Review: Rapha Men’s Explore Lightweight Gilet

A stylish, lightweight and packable cycling layer.

Feature type Review

Read time 4 mins

Published Mar 22, 2024

Author Sam Firth

Sam Firth Sam is an outdoor, sports and lifestyle photographer based in Devon. He feels most at home outdoors whether that’s on a bike, on foot or on a rock face.

OUR VERDICT

The Explore Lightweight Gilet is a stylish, lightweight and packable layer perfect for giving you some added protection in unpredictable weather.

Features Lightweight and packable, wind blocking, DWR water resistant coating, looks great

Pros

  • Wind Blocking
  • Lightweight and Packable
  • Breathable
  • Comes in a good selection of colours

Cons

  • Only one small pocket
  • Struggled initially with the fit

WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR

For any cyclist in Britain it’s important to build a solid layering system so you can easily adapt to the ever changing weather conditions. Therefore having versatile and packable layers that can easily be put on and stowed away when not in use is key. 

When looking for a gilet I’m looking for something that can help add some extra protection against wind and rain whilst also being lightweight and packable enough to stuff into a jersey pocket or bike bag when not in use.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Like with all Rapha kit it looks great and has some really nice design features such as reflective detailing .

As soon as you get hold of this gilet, you can feel how lightweight it is. It’s also extremely packable and can stuff into a small pocket making it easy to stowaway. Despite being so lightweight the material feels tough and durable.

Size wise, I initially went for a medium (my normal size) however it felt quite baggy so I ended up swapping for a small, which fit reallly well. Rapha mentions this is more of a regular fit and is less constrictive than their road wear, so if you are looking for a more baggy fit I’d go with your regular size and if you are after a snugger fit, size down.

Like with all Rapha kit it looks great

THE TEST

On Rapha’s site they state that this gilet is meant for long days in the saddle or multi-day rides when lightweight and packable kit is essential.

For my testing, I wore this on a number of rides varying in terrain and what I was wearing. I wanted to test it both with a jersey and with a more relaxed long-sleeve top like the Rapha Explore LS Zip Tech T-shirt.

Despite it being so lightweight it does a great job at protecting you from the wind and even a bit of light rain due to the DWR coating. Although it doesn’t completely eliminate wind chill it does a great job for its size and weight.

Some people may be put off by the lack of pockets and the thought of having to reach under the gilet to access your jersey pockets, however for me this wasn’t an issue as I pretty much always wear cargo bib shorts to store anything I may need whilst riding. Additionally it’s designed to be lightweight and packable so any additional pockets would just take away from what it’s designed to do.

Sadly I didn’t get out on any multi-day rides whilst testing this gilet, however I can see how it would be a great addition to a multi-day layering system due to how lightweight it is and how well it performs.

WHO IS THIS GILET FOR?

This is an extremely lightweight gilet that’s great as an extra layer on those days with changeable weather (that we get so frequently here in the UK!). It is also great for longer or multi-day rides where you are trying to limit weight and space. Additionally, due to it’s more relaxed fit it works really well with baggies, so is great for any riders who do a variety of different types of cycling or just prefer more relaxed clothing.

WHAT STANDS OUT?

Design

Typical Rapha stylish design with quality materials.

Packable

Packs down in to a small pocket.

Adjustable

Hem adjustments mean you can get a really snug fit.

DWR Coating

Durable water-repellent coating for added weather protection on wet days.

Reflective Details

Reflective logo on chest and lower back for added visibility when riding during darker times of the day.

Packs down in to a small pocket

VALUE FOR MONEY

At £95 this is definitely a considered purchase as there are of course cheaper options out there, especially if you are willing to go for something that’s not as lightweight and packable. However if you are in need of a really lightweight and packable gilet that performs really well for its size and weight, this could be a really great option for you.

BASE BOTTOM LINE

When you get an item this packable and lightweight you are always going to compromise on some features, however if you are in the market for something that packs down to virtually nothing and will give you some protection from the elements, this is a great gilet. If you are looking for a gilet for really cold or wet conditions this gilet may not be the best option for you.

Unlike ‘traditional’ road gilets it provides a more relaxed longer fit which in my opinion makes it more versatile and allows you to wear it with a jersey or baggies if you are bikepacking or riding gravel.

Overall I was really impressed with the Explore Lightweight Gilet from Rapha. It’s lightweight, provides some good protection and is a great gilet for those transitional seasons where the weather is unpredictable.

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