Marmot Alpha Pro Jacket

Marmot Alpha Pro Jacket

Hybrid Cold-Weather Jacket
Marmot Alpha Pro Jacket
$225, 13 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL

If you’re like me and cycle between being hot and cold when you’re active outdoors in cold temperatures, here’s a secret weapon for comfort. I wore this jacket frequently over the course of four days of wonderful backcountry skiing in the Baldy Knoll area of the Tetons last March, when daytime temps ranged from around zero Fahrenheit into the high 20s, often with strong winds and bright sunshine combined. I also wore it ski touring in Idaho’s Boise Mountains in temps typically just below freezing, at times in a cold wind and snow flurries. Both places presented challenging conditions in which to stay warm and dry. But the Alpha Pro shined, keeping me remarkably comfortable in rapidly shifting conditions where I would have otherwise been repeatedly taking a shell on and off—all while making my layering system lighter and simpler.

The explanation for this unique, cold-weather versatility lies in the jacket’s hybrid blend of Polartec’s new, breathable synthetic insulation, called Alpha, in the torso (front and back), and other Polartec fabrics known for their breathability, Power Stretch and Power Dry High Efficiency, in the sleeves and sides. In a first for insulation, Alpha breathes fairly well—though not nearly as well as Power Stretch or Power Dry, of course. After a sweaty climb breaking trail left my base layer wet, I pulled the Alpha Pro on over that wet layer at the top of the hill, in wind; within five minutes, my base layer was almost completely dry, because the Alpha moved moisture so well. Result: I never got chilled. Think of it less as a jacket than as a combination of a body-mapped, winter-weight jersey and a vest: Wear it over a lightweight or midweight base layer, and it replaces the warmer top and vest, making your layering system both more versatile and lighter.

The Alpha Pro Jacket is athletically cut; you can fit one, maybe two base layers beneath it, nothing more. When needed, I easily layered a shell over it. The Alpha Pro lacks a hood, even though Marmot’s Variant Hoody, which this style is obviously modeled after, does have the hood. I didn’t miss it, though, because the Alpha Pro’s collar—with soft, moisture-wicking DriClime fabric as a chin guard—is high and closes nicely around your neck to seal out drafts. And the Variant is better for hard-charging, high-speed activity (I wear it a lot skate-skiing), when the convenience of yanking a hood up briefly is more valuable, while the Alpha Pro is ideal for all-day, moderate-pace activity (backcountry skiing and riding, snowshoeing, cold-weather hiking and backpacking). One caveat: The Power Stretch in the sleeves tends to grab loose-fitting, waffle-style base layer sleeves, not allowing those types of fabrics to slide easily into the jacket sleeves; wear a smooth-faced, close-fitting base layer.

People who get cold easily will really love this jacket. For now, Marmot only offers it in men’s sizes, but I would expect women’s sizes eventually, which may be very popular.



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NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza