If you haven’t heard of Westcomb before, it’s time to become acquainted. This Canadian brand creates top-notch (and I mean really top-notch) technical garments to keep you more comfortable out on adventures. The Tango Hoody is a fine example of the recent explosion of actively insulating garments.
Westcomb Tango Hoody Features:
- Polartec Alpha active insulation
- Pertex Equilibrium outer fabric with DWR
- Brushed lining for moisture management
- Adjustable hem
- 2-way center zipper
- Elasticized cuffs
- Trim hood
- Zippered hand pockets
- MSRP: $299
What makes a Westcomb active insulator tick?
I have to acknowledge at the start here that I have tested a ton of active insulating jackets in the last year or so. They all use one of the same few sets of insulations (Polartec Alpha is particularly popular) which can come in different weights and warmths. The factor that varies significantly, though, is the design or ‘form’ that all of these jackets bring with them. They all have more or less the same ‘function’, which is to keep you warm whether you’re active or stationary, but design teams go ham putting their particular stamp on the idea of an active insulator.
For Westcomb, the driving principle behind all of their design is functional minimalism. They want to create no-frill garments with a laser focus on performance. An aspect of performance is light weight – so you’ll often see fewer features on a Westcomb piece. Such is the case with Tango Hoody. It’s an active insulator that emphasizes its excellent fabrics and fit instead of a laundry list of features.
Polartec’s Alpha insulation is, in many ways, the gold standard for versatile insulation. In 2012 Polartec announced that they had been contracted by the US military to produce an insulation that could both breathe well when active and retain heat when sedentary. The result was a new polyester-based insulation which Polartec has continued to refine since then. The particular variation in the Uberlayer is Polartec’s Hi-Pile Alpha, which means that the insulation is ‘piled’ slightly thicker than the standard, resulting in a warmer jacket. This is a much more desirable situation than what other competing jackets have created, especially when they start to use their own proprietary insulations which often are not as good as what comes from the minds at Polartec and other dedicated brands. Another bonus – Polartec is made out of recycled plastic bottles. Lots and lots of them.
The Polartec is bonded to a really excellent face fabric called Pertex Equilibrium. Equilibrium is a complex little weave that is wind resistant with a high capacity for moisture transfer. It’s actually pretty cool stuff – simply put, the fabric’s denier and density change throughout the depth of the fabric rather than being uniform. Natural properties of water cause it to transpire more quickly through this gradient and, as a result, it handles sweat really well. This makes it an excellent fit for the Polartec insulation, which is protected on the inside by a light mesh liner. Note that I’ve had trouble with Pertex Equilibrium pilling in the past, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes an issue later on in the life of this jacket.
Building on the foundation of these Polartec and Pertex fabrics, the Westcomb design team has crafted a simple but high-performance jacket. There are two small hand pockets with a very thin, narrow-gauge zipper carefully welded into the face fabric. There’s also a hem drawcord with simple exposed adjustments. The hood is designed to be worn under the helmet and has drawcord adjustments to secure it around your face. All of these adjustments do their job as you’d expect, though I wish the hood adjustments weren’t positioned right in front of your chin when the jacket is zipped up. This works on shells, but I found that this particular design didn’t have enough structure from the jacket to be able to keep the extra slack from the drawcords from rubbing against my chin. There is also a two-way YKK zipper, which slides very smoothly and is handy for belaying.
In use, the Tango is an excellent piece of gear. It fits well under a harness, moves like a champ and stays in place without fuss. The pockets are set nice and high above harnesses and pack waist bands, and although I’d like to see a fleece-lined pocket I understand that this would somewhat undermine the driving philosophy of functional minimalism.
The active insulation works like a champ, too. This is the lightest weight of Polartec Alpha that Westcomb has available, so understand that this jacket falls on the lighter side of the insulating spectrum (40g/m3). I used this jacket primarily for ice climbing, where it is an excellent partner on colder days. Beneath a shell, the Tango does a great job at regulating heat and moisture during the climb, but then is ready to keep me warm once I reach the belay. This is so because the combination of the light mesh, Polartec Alpha and Pertex Equilibrium is so effective at transmitting moisture outwards. I would say that overall the mesh backing design is less breathable than exposed Alpha (which is new for the gear world 2017) but I think this will lead to more durability in the long run.
On the whole, I’d recommend it for aerobic activities in the 20’s (teens if you’re like me and run hot) and sedentary activities in the 30’s. Add base layers to your preference. I used this often with the Westcomb Stratum pullover which was sublime. I’m 5’11” and 185lbs and the size L that I tested was slightly long and billowy at the waist, but well-sized in the arms and chest. I think I would size down in the future.
- Made in Canada and incredibly well-built
- Great design and fit overall
- Only the features that you really need
- Features work well
- Climbs very well, great range of motion
- Polartec Alpha+Pertex is a great combination
- Pertex Equilibrium will likely pill over time
- Hood adjustments got in my face in an annoying way
The Bottom Line: Westcomb Tango
The Tango is made in Canada, and I really want to highlight how much that improves the quality of the jacket. Although I have tested many active insulators in the last year or two, the Westcomb is by far the most well-made and I expect it to be the most durable. Westcomb’s gear is legendary that way — I’ve guided three seasons in a pair of their pants and they truly look like new. So with that said, what makes the Tango stand out? Well, I’d say good design and an impeccable Canadian pedigree.
Buy Now: Available from Westcomb.com