Simond Alpine Softshell (2015)

Features

Simond clothing is available through Decathlon and carries extremely impressive price tags. This jacket uses a stretch abrasion-resistant material with a water-repellent membrane inside. The brushed polyester finish on the inside provides some warmth

and comfort. There are two main pockets plus a third smaller chest pocket. 4/5

Fit

Available in men’s S-XXL and women’s XS-XL, the fit is close and slightly restrictive (and particularly under the arms, I found) so you might want a size up from usual. But there was good movement in the sleeves without the hem or cuffs riding up. Cuff Velcro tabs allowed a close fit and the collar fitted well, although a drawcord collar could fit closer. 4/5

Comfort

The Simond Alpine Softshell was a little stiff due to the close fit, so I felt I was in a straitjacket to some degree, but a larger size may overcome that. The brushed inside finish of the fabric is comfy and this extends to the chinguard area of the collar. The body totally blocks wind and all but the heaviest of rain. It is fairly warm too, but it isn’t as breathable as a soft shell without a membrane. 4/5

In use

The material is nice and abrasion-resistant, making this great for scrambling over rock. The two main pockets are easily accessed above a harness and ideal for hands or a map, but the smaller chest pocket is a little too small really. It takes a phone or GPS receiver but it would be great if it could take a map, leaving the others free for the hands. The lack of a hood is a drawback. 4/5

Value

The price is outstanding and cannot be challenged. The jacket may not be perfect, but the price is. 5/5

Verdict

An outstanding price for a soft shell that is very, very good. Hard to find a better one than the Simond Alpine Softshell unless you choose very carefully. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

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Montane Alpine Stretch (2015)

Features

The four-way stretch Chameleon3 is a polyester fabric without a membrane where the tight weave ensures it is very windproof and very breathable, though not quite as waterproof or as warm as some others. The men’s has four large pockets with superb ease of access, the women’s has only the two main pockets, but both have a hood with a wired peak. 5/5

Fit

The men’s version of the Montane Alpine Stretch is in size S-XXL and the women’s version is in size 8-16. The fit isn’t loose but it did allow me to wear a thin fleece underneath. There are Velcro cuff adjustment tabs and a hem drawcord, and I found these areas didn’t easily ride up. The helmet-compatible hood has a remarkably good fit that puts most soft shell jackets to shame. 5/5

Comfort

The Montane Alpine Stretch is ideal for a wide variety of conditions as you can wear insulation underneath or a waterproof over the top, and it is comfortable enough to wear all day thanks to its softness and breathability. It doesn’t have the high level of insulation or waterproofness, but that makes it a more flexible layering garment for hillwalkers. 5/5

In use

On the hill the Montane Alpine Stretch is great for walking, scrambling or mountaineering as it is comfortable, breathable and has four great pockets (two for women) so you can warm your hands and stash maps for easy access. The hood has a wired peak and a fit that make navigating across a wet and windy hillside a breeze. The only minor niggle is that other options are lighter. 5/5

Value

The price is good for what you’re getting as this is better suited to many hillwalkers than most jackets at any price. 4/5

Verdict

The Montane Alpine Stretch is one of the best soft shell jackets available for hillwalkers at any price. Others are lighter or warmer, if that is what you need. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

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The North Face Alpine Project Hybrid Hoodie (2013)

The guides at Glenmore Lodge (the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre) will be wearing the The North Face Alpine Project Hybrid Hoodie during summer 2014. It has been designed as a versatile layer and it’s made from a thinner version of Gore Windstopper than other jackets in our test, which puts it in the mild spring/summer/autumn bracket rather than being suitable for the depths of winter. Compared to others you are not getting much for your money either, as the top only features two main pockets and a rather basic hood rather than the plethora of features most other jackets boast. However what the The North Face Alpine Project Hybrid Hoodie does offer is well-designed for the hill. So the pockets are placed high on the body to allow easy access while wearing a pack, and they are large enough to stuff a map or guidebook into with ease. The hood has no drawcords at all, just some elastication around the face – meaning it will either fit you or it won’t – so definitely try before you buy. On me it was okay, but did cut into the sides of my eyes a little too much, so I would prefer it had volume adjustment to improve its fit; I’ll leave you decide if my head is average size or not! The cuffs have no adjustment either, so you cannot vent them or batten them to suit the conditions – and this is a drawback in a garment intended to be versatile.

Material Gore Windstopper
Weight 473g (size L)
External pockets 2
Internal pockets 1
Pit zips no
Men’s sizes S-XL
Women’s sizes XS-L
Website
www.thenorthface.com

Verdict
The The North Face Alpine Project Hybrid Hoodie is pricy for the features provided but it is fairly well-designed for milder conditions, though it is a matter of luck if the hood and cuffs fit you perfectly.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2013


Rab Baltoro Alpine (2013)

As the name suggests the Rab Baltoro Alpine is designed for Alpine climbing, so it should also be ideal for winter scrambles and mountaineering in the UK. It is made from a heavier weight of Polartec Powershield than the Montane Sabretooth for example, and is generally a very strong construction with triple seams throughout and an incredibly robust feel. The jacket has fewer features than many other jackets with no pit zips and just two main (chest) pockets, but those pockets are cavernous and very easily accessed while wearing a rucksack waistbelt or climbing harness. The hood is also very tough with a stiff, wired peak along with drawcords around the face and at the rear to control volume, with the effect being that this hood really feels protective and is ideal for wearing in a howling gale. The hood is also large enough to wear over a helmet if needed, although it cannot be rolled down and secured at the collar like some others. The robustness of this jacket means it is heavier than most despite having fewer features, while its price is slightly lower than its competitors, making it good value. When used for the conditions it is designed for the Rab Baltoro Alpine is a winner, but for general hill and mountain trips in the UK I feel it is probably overly warm and sturdy.

Material Polartec Powershield
Weight 791g (size L)
External pockets 2
Internal pockets 1
Pit zips no
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website
www.rab.uk.com

Verdict
The Rab Baltoro Alpine is an excellent soft shell for the extremes of winter and Alpine use, and a great price too, but its weight and warmth are drawbacks for more general UK users.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2013

 


Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine (2102)

Rab’s Vapour-Rise range has been firm a favourite with a wide range of users for many years, and it’s generally ideal when you want maximum breathability while keeping the wind and very light showers at bay. With the Lite Alpine there is no membrane within the fabric, so water can get through fairly easily; but this in turn means the jacket controls condensation really well and is breathable to wear under a waterproof when the light drizzle turns into a full-blown storm. Inside the jacket is a loose lining that adds a notch of insulation and prevents it from feeling clammy. In terms of design you get two very large Napoleon chest pockets, which are great for maps and guidebooks, although personally I’d prefer pockets that I could warm my hands in. The hood has a wired peak and fits and moves well with the head, but most importantly it can be rolled down and secured if not needed, when running or biking for example. On the downside the fabric is not as abrasion-resistant as others and there is very little stretch. But use the Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine for general walking, biking and fast and light backpacking and it is ideal.

Material Pertex Equilibrium with tricot lining
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); 8-16 (women’s)
Weight 326g (size L)
Website www.rab.uk.com

 

Verdict

The Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine is the best choice for aerobic activity among the soft shells jackets we looked at.

 

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine August 2012


The North Face Alpine Project WS (2012)

This jacket is more suited to warmer conditions. It’s also a bit less bulky and lighter in weight than most, although the Windstopper membrane does effectively block out the wind and therefore boost warmth a bit. The brushed lining helps to wick some moisture up into the fabric, but isn’t the softest or warmest against the skin. The fabric is one of the stretchiest out there, and the athletic fit is complemented by great stretch levels. There are no zip vents but the mesh-backed pockets do help. The hood cinches down on to the head well, and the small facial opening keeps out wind and rain.

Sizes:  S-XL

Fabric: Gore Windstopper

Weight: 516g

Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 01539 822155; www.thenorthface.com/eu

 

*Published in Country Walking magazine, Spring 12


Lowe Alpine Kullu

A super-soft and warm fleece that fits like a glove. It has got a lovely high, thick collar that traps lots of warm air and feels great to bury your face into; and elastic cord on the hem to fine-tune the fit. The soft elastic cuffs pull up easily, and it has two decent-sized zipped pockets. It’s made from recycled Polartec fleece that’s been treated with DWR to repel water and keep you dry, so it performs brilliantly as an outer layer as well as a very warm mid-layer under a shell. It also packs down well for storage. A classic tried and trusted design that will last for years, although as with all fleece fabric, it will start to pill eventually.

Sizes: XS-XL
Fabric: Polartec Thermal Pro® recycled double velour
Weight: 400g
Men’s version available? Yes (Kili)
Features: DWR, recycled fleece
Contact: 01539 740 840; www.lowealpine.com


Lowe Alpine Full Weight Dryflo Zipneck

Relaxed styling and a fairly short, active cut makes this a great choice for days when you might wear a base-layer on its own. The Dryflo fabric is fairly heavy-duty, with a soft, warm inner lining and smooth outer. Its best feature is its moisture management: it really does help to keep your skin dry, even when you’re working hard. The high zip collar does a great job of trapping warmth or blocking out the sun, and it also provides the versatility of extra venting if it’s needed. At £40, it’s quite expensive and it lost marks for being smelly after extended use.

VITAL STATS
Sizes
: XS-XL
Weight: 180g
Fabric: Dryflo
Features: Zip neck
Contact: 01539 740840; www.lowealpine.com


Lowe Alpine Full Weight Dryflo Zipneck

Relaxed styling and a fairly short, active cut makes this a great choice for days when you might wear a base-layer on its own. The Dryflo fabric is fairly heavy-duty, with a soft, warm inner lining and smooth outer. Its best feature is its moisture management: it really does help to keep your skin dry, even when you’re working hard. The high zip collar does a great job of trapping warmth or blocking out the sun, and it also provides the versatility of extra venting if it’s needed. At £40, it’s quite expensive and it lost marks for being smelly after extended use.

Sizes: XS-XL
Weight: 180g
Fabric: Dryflo
Features: Zip neck
Contact: 01539 740840; www.lowealpine.com


Lowe Alpine Polar 2011

The Lowe Alpine Polar has a recycled polyester outer; 650 fill power 80/20
down; two zipped hip pockets; zipped internal pocket.  But 810g (men’s XL) is heavy; no hood; not as warm as others; no adjustment at cuffs.

The Lowe Alpine Polar is good for a chilly day watching the kids play football, but others have more benefits for the mountain walker and camper.

First published in Trail magazine February 2011


Lowe Alpine Omni Lite

A classic soft shell, the Omni Lite delivers top-class performance in a stripped-back design. There aren’t too many pockets or fussy details to get in the way of the fabric’s great breathability and windproofing. Pound for pound it’s one of the best-performing fabrics out there – definitely one of the stretchiest and a strong contender for lightest. The weatherproofing feels decent enough for light rain. It loses out due to a lack of a fleece lining, and the non-adjustable inner cuffs.

VITAL STATS
Sizes
: S-XXL
Fabric: Stormweave Stretch polyester
Weight: 383g
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 01539 740840; www.lowealpine.com


Lowe Alpine Quantum 2010

The Lowe Alpine Quantum is the least wind-resistant garment here, which means it allows air to pass through easily so it’s ideal when wearing a soft shell under a waterproof hard shell.

Design
The green fabric used in the Lowe Alpine Quantum is Polartec Powershield, but compared to other jackets that use this fabric it is far less wind-resistant, which means it is far more breathable. The fabric is also quite soft. The black areas feel more like other Polartec Powershield products, and these areas are ideal for adding durability where rucksack straps rub. The hood is interesting as it is a stretch polyester design that is very simple and does not have the wired peaks and volume adjustment of others. It is thin enough to easily wear under a helmet or other hood though. It can also be rolled away into the collar. There are two hip pockets and a single Napoleon chest pocket.

On the hill
I really liked this fabric combination as I could actually feel a slight breeze through the green material. The fabric is warm enough and windproof enough to keep you comfortable, but when this is worn under a waterproof it just feels more comfy than most as it allows some airflow. The cut of the Lowe Alpine Quantum is similar to others and is ideal for active use in general with good movement in the sleeves. But the hip pockets are poorly placed, so access to them is easily obscured when wearing a rucksack or climbing harness. The hood is ideal for whipping on quickly to stay warm or wearing under other hats, hoods or helmets. But the hood is not water-resistant at all, so it’s really only of use in cold, dry weather.

Lab results
The 0.7 TOG rating means the fabric offers similar insulation to others, but it is the air permeability that sets the Lowe Alpine Quantum apart. The green areas are 5.27cm3/s/cm2 and the black areas are 2.79cm3/s/cm2, which means this jacket is far less wind-resistant than others. This makes it more breathable and better for use under
a waterproof jacket.

Fabric Polartec Powershield body; stretch polyester hood
Sizes S-XXL
Weight 650g (size L)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 30
Stockist details – tel. (01539) 740840; www.lowealpine.com

The Lowe Alpine Quantum has extremely breathable fabric; good hood to wear under waterproof hats; excellent sleeve movement; average warmth. But it is not especially windproof; not as stretchy as some; hip pocket access is easily obscured with rucksack belts; hood is not as water-resistant as others. Overall, good fabric for general outdoor use in mixed conditions, but the pockets are not ideal and hood is not water-resistant.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2010


Lowe Alpine Capricorn Shirt 2010

With the Lowe Alpine Capricorn Shirt, European design sensibilities have led here to deliver a more cheerful design. It comes with an ultra-violet protection factor of 40, and promises to be easy to wash and dry. It has a zipped pocket at the chest and straps to shorten the sleeves to mid-bicep. No venting make this of limited appeal for those heading to hotter climates, but it does pack down small and is a good option.

Review by Matt Swaine
First published in Trail magazine April 2010


Lowe Alpine Aruba Shirt 2010

The Lowe Alpine Aruba Shirt is a surprisingly pretty top in a good technical fabric that is comfortable, and easy to clean and dry. There’s a passport-sized pocket at the chest with a secure zip, but this probably isn’t where you’d want to stash your travel documents. No venting areas, but it should perform well in all but the hottest regions.

Review by Clare Savage
First published in Trail magazine April 2010

Verdict
Best short-sleeved shirt for walkers in our review.


Rab Generator Alpine 2010

With an emphasis on the Alpine user, as the name suggests, the Rab Generator Alpine is intended to be ideal for use at rest stops, belays and overnight camps, and it has an insulated helmet-compatible hood for when the temperature drops. The Endurance outer protects against light rain and snow. All these features should also make it ideal for backpacking and hill-walking.

Design
The Primaloft insulation is sandwiched between two layers of Pertex, but the outer layer is waterproof. The use of waterproof fabric transforms the functionality of the Rab Generator Alpine as it means that if it does get wet it will have a better chance of keeping the insulation dry, and therefore keeping the user warm. A hood is provided too, which again enhances the performance by trapping warm air around the head for greater comfort in the cold. Those two features aside, this is a relatively conventional design with a full-length front zip that has a windflap on the inside plus a drawcord hem to keep draughts at bay. The cuffs are adjustable though so a snug fit can be achieved at the wrists. There is also a very deep chinguard and a pair of pockets at waist level plus a very large chest pocket.

On the hill
Not having to worry about keeping the Rab Generator Alpine dry was a real bonus, although as the seams are not sealed I did still of course need to take some care. The cut was also slightly closer in the arms and more generous in the body than some other tops, with noticeably better freedom of movement in the sleeves. The body was slightly longer than some too. However the main drawback was that access to the two hip pockets was obscured while wearing a rucksack with a hipbelt. The huge chest pocket is very useful though. As the cuffs have Velcro adjusters I found them a little more comfy than some, as I could either leave them loose to allow cooling, or cinch them in for maximum warmth. The hood is helmet-compatible with a good wired peak and good movement.

In the lab
The Rab Generator Alpine provided 2.9 TOGs of insulation, but note that we measure this on the chest and that it is this area that has the heavier grade of Primaloft, so the sleeves will not be quite so warm. But as this garment has a hood it will feel warmer than jackets with similar TOG values that are unhooded.

Fabric outer: Pertex Endurance; inner: Pertex Quantum
Insulation body: Primaloft One 100g/m2; arms Primaloft One 60g/m2
Sizes S-XXL
Weight 548g (size L)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 50
Stockist details – tel. (01773) 601870; www.rab.uk.com

Verdict
The Rab Generator Alpine has a water-resistant outer; hood provided; superb hood fit
and movement. But the pockets cannot be accessed while wearing a harness or
rucksack hipbelt. The Rab Generator Alpine is ideal for colder and wetter conditions, but pocket access lets it down. It won the ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine March 2010


Lowe Alpine Lightweight Dryflo Zipneck base layer

This light to midweight top offers a fairly comfortable fit and superb moisture management. The polyester fabric is just about warm enough to wear on its own in less demanding conditions and it offers excellent wicking. It also dries quickly, so clamminess is never a problem, even when resting after a long ascent. It feels nice against the skin, but has to lose a performance mark for smelliness, which is noticeable after a long day out. The collar is comfortable and snug fitting, and the zip-neck was useful for spilling a bit of heat when needed. It’s a good length and the cuffs are snug enough to retain heat yet loose enough to pull up easily when needed.

VITAL STATS
Sizes:
S-XXL
Fabric: Lightweight Dryflo
Features: Zip-neck
Contact: 01539 740840;
www.lowealpine.com


Lowe Alpine Sierra Lite

The Sierra Lite does an excellent job of keeping wind and mild rain off, while providing some insulation and great breathability. Unfortunately the jacket is let down by a non-adjustable, very tight cuff which cuts down its versatility, especially when you’re climbing a hill and feel that rolling sleeves up would be enough to cool you down. It’s a shame as it’s certainly very light, and packs down well. It’s also a good-looking jacket meaning it will work well for general casual wear, too.
 
Sizes: S-XXL
Fabric: Stormweave (Stretch Polyester)
Weight: 415g
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 01539 740840; www.lowealpine.com

First published in Country Walking magazine, September 2009


Lowe Alpine Diablo 2009

With an insulating layer under a windproof or waterproof jacket, maximum efficiency is achieved using a very open-knit material. That is exactly what Lowe Alpine has set out to achieve with the Diablo, which traps huge amounts of air for warmth while allowing maximum airflow to reduce any potential condensation.

Design
The material sets this fleece apart from others, while the design packs in the basics. So you get a full-length front zip for ventilation plus extra ventilation through the two chest pockets, which are mesh-lined. Those chest pockets are positioned to be easily accessed while wearing a waistbelt or climbing harness and are big enough to stash a map, guidebook or hat. You don’t get a drawcorded waist, but this area is elasticated to keep draughts out. The wrist cuffs are also elasticated with thumb loops for those who require them. So design-wise this won’t set your heart pumping, but it’s not all about how many features you get … it is about how those features perform on the hill that really matters.

On the hill
The Diablo feels great when you first try it on indoors, and it would be easy to be sucked in by its cosy, tactile feel. But in the Lake District I was irritated by how often I needed to whip out a jacket to take the chill of the wind away. I can imagine that this open-weave fleece would be ideal in still, cold conditions (and it does feel very warm when there is no wind), but in the UK such conditions are rare. I did like the chest pockets, though, as they are big enough for maps and guidebooks. You get thumb loops, but I tend not to use them. Overall I just felt it needed more windproofness, while a hood is a benefit provided by a number of other fleeces here.

In the lab
The Lowe Alpine Diablo is warmest fleece here by a large margin, but also the most air-permeable. The result is that this is the best for staying warm in still air and is also ideal for allowing airflow under a waterproof or windproof to help control condensation. But as it is so air-permeable you’ll need a windproof in the slightest breeze to stay warm.

 

Material Polartec Thermal Pro, Aleutian stretch fleece
Sizes S-XXL
Weight 434g (size M)
Made in Romania
Stores in the UK 50
Stockist details – tel. (01539) 740840; www.lowealpine.com

Verdict: The Lowe Alpine Diablo’s open-knit fabric traps air when worn under windproof for maximum insulation; open knit allows maximum airflow for ultimate breathability; two chest pockets accessible with harness and rucksack hipbelts; elasticated cuffs with thumb loops. But it’s not very windproof, so users will need to wear a windproof/waterproof more often than other layers; and there’s no hood or drawcord  hem adjustment.  It’s best here for breathability and insulation, but it needs a windproof layer over the top more readily than others in UK conditions.

 

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2009

 


Lowe Alpine Lightweight DryFlo Zipneck 2009

Lowe Alpine has excelled at producing base layers for many years, and the Lightweight Dryflo Zipneck is a fine exponent of this high quality. It’s exceptionally good at wicking away sweat, utilising different grades of polyester weave on the inside and outside of the fabric to draw moisture to the outside surface. The garment has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50, which is good news for summer. The collar is well-designed, zip length is good and there’s a Polygiene anti-odour treatment on the fabric. It’s available in a crew neck too. But the feel of the Lowe Alpine Lightweight DryFlo Zipneck’s fabric is an acquired taste. I didn’t like the shinyness of it, and in hot weather it felt slightly oppressive, though this wasn’t caused by sweat as the top is perfectly good at dealing with this. The black colour didn’t help in the sunshine either (and midges are attracted to darker colours also) and while there are other choices – white, grey and dark blue – a livelier option would be nice. The fit is quite close to aid its wicking action, so check you’re okay with this before buying. But these are minor gripes; like all of the finalists, it’s a great base layer.

 

Fabric DryFlo (100% polyester)
Colours black, white, grey, navy (men’s); white, grey, black (women’s)
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)
Weight 156g (men’s size S)
Made in Poland
Stores in the UK info not provided

Verdict: A very good, durable, functional base layer that’s ideal for summer – provided it fits and you pick the lighter colours.

 

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine October 2009

 


LOWE ALPINE LIGHTWEIGHT DRYFLO ZIP-NECK

Review: The Dryflo fabric is wonderfully soft and stretchy, making it a real pleasure to wear. With a high neck, which provided plenty of warmth, and a deep zip to help cool down, the Dryflo proved very versatile. A little smellier than some, though. 
VITAL STATS
Colours: Deep navy, black, white
Sizes: S-XXL
Fabric: Lightweight Dryflo
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 01539 740840, www.lowealpine.comVerdict: An effective and incredibly comfortable base-layer that’s perfect beneath a shell, yet versatile enough to be worn on its own in warmer weather, too.