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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Coalatree Whistler Windbreaker > Test Report by Michael Pearl

COALATREE WHISTLER WINDBREAKER
TEST SERIES BY MIKE PEARL
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - December 09, 2019
FIELD REPORT - March 18, 2020
LONG TERM REPORT - May 12, 2020

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Pearl
EMAIL: mikepearl36ATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 46
LOCATION: Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 155 lb (70.30 kg)

I have a great appreciation for the outdoors and get out at every opportunity. I am a three-season, learning to be a four-season backpacker and year-round hiker. Currently, my trips are two to three days long as well as an annual week-long trip. I utilize the abundant trail shelters in my locale and pack a backup tarp-tent. I like to cover big distances while still taking in the views. I have lightweight leanings but function and reliability are the priority. I mostly travel woodland mountain terrain but enjoy hiking beautiful trails anywhere.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Coalatree IMAGE 1
Year of Manufacture: 2019
Manufacturer's Website: www.coalatree.com
MSRP: US$129.00
Listed Weight: 7 oz (198 g)
Measured Weight: 7 oz (200 g)

Sizes Available: X-Small through XX-Large
Size Tested: Medium

Colors Available: Green, Black, Blue and Red
Color Tested: Blue

Materials: 100% nylon HiloTech fabric with DWR coating

Features:
Adjustable Hood Drawstring
Chin Guard
Side Hand Pockets
Internal Glove Pockets
Adjustable Waist Drawstring
Elastic Cuffs
Machine Washable
DWR Coated
Internal Mesh Pocket Stuff Sack
Reflective Logos
Windproof

The HiloTech material is a "self-healing" fabric. If the windbreaker is damaged as result of a snag, tear or puncture it can be repaired in the field. All that needs to be done is rub one's fingers over the material. The heat and friction from rubbing work to close the hole and repair the fabric.

HiloTech material is made of specially woven nylon yarns of microscopic fibers. A grid-like weave is used that reinforces the material and prevents ripping and tearing. The extremely small size of the HiloTech fibers allow the fabric to adhere itself back together.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Whistler arrived packaged in a rather small cardboard box. Removing it from the box the look and feel of the fabric reminded me of my thin silk sleeping bag liner. The Whistler fabric is so light and very thin that holding it up to a light it is almost see through.

The windbreaker looks to be very well crafted. The fabric is consistent with no blemishes, all seams, hems and stitching are straight, even and secure with no loose threads. The zipper closes easy and runs smooth. There's a chin guard or zipper garage at the top end near the chin area. The hood is roomy but kind of floppy, it doesn't have much form or shape. The hood has two-way adjustment with a drawcord at the back of the IMAGE 2head and another at the front. A similar drawcord is located at the bottom hem of the windbreaker. This cinches the windbreaker around the waist. However, the cord doesn't go all the way around the hem. It only pulls the back half of the hem. The cuffs at the wrist have sewn in elastic to keep the windbreaker close to the wrist. Here too only half of the wrist hem has elastic. Both of these features work quite well. My guess is the reduction of material is to minimize the weight of the Whistler. There are hand pockets on each side without any form of closure. They are large and accommodate my hands easily. There are also two similarly sized internal pockets mirroring the side pockets but opening at the top of the pocket. The last pocket is a zippered left chest pocket that is sized a little bigger than my phone. This pocket also serves as a mesh stuff sack for storing the Whistler windbreaker. The stuff sack measures about 7 x 6 x 3 in (18 x 15 x 8 cm) with the windbreaker stuffed inside. The Coalatree logo and name tag is present at several locations on the windbreaker.

All in all, the Whistler appears to be a very light, well-made windbreaker that can pack down very small.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Care instructions are as follows;
Machine wash cold with like colors, hang dry. Do not iron. Do not dry clean.

TRYING IT OUT

I am very intrigued with the "self-healing" ability of the HiloTech fabric. I had to really control my urge to right away poke a hole in the Whistler. Instead I forced myself to look it over once fully and try it on.

The Whistler is very light and "flowy" and easy to slip on. The elastic cuffs stretch to slip over my hands and then comfortably snug around my wrists. The zipper works well but a few pulls did catch on the chin guard. The hood is large and could accommodate a good size winter hat or maybe even a helmet. Pulling the hood up it kind of just draped over my head. The fabric is so fine and light it falls under its own weight. No big deal just pulling the hood toward the back of my head puts it in an okay place. Additionally, tightening the two drawcords on the hood make it fit really nice and comfortable.

Thinking of the drawcords, the push-locks on the cords seems oversized for the Whistler. The Whistler is so light the push-locks seem disproportionate in weight. The push-locks influence the movement of the windbreaker especially on the hood. Not a big deal but an observation when handling or putting it on and taking it off.IMAGE 3

The fit is very nice wearing a T-shirt or long sleeve flannel shirt. The fit is good when wearing a light fleece sweater or even with a thin insulating jacket. The downgrade with the second condition is that the Whistler becomes slightly tight across the shoulders. I think I can be comfortable with the insulating layer but will need to determine this while hiking.

So now I moved onto the part I really wanted to get on to, putting a hole in the Whistler. I bent a paperclip to expose its end and pierced the Whistler fabric. The clip popped through after some slight pressure. This seemed almost wrong, to intentionally damage a brand-new windbreaker. After removing the clip I placed IMAGE 4the area of damage between my fingers and forcefully rubbed them together. After about 15 seconds of rubbing the hole was gone! Wow! I never thought clothing could be made to do that.

It was so strange not to see a hole where there was one a moment before. I did it again just to see it happen one more time. It's was just as slick the second time. I kind of felt like a magician. I now wonder if it works with linear rips too. But can't bring myself to intentionally ripping it.


IMAGE 5

SUMMARY

The Coalatree Whistler windbreaker is a well-made, stylish, super lightweight windbreaker. It is windproof, water resistant and amazing enough small holes can be repaired by rubbing it between my fingers. I am happy with the fit and look of the Whistler. The features complement its function nicely. The Hilo Tech fabric is almost like magic. I look forward to its use in the woods and on the trails.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Day Hikes

Boston Lot: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 6 mi (9.5 km) from 800 to 1100 ft (244 to 335 m)
Pack Weight: 10 lb (4.5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 20 F (-7 C) and windy

Girl Brook: Hanover, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 6 mi (9.5 km) from 530 to 390 ft (162 to 120 m)
Pack Weight: 10 lb (4.5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 25 F (-4 C) and sunny

Burnt Mountain: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 8 mi (13 km) from 600 to 1000 ft (180 to 300 m)
Pack Weight: 10 lb (4.5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 33 F (1 C) with snow, rain and sleet mix

Quarry Hill: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 10 mi (16 km) from 600 to 1100 ft (180 to 335 m)
Pack Weight: 10 lb (4.5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 15 F (-9 C) with light snow

Velvet Rocks: Hanover, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 10 mi (16 km) from 525 to 1300 ft (160 to 400 m)
Pack Weight: 15 lb (7 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 5 F (-15 C) with light winds

Storrs Pond: Hanover, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 6 mi (10 km) from 525 to 400 ft (160 to 120 m)
Pack weight: 15 lb (7 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 10 F (-12 C) and snowing with boot deep accumulation

Overnight Hikes

Moose Mountain: Hanover, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 12 mi (19 km) from 1350 to 2300 ft (410 to 700 m)
Pack weight: 25 lb (11 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 25 to 10 F (-4 to -12 C) windy with light snow throughout

Smarts Mountain: Lyme, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 8.2 mi (13 km) from 1110 to 3240 ft (338 to 988 m)
Pack Weight: 25 lbs (11 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 20 to 5 F (-7 to -15 C) calm and clear

IMAGE 1

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Whistler Windbreaker has thus far functioned quite well in all but the coldest or wettest situations. During this round of use conditions required insulation layers to be worn under the Whistler. It has worked well with mid weight wool sweaters, fleece and synthetic insulated jackets.

On one warm or the warmest of the listed hikes it was sunny and I worked up a good amount of warmth. I was able to remove my insulating layer and comfortably hike in my baselayer and the Whistler. It is very effective at blocking the wind and making a micro-environment inside that once warm really helps hold in the heat. On two occasions I had to slow down and open the Whistler to vent it out. The very warm on the inside and very cold on the outside with the barrier between the two caused some condensation to form on the outside of my insulating layer. The insulation being synthetic did not "wet out" and dried quickly but this became something to be aware of when layering with the Whistler.

In windy conditions the Whistler is great. Not even in the heaviest gust did I feel my warmth diminished. The Whistler also did a good job shedding light snow and sleet. When it changed to rain the Whistler held up to a light sprinkle. Once it became a full-on rain the Whistler became wet in a few minutes. I feel the Whistler performed to an acceptable level for such a thin DRW treated fabric.

On the coldest of the hikes I had to switch to a warmer insulation to be comfortable. The Whistler was not able fit over this bulkier layer. It was very easy to stuff into my pack as it very compactable and takes up very little space.

The few times I had to venture off trail I was not worried about pushing my way through the brush. The Whistler slid through, snagged a few times and was poked through by a small branch. Once I made it back onto the trail, I removed the Whistler. I found the hole, about the diameter of a pencil and rubbed it vigorously between my fingers. The hole magically closed up and the fabric was whole again.

Even after being soaked, frozen and having holes poked in it the Whistler remains in good working order. The fabric is fully intact with no holes, rips or tears. The zipper runs freely without any snags. All three drawcords remain easy to adjust, hold their position and help seal out the wind. I especially like the adjustment they provide on the hood. It fits nicely over my bare head or winter hat and stays in place. Additionally the elastic cuffs continue to have good stretch. They do a great job blocking out wind and holding in heat.

SUMMARY

The Coalatree Whistler Windbreaker has proven to be a useful outer layer. It is super lightweight and the fabric is ultra-thin. At first I was skeptical of its winter usefulness because of these two qualities. However it has worked much better than I imagined. The Whistler is an excellent windbreaker which is very important in cold temperatures. It's also very good at trapping a little envelope of air inside. The tight seal of the cuffs and with the hood cinched close the Whistler acts like a vapor barrier. However this means care must to taken not to overheat or risk creating moisture inside the windbreaker.

Throughout this testing period I have been happy with the Whistler. I still feel winter probably isn't its perfect fit but has performed admirably. After being surprised by handling winter conditions I am excited to see what the Whistler can do in the warmer spring conditions.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Day Hikes

Rix Ledge: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 8 mi (13 km) from 630 to 1080 ft (190 to 330 m)
Pack Weight: 10 lb (4.5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 40 F (4 C) clear and calm

Mt Support: Lebanon, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 5 mi (8 km) from 800 to 950 ft (240 to 290 m)
Pack Weight: 10 lb (4.5 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 45 (7 C) sunny with gusting winds

Velvet Rocks: Hanover, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 10 mi (16 km) from 525 to 1300 ft (160 to 400 m)
Pack Weight: 15 lb (7 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 40 F (4 C) alternating sunshine and gusty winds with blowing snow

Trail Work Hike

Appalachian Trail: Pomfret, Vermont
Distance and Elevation: 4.4 mi (7 km) from 775 to 1295 ft (236 to 395 m)
Pack Weight: 20 lb (9 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 50 F (10 C) and sunny

Overnight Hikes

Oak Hill: Hanover, New Hampshire
Distance and Elevation: 6 mi (10 km) from 400 to 880 ft (122 to 268 m)
Pack Weight: 25 lb (11 kg)
Temperature and Conditions: 40 to 28 F (4 to -2 C) sunny and breezy to calm and frosty

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During this last phase of testing the Whistler Windbreaker really excelled. I felt it was near perfect for the conditions met. At the beginning of each hike or during rest periods I could wear insulating layers under or over the Whistler for additional warmth. Once warmed up I was comfortable wearing the Whistler over just a synthetic or lightweight wool T-shirt.

I continue to be wowed by the self-repairing fabric. I've been doing more bushwhacking as of late exploring unique crags and rock formations. In the past I would be quite concerned about snagging branches and ripping my clothes. That has greatly decreased wearing the Whistler, unless I am wearing more than a T-shirt underneath. I still worry about ripping the material of my insulating under layer. I also really like the fit of the hood. The size, shape and adjustability allow me full peripheral vision will wearing it. This is an added bonus with bushwhacking as I can make out near objects to both sides. I have had a minor annoyance with the push-locks on the hood though. I find them too heavy relative to the fabric. They hang awkwardly when wearing the hood. Sometimes when putting the jacket on they cause it to flop the wrong way making it harder to put it on. These are mentionable only for the sake of reporting and very minor troubles.

A new discovery during testing was the Whistler's use as a mosquito barrier. The warmer temperature brought our first visit of biting insects. On our overnight hike I found the Whistler helpful in slowing the attack. Additionally I also had a few run-ins with the Whistler's zipper "biting" me and itself. The zipper garage has failed at random times. Once or twice the zipper caught my chin. Three or four times the zipper has caught the garage and become slightly stuck. Again like the push-locks this is not a deal breaker but a noted mild annoyance. The Whistlers overall performance far outweighs these two minor gripes.

However where the Whistler shines and not a big surprise as its windbreaker name says it all is in stopping the wind. On one hike the weather was downright manic. It would be sunny and mild for 30 minutes and then winds gusting and snow whipping for 15 minutes. The weather went back and forth the whole day, it hard to know what season it was. The Whistler was the gear item of the day. Others in down jackets were not as comfortable as I was and I didn't have to take my jacket on and off.

IMAGE 1

SUMMARY

The Coalatree Whistler Windbreaker is a great very lightweight jacket. The self-repairing fabric is amazing. It makes pushing my way through the woods while bushwhacking less concerning. I like its excellent wind blocking, the nice fit of the hood, elastic cuffs and compatibility with layering. There are only two things I would change about the Whistler. One is the style of the push-locks on the drawcords. They are just a little too heavy for the fabric. The second is the zipper garage. The shape and/or length allow the zipper to snag it every now and then. Other than two minor nit-picks which will not stop me from continuing to use it this jacket is a solid windbreaker. I will be packing it on my hikes through the spring, summer and fall when rain is not in the picture.

This concludes my Long-Term Report. I would like to send my thanks to Coalatree and BackpackGearTest.org for making this test series possible.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

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