Part of the thrill of riding comes from recognizing the inherent risks involved, with no seat-belts, roll-cages, or crumple-zones to protect you, and very little standing between you and the tarmac. And, while proper training, sound judgment, and selecting an appropriate bike relative to your experience skill level will all help to mitigate the likelihood of a wreck, the reality is that all riders should hope for the best but still prepare for the worst, or as the old biker adage goes, “dress for the slide, not the ride.”
In an effort to save their skin from the always-dreaded road rash, practically every generation of motorcyclists have turned to riding vests as a means of protection. Despite traditionally being largely comprised of leather construction items, motorcycle vests have seen a pretty significant evolution in recent years, with gear brands bestowing these sleeveless riding garments with modern gadgets and technologies, cutting-edge materials, and advanced construction techniques that make for markedly more comfortable and effective pieces of protective gear. Unfortunately, for every quality contemporary moto vest on the market, there are at least a dozen cheap imitations and costume-style pieces. So, to help shine a light on the latest and greatest the segment has to offer, we’ve compiled this guide to the best motorcycle vests.
The Best Motorcycle Riding Vests
Best Denim Vest
SAINT Moto Denim Vest
Best Armored Vest
ICON Field Armor 3 Vest
Best Heated/Cooled Vest
Rukka M-Clima Vest
Best Off-Road Vest
El Solitario E.S. Tactical Vest
Best Airbag Vest
Dainese Smart Jacket
Core Coverage Characteristics
What To Look For When Shopping For A Motorcycle Vest
As previously stated, not all motorcycle vests are created equally, so to help give you a better sense of what criteria we’ve used to determine the best motorcycle vests currently on the market, we’ve broken down the individual elements that we take into consideration (in order of importance) when calculating the quality and efficacy of a modern moto vest.
Materials & Construction: The materials used to make a vest plays an enormous role in how well of a job it does protecting its wearer. Previous generations of riders largely relied on denim and leather vests, though more contemporary items are often made from constructions that are infused with materials like Dyneema, aramid, Kevlar, and Cordura to afford better protection in the event of a slide. In addition to materials, one should also pay attention to the construction techniques used to manufacture a vest, as this will also partially determine its strength and level of protection.
Armor: Another area that largely separates modern moto vests from those of yesteryear is the addition of integrated armor. Spine and chest protectors (or pockets for accommodating spine and chest protectors) have increasingly become commonplace on today’s motorcycle vests, with D30 increasingly becoming the go-to armor.
Storage: Pretty much every motorcycle vest comes equipped with some pockets for storage, though the amount of cargo space offered can vary wildly. When considering a vest that boasts more pockets and room for storage, it’s important to make sure the vest has been properly balanced for even weight distribution. There are also some vests with water/weatherproof pockets, or padded pockets meant specifically for accommodating smartphones.
Style: The first step on your journey to buying a new vest should start with determining which style best jives with your personal taste. Because there’s an enormous array of different genres of moto vest, made in different colors and materials, it’s well worth exploring the various stylistic options available before pulling the trigger on your purchase. Some of the more popular types include military-style items, waxed canvas vests, denim pieces, and synthetic armored versions.
Warmth: On top of shielding its wearer from abrasions and impacts, vests are also able to provide a surprising amount of warmth, aiding the body in recycling the core’s heat. If you’re interested in a vest that will afford ample warmth, you’ll want to keep an eye out for waterproof membranes, insulation, and the like. When paired with an underlying jacket or base layer, the right moto vest can keep its wearer comfortable in surprisingly cold conditions.
Additional Amenities: With motorcycle vests having existed for so long, it’s frankly unsurprising to see that a number of gear brands have delivered vests with novel features or technologies in a bid to bolster comfort, utility, or performance. This includes vests with integrated hydration pouches or MOLLE webbing systems, as well as cutting-edge vests with advanced built-in rider cooling systems and vests with onboard state-of-the-art airbag systems just to name a few.
Manufacturer: Even after exhausting all of the criteria above, it can at times still be tricky to get an overall sense of an item’s quality. In these situations, it typically helps to rely on the reputation of the brand behind a given product, as most companies are pretty consistent when it comes to the quality of their gear.
A Sleeveless Slide
Do Motorcycle Vests Actually Provide Protection In A Crash?
While motorcycle vests undeniably have their place amongst the pantheon of modern moto gear, there are a few obvious shortcomings that are worth pointing out. The first and most obvious is the motorcycle vest’s lack of sleeves, which leaves the arms and shoulders—two areas that are almost certain to make contact with the tarmac in the event of a crash or slide–entirely exposed to impacts and abrasions.
Covering your core, torso, and spine with a vest is obviously substantially safer than riding without any gear, though relying solely on a vest is sort of like wearing a rain jacket that only covers parts of your body. Scores of riders are seemingly attracted to the military-inspired appearance of some of today’s more popular armored vests, but far too often these items are worn by themselves. If you are planning on utilizing a vest, we’d urge you to also consider supplementing that protection with additional elbow or shoulder armor or an underlying jacket.
Politics & Etiquette
Will 1%er MCs Care Or Be Offended If I Wear A Vest?
Whenever talking motorcycle vests, one question that seems to come up time and time again is whether or not 1%er MC members — such as those in the Hells Angels, Vagos, and Mongols — will take issue with or be offended by non-club-members wearing a vest while riding. The short answer here is ultimately no, though there are some pretty crucial caveats here. A normal leather vest — or “cut” — won’t draw any unwanted ire from 1%ers, so long as it doesn’t sport any motorcycle club patches or colors or even patches that mimic or resemble those of actual MCs. Ultimately, doing anything that lends the impression that you are in a 1%er MC when you aren’t will not go over well.
The Latest & Greatest Motorcycles Vests On The Market
SAINT Moto Denim Vest
- Made from ultra-tough Dyneema-infused denim using twin-needle stitching & reinforced bartacks
- Looks & feels like regular denim vest
- Offers stellar slide protection & abrasion resistance
- Affords unbeatable value
- Equipped w/ top-shelf hardware, trim, & fit & finish
- Great for use both on & off the bike
- Not offered w/ armor pockets
Best Denim Vest: A contemporary take on the classic denim moto vest, this item from Saint is constructed from the brand’s proprietary blend of Dyneema-infused cotton, polyester, and lycra that’s seven-times stronger than steel. Immensely-resistant to abrasions, this material offers some light stretch for increased comfort and an unrestricted range of mobility. This understated garment’s durability is further upped thanks to twin-needle stitching and reinforced bartacks. Completing the package is a full suite of bespoke logo rubberized buttons and a Saint pin.
Shell Material: Dyneema Denim
ICON Field Armor 3 Vest
- Constructed around vented bio-foam & air mesh chassis wrapped around articulating injection-molded shell w/ airflow channels
- Low-profile shape is designed to fit over other jackets
- Equipped w/ removable D30 Viper chest & spine armor
- Has adjustment points at waist & shoulders
- Features mini zippered pocket
- Very militaristic appearance
- Tiny size of zippered pocket hugely limits use
Best Armored Vest: ICON’s original Field Armor Stryker Vest went on to become one of the all-time most popular and best-selling pieces of moto gear ever produced, so needless to say, when the company finally debuted the highly-anticipated followup back in October of 2020, it was a pretty monumental deal. Sporting an all-new, markedly sleeker aesthetic design, the Field Armor 3 Vest boasts a bio-foam and air-mesh chassis reinforced with injection-molded armor plates and lined with ICON’s moisture-wicking, anti-microbial HydraDry liner, and finished off with D3O armor front and back. Numerous intakes provide solid airflow beneath the armor and the impressively low-profile shape of the vest also means it can be worn underneath an existing jacket, rather than just over it, too.
Shell Material: Injection-Molded ABS
Rukka M-Clima Vest
- Premium vest w/ integrated electronic heating/cooling system
- Blower unit offers 7 liters of air dispersion per second
- Benefits from use of electro-thermal technology
- Heating/cooling unit controlled via included remote key fob
- In typical Rukka fashion, vest has top-shelf materials & build quality
- Forced airflow through vest accelerates evaporative cooling effect
- Battery life limit to 2 hours per charge
Best Heated/Cooled Vest: A brilliant example of the moto gear sector enormously benefitting from technological breakthroughs from other outside industries, the Rukka M-Clima Vest acts as a personal mobile H/VAC system for riders. Powered by an onboard rechargeable battery pack, the vest is equipped with an electric blower fan that can stream 7-liter of air every second and utilizes a cutting-edge accelerated evaporative cooling setup. Inside, electro-thermal elements enable the vest to provide cooling air conditioning or toasty heat that can exceed 100°F. Ideal for both extreme hot and cold weather riding, the M-Clima is also operated via an easy-to-use remote key fob that can be carried in a pocket or mounted to a bike’s handlebars.
Shell Material: Stretch Polyester & Polyurethane
El Solitario E.S. Tactical Vest
- Ultra-rugged boutique-made riding vest inspired by tactical military vests & plate carriers
- Made from ballistic-grade 1,000D CORDURA nylon
- Comes outfitted w/ included 3L hydration bladder and routed tube
- Features MOLLE webbing & Duraflex hardware
- Is compatible w/ Alpinestars’ Bionic Neck Support braces
- Sold w/ 13 interchangeable ESMC patches
- Expensive price
- Must be ordered from Europe
Best Off-Road Vest: Made by one of our all-time favorite custom motorcycle outfits, this military-inspired tactical riding vest is built take survive just about anything you can throw at it, with a full 1,000D CORDURA construction, Duraflex hardware, heavy-duty YKK zippers, and heavy-duty mil-spec sewing seams throughout. Weighing just 3lbs, the Outlaw vest comes with four differently-sized MOLLE pouches, including a padded, quick-release smartphone pocket, an integrated three-liter hydration reservoir and tube, an emergency drop pouch, and 17 different swappable mil-spec patches to decorate the item. Available in limited numbers, this vest is also compatible with off-road neck-braces like Alpinestars’ BNS system.
Shell Material: 1,000D CORDURA
Dainese Smart Jacket
- State-of-the-art wireless motorcycle airbag vest
- Deploys in just 30 milliseconds
- Is completely waterproof
- Onboard system senses front & rear-end collisions, & high-side & low-side crashes
- Can be worn under any regular garment or riding jacket/suit
- Equipped w/ gyroscopes & accelerometers monitored by advanced algorithm 1,000 times per second
- Expensive price
- Requires servicing every three years
Best Airbag Vest: Born out of more than a quarter century of research, the Dainese Smart Jacket is a compact, cutting-edge wireless airbag system that can be worn beneath any regular jacket or suit, thereby affording practically any garment some of the highest possible levels of protection. Also equipped with 26 hours of battery life and standard CE level 1 and 2 armor, the vest utilizes seven onboard sensors that feed real-time information through an advanced algorithm that monitors these inputs 1,000 times every second. If a high-side, low-side, or front or rear-end collision is detected, the airbag can deploy around the rider’s torso in just 30 milliseconds. As a point of reference, it takes the human eye around 100 to 150 milliseconds to blink. Activated via a magnetic chest button, the vast is also completely waterproof, and boasts haptic feedback along with an LED light interface.
Shell Material: Proprietary Abrasion-Resistant Stretch Fabric
Noteworthy Runner-Up Moto Vests Also Worth Considering
REV’IT! Hi-Viz Connector Vest
Research has repeatedly and conclusively shown that high-visibility colors are markedly more effective at catching driver’s attention, and in foggy or rainy weather where visibility is compromised, it’s always a good idea to help ensure that you’re seen via the use of “hi-viz” gear. Made from a PWR-coated polyester construction, this high-viability vest from REV’IT! is designed to be securely worn over any existing moto riding jacket. A multi-way adjustable waist and shoulder setup ensures a snug fit, while 3M Scotchlite reflection panels provide additional viability.
Shell Material: PWR|shell 330, Mesh EN471, & 500D Stretch
BSMC Utility Patch Vest
Designed to be worn both on and off of the bike, this stylish moto garment staple from the crew over at the UK’s Bike Shed Motorcycle Club–or “BSMC”—is made from a heavy-duty cotton twill packing more than 300-grams (0.661lbs) per square meter of material. Outfitted with an array of interior and exterior pockets, the vest also sports an elasticized collar, dropped back hem, and prominent BSMC branding across the back. Despite the heavyweight twill construction, it should be noted that this vest wasn’t engineered as a piece of protective gear, not containing any armor or much abrasion resistance.
Shell Material: Heavy-Duty Brushed Cotton Twill
Klim Tek Vest
Despite technically being engineered for snowmobiling, Klim’s Tek Vest is just as conducive to intense off-road and adventure riding, having been designed to protect the wearer’s torso without compromising movement whatsoever. Demonstrably more flexible than traditional poly carb riding gear, the vest is built around a high-tenacity, vented mesh, rip-stop nylon shell stuffed with ventilated soft-armor that won’t absorb water, and uses an insanely-cut-resistant, ultra-high molecular weight plastic that’s reportedly eight times more cut resistant than high-density polyethylene. In addition to offering the Tek vest in a trio of colors, Klim also produces matching shoulder armor to pair with it for even more protection.
Shell Material: Vented mesh, Rip-stop Nylon, & UHMW Plastic
The Best Summer Motorcycle Jackets
In need of some warm-weather riding gear but want some protection for your shoulders and arms? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best summer motorcycle jackets for a curated list of breathable, airflow-affording layers that still afford impressive levels of slide and impact protection.