Originally designed for the US Special Forces, The Alpha Air Jacket from L.L.Bean is a sturdy, functional, fully windproof jacket that’s designed to take a beating and provide stubborn weather protection when it’s needed the most. Instead of being built light and fluffy, it’s built with a robust soft shell body, Polartec insulation, and wet weather protection baked right in.
Fully featured, the jacket has long adjustable pit zips for ventilation, an adjustable hood, full vertical front zipper, two hand pockets and a chest pocket. The jacket is built with a weather resistant 88% nylon 12% elastane blend soft shell. This is a heavier weight, durable, weather resistant blend that’s able to do an exceptional job of blocking wind and shedding a light rain. This is paired with 100 gram Polartec Alpha insulation, which provides functional warmth even when completely wet. It weighs 1 lb 13 oz, and retails for $199.
What I liked
The Alpha Air jacket does an exceptional job of blocking hard wind on frigid days. It’s built in layers, with the soft body on the outside, synthetic Polartec Alpha layers on the inside, and final mesh on the inside. Nothing gets through. Worn alone, I’ve been warm and toasty into the 20’s while moving thanks largely to the exceptional wind stop capabilities of the jacket. Paired with a nice fleece mid layer, I could see this jacket easily staying warm into the teens.
Being a synthetic, it’s a solid option for activity when it’s cold. A full mesh lining, pit zips and an insulation that doesn’t flatten out when wet from sweat and provides a wider range of use. It’s usable while hauling up a hill or while sitting around camp, and makes for a very flexible jacket. It does a good job of shedding water too. Some of the many perks of synthetics.
The build quality is far above what I’m used to. Instead of shaving weight and become fragile for it, the Alpha Air concentrates on reliability and durability. The soft shell body is almost like wearing a soft armor. Dragging it around about for a couple months now, the jacket shows no signs of wear or tear. I’ve drug it through rocks, waterfalls, shoved it in packs with gear, and used it around town. The body stays clean, and only becomes more comfortable as it breaks in. The zippers slide easily, and I’m yet to get a hang up.
Speaking of comfort, the jacket fits quite well and feels nice to wear. The soft inner liner around the neck and cuffs feels like warm cotton bedding, and the meshy liner insures the jacket never gets clammy, even on the most humid of days. The adjustable cuffs and waist sures up the fit, and also blocks out any stray breezes that might get in otherwise. A generous amount of interior volume provides just enough space for an extra layer underneath, yet never feels baggy or loose.
The jacket looks great. Soft body fabrics and high quality, consistent stitching makes for a clean, yet rugged look. Little touches like the hidden hood adjustment, clean lines, and quality zippers and pulls add a bit of sportiness to it as well. It looks fantastic, and feels at place in the woods or in the concrete jungle.
What I didn’t like
Build quality has a weight penalty. It comes in at about 1 lb 13 oz for the medium. It’s one of the heavier jackets I’ve tested, but wearing it you wouldn’t know it. Great for hikes, short backpacking trips and working about in town, less ideal for long distance backpacking where every ounce counts.
The Alpha Air is great jacket for those who are looking for style, performance, and durability while not worrying so much about weight and minimal packability. The soft, comfortable build paired with flexible and reliable synthetics makes for a jacket that’s not only inviting to wear but suited for a wide range of conditions and activities. It looks great, feels great, and provides real protection regardless of the weather. It’s a great jacket.
For more information on L.L.Bean and their exceptional line up of outerwear and clothing, check out www.llbean.com
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I want to extend a huge thanks to L.L.Bean for their continued support and for providing us this great jacket for review. We couldn’t do this alone, and we certainly appreciate the help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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