A gilet made from a waterproof fabric is an essential item of clothing for any UK cyclist and the Chapeau Echelon is an excellent example.
It’s waterproof, windproof and has a generous amount of reflective detailing, and while it’s not as compact as some gilets, it is very effective in fighting off changeable conditions.
A gilet will never prove 100 per cent waterproof by virtue of the gaping holes your arms poke through but the Echelon’s fabric has seen off everything thrown at it during the course of our test.
Combined with arm warmers (particularly those which are water resistant, like those from Sportful’s No-Rain range) and the Echelon gilet provides more than enough protection for days when a full rain jacket isn’t quite required. Unless it’s pouring with rain, there’s often no need for a jacket and the Echelon gilet ensures that’s the case.
The gilet is made from a 86 per cent polyamide and 14 per cent elastane mix, which translates to a tough, durable fabric with plenty of stretch built in to it. The fabric has more in common with a jacket – in fact, it’s exactly the same as the Chapeau Rain jacket – than that found on more compact but less weatherproof gilets. The seams are all fully taped to stop water sneaking in, and the fabric is is windproof, too.
Those weatherproof features mean this is a gilet which is likely to get far more use in spring and autumn, and perhaps even the shoulder seasons in and out of winter, rather than summer, when it has been pulled from the wardrobe only on the few chilly, dank days we’ve had this year. The weight of the fabric means it isn’t as breathable as a super-light gilet and a little moisture can build-up on the inside if the temperature warms up or if you’re working particularly hard.
Most gilets don’t have any pockets so the zipped one on the Echelon is a pleasing addition. The pocket is useful for storing those items you want to have easy access to, rather than having to dig under the gilet and into your jersey pockets. The pocket also has a dual purpose as the gilet folds down into itself, though I’ve preferred just to roll it up when it’s not in use. Again, the weight of the fabric means it’s not the most compact gilet out there but it will just about squeeze into most jersey pockets.
The weight of the fabric, its waterproof quality and that zipped pocket mark this out as a gilet which you’re likely to leave the house wearing with the intention of keeping it on for a good proportion of the ride, rather than taking with you ‘just in case’. I normally use the excellent dhb Ultralight gilet for that.
While the gilet is black almost in its entirety, there is a generous amount of reflective detail – more than most gilets – not least the cover which protects the full-length front zip, as well as on the ‘sleeves’, plus the vertical strip at the back and the Chapeau logo on the left breast are also reflective.
Chapeau describe the gilet as having a ‘performance cut’ but while it’s a slim fit, the gilet is by no means tight and we found our medium sample fairly roomy.
At £94.99 the Echelon gilet is a significant purchase but it’s durable, fully waterproof and has a good fit, thereby plugging the gap between wearing a jersey (be it long sleeve or short sleeve) and a jacket. I first pulled it on back in the spring when we first received our batch of Chapeau kit to review and it will continue to get plenty of use in the months ahead.