At first glance the Adidas Agravic Alpha Hooded Shield Jacket looks like a myriad other Pertex Quantum packable wind jackets. Admittedly a stylish wind jacket but a wind jacket none the less.
It’s got a sensibly sized, volume adjustable hood that will just fit over a helmet; an elasticated draw cord hem/waist; two generous hand-warmer pockets – the right hand one of which can be reversed to pack away the jacket and it includes a robust clip in loop. You get the picture. Except there’s a subtle added extra. Those handwarmer pockets will actually keep your hands warmer thanks to the layer of Polartec Alpha that insulates the front of the jacket. In fact the whole front of jacket will keep you warmer.
Polartec® Alpha® is one of the preeminent ‘highly breathable’ midlayer family of insulation technologies that has been revolutionising the active outdoor layering industry. Developed by Polartec, originally at the behest of the American military for the ‘stop go’ conditions met in battle. It’s easy to see how the usual idea of adjusting layers according to level of activity might not be an option for military personnel. Polartec® Alpha® therefore is designed to be highly breathable so that when an individual is working hard the excess heat and moisture can escape more easily but when at rest there is still sufficient trapped ‘dead air’ to insulate. It is created as a mat or sheet so it doesn’t need to be stitched in and stabilised in the same way as insulators like Primaloft. As a consequence this allows garment designers more flexibility – quite literally in many cases – when creating jackets and so on. Polartec® Alpha® is available in a variety of ‘weights’ and that used in the Agravic Alpha is the lightest I’ve come across. In this case it is sandwiched between a face and lining fabric but there is also Polartec® Alpha® Direct which for all the world looks like old fashioned fibre pile where there is no lining fabric (We reviewed the Rab Alpha Direct Jacket here). In both cases the insulating fibres are vertically orientated unlike traditional insulation in a jacket. As Dave said when he reviewed the Marmot Isotherm Jacket back in 2013 “…imagine a waffle like netting with the insulating fibres pushed through the small squares to look like a brush.” So Polartec Alpha insulates, is little affected by wet and damp, is compressible (more so than equivalent warmth fleece), can stretch and be incorporated into stretchy designs, and has some cool (depending on you personal viewpoint) military design credentials.
Back to the Agravic Alpha Hooded Shield Jacket. The entire front of jacket has been insulated with Polartec® Alpha® producing a wind jacket that is noticeably warmer in almost every circumstance but doesn’t overheat you given the breathability of the Polartec® Alpha®. With the sleeves, rear panels and hood left uninsulated there is ample scope for dumping heat and moisture vapour when running etc. Jackets designed to have a warmer front (either by insulation or wind-proofing) are a well tested concept for fast forward sports like running and cycling and if you’re carrying a pack the insulation between you and your pack just adds unneeded warmth and get wet as water vapour can’t get past the pack. Obviously this is a cool conditions piece if you are moving quickly but I was surprised t the range of conditions across which it worked.
It’s not been cold enough yet to really try the Agravic Alpha Hooded Shield Jacket for running activities but I have been using it for approach walks and descents to and from Lakeland crags, out on the local gritstone and as a super light belay jacket whilst on multi-pitch routes. It will make an excellent jacket for running in the hills this winter when that extra protection will be most welcome. Overall it is a cracking jacket. It’s as easy to pack as a simple wind shirt, you can stuff it into the smallest of spaces, but provides a useful boost in warmth – great for standing around spotting your mate on those chilly gritstone days or for bringing a partner up to the stance on a shady Lakeland belay.
The minimal weight and robust clip in loop meant I was completely happy having it clipped to my harness on longer routes along with my trainers to make for a pleasant descent – comfy feet and warm, I must be getting old! The cut is trim so it doesn’t hamper if you decide to climb in it but the materials are fairly lightweight so it won’t put up with too much abuse if you start thrutching up chimneys! In the UK we tend to associate Adidas as a trendy mainstream sports brand but they produce some serious mountain kit under the TERREX banner. In fact the female version of the Agravic Alpha Hooded Shield Jacket (designed by Tim Maud) has just won a 2017 Polartec APEX Award (an annual design award program celebrating the finest products made from Polartec fabrics, and the designers behind them).
- Lightweight & compact
- Useful boost in warmth compared to a windshirt
- Good cut
- A small chest pocket would be nice
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!