One of my regular bits of kit over the past few months has been the Alpine Project Windstopper Jacket from The North Face. I got in in for test late last year and although its fabric weight suggested it might be a autumn/spring jacket, it became a winter favourite. But…
The jacket is 518g for my sample medium which is great for the features and protection you get and it also packs down surprisingly well as the fabric is light. That fabric is Gore Windstopper, a name that used to strike dread into my heart and sweat onto my back, but times have changed.
This light weight Windstopper is indeed totally windproof and has good water resistance, snow and light rain being bearable for as long as your nerve holds or the shower stops. It has four way stretch for comfort, free movement and it allows for a close fit which also means that the fabric works better, for me a lot better. I’ve worn this jacket on cold days and warmer days when working hard over merino and synthetic baselayers and under insulation and waterproof shell and this Windstopper is surprisingly breathable. No soaking baselayers here, the brushed inner scrim wicks away sweat and the fabric is handling the moisture transfer to the outside as well as the best non-membrane fabrics I’ve used.
The fabric is very wearable and very usuable, that’s the best way I can think to put it. But if it’s been sewn into a straight jacket, it’s not much use so what else have we got?
The Alpine Project is a slim fit hoody. The medium is nice close fit on me and the stretch in the fabric combines with the excellent cut to give me complete freedom of movement, the shoulder are very well done and the hem stays put.
The slim fit applies to the arms as well which means they work great with gloves and layer under waterproofs and insulation very well but there’s a section of lighter softshell fabric in the forearms (the black section you can see above) which means you can slide up the sleeves a little for some cooling which is handy. I can’t get them up as far as my elbows, but it’s a good compromise for me.
The cuffs are laminated for a low profile finish and a smooth feel. There’s lamination elsewhere, on the hood and the chest pocket and the hem which is also adjustable through cord ends hidden in the side pockets.
The pockets are well placed, the side pockets are just above your pack hipbelt but not too high to bury your hands inside for a wee heat. They’re big too, plenty of storage and they’re mesh backed for extra breathability and ventilation when you leave the zips open. The mesh extends all the way up to the shoulder seams and I think they’ve missed a trick here, there could have been two inner stash pockets in the top half of the mesh with a little bit of lycra at the top or the side by the main zip.
The outer pocket is handy and the softer fabric it’s made from lets you overstuff it too. All the pocket zips, the main zip too for that matter, are reversed for a smooth abrasion-free outer surface. The zippers all have nice easy to find cord zip pulls. The main zip has a wide baffle behind it too.
Weatherproof jackets probably should have a hood and the Alpine Project has one. It’s a good size and has a peak that is stiffened and shaped to offer protection but still fit under a waterproof without any discomfort, they got that bit just right I think. There’s a volume adjuster at the back which pulls the hood into your head and locks there and then there’s the bit around your chin and cheeks. Ach.
The chin comes up to a good height, it’s enough to shut the wind out from your neck if you dig your chin in, but there’s no way to adjust it or the face hole itself and the hood just sits open at the sides letting the wind and cold in. It can be very annoying at times, especially as the rest of the jacket is pretty much right on the money.
I don’t know if it needs an adjuster, maybe just some elastic at the sides to give it some tension, the hood’s not big enough to be pulled over your face , so it wouldn’t compromise it, just improve it.
But. As much as the hood needs work, I’ve been pulling out this jacket to wear all the time, even as the weather’s been getting warmer. It’s protective enough in winter, but light enough for warmer weather, can’t argue with that adaptability.
The features are all right, the pockets are well placed and well sized. The cut is excellent, making the jacket very wearable and absolutely fit for its purpose, and the fabric has performed so much better that I’d expected, I mean, Windstopper that kept me dry?
The Alpine Project is a great jacket, fix that hood and it’s just a kick on the arse away from being perfect.