[Words by Pete Smith]
The SCOTT Trail Storm Insuloft AL vest is a well-thought-out, lightweight, insulated riding vest that SCOTT says is tailored specifically for mountain bike use - offering up an extra degree of warmth and damp weather protection to keep your core happy on those chilly days on the bike. It's surprisingly versatile and well priced but can get sweaty when worn with a pack.
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SCOTT Trail Storm Insuloft AL Men's Vest | The Details
The SCOTT Trail Storm Insuloft AL vest is available in two colours and five sizes and is constructed from a two-way stretch DWR treated polyester, lined with Polartec Alpha insulation. This is claimed to regulate warmth and offers advanced breathability, quick-drying and excellent compressibility, all in a very lightweight package - my size large weighs just 195g.
The fleecy lining is wonderfully soft and very, very orange. The cut is great, with a dropped rear hem and short front offering increased coverage and no bunching when in the attack position. It has a snug but very comfortable fit thanks to those two-way stretch panels, and there is zero flapping when riding. The size large tested fitted my 44-inch chest perfectly.
SCOTT Trail Storm Insuloft AL Men's Vest | On the trail
Now I must admit, I was a little dubious when this came in to test - considering a riding gilet to be a bit of a niche product. That being said, I was to be pleasantly surprised by its versatility. Of course, it can be worn as an extra layer with a waterproof or softshell jacket for extra warmth during the winter months, and in this regard, it works a treat.
However, what surprised me most was just how often I reached for it on warmer days paired with just a thin jersey. Recently we have had some mild but damp and drizzly days, and thanks to the DWR treatment, excellent windproofing, and fully waterproof lower back panel that protects well from rear wheel spray- I've been able to dispense with my lightweight waterproof and just run this gilet over a long sleeve Jersey. Now as someone who hates wearing a waterproof jacket on all but the coldest and wettest of days, this was a bit of a eureka moment!
Obviously, if it's bucketing down, this is no substitute for a full waterproof, but whilst not fully waterproof, the SCOTT Trail Storm vest put up a valiant effort in keeping my torso pretty much dry and perfectly cosy without overheating, on several showery rides.
Having the armpits unimpeded by extra material really aids in dumping excess heat and keeping the body temperature regulated. Obviously, the full-length zip can be opened up too if things do start to get a little toasty.
The vest is also incredibly lightweight and packs down small enough to stuff in a pack if the sun does decide to put its hat on! The Polartech Alpha material also dries very quickly if it does get soaked through and retains its warmth far better than a soggy jersey ever could.
Another useful feature is the zipped rear pocket. It's a good size and positioned well, and along with the snug fit holds its contents securely against the small of the back. In use, it's brilliant - easily accessible thanks to its vertical side mounted zip and pull cord, and worked almost like a small hip pack. I tended to stash my gloves and riding shades/goggles in there when not in use, as well as my phone, as I hate it digging into my thigh when out on a ride.
The only issue with this arrangement is that when worn with a riding pack the pocket becomes superfluous due to its location. Also, due to its proximity to the spine, and lack of padding, I wouldn't be carrying tools or anything too pointy in there either. I did also find that when worn with a riding pack breathability was significantly impacted too, leading to a bit of a sweaty back.
SCOTT Trail Storm Insuloft AL Men's Vest | Value
There are a few similar products on the market such as the Fox Ranger Windbloc Fire Vest, which is quite similar in design, but a chunk more cash at £150. Another option is the Alpinestars Denali vest at £110 which is of a similar design, but the overly insulated back panel makes it a little sweaty.
A slightly more wallet-friendly option is the DHB Aeron Polartec Alpha Gilet at £100. It shares the Polartec Alpha insulation and DWR outer layer with the Scott vest but trumps it for pockets. The cut and styling are perhaps a little more road-orientated though. All of this makes the asking price of the Scott Trail Storm Alpha vest relatively good value for money.
In conclusion, the Scott Alpha vest is an impressively adaptable piece of kit. As expected, it works brilliantly as a winter mid-layer. More surprisingly, it doubles up really rather well as an outer garment for spring and autumn rides, keeping the core pretty dry and snug without the extra bulk and heat retention of a jacket.
Whilst a riding vest might not be on the essentials list for everybody, the Scott Alpha vest has surprised me in its usability, proving itself to be a worthy addition to the kit bag.