The Forth Face Alpine Project Windstopper Soft Shell Jacket Review

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.

 

Previous and Devious

7 Comments

  1. wayno says:

    i’ve been caught out by reviews saying items have good water resistance before… a powershield pro jacket.. put it in new zealand rain and it doesnt hold out the water for fifteen minutes,, no seam sealing then it cant count as much more than proof against brief showers… but mind you most plaese dont rain as much as nz, we still get a lot of rain in mid winter.. when allot of northern hemisphere places are sub zero.. and or dry

  2. Fatwalker says:

    I think the latest Gore windstopper fabrics make a lot of sense as an outer shell on a belay jacket where you’re likely to be fairly static in all sorts of foul weather.
    I’m still not convinced about their use in ‘soft shells’.
    But I’m not really convinced about softshells at all preferring a heavier windproof like the Paramo fuera smock or in the worst weather a full Paramo waterproof which I suspect would be just as breathable though not as stylish.

  3. wayno says:

    softshells were designed for cold drier conditions.

  4. Fatwalker says:

    As were windproofs like the Paramo Fuera smock.

  5. PTC* says:

    That’s why I had the disclaimer: as long as your nerve or the shower lasts. Softshell is a gamble in the wet, lighter is good as if it gets wet it dries quicker, the Windstopper above is that category.
    All membrane fabrics work better in the dry, which is a real flaw in the concept, but Paramo is just too hot and heavy for most folk. Says the man currently writing some Paramo reviews :o)

  6. Fatwalker says:

    My main point though was that if you’re going to use a lightweight membrane softshell why not have a heavyweight hooded windproof instead at lower cost and better breathability?
    I have to admit though that the TNF jacket looks very nice and that’s a really great colour.
    A couple of times I’ve been very tempted to invest in a softshell jacket but always stop as I find it hard to see where it would fit in to my system.
    Though I nearly bought a Haglofs Vig hood the other day in that nice blue colour. One day…

  7. PTC* says:

    Modern softshells are great, very wearable and memories of nearly drowning in sweat in a Polartec Windboc fleece are receding…
    My trouble with softshell is the amount of insulation it has at rest and at camp, there’s just isn’t that much in most fabrics, so I feel I would do better in a microfleece and separate shell in a lot of cases. But, truth be told softshell is fine at camp as long as I’ve got a nice insulated jacket with me and it can absorb much less moisture than a fleece, so maybe that’s better for camp?
    There’s no clear winner for any of this stuff ever (that’s what reviewing so much gear has taught me), you just have to go with what you like the best.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.