Polartec Alpha KoolAid Thread

Discussion in 'Clothing & Footwear' started by Gadget, Jan 1, 2019.

  1. Gadget

    Gadget Thru Hiker

    Due to the ongoing buzz about Polartec Alpha, I thought I would sup the KoolAid myself, and bought a couple of items to give it a whirl.
    I got the Rab Alpha Flux and the Rab Alpha Flash. They are both close fitting with Alpha panels front and back, with thin stretch panels on the side. The Flash has bare Alpha 120gsm panels front and rear, and is therefore the lightest, at 276g for the xl. And the Flux has 90gsm Alpha with a somewhat wind resistant outer layer, and the xl weighs in at 414g.
    They both do a good job of warmth and wicking whilst you are active and pumping out the therms, but when you stop those stretchy side panels do feel chilly.

    What I would like to try is a simple fleece of bare 120gsm Alpha, maybe a looser fit, so the stretch panels are unnecessary (does it have to be close fitting to work?). If it chucked in a stand-up collar, half zip (and possibly pit zips) I could get excited by that.

    I see someone is selling Alpha off the roll... hmm...
    slovhike and Mole like this.
  2. Lemming

    Lemming Trekker

    I am also supping gently...

    The Montane Ember is 90gsm with no stretch panels and is a non-baggy fit, 265g for an XL (with the stand-up collar and 10" zip).
    The side pocket is fairly useless, but I think that the nylon outer is worth having, as I am not sure how long the 'naked' fabric would last.

    The Rab Paradox is 60gsm, but between inner and outer fabric, so 398g for an XL but with a 14" zip.

    In use, so far I cannot detect any difference between them, as the extra inner layer on the Paradox seems to add additional insulation to match the Ember's 90gsm, so the lighter weight of the Ember makes it the better choice. However, longer term durability may be a strength of the Paradox.
    For my use, I think 120gsm would be too warm.
    Mole likes this.
  3. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    Good idea to have a single thread.

    @el manana @Chiseller @craige come to mind as experienced users.
    There's been a fair bit of discussion dispersed on the site
    Be a nice job for Shewie to collate it here:angelic:

    Here's one discussion:

    This is a place where I have found it for sale off the roll.
    But weights given are per linear yard of the 60" wide fabric off the roll So would need to figure out the g/m²
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
    cathyjc likes this.
  4. WilliamC

    WilliamC Thru Hiker

    I'll throw this in: "Alpha Direct insulation averages a specified .38 clo/oz. The closest fleece option is Polartec Thermal Pro High Loft at .210 clo/oz. Classic fleece (100,200, & 300) have a clo oz of .143 clo/oz," from here.
    Mole likes this.
  5. Shewie

    Shewie Administrator Staff Member

    Xenforo is a bit annoying when it comes to moving threads and posts around, they're always displayed in date order, so if I grab all the other Alpha posts and move them into this thread Gadgets OP above will appear near the bottom, the new first post will have Gadgets title but would contain the oldest post and won't make much sense.

    There's a few options, the first and biggest PITA is to find a sacrificial post that's older or as old as the first Alpha post and edit that with Gadgets OP content, then move all the other posts into that new thread, should work I think :unsure:

    Or just copy the previous discussions either as text or URLs into Gadgets OP, messy but kind of works

    Or I ask Tony to install an add-on to Xenforo which allows me to change the date of any post, already done so bear with me ;)

    I've got a couple of Alpha pieces in the wardrobe now and been very happy with both of them so far, Rab Alpha Direct jacket and the Montane Hydrogen, I've only had one five day trip with the Hydrogen so it's early days yet but I was pleased with how it performed over my usual 3 season layers.
    stourvalewalker, Chiseller and Mole like this.
  6. Gadget

    Gadget Thru Hiker

    Good link for that,

    Alpha® Direct 90, style 4004, 58", 4.75oz/linear yd
    comes out as 100gsm

    Alpha® Direct, Style 4008, 58", 7.3oz/linear yd
    comes out as 154gsm

    Alpha® Direct, 60", Style 4402, 5.15oz/linear yd
    comes out as 105gsm

    Alpha® Direct 120, style 4403, 60", 6.25oz/linear yd
    comes out as 125gsm
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
    Mole likes this.
  7. benp1

    benp1 Trail Blazer

    I have a Rab strata vest which I wear for active use including bikepacking. Main problem is the pert x outer got quite worn when wearing it with a rucksack for a trip, might go back to Rab for a repair

    Also have a Rab alpha flash, I like the cut and so far it's worked well for me. I'm in snowdonia for a week and have alternated between the Rab top, montane vice fleece and a montane volt alpiniste fleece. I'm heading up to the moelwyns with the kids and will be wearing the Rab alpha flash with a montane lite speed windshirt over the top and a UA base layer. I do find the alpha direct material more susceptible to wind than the polartec thermal pro material in my volt alpiniste fleece. But the alpha direct is remarkably light
    Mole likes this.
  8. Gneiss Boots

    Gneiss Boots Summit Camper

    Well hopefully this is the place to ask for more info and experience about Alpha which seems all the rage and I cannot really map against other fabrics of my experience or understand its main benefit as it seems to be touted as 'warm, but not that warm' . I get that it is light and breathable and found this comparative table on the Patagonia website interesting:

    From this the warmth is less than other items using say the 60g of Primaloft, though it is lighter and more breathable. Ok but then so is a thin fleece or other layer. So why get an Alpha item?

    Genuinely asking having looked at a couple of Alpha tops but it just seemed to be a light and, depending on cover fabric that most have, to be less wind proof version of Buffalo and its variants. It seems Alpha, like these sorts of tops, will not keep me warm at camp, but will keep me warm when I am 'active' (and so don't really need layers or at least this one?)

    I have resisted so far as I have not liked the designs so far, but perhaps when I see a nice smock design I will break and try it out? In meantime I would like a warm efficient layer for wear and packing for summer backpacking, overseas trips and so will probably be buying a Primaloft item as it with layers will keep me warm at night.
    gixer, cathyjc and Mole like this.
  9. Clare

    Clare Thru Hiker

    @Gneiss Boots If you want the berghaus hypertherm there was a cheapish one in the TKmax link that someone posted a couple of days ago. Not listed as hypertherm, just berghaus jacket.
    Mole likes this.
  10. Gneiss Boots

    Gneiss Boots Summit Camper

    Thanks. I shall have a look.
  11. WilliamC

    WilliamC Thru Hiker

    That's how I've been using it on the last couple of trips - as a lighter, more packable alternative to a fleece and it's been good as that.
    BTW, Primaloft degrades fairly rapidly with compression; Clamashield Apex is reputedly more durable, though choice in jackets is limited.
    Mole likes this.
  12. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    WilliamC likes this.
  13. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    I enjoyed the lightness and warmth of the Rab Alpha Flash. I used it for 3 often wet days in the Carneddau area in December, and a mixed day on Dartmoor.

    The Alpha fabrics performance and comfort in a range of temperatures was great. I wore it over a Rab interval base tee, and under a thin Pertex equilibrium jacket and/or and eVent jacket.
    As noted elsewhere, the non alpha stretch fabric parts really let it down. Not good when wet at lower temperatures. Wicks water up the sleeves from cuffs. Attracts sweat rather than passed it on like the Alpha. Takes 10+ times longer to dry than Alpha. I had to remove it in camp though the alpha parts were totally dry the stretch parts -sleeves especially were too damp to be comfortable when stopped. Powerdry or light grid fleece fabric would have been a far more useful choice (like the Rab Alpha Freak).

    This was from under a functioning waterproof. The Alpha covered areas were drier/more comfortable than with a trad microfleece layer, the stretch parts far worse. Quite a discrepancy.

    I used the combo above for the last 3 miles in continuous rain without a waterproof as I was moving fast and knew I was finishing soon (at c9C plus wind). It was pretty good - the Pertex equilibrium is great as a wicking shell. But once stopped again and driving, the alpha areas felt comfortable, the stretch parts were not nice at all. I think buffalo teclite or Rab vapour rise would have been just as comfortable over the baselayer. And dried more evenly. Though they'd be not as warm if the temperature had dropped much more.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
    Arne L. and Gadget like this.
  14. Gneiss Boots

    Gneiss Boots Summit Camper

    Well yes I think static insulation is probably the right term for some of the things I want. The layer you have with you ready for the unexpected, the unpleasant or to keep warm on planned nights out too. Thank you both for tips about other options to Primaloft as these do look more down like and longer life sounds good.

    Mole, good to hear about your Alpha experience (though let down by other fabric/poor design) as you can relate it to Buffalo and Rab VR which is handy for me. I want to take my older Rab VR Guide jacket which is toasty warm and Alphalike fluffy to compare it to newer Rab jackets to a store some time.
    Mole likes this.
  15. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    The latest VR Guide has Alpha these days. I'd think it ideal there. I had a VR guide for a while. Beautiful jacket, but it got too warm for what I do, and was rarely used so sold it on. For those temps, if I want, I have just as useful, if less elegant, 90s Montane extreme and Mardale pile n Pertex jackets. Both with diy pitzips for venting. Both going strong with regular farm use in cool damp weather.

    I really think the Montane Hydrogen Extreme Smock as Shewie got could well be a great item. Half the weight of the Extreme/Buffalo SP6 and a shifted upwards temperature range of use?
    Haven't seen one to try the fit. These days Montane is a bit of a lottery for me fitwise.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
  16. Gneiss Boots

    Gneiss Boots Summit Camper

    Mole, Oh yes so that is Alpha too. Just seen when looking at Needlesports after the Crux hint in the other thread. I still have my old buffalo so will not get the new Montane one but it seems to be on sale in places so is quite tempting.

    I don't want to distract from this thread 'all about Alpha' but thanks for tip about Primaloft alternatives. Lots of Patagucci on sale so had been looking at Nanopuffs which have 60g Primaloft but now see options with their Climashield equivalent too.
    Mole likes this.
  17. craige

    craige Thru Hiker

    My take on the alpha vs fleece vs APEX is that APEX is static insulation. Not breathable enough and 9/10 times too warm for active use. Fleece has always been my active warmth when needed. Alpha with face fabrics, to me at least (for hiking) ruins the versatility. The raw versions: rab alpha flash, or Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw are like fleece on steroids... it's much warmer for the weight, especially with a shell of some kind over the top. It also has rediculous breathability, you can feel air coming through as you walk around a room. It regulates temp very well, dries quicker than fleece and packs better.
    Mole, Arne L. and Clare like this.
  18. Gadget

    Gadget Thru Hiker

    I'm toying with getting some of the 100gsm Alpha Direct, making myself a looser fitting, half-zip, jumper, thereby getting rid of the offending stretch panels.
    (Unless there's something out there like that)
    I like having the option of adding the wind shirt as and when necessary.
    slovhike, Mole and Chiseller like this.
  19. Robin

    Robin Moderator Staff Member

    Just ordered a Rab Paradox. Be interesting to see whether it’s any better than a Patagonia R1 grid fleece.
  20. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    Oh dear....
    It's a totally different concept. The R1 is very well respected in its own right..
    Alpha garments are a different kettle of fish altogether. Your comparison is of two different beasts. You'll enjoy the paradox . I love grid fleece but not as much as my alpha.
    The grid fleece , although highly breathable, it will feel warmer when static and keeps the wind at bay , which considering the weave ...is dark magic in its self lol
  21. Robin

    Robin Moderator Staff Member

    Which is why I’ll give it a go. In the warmer months I use an Arc’teryx Delta LT which has the grid on the outside and is excellent. The grid on the outside seems to make it more wind resistant, maybe because it causes eddies in the air.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
    Chiseller likes this.
  22. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    You could be right @Robin , I was amazed how well the grid works. Mines on the inside with the eclipse pant. Mountain Equipment use the pontero fabric which is nearly identical...so identical, I belive there was a lawsuit between them and polartec back in the day !
  23. slovhike

    slovhike Thru Hiker

    here`s my take..I`ve worn the Flash when we had -7C as a middle layer over OR Echo (think Rab interval) covered with Equilibrium windshirt. Going uphill I had to remove the windbreaker as was just to warm (I did 450m of ascent in about 45 mins) but the nano grid baselayer+alpha worked amazing and I could keep with the pace not cooking myself...cold wind goes thru both easily but if your moving fast its not such a big deal...until you stop...brrrrrr
    going downhill I felt chilled from the wet baselayer (I reckon It cant compete with super breathable alpha) even when I added the windshirt it took some time for the baselayer to dry...

    On the much warmer day I`ve worn Echo with windshirt only but when It got cooler I`ve just added the Alpha on top of the windshell..the combo worked great.

    I think there`s a place for alpha but I am not sure how it`ll keep up with rucksack shoulder straps chew at it?
  24. slovhike

    slovhike Thru Hiker

    @Gadget said:` thereby getting rid of the offending stretch panels`...I think its due to friction susceptibility of the alpha fabric they`ve added more durable stretch fleece panels where there`s the most friction?
  25. gixer

    gixer Thru Hiker

    So what baselayer goes well with this alpha stuff?

    I've got a Rab Flash and it's proved to be warm and mega quick drying, but i've only worn it for normal day stuff so far, no hiking, running or cycling in it yet

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