Smart fleeces are the front line of weather beating fabric design in some of the best mountain bike jackets right now and the Chilco Anorak from 7mesh is a perfect example why, if you can afford it. You’ll need to make a leap of faith to find out how good it really is on a bike though.
The big deal about the Chilco Anorak is the WTV fabric. This stands for Wind Thermal Ventilation, results from years of prototyping development and is exclusive to 7mesh. That’s obviously a big cost for a small company from Squamish, but then 7mesh have never been shy about a high price if the performance justifies it.
It’s formed from a stretchy, woven exterior material with a brushed ‘lofted’ (fleecey) backing. That sounds like the recipe for a lot of soft-shell jackets and the interior looks like a slightly less shaggy, more regimented fabric. The difference is that face and fleece are all the same woven piece not separate shell and liner.
Fabric aside you’re looking at a half zip ‘Anorak’ style with a full hood. Hood rim, cuffs and bottom hem are all formed from doubled over WTV rather than a separate fabric that can often feel cold or damp on similar jackets. The hem also has a cord locked tightener. A big ‘Telly Tubby’ stretchy shell front panel pocket gets pull corded zips at both ends too.
The biggest problem with fleeces - especially lightweight ones coming with big performance claims - is believing in them. I’ll admit the fact I wore the Chilco almost continually as soon as I pulled it out of the packet also made me reluctant to take it out and get it absolutely filthy as proper testing would undoubtedly involve. That’s why I’m sent this stuff though so I had to bite the bullet and see just how far the Chilco would take me into winter and the inevitable weather. I had some initial doubts about how far that would be too as in warmer weather it only felt ‘warm enough’ not excessively cosy. I could feel wind slightly through the face fabric on blowy days too and there’s no DWR treatment to bead water off either.
The weird thing was that as temperatures dropped towards and past zero and snow and rain started multiplying potential misery, life inside the Chilco barely changed. Yes I pulled the hood up and over more than before and occasionally lost faith and stuck an extra shell over the top. But when I did that I inevitably took it off when it started to get sweaty at the WTV interface. At which point the Chilco would dry itself out, keep heat remarkably regulated whether I was climbing or descending and generally make it clear I just should have had faith in the first place. That means you can push the Chilco a lot further into bad weather than you would something like Specialized’s Trail Thermal jersey which isn't as wind resistant.
And that’s how things have gone since then, except I now have faith that whatever the weather the Chilco will do an extremely impressive ‘automatic’ job of keeping me comfortable. And if it does get too hot for an opened zip to keep things bearable it’s light and relatively packable. It also works well as a single layer against bare skin if you need an intermediate solution. The boxy cut and generous sizing means riders who like a snug fit should size down though.
It doesn't take much weight or bulk of contents to make the very stretchy belly pocket a saggy pouch that can get in the way so it's more useful off the bike than on.
The only downsides to the constant wearing has been the small reflective logo graphics peeling off. The bright mustard colour now has a two tone vibe with the fleece nodes on the outside staying bright but the bits between looking darker which makes it look a bit grubby even straight from the washing machine. You can counter that by choosing a darker colour though and the fabric itself seems super tough. The fact the performance comes from the fabric itself, not treatments etc is likely to play out well long term and 7mesh also cover all their gear with a lifetime warranty.
It would be easy to look at the Chilco and think wow that’s expensive for a fleece mid layer. Take the leap of faith into all the background work 7mesh have done and it’ll rapidly prove it’s WAY more versatile than most other jackets you could buy. What’s really remarkable is that it’ll significantly outperform them in most conditions too, saving you a whole lot of stress about what to wear to stay comfortable. And as long as you’re fine with occasional references to ‘Laa Laa’ or (‘Tinky Winky’ if you get the blue one) it’s a great top for normal life too.
Tech Specs: 7mesh Chilco Anorak
- Price: $200 / £170 / €189.99
- Sizes: Men XS-XXL, Women XS-XL
- Men's colors: Black, Midnight Blue and Honey (tested)
- Women's colors: Midnight Blue and Fern
- Weight: 360g