Jack Wolfskin Alphatec Jacket – Executed Perfectly
Layers, layers, layers – that’s what I’ve always professed as the best solution for cold weather. A warming base layer, fleece, maybe a bit of down thrown in for good measure and a hardshell, rainproof jacket to keep the worst of the wet and miserable weather at bay. With a top quality, well insulated jacket it’s possible to reduce the number of layers you need to keep warm and we think we have found the ideal solution with the Jack Wolfskin Alphatec Jacket.
I believe companies manufacturing jackets (or any clothing for that matter) that are simple in execution are usually firm believers in their products fulfilling the job for which they were intended. In contrast, others try to make up for shortcomings in their so-called technologies and poorer finish by cramming additional pockets, zips, vents and functions into the product – and then selling it at a lower price. They invariably look like great bargains and consumers ask themselves why they would pay more for a product with fewer technologies or pockets only to realise during the first weekend away that the allegedly breathable material isn’t much better than a bin liner – and probably less waterproof too.
That’s one of the things I like most about the Jack Wolfskin Alphatec Jacket – it doesn’t proclaim to do everything, nor does it have thirteen pockets and eight different warming details. Its function is clear; to keep you warm, dry and out of the wind. And it comes with just two critical technologies, because that’s all it needs.
With breathability and warmth in mind, what is inside?
Behind the outer skin of the Alphatec Jacket is an exceptionally lightweight, airy and plush material known as Polartec Alpha, which is linked in with the name of the jacket. This material is thin and highly compressible which means packing the jacket down to almost nothing to stuff into a daypack will never be an issue. As suggested, it’s very warm too and yet it remains light at just 88 grams per square metre of material.
Sat outside of the Polartec Alpha insulation is a 100% windproof and once again highly breathable material that Jack Wolfskin call Stormlock Active. All told, the jacket weighs just 462 grams in size small and 63 grams more in a large which is hardly a burden considering the protection it provides.
Designed mostly as an outer layer for fast-paced and cold alpine trips or activities such as cross country skiing, the Jack Wolfskin Alphatec jacket ticks all of the boxes – it’s certainly warm and it’s breathable to the point of me wondering if I was working as hard as I normally would due to staying moisture free inside and it keeps every last bit of wind out, even with a short cut.
Inside the sleeves are very tight and stretchy cuffs that fit around the base of your hand like a brand new pair of socks on your feet. One minor downside of these wind-stopping cuffs is how uncomfortable it can make wearing a watch. Particularly a big, GPS equipped, do-everything Suunto or Garmin watch that most adventurers wear. There are two options to this – either you have the cuff coiled up behind the watch or pulled entirely over the watch. The latter of these options pulls the watch further down your wrist and extracting it to see your speed or mileage is a near impossibility with something the size of a Suunto Ambit which leaves you choosing option one. It isn’t ideal. Once or twice I gave up, not wanting to force my bare hand to be exposed to the cold too long.
As I previously mentioned, the Alphatec is designed as an outer but I also tested it as an inner and found it works just as well. During a slower paced activity in bitingly cold and wet weather, it kept me warm below a fully waterproof outer. The beauty of this jacket is its flexibility in varying situations. I mentioned this in the opening paragraph and it’s another reason why it is such a strong performer. As a mid-layer, it functions very well and as an outer it does too, in a wider array of conditions than most. A fleece for example is no good in light rain or snow, so if you are too hot and it’s raining you will need to take off your rain jacket and then remove the fleece before putting the jacket back on in order to cool down. With the Alphatec, just remove the rain jacket and you’re fine to continue.
It won’t stand up to harsh and prolonged rain, that’s for sure, but in lighter conditions you will remain dry and I believe that’s a huge positive.
The Jack Wolfskin Alphatec Jacket fits snugly in all areas – it’s definitely an active fit and your movements, however big, will be completely unrestricted. The cut is short, verging on too short in fact but fortunately it remains just about long enough to stop the wind going underneath it. The arms have only a little surplus of material so you avoid the Michelin Man look altogether.
The collar is adjustable by way of a single toggle hidden at the back of the jacket and it’s fleece lined on all the important bits to prevent your neck being chafed. The hem is also adjustable and I found in strong winds it was helpful to tighten the two toggles slightly to cocoon myself and keep the warmth firmly inside.
There are a total of three pockets – two fleece lined hand pockets on the outside and one mesh-lined inner, security-esque pocket. Both outside pockets and the main zip are graced with Jack Wolfskin’s widely used pullers that are effortless to grasp with thick gloves and numb fingers. It is also worth mentioning the smoothness and quality feel to all of the zips. Somehow they seem to run more smoothly than anything else and with real ease too – no tugging and especially no catching.
The inside of the jacket is fully mesh lined to protect the insulating material. A detail of Polartec Alpha says: “no fibre migration takes place,” which I translate to mean that you won’t lose any of it, nothing will come through or move around. This is why it doesn’t have to be stitched into a solid layer and why a mesh-only cover is acceptable. Once again, this saves weight.
After all this, I’ve failed to mention the colour – it’s orange. Very bright orange. Great for dark nights or snowy mountains where being seen is a positive but not so great down the high-street – if indeed you want to wear it casually at all. The colour is occasionally broken up, with the chest, arm and back logos all being a deep blue, as well as the top edge of the collar and all three zip pullers. Otherwise it’s full on tangerine. There’s an equally vivid yellow option as well.
As I’ve found consistent through every Jack Wolfskin product I have reviewed, the final finish is stunning. There are no dangling threads, the seams are neat and evenly spaced, there are no random flappy bits of material. It’s finished like a high-quality product should be and that’s partly why it retails at £150.
What Jack Wolfskin have created here is a jacket with basic function, technology where it matters and no excess. It stands up to task brilliantly in a number of different conditions and it comes in a less dazzling, casually applicable dark blue colour to boot. If you’re after a warm, highly breathable and truly lightweight jacket that can be used as both a mid and outer layer in cold conditions and also in light rain, you should look no further than the Jack Wolfskin Alphatec Jacket.
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