The Chapeau! Blue Echelon Gilet is an innovative, well made and good looking vest that keeps the worst of the weather out. Chapeau! has clearly thought about how to make this as good as possible and done a superb job – though you have to pay accordingly.
A good place to start is with its ability to keep out the wind and rain, which it does really well. The material used – a four-way stretch polyester and polyurethane blend – is thin, which I was initially worried about, given that thin normally means flimsy. I needn't have been: it's hardwearing as well as very protective.
In part this is due to the taped seams throughout, including a taped zip. It isn't 100 per cent waterproof – but then again, if you're out riding in torrential downpours you're unlikely to only take a gilet... That said, I used it extensively in light to medium rain and had no issues with rain getting through to my torso, although Chapeau! is clear that it is showerproof rather than fully waterproof.
Fit on the gilet is slim but certainly not racer cut, which meant I could easily wear it over the top of a jersey with full pockets. There isn't material flapping about on a descent, but it's not as restrictive as something closer fitting, helped by the amount of stretch in the fabric.
It's the fabric that really makes this gilet. I've mentioned its wind and waterproofing abilities, and then there's the stretch, but it's also very 'crushable'. It can be packed away into its own sewn-in bag and fits easily into a jersey pocket. This bag is a nice touch too, because when it doesn't have the gilet in, it acts as another rear pocket, complementing the valuables pocket on the chest.
In terms of style, I think Chapeau has managed to create one of the best looking gilets out there (it's available in red, too). I like the very simple but effective use of the reflective materials and the extra little touches: at the back, the two blocks of reflective lines and small logo running from the neck downwards; at the front, the small logo on the chest and reflective piping around the opening to the chest pocket.
There are other little details that I really like about this gilet, too, such as the patterns on the inside of the fabric. They aren't necessary but show the level of detail in the design. There are other bits and pieces too, such as the zip garage at the neck and, it seems odd to say this, the hook for hanging it up. It's something that's missing on several gilets I've worn in the past couple of years and it's a bit of a bugbear.
And so we come to price. With an RRP of £109.99 it certainly isn't cheap (though it is 15 quid cheaper than Rapha's). If you can afford it, and you're looking for a high performance and high quality gilet, you won't be disappointed.
I've been really impressed with it. I have tried to find some elements to fault, but have really struggled. The only niggle I could find was that when you pack the gilet away the zip can get caught on the material, but this is a very minor element to what is a top class piece of kit.
Well made and good looking gilet with impressive performance in changeable weather
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Chapeau! Blue Echelon Gilet
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
A lightweight, packable gilet that also does a good job of protecting you from the elements.
Chapeau! says 'Lightweight and packable this slim fitting windproof gilet provides an extra layer of protection for early starts or in changes of weather'
Its description is accurate: it is easily packable, has some innovative features and repels rain and chilly wind.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lightweight (137g for a size medium)
Sealed chest pocket
Packs into own pocket
Breathable stretch fabric
Really well made with good attention to detail, like the sewn-in bag/pocket and taped seams.
Performed superbly in a variety of conditions when worn, and fitted in a multitude of jersey pockets when not.
Seems very well made, stitching is good and unlikely to rip or tear.
Really nice fit that also allowed for kit in my jersey pockets.
The large I tested fitted like I expected.
Lightweight material is a good choice and packs down nicely.
It is expensive, but when you want to get the best performing gear you need to pay the extra.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy enough to simply wipe anything off, no stains or smells.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well: packed away small in the pocket, and protected me from the elements when worn.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The attention to detail, like the additional pockets, reflective elements and inside pattern.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Maybe the material sometimes getting caught when packing away? Nothing major though.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A very well made gilet that performs well and packs down small. The high price will put many off, but if you can afford it, it's a go-to for changeable weather.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Evo 6 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.