Monday, February 05, 2024

Heart of Winter 2024 Reviews: Ciele Athletics, Brooks, and Ibex "Super" Vests and More!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Ibex Wool-Aire Vest ($235), Ciele Athletics OTF Insulator ($280), Brooks Run Visible Vest ($160)

There is nothing like an insulated vest for versatility. With your core wind protected, and warm, layering below and over becomes a matter of choice given the conditions.  All three of our tested vests for sure fulfill that mission, are very light for the warmth they provide and feature state of the art insulation. Yet, each goes about it in very different ways. All tested samples are men’s medium. I am 5’9” tall and weigh 167 lbs. All three were tested in conditions from the mid 40’s F down to the high teens in New Hampshire and Utah on sort of “runs” more like fast walks as I am rehabbing a broken knee cap.

Ibex Wool-Aire Vest ($235)

Best for: Single vest to do it all. Run, hike, around town


  • lightest, warmest

  • proprietary 80% wool blend insulation: quick drying. anti microbial

  • most appropriate style for everyday use

  • 3 deep pockets for storage and ventilation


  • long and a bit looser fitting than others

  • small, finicky, potentially fragile main zipper

  • expensive

The Wool-Aire Vest combines a more sustainable 80% wool insulation with a wind and lightly water resistant outer shell. Ibex was one of the original sport merino companies. I have owned and tested apparel from them for decades most recently testing the Wool-Aire Hoodie which is essentially the Vest with sleeves and a hood. Its performance has been outstanding and it has remained my goto “puffy” for its incredible weight to insulation ratio and rapid drying. I was eager to test the Vest as it promised to provide greater run and hike versatility in all seasons.

At 200 g in my medium it is the lightest vest here by a considerable margin. It features 3 deep pockets: 2 side and one chest for storage and also for ventilation.

The fit is true to my usual medium and on the generous side both in length and overall fit. In part this is due to how light and easy it fits,. I often was struck by its unique combination of airy lightness, and breathability (often wondering if I was actually wearing a vest at all)  yet with just the right warmth and plenty of wind protection 

Performance is excellent especially when have paired it with Ibex Woolies Pro-Tech Long Sleeve ($115), a stretchy soft 85% merino top made with Nuyarn spinning technology that makes merino 35% more thermally efficient, 85% more elastic, and 8.8x more durable than its ring-spun counterparts. Stretchy and never clammy this thin top even has thumb loop holes.

To complete the Ibex outfit I also received their now iconic Giove Liner ($50). Made of merino with plenty of stretch they have served stand alone in the 20's and due to their low bulk they can fit under heavier gloves. They feature conductive thumbs and index fingers and I found as the glove fits so well this feature is actually effective. Not always the case with conductive tips.

The combination is about as effective yet luxuriously  comfortable a run combination as I have experienced. I never had a sensation the vest became a sweat box during higher output activities. 

I tend to prefer non form fit apparel in winter to allow movement and an air pocket between outer and inner layers for breathability/moisture transmission and thus warmth as a wet runner is a cold runner in winter. Here we have the perfect vest for that as one can open the pockets for yet more ventilation, put a shell over it or in a wide range of conditions just use it over a mid layer such as the Pro-Tech.

I would like to see a more substantial front zipper as the small one is finicky and potentially fragile. The Wool-Aire at $235 is pricey. That said, this vest with a more sustainable wool twist is a superb combination of light weight, high performing insulation and go anywhere styling.

Ciele Athletics OTF Insulator ($280)

Best for: Ventilation on the go and making a high performance and unique style statement


  • Polartec Alpha insulation is very warm for weight and quick drying

  • versatile, many uses

  • snaps instead of zip allow lots of custom ventilation

  • plenty of discrete “black out” reflective elements

  • stands out. Why not sleeves! Why not baseball jersey style!

  • reversible for a truly wild look


  • very expensive

  • less conventional styling may not “fit” in everywhere

Ciele of Montreal, Canada is known for its stylish colorful high performance run caps. Here they delve into insulated apparel with a unique style twist: a baseball styled short sleeve insulated shirt complete with snap front and knit type neck. 

It is reversible with my All Over Tile-Whitaker color having a wild black and white inner pattern fabric.

The OFT is intended for variable winter conditions, pre and post run warmth and wind protection and can be easily layered under a shell. Given it adds insulated sleeves to essentially what is a vest it weighs the most of the three at 309 g.  

The OFT is insulated with Polartec Alpha, a material originally developed for US Special Forces who specified very light weight, breathability and quick drying. I have tested several jackets with Alpha and it for sure delivers as specified and does so here with a light airy feel on the body comparable to the Wool-Aire.  One a warmish day in the 40’s I wore it with a short sleeve T and it was perfect combo.

Instead of the usual zipper up front the OFT has snaps which allow for highly customized ventilation on the go. 

Reflective elements illuminated with a headlamp

There are two deep side somewhat high zip pockets whose banding is reflective along with 2 thin reflective black out bands on the sleeves with a reflective strip and logo on the back. While black is not a high contrast color (a white OFT is available) Ciele included plenty of discrete in daylight, night safety elements  

Reflective elements illuminated with a headlamp

Unlike the Wool-Aire and like the Brooks Run Visible Vest, there is a strip of ventilating stretch mesh down the center top of the back.

The fit is true to my size medium and as with the Wool Aireit rests light and easy on the chest and here also arms.

Performance has been excellent. As with the Wool-Aire, the fit is light and easy on the body, no stretch fit vest here.  Wind protection is top notch and the Alpha insulation warm and breathable and surprisingly so given how thin it is but what I have come to expect from Polartec Alpha. And, as it warms, the multiple snaps opening of the front ( allows for as much ventilation as you might want with the shirt format keeping it on your shoulders. 

Along with the OFT Ciele also sent the MSFT Tight and CW BKTHat ($80), a take on their summer buckets with the same super airy and soft CoolMatic fabric but adding a warm stretch fleece headband and ear flaps (non removable) to the inside.

It has proven the perfect high altitude sun protecting hat with warmth in Park City and its big brim kept the snow off my glasses in a serious sudden squall!


The 60 cm large size fit my larger size head quite snuggly initially, especially with the ear flaps folded but stretched to fit after a few uses. 

It has a shock cord to tighten and I think Ciele could increase the diameter of the large and make better use of the shock cord as it is all the way out flaps down or up. 

Not usually a tight kind of runner, I prefer nordic style run pants, the MSFTight ($130)  have proven the exception to the rule. The soft stretchy luxurious material doesn’t keep my knees from actually lifting as many tights do.

 It has a superb secure waistband that is not over snug and with no sag at the rear.

Two super deep thigh pockets are great for any phone, gloves, hat and keys. Everything stays nicely secure due to their depth and stretch fabric.

The OFT styling is to be sure not the usual and pricing is very steep but this well thought out versatile “shirt” is well worth consideration as are the tights and bucket. Different for sure but effective and high performing!

Brooks Run Visible Insulated Vest ($160)

Best for: Day and night on the road run visibility


  • day and night safety focus with contrasting colors and by far the most reflective elements

  • form fitting and warm yet well back ventilated

  • run focused

  • best value, lowest price


  • Day glo style and colors may limit crossover uses for some

The Brooks Run Visible is “clearly” focused primarily on run safety given its contrasting bright white and optic yellow with black in the mix fabrics along with extensive blackout 3M reflective elements all around. With science behind it, the insulated vest is designed to highlight the body in motion in all light conditions. At 279g it is the second heaviest vest.

The vest includes two gigantic front zip pockets- handy for phones, gloves, hats and more. One pocket includes an inner sleeve to secure a phone although I never felt I needed it as the fit here is trimmer and more slim than the other options but with decent length. 

The zipper is stout with 2 snaps to hold the vest in place if unzipped

Vest illuminated with a headlamp: silvery areas are black when not illuminated

The upper black and optic yellow areas are insulated in “puffy” style diagonal bands with a center back a breathable non insulated area.  

The lower areas are very wind resistant and quite breathable with the pockets' front side lined with a grid mesh for a touch more front insulation. I found the outer smooth shell to be commendably water resistant although it is not waterproof.

The Run Visible Insulated Vest clearly has a purpose-keep you visible on the run in all light conditions. It does so admirably well if in “brighter fashion" than the other vests, maybe limiting its uses depending on your style preferences. Personally I like its bright and cheery vibe! 

The insulation and ventilation is very solid but as a slimmer fitting vest with a smoother more water resistant outer shell it is not as airy light and almost invisible in feel as the other pricier vests here. As a pure run insulated vest it is the most practical choice and is considerably less expensive than the others.

Bottom Line

Ibex Wool Aire- the light and warm, do anything, go anywhere “outdoor” styled option. 

Ciele OFT Insulator - the versatile, “different” and trend setting option

Brooks Run Visible Insulated Vest- safety focused, functional and bright, the best value.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets very very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

RoadTrailRun Official Store Custom Fractel Caps and Bucket Hats
Cap:$39                                                             Bucket:$49
Limited Release! SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

Men's and Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Use our code RTR235 for 5% off all products

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE


Find all RoadTrailRun reviews at our index page HERE 
Google "roadtrailrun Shoe Name" and you can be quite sure to find just about any run shoe over the last 10 years

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by Following RoadTrailRun News Feed

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun

Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun

No comments: