The same brands are in evidence in the hills time and time again, so when I needed a new down jacket, I was surprised and pleased when something different from German company Jack Wolfskin caught my eye. Below are my thoughts and findings having worn the Chogori XT jacket over the last brief but chilly UK winter.
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When it comes to warmth it certainly does the job well - the Chogori XT's 90/10 duck down and 700 cuin fill kept me snug at all times in the UK mountains and the tough shell made out of nylon Airgrid material blocked out stormy mountain winds admirably. The fitted design takes some of the bulk out of the garment so it would be great for ice climbing at my favourite haunts of Cogne or Le Grave. I have been to these spots before when the thermometer has been touching minus 20 and yet never thought of climbing in my older jacket because of its bulk, but I would have quite happily donned the Chogori XT. Even if you want to carry it in your sack 'just in case' it is light enough at 650g (in a medium women's) and 820g (in large men's). It also comes with a stuff sack to pack it down.
If you are heading for an expedition in colder climes, Jack Wolfskin have a specially designed zip system that is compatible across the range, fitted to this jacket. This system allows outer layers to be added for better warmth and waterproofing and, going on the construction and materials of the Chogori XT, I would anticipate that this layering would be superb. Out and about the zip baffle on the Chogori XT occasionally snagged and delayed me zipping up, but it seemed a very small inconvenience considering the added versatility.
Most people I know in the UK, however, use a duvet jacket when down off of the crag and walking to the pub or sitting round a campsite, and the Chogori XT jacket is perfect for that. In December at my mate's bouldering wall in their garage I've sat around in it warming up and was quite snug staying sedentary, hands in pockets rather than getting on with bouldering and touching the freezing holds!
The wow factor is definitely in its comfort (although I do particularly love the colour too). I think the jacket was sold to me as soon as I pushed my arms through the internal fleece cuffs such an obvious, simple idea but brilliant, no scratchy Velcro tabs and no cold blasts up the wrists. I was surprised that on looking around the shops on Manchester's high street I could only find one other brand with this feature. There is also fleece in the whole of the pocket lining and around the inside collar that gives the Chogori XT a superior overall comfort feel. Other brands I tried on might have some of these details present, but I did not find one with all of them and often the features are just included on the heavier jackets.
In one of the accompanying pictures to this review you will see me wearing the Chogori XT whilst scrambling along a wintery Bwlch Main on Snowdon. For a while before the picture was taken I needed to have the hood up and fastened down during a series of passing squalls of hail and snow - it worked well; allowing me to look around without it blocking my field of vision and did not billow out, the draw cords and their stoppers keeping the hood securely cinched. I didn't use my helmet on that day but the hood easily fits over if required. The hood itself is detachable, but over winter I've used the hood a lot and it doesn't get in the way so didn't think to take it off. It is worth noting that not all duvet jackets on the market in this category have hoods so if you intend to keep properly warm when climbing, belaying, walking or hanging-out it is a feature to look out for and check is included if buying unseen.
Back to wearing the Chogori XT to hang out in, it has two internal pockets that are just about big enough to hold my phone and/or purse, neither has fallen out whilst walking around but they have no zip closure. The hand pockets do have a zip closure but there is really only room for a hand or a purse and being so cosy I'd rather keep my hands in them than use their zipped security. I would have preferred at least one zipped internal pocket.
Saving the best till last is that I really liked the look and the colour of the Chogori XT. The styling is fabulous and the choice of colours is what women climbers have needed in my opinion. The ladies jackets come in earl green, dark berry and black XS XL, and men's in olive brown and black S XXL. I'm a regular size 10 and ladies S fits me perfectly for use with or without the other base layers.
The Chogori XT's slim fit might be primarily practical, but it's going to be better for the photos too! I can't see me leaving it behind at home much for sure. Just as an after thought when browsing the outdoor shops I've never seen the same amount of stock from Jack Wolfskin as other brands. Having liked the jacket I had a look at their catalogue on screen (see website link below) it's well worth a look and the diverse range of technical clothing is impressive.
About Bridget Collier
Bridget likes to be outside when not chained to the desk in her office job. She started climbing when turning 30 on the local Lancashire quarried gritstone crags and since has enjoyed many Alpine summer and winter trips as well as getting as far as the via Ferrari route on Alpamayo, Peru and the various spires in Moab, America. Mostly though it's weekend warrior stuff in North Wales and the Lakes with fellow members of either the Vagabonds club or the Climbers club.
She also loves fell running (and used to love mountain biking until the running took over). Routes generally include a lot of mud over the west Pennine Moors or locally around Hilldale. She's completed several RAB mountain marathons and local fell races including the Winter Hill Race but sometimes just sets her own challenges running over various peaks in Snowdonia from the Vags hut in Nant Peris.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Bridget Collier: