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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Westcomb Pinnacle Sweater > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

WESTCOMB MEN'S PINNACLE SWEATER
OWNER REVIEW by Richard Lyon
November 7, 2010

PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 64 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA
Torso 22.5 in (57 cm), chest 46 in (117 cm), waist 37 in (95 cm), sleeve length: 36.5 in (93 cm), neck 16 in (41 cm)

I've been backpacking for 45 years and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do at least one week-long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do forced marches too.  Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still often include my favorite camp conveniences and always bring a floored tent.  I spend much winter backcountry time on telemark or touring skis.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
Who could resist a sweater made from "luxurious Italian wool blend with a soft cashmere hand," whose "versatile styling allows for an easy transition from on-to-off mountain settings?" Certainly not this particular natural fibers fan, especially since it came in my preferred pullover style (in fact, when I bought it its name was the “P/O”) and was offered by Westcomb, a Canadian manufacturer whose products have consistently impressed me.  I purchased the Pinnacle as a layering piece for skiing on warmer days (30-50 F/-1 to 10 C) and backpacking at moderate temperatures. 

PRODUCT DETAILS
Author in his PinnacleManufacturer: Westcomb Outerwear inc.
Website: www.westcomb.com
Year Purchased: 2008
Size: Men's X-Large.  Available in Small to XX-Large
Color: Mocha.  As shown in the photograph below that means dark brown at the bottom and tan on the top of the sleeves and across the shoulders.  This color combination has been discontinued; the Pinnacle is now offered in Black, Bark, Burnt O, Acid, and Mood Blue.
Related products: Westcomb lists a Women's Pinnacle, sizes X-Small to X-Large, in different colors; this is a full-zip sweater.  A Pinnacle Hoody is available for each gender.
Fabric: An unspecified "Italian wool blend"
Weight, listed: 11.2 oz/320 g (size not specified)
Weight, measured: 30.0 oz (850 g)
Torso length, bottom of collar to hem: 30.5 in (77 cm) (measured in the center of the back)
Sleeve length, collar to cuff: 37.0 in (94 cm)
Listed features: Now there are two: "Abrasion-free flat-lock seam construction; Velour lined collar.” There were two more when I bought mine: “Laminated Forearm Pocket; Laminated Napoleon pocket."
MSRP: $160 US
Warranty: "Limited Lifetime Warranty" against defects in materials and workmanship for the life of the product to the original consumer with original proof of purchase.  Must be  “returned to original dealer for pre-evaluation.”

FIELD CONDITIONS

First backpacking use occurred on three trips in north Texas and the Texas Hill Country in late winter and early spring 2009.  Temperatures were 50-70 F (10-21 C) during the day (including dinnertime) and between 38-50 F (3-10 C) first thing in the morning for breakfast.  All use occurred in dry weather, at an altitude that never exceeded 1500 feet (420 m).  I wore the Pinnacle every evening as my outer layer, as a cover-up during rest breaks when hiking, and on two nights as a second layer when in my sleeping bag. 

In the Rockies I have used the Pinnacle as a layering piece on day hikes around Jackson, Wyoming, temperatures ranging from 40 to 65 F (4-18 C), and as casual wear at a conference I attended there in June 2009.  The sweater received its first exposure to higher altitude (about 7000 ft/2000 m) camping on a four-day, three-night backpacking trip in the Slough Creek area in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in early August 2009.  Temperatures were marvelous – highs in the mid-70s F (~23 C) and nighttime lows down to freezing.  We had a bit of wind and rain but ample sunny weather too.  I wore the Pinnacle around camp in the evenings, over a merino base layer and adding an eVent rain shell whenever it was raining, and each night as the insulating layer in my sleep system that employed an arc-style quilt.

I wore the Pinnacle in the mornings and evenings during a packrafting course I took on the Yellowstone River, Montana, in mid-September 2009.  During the course the temperature each night was about 50 F (10 C), but a cold front blew through the last morning of the course, dropping the temperature to near freezing.  The next night I camped near McLeod, Montana, with a low about 30 F (-1 C), cold enough to wear the Pinnacle in my sleeping bag. 

This past spring I wore the Pinnacle on some day hikes in and around Yellowstone Park.  On a hike down the Blacktail Deer Creek Trail the temperature was about 35 F (2 C), and it was very windy, with frequent snow flurries.  On this day I wore the Pinnacle throughout the hike, over a midweight merino zip-neck base layer and under a Gore-Tex shell.  The following day was sunny, calm, and about fifteen degrees F (8 degrees C) warmer, so I only wore the Pinnacle at rest stops and photo ops at the falls at the top of the Pine Creek trail in the Absaroka Range.

Behler MeadowsOn a weeklong llama-supported base camp backpacking trip in the Bechler Meadow region of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Idaho, this past September, I wore the Pinnacle as a midlayer when needed during the trip.  We had two rainy mornings, temperatures about 40 F (4 C), but otherwise great late summer weather, with daytime highs about 80 F (27 C) and sub-freezing nights after the weather cleared.  I had the Pinnacle  in my pack on all day hikes, and would don it whenever the mercury dropped below about 60 F (16 C) or the wind picked up.  On this trip I also packed a down sweater for use in my sleep system.

The Pinnacle was my mid-layer when skiing in Wyoming in February and March 2009.  "Warmer ski days" for me mean when the weather forecast had temperatures at or above freezing and no snow was predicted, which on these trips meant five days.  Temperatures ranged from 25 to 50 F (-4 to 10 C) and the weatherman only missed one insignificant snow squall.  On one of these days, at Jackson Hole, the Pinnacle received its most rigorous workout.  A fetching ski instructor (a weakness of mine) needed a partner in an end-of-season telemark race and talked me into participating.  She used some false pretenses, not mentioning that each of the two runs had three long uphill scrambles.  At altitude of 9500 ft/2900 m on my first day away from sea level I was huffing, puffing, and perspiring for a shot at prizes and free beer after the race.  These two ski runs were the only time I wore the Pinnacle as an outer layer while skiing; all other usage had it as a mid-layer under a shell or parka.

I've worn the Pinnacle as a sweater many times in the front country, in the Rockies and during the winter in North Texas and the Rockies, including evenings following ski days.

OBSERVATIONS

Features.  One then-listed feature, the "laminated forearm pocket," is notable by omission.  My Pinnacle doesn't have one.  This isn't the first time I've discovered that Westcomb's website has not accurately described a product I was considering, and I encourage prospective buyers to check out what's current before ordering.  Westcomb's customer service (by telephone or email) is an easy and reliable way to do this.  When I called about the Pinnacle (see "What I Like" below) I was told that it had only one pocket.

That pocket is a slash-type Napoleon pocket just to the wearer's left of the zip-neck.  It is no longer listed as a feature and doesn't appear in the picture on Westcomb’s website.  It's large (measured on the underside at 7 in/18 cm square) but not especially easy to access, as the shoulder straps on all the packs I've worn when wearing the Pinnacle lie across at least part of the pocket's zipper.  I haven't much minded this, as I rarely store anything in a mid-layer, and the Napoleon pocket is easily accessible when I am wearing the Pinnacle around camp.

This sweater has flatlock stitching 0.75 in (19 mm) at the hem and cuff but no elastic or draw cord.  The zipper at the neck is 12.5 in (32 cm) long and has a pull attached, making it easy to open and close even when wearing mittens.  The neck is as advertised lined with soft velour, a very welcome detail.  I have had no chafing even in the dry cold of the Rockies.  Perhaps because I have a relatively small neck for my height and weight, I have found that the Pinnacle fits very loosely there, even when fully zipped up, making it drafty in windy weather.  Twice when skiing I had to add a neck gaiter.

Fit.  As has also been the case with other Westcomb products I've tried, the fit is on the trim side – a good thing for an insulating layer – and true to size.  Sleeve and body length are just about right for my long torso and arms.  The Pinnacle has a panel construction that gives a comfortable but athletic fit.  Instead of seams along the sides from waist to neck there are side panels in the darker fabric, 8.0 in (20.3 cm) wide at the hem, sewn to the front and back panels.  I really like this – kind of a raglan sleeve for my torso.  Each sleeve has two fabric pieces, one in each color, and is sewn across the yoke in a raglan cut.  The panels and sleeve cut mean that the sweater hugs my torso and doesn't twist much or ride up when I swing or raise my arms, and there are no seams to press into my sides or shoulders under a pack or suspenders. 

Comfort.  All fabric is ribbed.  The tan fabric has the largest ribs, 0.5 in (13 mm) wide.  Each rib on the front and rear body panels is 0.4 in (10 mm) wide, on the side panels 0.25 in (6 mm).  All three variations are exceptionally soft and warm.  Maybe not quite as soft as cashmere, but close enough to justify Westcomb's marketing description quoted above. Certainly softer than any merino wool sweater I own, and soft enough to have drawn favorable comments from my ski instructor friend at the party following the ski race in Jackson.

The Pinnacle is not lined and the fabric weave does not block a stiff wind particularly well.  Wicking has equaled the performance of merino wool, even during my uphill scrambling.  As also is true of merino, the sweater hasn't picked up odors even after heavy sweating.

The Pinnacle's temperature range for me has been about what I expected, as both a skiing mid-layer and a spring backpacking outer layer.  Whenever I faced temperatures or wind chill below freezing I selected a down sweater as my mid-layer, and I’ve come to prefer lighter down pieces over wool or fleece to save weight and pack space.  As I'm working to increase packrafting opportunities, though, I expect the Pinnacle to get more duty time. Can’t wear down when an unscheduled swim is a possibility.

Durability.  I have always listened skeptically to manufacturers' claims of dual-purpose clothing, such as Westcomb's "on- and off-mountain activities" pitch for the Pinnacle.  I confess that when I bought the Pinnacle I had casual wear as much in mind than athletic use. It's seen plenty of the former and hasn't disappointed, but in the field this sweater has been a warrior, surviving its first twenty months without a rip, tear, or loose stitch or thread.  All my skiing use had the sweater under suspender straps and (except the race) over the straps on my avalanche beacon.  Arm and torso motions when skiing are much more pronounced than when hiking, yet the Pinnacle hasn't lost its shape.  No pilling of the fabric either.  It still looks almost as good as new. 

Care.  I wash the Pinnacle with other woolens, in cold water in my front-loading washer using the delicate setting and non-detergent soap such as Woolite or Sport-Wash.  As with any wool sweater I air-dry it lying flat, a process that takes about 36 hours in the dry climate of North Texas.  

WHAT I LIKE

The fabric – soft and cozy.
Athletic cut and trim fit.
First-class workmanship throughout.
Few features – helps appearance and leaves less to go wrong.
Customer Service.  When I bought mine Westcomb's website didn't allow direct online purchases, rather providing links (which differ by product) to online and retail sources.  (Direct purchases are now possible.) When I couldn't find a local source for the Pinnacle I telephoned Westcomb.  The company's representative said that since it wasn't available in Texas that Westcomb would sell me one directly.  He also answered a number of questions about features and sizing, acknowledging that the website needed some updating.  I appreciated the service and the candor.
Appearances can deceive – it's quite durable. 

WHAT I'D CHANGE

I'd prefer a closer-fitting collar.
A personal preference – buttons on the collar instead of a zipper.



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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Westcomb Pinnacle Sweater > Owner Review by Richard Lyon



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