Pearl Izumi's Zephrr vest treads the fine line between emergency wear and regular layer, and is one of the best we've tested.
The polyester Barrier fabric has a lovely soft feel and although we initially worried this would rule out heavy use, it’s shrugged off plenty of scratches and scrapes without a hint of damage as well as rattling around in the bottom of a pack for a few weeks while retaining its good looks.
Pack size is dinky and the gilet’s water resistance is very reasonable for the weight. It’s fully windproof, with elastic bound hem and cuffs keeping your core temperature exactly as you want it.
The two mesh back panels are perfectly placed to provide additional venting without chilling things down too far when you’re riding without a backpack, and the usefully deep rear pocket is lined with a soft micromesh that makes it an ideal home for phones and MP3 devices on dry rides – although the Velcro closure isn’t as secure as a zip would be.
The cut is good and long, but it’s a shame the same soft mesh lining inside the neck doesn’t extend half an inch further to cover the back of the zip garage and stop it chafing chins; our only gripe.