It’s fair to think an insulated vest would lead to some sweaty rides. Yet because Polartec Alpha insulation offers impressive breathability, Rapha’s Souplesse Insulated Gilet is actually pretty versatile when things heat up.
Rapha added Polartec’s Alpha insulation to the front panel of a race-cut wind vest to create a surprisingly effective piece of kit. It is warm but doesn’t get swampy during hard efforts. This means when you stop or ease up after those winter intervals, you aren’t going to be damp and cold. It is also lightweight with very little bulk. Polartec Alpha may be the first insulation I’ve encountered that seems to genuinely work well for aerobic activities.
Polartec Alpha doesn’t look like insulation we’re used to seeing in outdoor apparel. It looks more like the quilt batting my mom would use — after 7-year-old-me peeled it into unusable layers. A loosely woven grid provides a literal framework for small, dispersed tufts of fluff, and those tufts are made of fast-drying hydrophobic fibers. It holds warm air but doesn’t trap moisture.
Rapha opted for a two-layer system, so the insulation layer isn’t sandwiched between two additional pieces of material. The vest remains lightweight, plus there is one fewer barrier for moisture to travel through to escape. The stretch fabric on the back also helps with temperature and moisture regulation.
Leaving this grid system of woven-in tufts exposed makes sense for performance but also exposes it to abrasions. Long-term durability is the only question, though it seems to stand up well to regular use so far.
Three cargo pockets with a pump loop and one zip pocket with a cable port give you plenty of room for storage. It’s a versatile piece with practical touches.
The takeaway: Rapha’s Souplesse Insulated Gilet offers lightweight, sweat-free core insulation. It’s a shoulder-season and mild winter day piece. I didn’t know I needed it, but now that I’ve used it, I’m quite happy it exists.