The Montane Alpha Guide jacket uses Polartec’s new Alpha synthetic insulation, touted as wearable in both “stop” and “go” phases of activity, insulating but also breathable, and initially developed for U.S. Special Operations teams. Montane’s Alpha Guide is one of more than a dozen products that will launch using Polartec Alpha.
Lots of companies have taken a shot at this type of hybrid jacket — insulated in the torso and fleece or soft shell in the arms — with varying results. The Alpha Guide has Pertex Microlight Stretch fabric in the torso, providing wind resistance with stretch, and the arms, shoulders, and hood are Mt. Thermo X Stretch fabric. It’s solid for cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, and winter running, as well as a layer for ice climbing and resort skiing, but in my usage, isn’t a great year-round mountain piece. It’s a little too warm to find a spot as a summer layer anywhere in my pack, but now that fall’s here it’s starting to come into its own. Thumb loops keep the sleeves in place when pulling on other layers, and the hood is low-profile enough to fit under a helmet.
The Alpha Guide won Polartec’s Apex Award in June, along with five other companies who used Polartec Alpha in fall 2013 products.