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The Sportful Giara layer vest is an insulated gilet with a Polartec Alpha lining that keeps you warm and a windproof fabric to keep the wind out on colder days. Roll it up and stash it in your back pocket and the Giara vest will provide peace of mind when you're out riding on days when the weather can't make its mind up.
Our best cycling gilets buyer's guide rounds up our favourite stashable sleeveless jackets.
As I mentioned in the intro, the vest uses a Polartec Alpha lining that provides ample warmth even in colder conditions and lets you quickly change from being cold in your thin summer jersey to being toasty in seconds.
Despite being almost fluffy on the inside this material is also breathable, as are the vest's back panels, and this material allows the vest to be warm while still staying reasonable packable.
The vest's outer material is a wind-stopping fabric that further adds to its warmth, helping it to achieve its recommended 8°C minimum temperature. However, if you're wearing this as part of a layering system you can wear it in even colder conditions. The Giara also benefits from reflective details that help to make you more visible when you're riding in gloomy lighting conditions.
There are two large rear pockets that span the rear of the vest, and two mesh chest pockets, one with a bungee clip for your keys. This is a nice touch, as many gilets have no pockets, and the increased storage comes in useful in numerous different situations, from winter rides to bikepacking and setting up camp.
While the chest pockets are quite tight their side-loading design means they're probably better for lighter items, rather than heavier bits and bobs that could conceivably fall out.
The gilet has a quite relaxed fit that makes it comfortable to wear over a jersey. And while I normally wear a small this medium fitted me well when I wore it over other layers.
I found it very marginally on the small size, so if you're undecided between two sizes I'd suggest going up a size, which will allow you more breathing room as well as fitting a little better over a jersey. I also found the high neck slightly tight, which led to me lowering the zip a fraction for a little more comfort.
The Giara is machine washable at the usual 30°C and after washing it dries impressively quickly. Sportful recommends air-drying the vest to prevent damage to the fabrics and I found that dirt and odours came out well and with very little effort on my part, and thanks to the wicking nature of the inner lining the gilet doesn't hold on to smells.
At 149g the Giara isn't the lightest gilet out there but it's still impressively light for a top that packs in so much technology and offers you so much warmth. It's not quite as packable and squashable as a lightweight summer gilet but rolls up to about the size of a 500ml water bottle, so it will squeeze into a jersey pocket without adding any notable weight.
A big winning factor of the vest is just how versatile it is. It is comfortable up to about 15°C and down to as low as about 5 degrees – making it perfect for early morning rides and days where you're expecting changeable weather. You will find in temperatures over the mid-teens that it will start to get a little sweaty, which is when you whip it off and stow it in your back pocket.
With a price of £160 there's no doubt that Sportful's Giara vest is at the very top end of what you'd expect to pay for a gilet. Okay, you may be able to get it for less, but it's never going to be a budget option.
Sportful has admittedly packed a lot of technology into the gilet and it's a high-quality piece of kit, but even at a discount the price is more than lots of us would be prepared to shell out. It's not on its own, however, with the Rapha Brevet insulated gilet – which has similar storage to the Sportful – coming in at the same price.
The £150 Universal Colours Chroma insulated gilet also has some similarities to the Sportful. Both are warm, comfortable, work as part of a layering system and pack down into a rear pocket. Ali found it much lighter, though, and it also lacks the Giara's windproofing and chest pockets.
One of our favourite gilets is the Galibier Izoard Quilted Gilet that Dave really liked really liked. It may not have all the Giara's features, but the reversible jacket is warm, comfortable and has a rear pocket – and is yours for a bargain £53.45.
All in all, the Sportful Giara layer vest would make a great addition to the cycling wardrobe. It's ideal for year-round riding, works part of a layering system and is convenient to stow in your back pocket. But there's no getting away from the fact that it is very expensive.
A fantastic windproof gilet that's warm, packable and with plentiful pockets – but it is expensive
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sportful Giara Layer Vest
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
The Giara vest is a gilet perfect for colder or changeable conditions. It is perfect as an extra layer on a ride and can be packed into a pocket for peace of mind.
Sportful says: THE RIGHT PROTECTION, RIGHT WHEN YOU NEED IT
A breathable, water-repellent man's vest with Polartec® Alpha® Direct interior for maximum warmth and minimum bulk
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Windproof outer layer in woven fabric with water-repellent finish
Polartec® Alpha® Direct inner layer
Back in stretchy, breathable fabric
Two generous back pockets
MAIN FABRIC: 100% polyamide
REAR: 91% polyester 9% elastane
MESH: 85% polyester 15% elastane
LINING: 100% polyester
REAR BOTTOM: 65% polyamide 35% elastane
A well-thought-out product constructed to a very high standard.
The Giara has performed impeccably. It's warm, comfortable and you can wear it in quite a range of conditions, though I did find the high neck slightly tight.
After numerous washes and riding in lots of mud it has come up looking like new, which bodes well for its longer-term durability.
The product fits well, with a slightly more relaxed fit that's ideal for wearing over other garments, though the slightly tight neck loses it a point.
The garment was very slightly on the small size, so I'd recommend going up a size if you're in doubt, especially if you're wearing it over several layers.
The Giara vest is heavier than a summer gilet but still isn't that heavy and will squish into a jersey pocket.
A very comfortable product that sits nicely and works very well as a layering option. The insulating Polartec Lining makes for a cosy fit.
At £160 this is very expensive for a gilet, but in my opinion the quality and the features it offer go a long way to justifying the price tag.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It was very easy to care for, machine washable at 30° and quick to air-dry. I found it didn't hold dirt or odours either.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It does exactly what it's supposed to – keeping you warm on colder days and being small and light enough to stash in a jersey pocket.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I really liked the PolarTec lining. It made for a warm and cosy feel without getting too sweaty.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The neck was slightly too tight for my comfort.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The price is similar to other products with similar features such as the Universal Colours Chromo insulated gilet which was only £10.00 cheaper and lacked some of the features that the Giara has such as the PolarTec and bonus chest pockets.
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
The Sportful Giara layer vest is an excellent all-year-round garment that's ideal for early morning rides and days when the weather's likely to be variable. It's warm, windproof and well provided with front and rear pockets – but I found the neck a little tight and the price is on the high side.
About the tester
I usually ride: Windover Bostal My best bike is: Windover Bostal
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Semi pro
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, touring, mtb, Gravel and ultra-endurance racing