even especially snug. So bear that in mind: if you're small, even the small sizes will probably swamp you, if our sample is anything to go by.
But assuming you find one that fits, it's a decent buy... right? Well, not really. At £225 it's comfortably more expensive than any rival I could find. The equivalent from Rab, for example – the Men's Electron Pro Down Vest with certified goose down, water resistance and a lifetime warranty, is £70 cheaper at £155, and that's nearer the top end than the bottom itself.
With a lot of high-end kit, and indeed some of Pas Normal's other gear we've reviewed on road.cc you can often (begrudgingly) accept there's a performance benefit that goes a long way to justifying the outlay.
I didn't really feel that with the Down Vest: it's a decent gilet, and I've worn it a lot, but fundamentally it's not better than a host of other very similar gilets you can have for much, much less. So for that reason (even ignoring the odd sizing and so-so water resistance) it's pretty difficult to recommend.
Decent down gilet for bikepacking, but the sizing is off and it prices itself out of contention
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pas Normal Studios Men's Escapism Down Vest
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
PNS says: "The Down Vest is made from premium insulating material for outdoor adventure. A key addition to your wardrobe for multi-day cycling adventures."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Product details list:
Ethically sourced 900 fill-power goose down
Two-way zipper with custom PNS zip puller
Hybrid fit for use on and off the bike
Fabric: 100% Nylon
Made in Vietnam
The reputation down has achieved as the premium insulating material for outdoor adventure apparel all comes down to its ability to compress into packable shapes and expand again to its original size. It is this quality that makes the Escapism Down Vest a key addition to your wardrobe for multi-day cycling adventures. With high flexibility in the sleeve construction, this piece is equally suited to cycling applications as it is for everyday activities in the city.
ALLIED Feathers, the insulation company that sources the down for this jacket, helped build what is today known as the Responsible Down Standard. They have one of the most thorough traceability databases, allowing consumers to learn where their down is coming from and how it was processed following industry-wide animal welfare standards.
The 900 fill-power hydrophobic goose down used keeps this piece ultralight and extraordinarily packable. The down is enclosed in a 100% nylon shell with a C0-rated DWR treatment, keeping you dry through those seemingly relentless rain showers.
The two front pockets are positioned higher up on the body to prevent packed belongings from being bounced and jostled around while pedalling, while a back pocket has been included for extra out-of-the-way storage.
A two-way Vislon YKK front zipper is featured for added ventilation. This zipper also provides easy access to inner layers through the addition of a custom PNS bottom zip puller. Silicone-dipped zip pullers have been added for improved access to all pockets.
An additional storage compartment allows this piece to be easily packed down and stowed away when not in use.
Well put together.
It's a good gilet that's nice and warm and packs down well. The DWR coating is not that effective, though.
A few snags and wear on the collar during testing.
Fits well with snug a neck and arm holes.
Our size M was more like an XL.
Snug and comfy to wear.
Just too expensive to be competitive.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washable at 30°, and washing hasn't affected the down fill.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Pretty well: it's a nice outer layer.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Warm, packs down small, zippered rear pocket for riding.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
DWR not that effective, sizing miles off, pricing miles off.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It compares unfavourably.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a good gilet that's a lot more expensive than other, similar, good gilets. Hard to recommend.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.