The ThruDark Centurion Alpine Jacket is a rugged mid/outer layer fleece that makes innovative use a of a number of Polartec® fabrics to produce a versatile and stylish jacket. This mid layer come soft-shell lets you go a bit longer before the hard shell has to go on.
ThruDark maybe a fairly new name to many in the mountaineering world. Founded by two British ex special forces (SBS) soldiers the kit has a strong military influence. Established back in 2018 the range has grown enormously from the original 3 garments but something that has remained the same is an emphasis on durability and also ‘looking good’ and though the latter may sound trivial we all know we care and it can have some useful psychological bonuses! Their list of athletes and ambassadors cover a broad spectrum but in terms of mountaineering Nims Purja is the obvious standout and has helped develop ThruDark’s cold weather kit via feedback on the high altitude suit built for him. There is an obvious SBS tie in here but it was great to see ThruDark supporting ‘Project Possible’ when such an awesome project seemed to struggle for sponsorship initially.
If you look at the the ThruDark range it is apparent that they are aiming mainly at the mountaineering, ski touring, general outdoors clientele rather than the technical climbing market. That is not to say the kit isn’t suited to technical climbing merely that the feature set is more general purpose. The Centurion Alpine Jacket is a case in point using a combination of Polartec® Hardface®, Polartec® PowerStretch® and Polartec® PowerAir™ ThruDark have produced a jacket which is very versatile but perhaps doesn’t immediately fit into an average layering set up; this is reflected on their site as they list it as a ‘mid-layer’ and ‘soft-shell’ which I think is an accurate reflection. At 593g for my size XS this is a hefty fleece, perhaps too much for normal mid layer duties. However the use of Polartec® Hardface® across the chest shoulders and upper arms allows the Centurion Alpine Jacket to function as soft-shell in less extreme conditions as it sheds light rain and snow well. The Hardface® treatment also means that those areas vulnerable to wear from a pack are more resistant to wear. I found that I could frequently wear the Centurion on approaches without overheating thanks to the breathability of the Polartec® PowerStretch® and Polartec® PowerAir™ and then continue once on a ridge etc. without immediately needing to reach for the hardshell or windproof making for a fewer faff stops. The Centurion Alpine Jacket was awarded an ‘Apex Award‘ by Polartec® in 2022 (though they haven’t updated their website yet!) for its innovative use of two Polartec® fabrics and one fabric enhancement (HardFace®). So this is a very warm mid-layer that can also fake it to a certain extent as a soft-shell if conditions aren’t too gnarly – think light snow or mizzle but you will need a shell once the wind picks up.
In terms of design there are some brilliant elements, some unusual ones which are clearly brand signatures and one that for me didn’t work very well in its current iteration. The cut of the Centurion is excellent, it manages to achieve a slim, athletic fit whilst still looking stylish in an everyday sense. I’m quite happy wearing the Centurion for travel and casual use and it gets the wife’s nod of approval. Let’s get the slightly dodgy one out the way – the arm pockets. These are a generous size and potentially useful when the jacket is worn as a soft-shell but unfortunately the zips are a pain to use despite excellent zip pullers because of the stretch in the fabric. With bare hands or a light glove and a bit of dexterity involving pinning the fabric with a couple of fingers whilst pulling the zipper you can open and close them. Big gloves or numb fingers and it becomes frustrating. Some of the issue here might be compounded by the length of the arms meaning that the sleeve is not ‘under tension’ unless you have very long limbs! Maybe my arms are just not big enough! Under a shell you can reach in and it works fine the fabric being held in tension by the shell but there again if you’re wearing a pack you can’t do that as the shoulder straps block you. I’ve had jackets with arm pockets before and it can be a great place to pop your lip balm (or ‘tache wax, don’t mix ’em up!) but on the stretchy Centurion I’d not want to put anything in the arm pockets that I might need urgently. Keeping with the pockets theme the two chest pockets are excellent; voluminous and easy to access. I could easily store map, compass, reading glasses (yes I now need them for fine map detail :-/), spare gloves, another Buff and still have room left in just the right pocket. There is loads of room for climbing skins, belay mitts you name it. The only down side is that with items like a phone they tend to drop to the bottom and bounce around a little. An additional internal slip pocket to keep a phone at chest level might be handy, there again a base layer with a chest pocket would solve that issue too.
The slim athletic cut works well for climbing, xc skiing and general mountaineering. Both the sleeves and the body are a generous length so there is no hem lift when raising arms above your head whilst climbing and it stays tucked into a harness without any pulling. The lower section above the hem that tucks under your harness is Polartec® PowerStretch® without any Hardface® treatment so it is super stretchy. The length of the arms mean that the ‘wrist over’ thumb holes deploy easily without undue tension and allow unimpeded freedom of movement. These wrist overs are very comfy and durable consisting of a double layer of fabric, however for technical climbing I found them a bit too bulky to comfortably fit under leading gloves but they work fine for single axe work and general outdoor activity. Unusually for a fleece in this category the hood is not a ‘scuba’ (gimp!) mid-layer design but more sculpted and a double layer throughout. Mostly this is Polartec® PowerStretch® but there is a Polartec® Hardface® stripe down the crown to the nape of the neck. I initially thought this was going to be a bit too much for climbing but it still fits under most helmets and at a push can be stretched over some low profile designs. The double layer does impair hearing a little more than normal mid-layer hoods but it’s so luxuriously warm!
As already mentioned the Centurion is (IMHO) a very stylish jacket and like the majority of ThruDark’s garments it is manufactured in Europe, not the Far East. Together with the use of Polartec® PowerAir™ to reduce microfibre pollution ThruDark’s more Eurocentric manufacturing choices are beneficial ethically and environmentally. Construction wise they have used rolled and taped seams rather than the more normal flat locked seams so there is a slight weight and bulk penalty but these may well be more durable. Finally I mentioned earlier the ‘brand signature’ feature which is the use of velcro patches embossed with the ThruDark logo. Derived from the military’s use of these for affixing rank, unit insignia or even blood type etc. Initially I was a little irked by these (especially the use of two) but after a while they no longer bother me – they do add a bit more stiffness and bulk to the upper arms though. Obviously for civilian use these are merely a ‘fun’ element and ThruDark provide patches that can be affixed as do a number of other military linked outdoor/fitness companies such as Go Ruck. If you want a bit of Finnish humour have a look at Sauna Gollum and Delete My Browser History for some ‘alternative’ ideas 😉
Overall the ThruDark Centurion is an excellent mid to outer layer that has proven both durable and very versatile. Certain aspects end up in swings and roundabouts type arguments ie. the wrist overs are a bit bulky for technical climbing, but they are warmer and more durable than those normally found on mid-layers so great for mountaineering and general use. The jacket as a whole is heavy for a mid layer but it is warmer than the average, fits exceptionally well and is more durable to boot. The weight/bulk/warmth equation would have to inform your choice in any layering decisions – it is certainly not intended as a replacement for something like an R1 Hoodie as a lightweight mid layer. However I’m off to Norway at Easter and the Centurion is coming with me as my only mid-layer come fine weather soft-shell as well as a ‘trying to get some sleep on the train’ travel jacket!
- Great Chest Pockets
- Manufactured in Europe
- Reduced microfibre pollution
- Military aesthetic not for everyone
- Hefty weight and price wise for a mid-layer
- You’ve got to like Batman’s colour pallete ;->
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!