Recommended price: £140
Weight: 300g (women’s size 10)
Sheffield based Rab has a 30 year history of making quality climbing and walking gear and this latest piece of lightweight insulation adds to their record of innovation. The first thing to strike you about the Alpha Flux is the very soft feel of the outer material and the weird exposed panels of fleecy insulation on the inside. It’s best worn as an outer layer on cool days but its neat fit and high wicking ability means its also useful as a midlayer – on breezy days I’ve been happy wearing it all day under a wind shirt.
The outer layer is very soft and comfortable although some threads have caught and pulled on undergrowth so I’m not convinced it will keep its good looks in the very long term. The addition of super stretchy side panels that extend right up the underside of the arms means the garment moves with you very easily. The arms are long, coming three quarters of the way down my hands, with thumb loops to keep them in place when scrambling or cycling. The fleecy Polartec Alpha insulation is on all but the side panels, underarms and back and top of the hood. Whilst providing a high level of insulation for its low weight while on the move, it has less insulation properties than Primaloft and you may still need to pull on another layer during breaks or at camp. I’ve found it replaces my usual micro-fleece with the added benefit of better wicking of sweat, wind resistance and being quicker drying if you do keep it uncovered during a shower. The only downside is that the exposed fleece means it is slightly cumbersome to pull on over another layer but that is a minor quibble.
I was initially slightly sceptical of the non-stiffened, non-adjustable, close fitting hood (which is also great under a climbing or bike helmet) but it doesn’t feel tight or overly warm and has a pleasant-feeling chin guard. It adequately does the job of a buff or thin hat while providing good mobility and visibility. The full length YKK front zip is protected by a storm flap and provides a nice flash of colour on the grey model I tested. There are two mesh-backed handwarmer pockets, however access is restricted when wearing a rucksack hip belt and the slim fit of the jacket means you probably won’t want to stuff too much into the pockets – a small accessible chest pocket for compass or phone might have been a nice addition.
The fit is definitely slim with only room for a baselayer underneath and therefore this is not a jacket to keep in your pack to pull on over other insulating layers at breaks. It does pack down very well and is lightweight for when you do need to stow it. It is treated with Polygiene Stay Fresh which is supposed to reduce odour control, certainly I’ve had no issues with it and it compares favourably on that score with my usual primaloft or micro fleece options. It has been through the wash on 40 degrees a couple of times with no ill effects.
Available for men in dark grey, ink blue, cayenne red and sizes S to XXL and for women in dark grey (as featured) and coral and sizes 8 to 16.
In summary, a versatile mid and outer layer for cooler days. Now that its been in the shops for a while there are some decent price reductions to be found.
Pros: Incredibly comfortable feeling, good wicking abilities, fast drying, good insulation to weight ratio
Cons: Very slim fit and long arms, durability of the outer material maybe an issue over time