Gear Reviews

Chilly Dogs Great White North

Chilly Dogs coats are a line of 100% Canadian made fleece dog coats with a distinctive high turtleneck collar. They offer various combinations of fleece lining and shell material, including the part fleece/part shell Great White North we tested. With 28 sizes, including Standard and Long & Lean sizes for some back lengths, they beat out even our favorite brand Hurtta for size options, and pride themselves on striving to fit “all breeds from small Chihuahuas to Great Danes”. We’re starting to love handmade gear (like our Head-Lites collars) that stands up to the big manufacturers, so we were excited to put this coat to the test!

Photo credit: @robinventures

The Great White North is simple in construction: it’s a moderate-coverage jacket, cut with a high neck, that fastens around the waist with a webbing belt. It’s two layers thick all over, with the neck and chest being two layers of fleece, while the back and belly panel are a fleece-lined shell. The seam between the neck and back panels features a line of substantial reflective piping, and there’s another line of piping around the rump. No reflectivity is visible from the front, which isn’t my preference; I like to see reflective piping on the chest seam as well so I can find the pup when he’s headed toward me.

The coat features a nicely embroidered “Chilly Dogs” logo on the left shoulder, and its contrasting fleece and shell textures/colors give it a distinctive look, but otherwise it has a fairly handmade feel, lacking the high tech details (like printed reflectors, bias tape edging, and adjustment points) that mass-produced coats have. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make the price tag hard to swallow when the coat looks like something I could make at home. As far as missing details go, this style of coat really needs a harness port because the high neck interferes with normal collar/leash use. I’m also always a fan of hind leg straps, which can make a slightly-too-big coat stay in place.

Photo credit: @robinventures

This isn’t an ultralight or ultra packable coat – the anti-pill fleece is on the plush side, and the shell is fairly substantial. The whole thing packs down to around the size of Robin’s Hurtta Extreme Warmer, which is a fuller coverage insulated parka with quite a bit more insulation, but I don’t mind that it’s on the bulkier side since it goes with the cozy handmade look, and the thicker shell is more durable.

The seams are all even and well finished with no raw edges or sloppy backstitching anywhere, and the waist belt is sewn on sturdily, although the webbing used is the cheap, thin type that I’d expect to find on a Petco jacket. The overall look of the coat would be upgraded with the use of finely woven mil-spec webbing (like on you backpack or Ruffwear packs), and bias binding around the edges of the coat to improve durability, protect the fleece lining, and hide the fleece fluff peeking over the edges of the coat. The buckle, too, is on the less-substantial end, but it’s snappy and stays put.  Overall, the coat is well made of good quality materials, but lacks the details that would justify its price point.

Photo credit: @robinventures

I wouldn’t normally be quite so harsh on size, but when a coat comes in 28 sizes and 1-2″ back increments and its makers are “passionate about making the best fitting dog apparel and outfitting your dog in the best size for their body”, I’m not impressed with a coat that feels two sizes too big. I’m torn between thinking that they MUST have mislabeled the coat, and writing off Chilly Dogs coats as poorly sized.

Robin’s Great White North is a size 16″. Per the size chart, it’s meant for 14-15″ backs (Robin is 14.5″), 21-24″ chest girths (Robin is 19.5″, but with waist-belt style coats, there’s usually a lot of flexibility in girth), and 12-15″ necks (Robin is 12.5″). This is the closest match between body measurements and size chart that we’ve ever seen! Unfortunately, the coat is too big everywhere – the back is 4″ too long, the belly panel is 2″ too long and has to be rolled up two folds for potty clearance, the neck is big and sags too low on his body, and the chest is baggy.

Photo credit: @robinventures

Sizing issues aside, the round cut and darted shape at is really designed for lanky hound bodies with low-set tails. With the coat being sized by back length, this shouldn’t be a factor in fitting, since Chilly Dogs instructs you to measure from the base of the neck to the base of the tail, but it appears from some of their product photos that they mean for the coats to fit longer in the back, extending down over the tail a bit. Of course, this does not work at all with Robin’s high curly tail, which either pushes the coat to one side or bunches it up over his back. It’s worth noting that he’s successfully worn other coats with a round cut at the rump (including his Ruffwear Climate Changer, our day-to-day layer) but that we generally prefer coat brands that cater to tail versatility with a tail adjuster or a tail port (or accurate back length sizing).

While Robin was less than partial to his oversized coat, we used it rolled up to make sure it got a fair test in the elements. Overall, I liked the high, snug neck, which didn’t flap around the way that looser collars do, and the cut of the chest allowed for full range of motion. Robin loses fur to all sleeved coats, but didn’t seem to have any chafing from the Great White North, so this is as close to a sleeve as his delicate fur can handle.

Photo credit: @robinventures

The shell material covers the back of the coat (to handle precipitation) and the belly (which I’m a big fan of, as small dogs’ bellies get very dirty in wet weather) but doesn’t cover the neck or chest panels. If used in deep snow (not something we have a lot of here), fleece can cake up with powder, so if your dog does a lot of snow plowing, a coat with shell material on the chest may be a better option.

This isn’t an extreme weather coat (at least not for skinny, no-thermostat Robin) but it’s a great temperate weather layer and the thick fleece neck and generous belly coverage makes it warmer than the materials would suggest. Robin stayed warm in this coat in the snow during sunny weather, but as the sun set he started shivering and we needed a thicker coat. My highest hopes for this coat were in its half indoor/half outdoor feel – it reminds me of that favorite fleece jacket you can wear while snuggling on the couch, but that has enough shell material on the shoulders that you can go grab the mail in light snow. Unlike all of Robin’s high tech outerwear, this coat had the potential to be as a home inside as on on trail. This is a definite plus of the partial shell coverage.
Photo credit: @robinventures

Relative to the dog coat market, I’d put this coat at about $50 for all sizes – right around Ruffwear’s fleece climate changer, which has a more complex design and more details, but is thinner and less adjustable. The Great White North is all made in Canada, and that’s a great thing, but it just doesn’t have the warmth or performance of other dog jackets at the $80 price point. If buying local trumps everything, then get this (and look for sales)- otherwise look for something more performance – oriented, like the Hurtta Extreme Warmer or Ruffwear Powder Hound.

The Chilly Dogs Great White North is a Canadian-made, decent quality dog coat that doesn’t live up to the perfect fit you’d expect from its expansive size chart. On sale, these are good value indoor/outdoor or shoulder season coats with a great handmade backstory

This coat would be best for: moderate weather, versatile indoor/outdoor use and fitting options for hard to fit body types (just make sure it’s returnable in case the size chart doesn’t match up to reality).

This coat may not be ideal for: Cold weather, deep snow (exposed fleece chest), high-set or curly tails

Review by: Dogs That Hike Trail Tester

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