Fresh on the UK outdoor scene are Westcomb, a Canadian manufacturer founded in 2006.
Westcomb gear is currently only stocked by a few very specialist retailers in the UK and imported by the specialist company Beyond Hope. Thinking there could be something I was missing out on here, I was intrigued to find out a bit more about them. The kit looked very sharp and I knew I had to get something on test. So I did; the Himalya Hoody belay jacket.
The Jacket - What is it?
The Himalya Hoody is a synthetic insulated jacket - a 'belay jacket'. It is a warm insulated jacket, designed for cold weather such as Scottish winter, UK winter cragging (ie. belaying), Alpine climbing and so forth.
The outer fabric is Pertex Quantum, a light nylon face fabric, windproof but not waterproof. Quantum is the lightest fabric made by Pertex, and although not as abrasion resistant as the thicker fabrics from Pertex it still offers good durability coupled with a huge saving in weight and packing volume.
The insulation is PrimaLoft One, a very highly regarded brand of synthetic insulation, using a patented microfibre structure. "PrimaLoft One absorbs 3 times less water, is 14% warmer when dry and is 24% warmer when wet than the competitive insulation." according to the PrimaLoft Website.
There are three weights of Primaloft available; 60gm, 100gm and 170gm. The Himalya Hoody utilises the heaviest weight (and therefore the warmest) - 170gm. This means it is aimed at providing warmth when stationary (eg bivi and belaying). Westcomb have a little brother to the Himamlya, called the Sierra Jacket, that uses 60gm Primaloft and is suited to summer use and active use in winter.
In the Himalaya Hoody the Primaloft is bonded to the inner fabric to give better control of the insulation itself and eliminate cold spots, especially over time and after lots of washing. In order to do this the inner fabric needs to be beefier than the lightweight Quantum fabric used on the outside (increasing the overall weight of the jacket slightly). This liner is also very simple and clean, meaning it will shed snow well if you end up waist deep in the white-stuff.
I have had the Himalya Hoody for around three months and used it mainly as a cold weather belay jacket down to temperatures of -4. I've slept in the jacket whilst big-walling in Colorado, got rained on whilst cragging in North Wales, wrapped myself up whilst drinking tea at Rocher Fin, Fontainebleau, and of course (the ultimate test?) worn it to the pub in Llanberis.
How did it perform?
Low Temperatures: This is a warm jacket and I have had no issues with using in down to -4 and I would easily go colder (brr!). It is certainly warm enough for Alpine and Scottish winter use. The external pockets are also lined and this is an added bonus keeping hands warm. There is only one internal pocket, but it is large and the jacket will fold in to the pocket for stashing in a rucksack. The hood is also very warm and easily fits over a helmet.
Rain: The jacket isn't waterproof and a few minutes in the full lashing winter rain will see it fairly damp, however it does keep it's warmth when wet. A light shower is handled quite well by the pertex shell, and both the inner fabric and the outer shell fabric have a DWR treatment, so can easily stand up to a light shower and a bit of snow, but this clearly isn't a full on water-proof jacket. One thing I did note was that the jacket took a little longer to dry than some of the very lightweight synthetic duvet jackets I have owned, but it didn't cause me any particular problems.
Weight: At 820g the Himalya Hoody isn't a lightweight jacket. It isn't overly heavy either, weighing a very similar amount to the Mammut Stratus jacket I reviewed two years ago. It is very packable and warmth to weight is good. For summer Alpine and UK summer cragging a lighter jacket would be better suited - this is a warm number!
Cut and Fit: This is perhaps where the Westcomb quality really shines through. The jacket is made and cut to an extremely high standard, the design of the panels and the fit of the jacket are amongst the best I have worn and the jacket oozes high quality. The stitch count on the seams is extremely high making for a tough and long lasting garment. The zip was also of a high quality.
A high end winter belay jacket. Sharp looking, well designed and cut with high quality materials and manufacturing. Not the lightest jacket but warmth to weight is good. A very good choice for Alpine winter and Scottish winter. Built to last.
Where is Westcomb stocked in the UK?
What Westcomb say:
"Ultimate belay companion for the early mornings when the mercury drops. The Himalaya utilizes an extremely tightly woven and light nylon face coupled with a Primaloft® laminate backing for efficient insulation."