The Sportful Hot Pack Ultralight Vest is an impossibly light and compact gilet which, despite weighing just 39g, is completely windproof and leaves no excuse not to take an extra ‘just in case’ layer.
Sportful’s Hot Pack range, which includes nine jackets and gilets, is designed for changeable conditions – of which there is no shortage in the UK – and so three things top the design agenda as far as the Ultralight Vest is concerned: windproofing, water resistance and weight (or, rather, stuffability – how easily it can be taken off and stuffed in a jersey pocket when conditions change).
The gilet (we’ll call it a gilet from now) is remarkably light and that’s thanks to the ultra-fine seven denier fabric – one square metre of fabric weights just 24g. The fabric almost has a silky feel to it but has shown no signs of wear and tear during the course of our test. It’s so fine that Sportful use 30km of yarn for a single gilet and that enables them to weave the fabric incredibly tightly to ensure the gilet is windproof while remaining super-light. The level of windproofing is very impressive and stops a chilly spring breeze in its tracks. It’s also ideal for when riding in the mountains as, while the air temperature may be warm, windchill can kick in on a descent and so the Hot Pack gilet can be called into action without taking up much space in your jersey pockets for the rest of the ride.
Speaking of which, while most gilets will roll up and fit in a jersey pocket, at 39g the Hot Pack is so light that it is completely unnoticeable. There’s always room for it in a jersey pocket – or, more accurately, half of a jersey pocket – and that ensures it’s ready and waiting. I’ve also worn it on a number of rides from the outset and not taken it off once I’ve warmed up, so it’s fairly breathable, too, and mesh vents on either side help in that regard. Even if you do get too warm, it’s hardly an inconvenience to take off.
The gilet’s fabric also has a water repellent finish. It’s not fully waterproof, but very water resistant, and light rain and drizzle will bead up off the surface. That, for me, is enough protection in spring and summer, when the temperature is generally warm enough to ride on without pulling on a jacket, with the gilet serving to keep your core warm and dry. Needless to say, heavy rain will require more protection than that offered by a gilet, and Sportful will likely point you to elsewhere in the Hot Pack range for a similarly compact jacket.
Features are otherwise limited, as you’d expect on a super-light piece like this. There’s a small stuff pocket (lined with reflective detail) at the rear, though we haven’t used this and have preferred to stuff the gilet straight into a jersey pocket. That aside, there are the mesh vents we mentioned earlier, as well as a full-length zip and elastic on the hem and arms to help provide a close fit. The fit, by the way, is generally very good, but we’d like it to be a little closer around the back of the shoulder as the fabric can catch the wind and rustle on a fast descent.
The gilet is only available in one colour and the grey/silver finish may not be to everyone’s taste. The fabric also creases easily and that’s particularly noticeable when you pull it out of your pocket or kit drawer to wear, though those creases do begin to fall out as you wear it.
The Sportful Hot Pack Ultralight Vest is a featherweight gilet which, despite its low weight, is completely windproof and has enough about it to shrug off light rain. It’s a gilet which can be worn throughout a ride, pulled on for a mountain descent, or taken as a ‘just in case’ layer which is so compact that it doesn’t mean you’ll have to leave something else at home. It’s a super-technical piece and the incredibly low weight of the excellent fabric comes with a high price per gram, but it’s as light and windproof as anything on the market.