Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell Jacket
- Excellent arm mobility
- Durable exterior
- Asymmetric cuffs offer great coverage
- Sleeves offer less warmth relative to torso
- Uninsulated hood
- Torso short for harnesses
The Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell Jacket combines Polartec Power Shield soft shell sleeves and hood with a Polartec Alpha insulated torso, providing concentrated warmth around the body’s core while permitting unrestricted arm movements. This combination works well while moderately active in colder conditions where unhindered arm movements are a priority.
The Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell Jacket’s 10d exterior nylon shell and 20d nylon lining around the torso offers mid-level breathability, as does the softshell covered arms and hood. This amount of air permeability combined with the Polartec Alpha insulation around the torso, managed moisture and heat well for moderately aerobic activities in winter conditions near freezing.
The exterior fabrics of the Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell Jacket remain unscathed through two months of testing with continuous use under backpack straps and roaming amongst rocks. The sleeves are particularly robust, fending off sharp branches at speed while mountain biking.
The Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell Jacket maintains core heat and fends off moderate winds, but it is noticeable that the arms are much colder than the torso, especially once activity has stopped. This sensation became apparent when the temperature neared 40F. A generously insulated main zipper backing aids in core heat retention. The DWR coating on both sleeves and torso beaded water in light precipitation only, with the sleeves resisting water penetration much better than the torso.
The Brooks Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell Jacket’s cut finds a great compromise between being trim and sleek while still allowing layering underneath. The combination of tighter sleeve dimensions with stretchy softshell material and torso girth worked remarkably well with or without layering underneath or over the jacket. The interior of the jacket proved comfortable against bare skin or thin base layers. The aggressively asymmetric cuffs, sleek thumb slits and stretchy material gave the sleeves the best wrist and back of hand coverage of any jacket in this test regardless of how high the reach. The dual cord lock adjusted torso is a bit short to stay tucked into a harness during reaches. The Polartec Power Shield hood covers a climbing helmet but lacks a brim or adjustment and only stays on if the main zipper is closed up fairly high, but it is also thin enough to wear under the helmet. The main zipper has a substantial chin guard that worked great when burrowing down behind the collar.
The Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell Jacket can be crammed into a space that is slightly larger than a 1L water bottle.
The Brooks-Range Mountaineering Alpha Softshell has a basic set of features: two zipped handwarmer pockets (will not clear pack hip belts), a vertically oriented zipped chest pocket that easily fits a cell phone, and one interior stretch mesh dump pocket low on the torso.
How We Tested It
The jackets in this test were used over a three-month period in Central Texas winter/spring conditions while guiding, hiking, rock climbing and mountaineering in Central Mexico. This tester is 6 feet tall, has a 32” waist and weighs 167 lbs.
For more reviews beyond this 2017 test, check out our Best Softshells of 2017, Best Synthetic Sweaters of 2017, along with our insulated jacket tests, softshell jacket tests, and other related hiking and camping gear tests.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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