Super warm whilst maintaining excellent breathability - this fabric is a real winner and the pockets and visibility add up to a great overall package. We wouldn't be quick it shove this one into a jersey or jacket pocket, but should temperatures climb, a gilet looks pretty fly unzipped anyway.
Warm and breathable
Plenty of pocket space
Nice visibility at the rear
Light but too bulky for pocket stashing
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The dhb Aeron Polartec Alpha Gilet was selected for an Editor's Choice award in 2020. This year's list contains 78 items which scored a 9 or 10/10 with our tech team - this gear is the best of the best, and has received the Cycling Weekly stamp of approval.
The biggest issue the Aeron Polartec Alpha Gilet from dhb presented me with was what to wear underneath it, though fitting its title into a sentence of reasonable length was a close second.
Used to pairing a gilet with a relatively bulky jersey to provide enough insulation, I was forced to dive into my collection for a lighter 'shoulder season' layers to cater for the additional warmth on offer here.
Dhb makes this item in a women's and men's versions; I put the female specific option to the test, but they share fabrics so all applies across the genders aside from comments on fit and colour.
In its winter weather ready gilet, dhb has partnered with Polartec to provide the most up to date version of its Alpha Direct fabric. The high loft material looks a bit like the coat of a sheep that's recently been to the barbers: fluffy and none too resilient. However since I've never seen a shivering sheep it seemed like a good bet.
The focus of the material is to provide warmth without bulk and without reducing breathability. On the outside, is a windproof layer with a DWR water repellent treatment, plus mesh stretch panels under the arms to help create a good fit and moderate heat build up.
I've ridden in thermal gilets before which have played havoc with my temperature regulation, the extra layer resulting in sweaty skin, a damp jersey and very uncomfortable cafe stops. This wasn't the case with dhb's version - the excellent insulation and breathability blend meant I stayed warm and dry throughout tough interval sessions and when ambling on more relaxed rides.
Arriving back after a tempo kind of ride which started in the afternoon and ended in the dark, I noted that whilst I'd been comfortable all ride, on stopping I honestly felt like I was wearing a small radiator - a welcome sensation in the January chill.
Despite the delicate aesthetic of the fluffy internal material, the gilet came out the washing machine looking just as it did on the inbound journey, and it dried in no time at all, too.
The construction weighs in at 138g in a size 10, which is lightweight for the level of warmth on offer. However, dhb does advertise this as a pocketable garment, and personally I'd find the gilet too large in surface area to comfortably pop into a jersey compartment.
A big plus for the dhb Aeron Alpha gilet is the use of a bright pink panel on the rear. The men's version comes in all black, or with a green panel. Whilst the pink hue might not be everyone's favourite, and a more all-round agreeable yellow or silver might be a nice option to provide choice, I really value bright colours in winter over many of the all-black options which arrive at the Cycling Weekly office.
There's three rear pockets which are a similar size to standard jersey pockets, and the bonus zipper pocket is a major coup that is rarely available in a gilet. An elasticated waist keeps it all in place.
The fit falls into dhb's "performance" category, I'd typically go for a UK size 8/10, and the 10 fitted with plenty of space for thick winter jackets underneath; if you're planning on wearing the gilet in autumn and spring it may be worth opting for a smaller size than you might expect.
At £100, the price is a little bit of a shock compared to dhb's standard offerings. However, the Aeron kit has proven its performance and still represents value against the top end brand it's aiming to compete with.
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