Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review

The Chilko is cutting-edge, as you would expect from Westcomb, and “heats up” the competition in the already “hot” ultralight multi-purpose down jacket category.

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

Westcomb has a reputation for utilizing cutting-edge materials and construction methods to create very functional garments, and the new Chilko Down Sweater meets those standards. Its shell and down quality are among the best to be found. The feature set is well designed and functional, but it is not as lightweight as some other jackets. Overall, the Chilko is well designed and balanced for a multi-purpose three-season down jacket.

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by Will Rietveld |

Introduction

Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review - 1

This separate review provides additional descriptive and performance information on the Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater. Read our article Ultralight Three-Season Down Jackets State of the Market Report 2010 for a state of the market analysis and comparative specifications and performance for a range of ultralight down jackets.

The new Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater is cutting-edge, as you would expect from Westcomb. The Chilko combines the best components and construction methods available to create a really warm and lightweight down sweater. How suitable is it for backpacking?

Description

New for fall 2010, the Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater is insulated with 850 fill power down and weighs just 11.8 ounces (335 g), measured weight for size Medium.

The Chilko’s shell and lining are the new 0.8 oz/yd2 (27 g/m2) Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon with DWR, which is 20% lighter and has the same tear strength as the “old” Quantum. The insulation is 850 EU fill power (884 fill-power by the US measurement method) Canadian Hutterite down, which is claimed to be 100% down (less than 1% feathers). Down fill is 3.25 ounces (92 g), giving the jacket a measured single-layer loft of 0.9 inch (2.3 cm), which is on the high end for multi-purpose jackets.

Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review - 2
Front and rear views of the new Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater.

Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review - 3
The jacket has a total of three pockets: two zippered fleece-lined hand pockets (left) and one large zippered stretch mesh pocket on the inside (right). The pocket zippers are welded on and are not the water-resistant type.

Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review - 4
The cuffs (and hem) are Polartec Powershield fabric, which is stretchy, durable, and water-resistant.

Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review - 5
Also new for fall 2010, the Kokanee Hoody is a hooded cousin of the Chilko. It has a little more down fill than the Chilko, and the target weight is 17.6 ounces (500 g) for men’s size Medium.

Performance

Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review - 6
I wore the Chilko on several high elevation early spring snowshoeing trips.

The Chilko seems to have an average fit. With a heavy baselayer on, the Medium just fit me, with no room left for additional layering inside. The sleeves are long enough, but the jacket is snug and barely long enough. From this, I would say the sizing is normal and a size Large would fit me with adequate room inside for more layering.

The feature set on the Chilko is minimal, fairly lightweight, and very functional. There is a little extra weight in the hem drawcord; it could be made lighter with smaller elastic cord and cordlocks, or just eliminated. The front Ri Ri zipper is heavier than a #3 zipper, but it operates smoothly and will last a long time. Overall, the jacket is designed to be both lightweight and functional.

This jacket seals up well. The neck and wrists are snug and there is a drawcord on the hem to close the bottom of the jacket.

In the comparative warmth tests we performed for our state-of-the-market report on ultralight multi-purpose down jackets referenced below, the Chilko Down Sweater was among the warmest in the group.

Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review - 7
I wore the Chilko on several high elevation early spring snowshoeing trips and found it to be very wind and weather-resistant (left). In my one-hour indoor “puddle test” (right), quite a bit of water leaked through the seams, which was a bit of a surprise.

Comparisons

Our article Ultralight Three-Season Down Jackets State of the Market Report 2010 provides complete specifications and ratings for the Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater in comparison to a range of other lightweight down jackets. The jacket most similar is the Salomon Minim Down Sweater.

Assessment

The new Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater is indeed impressive. This is a jacket you admire once you get it, and others will admire it too. It has cutting-edge materials and construction, it’s well insulated, and the feature set is minimal, lightweight, and functional.

The closest comparison to the Chilko is the Salomon Minim Down Sweater. The shell on both jackets is the new 0.8-ounce Pertex Quantum, which is impressive. The Chilko weighs one ounce less and costs $10 more than the Minim. I would personally choose the Chilko because I like the design, fit, construction, and features a little better. The hand pockets are larger and fleece-lined, and zippers are welded on and easy to operate. The Salomon has a larger zippered chest pocket while the Westcomb has an inside stretch mesh pocket, which are about equivalent in usefulness.

Although both jackets mentioned are standouts in the group, they are both more expensive as well. For about the same money you can purchase a Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket which weighs about the same, or a Feathered Friends Hyperion Jacket which costs $50 less. Now, that’s a tough decision…

Specifications and Features

Manufacturer Westcomb (http://www.westcomb.com/)
Year/Model Fall 2010 Chilko Down Sweater
Style Hoodless jacket with full front zipper (hooded version available)
Fabrics Shell and lining are 0.8 oz/yd2 (27 g/m2) Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon with DWR
Cuffs and hem are Polartec Powershield Light-Weight fabric
Insulation 850 fill power down, 3.25 oz (92 g)
Construction Sewn through with 2.25-in (5.7-cm) horizontal quilting, set-in sleeves
Loft Measured two-layer loft is 1.75 in (4.5 cm), single-layer loft is 0.9 in (2.3 cm)
Features Down-filled stand up collar, full height Ri Ri zipper with one slider and storm flap under zipper and beard guard, two welded on zippered fleece-lined side pockets, zippered inside stretch mesh pocket, stretch fabric cuffs, drawcord hem with two adjustors
Weight Size Medium tested.
Measured Weight: 11.8 oz (335 g)
Manufacturer Specified Average Weight: 12.2 oz (345 g)
MSRP US$250

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/westcomb_chilko_down_sweater_review.html, 2010-09-21 00:00:00-06.

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Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review on 09/21/2010 14:14:46 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Westcomb Chilko Down Sweater Review" on 09/21/2010 15:07:41 MDT Print View

"For about the same money you can purchase a Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket which weighs about the same, or a Feathered Friends Hyperion Jacket which costs $50 less. Now, that’s a tough decision…"

Nice review Will, thanks! It's a nice sweater, seems like a relatively simple decision to me though, I'd save the money and opt for the latter two options. Not sure I particularly care for the Polartec Powershield collar and hem, a more simple elastic band would save some weight and not absorb moisture, and using the standard #3 YKK zipper would also save a little weight, considering as you noted in your tests that the Westcomb Chilkos stitching allowed a significant amount of water through the seams in the puddle test. What good does it serve the wearer having a waterproof RiRi zipper up front if everywhere else on the jacket isn't going to hold back water very effectively? The fleece lined pockets are cool if not wearing gloves, around town possibly, but a Pertex lined down filled pocket would be simpler and lighter. My dirty hands would turn the white lining of the Chilko a muddy brown and black from pot soot after 2 trips. The Pertex Quantum is a nice touch, allowing all 3.25ozs. of 850+ down to fully loft, with only one downside, the shimmering gold color definitely requires a Rick James sense of style and taste. Some bright red down booties and a pair of green Capilene tights would go well with the Chilko.

Edited by Eugeneius on 09/21/2010 15:09:30 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
OR... on 09/21/2010 18:34:56 MDT Print View

I'll take my EB jacket at less money even at full retail. I doubt if the Westcomb jacket is actually any better for the extra money. I'm very happy with the EB jacket as an insulating layer. Wouldn't want to go bushwhacking in it W/O a shell, but as lightweight insulation it's great.

I'm taking it on a Tahoe Rim Trail trip in October and I know I'll use it on chilly mornings and probably some nights in my bag too B/C, without it, by experience my WM Megalite bag is only good to 27 F. all zipped up and cinched down.

I'm happy Will has taken on the task of reviewing lightweight down jackets because they seem to be an essential part of spring and fall gear and even 3 season gear, depending on your locale and altitude.

Edited by Danepacker on 09/22/2010 16:05:34 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
westcomb on 09/21/2010 18:47:14 MDT Print View

ive noticed that westcomb almost overstitches its products

my simple wool hoodie is double stitched everywhere .... it'll never come apart at the seams ... lol

ive found that their build quality is superb and its made in Vancouver Canada ...

id still buy a $50 EB downlight any day though for the value

Martin RJ Carpenter
(MartinCarpenter) - F
Slight identity crisis on 09/22/2010 03:52:38 MDT Print View

Fascinating really - you use a really light shell fabric/great down to, at some expense!, shave a few grams off the overall garment weight but then put it all back again in terms of over quilting it/extra features etc.

I guess it sells but you do have to think that the microlight bits/down sweater seem much more certain of their purpose in life and might be better for it.