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Hands-on Gear Review
Woolrich Bitter Chill Wool Loft Review
Cons: Limited water resistance, confining fit
Bottom line: An excellent casual jacket for all but the coldest and wettest of conditions.
For the warmth, the Woolrich Bitter Chill is the least expensive jacket in our test. The only jackets that are less expensive are minimalist designs that are suited only for the warmest of winter climates. The style and wool insulation will appeal to those with discerning and unique tastes. For those seeking more typical winter jacket construction check out the Best Buy Marmot Fordham and Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Jackets for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Two significant things set the Woolrich Bitter Chill parka apart from the rest. It is the least "technical" looking of the jackets we tested. The textured outer fabric is like that used in an old school wool blazer more than the smooth nylon of the other jackets. When it comes to technology, the use of wool insulation sets it apart. Why? Woolrich mixes wool fibers with more conventional synthetic puffy insulation to provide a comforting and unique level of insulation.
Overall, the Bitter Chill scores almost exactly in the middle of the field. This mirrors our testers' experiences with this jacket. People were pleased with it, but not overly impressed one way or another.
The insulation value of the Woolrich is just about average. This piece will keep you warm in all but the most gnarly of cold weather conditions. In fact, we'd guess that this amount of insulation value is the sweet spot for 99% of winter jacket users. It has the insulation you need for Boston, Chicago, Denver as well as slightly warmer places. For "normal" use, around town and between office and transport, this amount of insulation is just right.
Notably, the Woolrich is exactly tied in warmth with two of our award winners. It has roughly the same insulation value as the Best Buy Marmot Fordham and the Editors Choice Arc'teryx Camosun. It is decidedly warmer than the Top Pick Columbia Mission Air Interchange 3-in-1 but not nearly as protective as the other Top Pick Canada Goose Expedition.
This is a product best used in dry and cold climates and conditions. The soft, textured outer fabric doesn't shed water or snow nearly as well as other products, and the buttoned flaps over the zipper and pockets are fashionable but do not seal out the weather like other types of closures. The hood is generously sized but offers only minimal adjustment. The fixed, stretchy cuffs are good enough but don't offer options for cinching down around your gloves for shoveling and extended time outdoors.
The Gore-Tex construction of the Arc'teryx Camosun and Arc'teryx Fission SV put them in an entirely different league, regarding weather resistance. The Woolrich, again, is a casual jacket for cold and dry conditions. It offers protection, though, that is markedly better than that of the REI Co-op Down Hoodie and the soft-sided Patagonia Jackson Glacier.
It might be purely psychological, but a couple of our testers agreed that the wool insulation seemed to offer more "coziness" than the other types of insulation we tested. It could be as simple as the soft lining fabric and the hugging weight of the Bitter Chill, but we largely liked the comfort of the Woolrich. The fit is more like office wear than like technical wear; keep your arms downs, and you don't know the difference. Try and be active in the Woolrich and you'll notice the limitations of its freedom of motion.
In this class of jacket, a close comparison is to the Patagonia Jackson Glacier. Both have outer fabrics chosen for style and comfort over weather protection. However, the Patagonia has an alpinist cut that lends greater freedom of motion. Concerning cut and comfort, the Bitter Chill is similar to the Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber. Both are relatively stiff, with shoulder cut that pulls the jacket up with upraised hands.
There are minimal features on the Bitter Chill. The pockets are enough for "around town" organization, but you won't be sorting out a scientist or expedition traveler's equipment in the Bitter Chill. We dig the high-mounted, non-zippered, insulated and fleece lined hand warmer pockets.
The Top Pick Canada Goose Expedition Parka is the gold standard for features. With 11 pockets and a "powder skirt", the Expedition leads the pack in this metric. At the other end of the spectrum, and more similar to the Woolrich is the minimalist REI Co-op Down Hood.
Style-wise, this is an incredibly unique contender. In a lineup, it looks the most different from the others. The others are largely inspired by an outdoors, athletic look. The Woolrich is more of an adaptation of a town coat, insulated for deep winter. Stylistically, it is more similar to the Canada Goose Chilliwack than it is the Arc'teryx Camosun.
The beefy external fabrics and limited but beefy zippers will last a lifetime, and often, synthetic insulation lasts less long than down insulation. In this case, we do not have enough experience to deduce just how long the wool/synthetic insulation blend will last. Intuitively, comparing to woven and knit wool garments, it seems like wool puffy insulation should last longer than pure synthetic insulation, but perhaps not as long as down insulation. For confident life-long durability, the down insulation of the Arc'teryx Camosun and Best Buy Marmot Fordham are likely better choices.
This is an excellent day-to-day coat for those in cold and dry climates. Especially if you like the look, selecting the Bitter Chill will be an easy choice.
When looking at just asking price, the Bitter Chill is the least expensive model that we can truly recommend for deep winter use, making it an excellent value. However, spend a few more bucks for the Best Buy Marmot Fordham and you get proven down insulation. Stylistically, these two jackets are different enough that there will certainly be some that are looking for a value that will want the look of the Bitter Chill. In that case, you can't go wrong.
The Woolrich Bitter Chill is innovative in its insulation style, with a traditional look that will have broad appeal. The look complements the other jackets we tested, offering options for those looking to make a statement.
— Jediah Porter
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