This Barra Waffle Merino Gilet from FINDRA is a unisex gilet made in the UK from ethically sourced Merino wool. Made with two layers, the inside is a fine knitted plain knit layer, while the outside is a waffle texture knit that’s designed to act as a wind stopper. Cold air should get trapped between the inner and outer layers, keeping your core warm. The merino gilet does up with a full length zipper, and there are two hand pockets on the front. As you’d expect from a bike garment, the back is longer to prevent a gap when leaning forward – which according to the marketing also makes it handy for gardening.
The FINDRA Barraw Waffle gilet is available in sizes XS to XL, in a choice of navy blue or grey. I would usually wear a UK 12 top, and tested the Medium. I would say it fits as I’d want around the bust (mine is a small one if you’re trying to figure out what size will suit you) and is perhaps a touch baggier that I’d really like around the waist. The length is good though – something I usually find a problem in smaller sizes. On balance, it’s probably about right for me, though if I had access to their shop and a Small I’d be curious to see how it fitted.
As with every other FINDRA merino item I’ve seen, this merino gilet exudes cosiness and quality. The seamless finish, the detail in the knitted hems and the overall build quality will have anyone that’s ever tried to knit so much as a scarf fondling it in wonder. But is it any good on the trail, or would you be better to wear it for raking the lawn?
On The Trail
I do like the practicality of a gilet – they’re great for keeping your core warm without leading to overheating – and I’ve had a few over the years. This is the first time I’ve had one that doesn’t have some sort of wind-stopper impermeable layer, and I was surprised at how effective the knit was as keeping cool morning chills at bay on the descent from my house. It’s not as totally wind blocking as, say, a Goretex gilet, but it’s enough to stop that gasp of horror as your lungs freeze inside and out on a frosty morning. Once you get pedalling, the lack of total wind proofing trades off into a nice balance of protection and breathability, meaning I’ve not been so inclined to find myself needing to unzip or strip off after getting warmed up on the ride. It’s also a handy layer to go underneath a waterproof on cooler days – keeping your core warm but leaving your arms free to breath and avoiding that baked potato sensation you can get when all wrapped up just a bit too much.
If you ride a lot of overgrown trails, you probably want to wear this as an under-layer – while the fine knit isn’t as catching on undergrowth as some woollen items, the gilet doesn’t shrug off bramble strikes like a softshell or waterproof finish, and it would be a terrible shame to bring about its early demise. Obviously, being merino, you only need to wash it every 100 years – or more frequently if you have friends you’d like to keep – but it has survived the hand wash cycle with extra low spin setting on my washing machine so there’s no need to test out that ‘washes itself naturally’ theory too much.
It’s not as light and packable as you’d look for in a ‘just in case’ item – or even one you were pretty sure you were going to want to take off as long ride got going – though pulling it out of your pack and putting it on in the pub certainly feels like a treat. For summer rides where the golden hour glow turns cool, it’s a cosy addition to put on, and on those summer days perhaps like me you’ll find you’ve got a bit more room in your pack without the winter’s day packing list of hat/waterproof/spare gloves etc, making carrying this an option.
I’m usually all for pockets, but in this instance I feel that the fine knitted fabric isn’t supportive enough for them, and while it’s nice to have somewhere to put your hands I think I’d prefer a cleaner and more flattering line around the stomach – stuff a tissue in there and it’s only going to make me look even lumpier.
I generally find that raking the lawn is a hot experience, but if you do choose to wear this gilet for gardening, or going to the shops, or taking a hike, you’ll not look out of place. On the trail, I think it’s better suited for more casual rides, rather than far flung forays – while it performs well, the relative bulk and weight of the gilet compared to one made of more technical or synthetic fabrics means it takes up more room and weight in my pack than I’d be prepared to sacrifice on a big day out. However, if you’re totally committed to natural materials and the avoidance of DWR coatings, plastic based polymers and the like, you might feel otherwise.
For me this falls into the ‘very nice to have as a luxury item’ category of bike wear, rather than a kit essential. It would make a great gift for a rider, as I think people buying for themselves are likely to think they need to pick something more practical with technical features like packability or splash proof coatings. But if you’re happy to treat yourself, or are lucky enough to be given this as a gift, then you’ll snuggle into this with a warm glow of knitted merino luxury that you won’t get from a packable stuffable windstopper number.
|Product:||Barra Waffle Merino Gilet|
|Tested:||by Hannah for 3 months|