Testing the best Alpha Direct Hoodie

An Alpha Direct Hoodie is Lighter, Warmer, and More Breathable Than Any Other Fleece

The collective ultralight jury has voted, and our verdict is in. A five ounce Polartec Alpha Direct hoodie is the best way for hikers and backpackers to save weight on insulative apparel without sacrificing warmth or functionality.

Compared to all other fleeces, a Polartec Alpha Direct hoodie has significantly better warmth-to-weight, breathability, less water absorption, and much faster drying time, at the expense of lower durability and zero wind resistance. When paired with an ultralight windbreaker, these two layers synergize to create a modular, sub 10-oz system approximating the warmth of a thin, sweater-weight puffy jacket.

Wear either or both as-needed, and you will be comfortable across an exceptionally wide range of temperatures and conditions, whether on the move or standing still. For a majority of fair-weather summer backpacking, this system eliminates the need for carrying dedicated fleece and puffy jackets.

The paradigm-shifting efficacy of these unique garments, juxtaposed with their limited small batch availability, is the impetus for our industry-first buyer’s guide. We want to help you upgrade to an Alpha Direct hoodie, understand its limitations, and use it optimally in the backcountry. That’s why, below the recommended hoodie reviews, you will find a plethora of critical buyer information and pro usage tips. This is not your typical fleece!

Jump ahead to learn about Polartec Alpha Direct Fleece Fabric, creating an ultralight layering system, and buyer considerations. If you’re purchasing an Alpha Direct Hoodie, you must pair it with an ultralight windbreaker! And while you’re here, don’t miss our guide to merino wool hoodies, alpaca hoodies, and traditional lightweight fleece.

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Recommended Alpha Direct Hoodies

First, we always recommend choosing 90 gsm Alpha Direct Fleece Fabric when given the choice (as opposed to 60 or 120 gsm), as it’s the most versatile throughout the widest range of temperatures. Because most of the hoodies in this guide are constructed with 90 gsm Alpha Direct, performance and weight are quite similar across the board. Each 90 gsm hoody is a minor variation of the exact same garment. As such, you almost can’t go wrong, and which is best for you largely boils down to a combination of current availability, price, and your personal color, pocket, fit, and hood configuration preferences. Because of high demand and small batch cottage industry production runs, inventory is constantly in flux. You will likely need to shop multiple brands to find your preferred build.

Adventure Alan wearing an Alpha Direct Hoodie

A Marketplace for Alpha Direct Hoodies

Only one retailer sells multiple brands worth of Alpha Direct hoodies – Garage Grown Gear. GGG is a specialist marketplace for ultralight gear and apparel, and we’ve seen them stock a number of the hoodies featured in this guide. But similar to the manufacturers, inventory is constantly in flux. If you’re shopping for an Alpha Direct Hoodie, we recommend checking out Garage Grown Gear, where you are likely to find multiple options in one place. What’s more, they even stock accessories, including alpha direct hats, leggings, and camp socks. Check ’em out!

Alpha Direct Fabric Texture

Comparison Table

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Model Price ($) Weight (oz) Made to Order Hood Bonus Features
LEVE Outdoor Co. 90 4.0 No Standard w/ Cinch None
FarPointe 80 4.2 No Standard w/ drawstring None
Senchi Designs W/ Pocket 95 4.5 No Balaclava Kangaroo pocket, Elastic Trim, Complimentary wash bag
Superior Fleece 74 4.6 No Standard None
High Tail Designs 90 4.8 Yes Balaclava Elastic Trim
Eddie Bauer 99 4.9 No Balaclava
Kangaroo Pocket, Reinforced Elbows, Thumb Loops,
Senchi Designs W/ Zip 95 5.0 No Balaclava
Half Chest Zip, Elastic Trim, Complimentary wash bag
Timmermade 96 5.0 Yes Standard None
Vado Apparel 1/3 Zip 140 5.2 No Balaclava 1/3 Zip, Elastic Trim
Lightheart Gear 150 6.0 No Standard w/ Cinch Kanagroo Pocket, Thumb Loops
Beyond the Trailhead 107 6.1 Yes Balaclava w/ Cinch
Kangaroo Pocket, Neck buttons, Elastic Cuffs, Shock Cord Waist
Beyond Clothing 180/160 13.4/11.9 No Balaclava
186gsm, Full Zip, Zip Hand Pockets, Hem Cinch

All stats refer to 90 gsm garments, unless otherwise noted

back side of alpha direct hoodie
LEVE Outdoor Alpha 90 Hoody

LEVE Outdoor Co. Alpha 90 Hoody

LEVE Outdoor Co. is a new for 2023 Cottage Industry brand sewing gear in Placerville, CA and Scio, OR! Welcome aboard LEVE! Their Alpha 90 Hoody, made by a husband, wife, and grandma trio team, is completely minimalist. The only feature is a hood cinch. Fine by us! The featureless build, in conjunction with a slim fit (size up if in between sizes), is why it’s the single lightest list weight for an Alpha Direct hoodie we could find on the internet.

  • Weight: 4.0 oz
  • Price: $90
  • Hood: Standard with Cinch
  • Bonus Features: None
  • Sizing: Unisex
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: Lightest list weight. Minimalist. Slim fit, size up if in between
Far Point Alpha Cruiser

FarPointe Alpha Cruiser

The FarPointe Alpha Cruiser is a completely minimalist design, with its only feature being a drawstring hood cinch. As such, a size medium weighs only 4.2 ounces and it’s one of the very lightest and most affordable models available. FarPointe manufactures ultralight apparel gear on the Oregon coast.

  • Weight: 4.2 oz
  • Price: $80
  • Hood: Standard with drawstring
  • Bonus Features: None
  • Sizing: Unisex
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: Lower-than-average price. Minimalist.


High Tail Designs Alpha Direct 90

High Tail Designs Alpha Direct 90

High Tail Designs is a thru-hiker mainstay, founded in southwest Virginia by an industrial designer/thru hiker, trail name Dos Eggrolls. They manufacture ultralight gear and apparel like the Alpha Direct 90, and are notable for artist collection print fanny packs and stuff sacks.

  • Weight: 4.8 oz
  • Price: $90
  • Hood: Balaclava
  • Bonus Features: Elastic Cuffs & Hood Opening
  • Sizing: Unisex
  • Made To Order: Yes
  • Notable: Full coverage Balaclava-style hood. Minimalist.
Timmermade Alpha Direct 4004

Timmermade Alpha Direct 4004

Dan Timmerman, of Timmermade, has been sewing ultralight clothing and sleep systems to great effect, and he’s one of our favorite Cottage Industry designers. Here’s a quote we love from his about section, “I’m a big fan of spending the day pushing the limits, but then being cozy and comfy, almost luxurious, at camp and I spend many hours thinking about how to do this in an ultralight package.” That is a great philosophy, and great too are his Alpha Direct 4004 design.

  • Weight: 5.0 oz
  • Price: $96
  • Hood: Standard, no cinch
  • Bonus Features: None
  • Sizing: Unisex
  • Made To Order: Yes
  • Notables: Completely minimalist, no features.
Superior Fleece Brule Hoodie

Superior Fleece Brule Hoodie

Based in Duluth, Minnesota, Superior Fleece specializes in garments made with Polartec fabrics, including Alpha Direct, but also classics like Power Grid and Wind Pro. Their Brule Hoodie is notable for being the least expensive Alpha Direct Hoodie on the market. Only downside is that the hood doesn’t have cinching, nor is it a balaclava, and as such, it could be prone to falling off, sagging down, or blowing around in the wind.

  • Weight: 4.6 oz
  • Price: $74
  • Hood: Standard, no cinch
  • Bonus Features: None
  • Sizing: M’s & W’s
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: Least expensive. Minimalist. No hood cinch.
Senchi Designs Alpha 90 Hoodie Pocket

Senchi Designs Alpha Direct Hoodie W/ Pocket

Formerly known as the “Lark,” we strongly recommend Senchi Design’s Alpha Direct Hoodie W/ Pocket. Portland-based Senchi has been cranking out Alpha Direct apparel for years now, and we’re pleased to see the addition of a Kanagroo pocket into their line. Like their half-zip, it features elastic trim around the cuffs, a balaclava hood, and a complimentary wash bag plus repairs. In speaking to Senchi’s Designer, Ryan Windus, we were very impressed by his in depth knowledge of working with Alpha Direct.

  • Weight: 4.5 oz
  • Price: $95
  • Hood: Balaclava
  • Bonus Features: Kangaroo pocket, Elastic Cuffs, articulated.
  • Sizing: Unisex
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: Elastic Trim. Complimentary wash bag and free repairs.
Lightheart Gear Alpha Direct 90 With Kangaroo Pocket

Lightheart Gear Alpha Direct 90 w/ Kangaroo Pocket

Featured in cover photo! The Lightheart Gear Alpha Direct 90 with Kangaroo Pocket is an outstanding hoodie with all of the ultralight bells and whistles including top notch thumb loops and the namesake pocket. The cuffs with thumb loops truly allow you to reretreat your hands into the garment, and in a summer context, likely replace the need for liner gloves. Really great feature! A kangaroo-less version is also available for $115. What’s more, you can really crank up the flair with their exceptionally unique printed Alpha Direct fabrics. Lightheart Gear, based in Fletcher, NC, produces an assortment of ultralight gear, including tents, rain jackets, clothes, and accessories.

  • Weight: 6.0 oz
  • Price: $150
  • Hood: Standard, with cinch
  • Bonus Features: Kangaroo pocket, thumb loops, unique print colorways.
  • Sizing: M’s & W’s (including plus sizes)
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: Most expensive. All of the features. Cool print colorways.
Beyond the Trailhead Alpha Direct Rip-Back Hoodie 90

Beyond the Trailhead Alpha Direct Rip-Back Hoodie 90

Beyond the Trailhead, based out of Wisconsin and founded in 2020, makes the exceptional Alpha Direct Rip-Back Hoodie 90 with literally all of the features! We’ll take the kangaroo pocket, but we’re extra keen on the unique button cowl/hood design that converts into a neck gaiter. V cozy!  You can also pay $21 extra to purchase a double layered hood, which we assume eliminates the need to carry a beanie, though have not tested personally.

  • Weight: 6.1 oz
  • Price: $92
  • Hood: Balaclava, with cinch
  • Bonus Features: Kangaroo Pocket, Thumb loops, Neck Buttons, Elastic Cuffs, Shock cord cinchable waist, option for double thickness hood
  • Sizing: Unisex
  • Made To Order: Yes
  • Notable: All of the bells and whistles. Cool hood feature.


Vado Apparel Alpha Direct Pullover

Vado Apparel 1/3 Zip Alpha Direct Pullover

Vado Apparel is a relatively new brand, manufacturing Alpha Direct apparel in Massachusetts. At this time, they have pullovers, zip pullovers, and pants, available in the 60 and 90 gsm weight. When it comes to their 1/3 zip pullover, we like the cut of its gib. Specifically, this model has a chin guard to prevent chafing. It also has elastic trim on the hood, cuffs, and hem, which is very welcome. This is a well-featured model and looks to be a top performer.

  • Weight: 5.2 oz
  • Price: $140
  • Hood: Balaclava
  • Bonus Features: 1/3 Chest Zip, Elastic Cuffs/Hem/Hood Opening, Chin guard
  • Sizing: Unisex
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: 1/3-zip w/ chin guard. Elastic Trim.
Senchi Designs Alpha 90 Hoodie w Half Zip

Senchi Designs Alpha 90 Hoodie w/ Half Zip

We dare you not to think Senchi Designs is a cool looking brand! They frequently drop/release new batches of Alpha Direct apparel, including hoodies, crew necks, and leggings at 60 gsm and 90 gsm. We recommend the 90 gsm Hoodie with half zip, (formerly known as “Lark”) which has good looking and functional elastic trim, articulated sleeves, and is most differentiated from the pack by the half-zip pullover configuration. We respect this feature because it adds venting, and makes on/off easier, which may be especially valuable to those with large torsos or chests. However, it also adds bulk, potential for zipper failure/snagging, a bit of weight, and isn’t strictly necessary, given how breathable Alpha Direct already is at baseline. Likely that’s why they’ve excluded the zip from the 60 gsm tops. So there’s a pros and cons. But a great overall Alpha Direct Hoodie design nonetheless, and we’re glad someone offers a half zip! Plus, this one comes free repairs and a complimentary microplastics-reducing wash bag!

  • Weight: 5.0 oz
  • Price: $95
  • Hood: Balaclava
  • Bonus Features: Half Chest Zip, Elastic Cuffs/Hem/Hood Opening, Articulated sleeves
  • Sizing: Unisex
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: Half-zip. Elastic Trim. Complimentary wash bag and free repairs.


Eddie Bauer Super Sevens

Eddie Bauer Super Sevens Fleece Pullover

We were as shocked as you are to find out that non-technical, ubiquitously mainstream Eddie Bauer manufactures one of these hoodies! However, it’s actually made with PrimaLoft Active Evolve, a very-similar-but-slightly-different competitor to Polartece Alpha Direct. Even the words themselves, from character count to number of syllables, are nearly identical.

Both fabrics are open face polyester knit lattices with lofted tufts. We don’t have stats on how exactly how these two stack up, but the Super Sevens has performed marvelously well in our backcountry testing thus far. If we had to differentiate them, it’s likely Polartec Alpha Direct is slightly fuzzier and warmer, and Active Evolve is more stretchy. We’d put on our money on Alpha Direct as the better performer, especially given that nine out of our ten preferred manufacturers have chosen it, and it has become the culturally adopted name for this type of garment (like Band-Aid, Kleenex, and Frisbee). But they’re close enough that we’re inclined to group them together, and we’ll see if PrimaLoft gives Polartec a run for its money.

This Eddie Bauer hoodie is part of their Super Sevens System, which combines the Super Sevens Fleece Pullover with a Windbreaker and a rain shell for modular layering. In fact, it’s pretty much the system we recommend, so you know they’ve done their homework. The kangaroo pocket with drop in pouch is good for very light duty storage, like gloves, hat, spoon, lighter, headlamp, etc. It also has reinforced elbows, thumb loops, and elastic trim. What a surprise banger!

  • Weight: 4.9 oz
  • Price: $99
  • Hood: Balaclava
  • Bonus Features: Drop-in Kangaroo Pouch, Reinforced Elbow, Thumb Loops
  • Sizing: M’s & W’s
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: Mainstream availability, kangaroo pocket with drop pouch, elastic cuffs, PrimaLoft Active Evolve.
Beyond Clothing Alpha Aura

Beyond Clothing Alpha Aura

The new for Fall 2023 Beyond Clothing Alpha Aura is interesting for so many reasons. First of all, we like to keep tabs on how mainstream outdoor is using Alpha Direct, and this is a notable take. What’s more, it uses the heaviest weight version of Alpha Direct we’ve ever seen, 186gsm. That’s like wearing two normal hoodies at once, a straight up furnace! Due to the overkill warmth and heavy 13.4 oz weight (not even ultralight), we relegate this only to very cold weather use, not an everyday summer option. We haven’t tested it, but intend to this winter.  Will report back.

  • Weight: 13.4 oz M’s | 11.9 oz W’s
  • Price: $180 M’s| $160 W’s
  • Hood: Standard, no cinch
  • Bonus Features: 186 gsm Alpha Direct fabric, full chest zip, zippered hand pockets, men’s has reinforced hood/shoulders, internal shove-it pockets
  • Sizing: M’s & W’s
  • Made To Order: No
  • Notables: Mainstream brand. Warmest by double. New and untested. Expensive. Men’s has reinforced shoulders/hood, unclear if that is advantage or disadvantage.
close up on balaclava hood

About Polartec Alpha Direct Fleece

What is Polartec Alpha Direct?

This bizarre insulation has been around for less than a decade, so if you aren’t up to speed on Polartec Alpha Direct, here’s the story. This insulative fabric is constructed with a dense grid of high loft, super fuzzy, polyester tufts, sewn to a structured mesh fabric that holds it in all place. By itself, you can think of it like the guts of synthetic puffy jacket, divorced from its shell. Alpha Direct was never designed to be worn on its own, but rather, paired with an exterior shell fabric. The face fabric blocks wind, while the Alpha Direct insulates, breathes, and wicks. We first got our hands on Alpha Direct via the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoodie circa 2016, which effectively married an exterior windbreaker with an interior layer of Alpha Direct, sans interior liner. 

But when the Ultralight Cottage Industry got a hold of this material, they divorced it from the shell and began selling garments of purely Alpha Direct, without any exterior shell. They did this knowing the savvy hiker could choose to add a modular windbreaker shell overtop when they wanted. The modular system is much more more useful and versatile than a combined garment.

The effect of an Alpha Direct hoody is an ultralight fleece jacket, usually weighing about five ounces, that is decently warm on its own, but with virtually zero wind resistant and more breathable than anything else you have ever experienced. In fact, it’s so breathable that most heat simple drifts off and dissipates in the slightest breeze. You can feel air coursing through it just by walking! It’s biggest downside is likely the low durability, but treat it with respect and you shouldn’t have issues.

Pros of Alpha Direct

  • Ultralight
  • Ultra breathable
  • High warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Exceptionally quick drying
  • Absorbs very little water
  • Hydrophobic
  • Versatile
  • Synergistic with windbreakers
  • Made with some % recycled materials
  • Just durable enough

Cons of Alpha Direct

  • Very low overall durability
  • Zero wind resistance
  • Somewhat sheer
  • Sticks to, and easily damaged by Velcro
  • Sheds fuzz, wash with a Guppyriend Bag to reduce microplastics
  • Small twigs, pine cones, and other scratchy objects stick to it
  • Expensive
  • Not very warm on its own.
Alpha Direct Hoodie with Windbreaker

Creating an Ultralight Layering System Using An Alpha Direct Hoodie

Unlike your typical fleece pullover, an Alpha Direct hoodie should be thought of as part of a system, rather than as a standalone garment. Due to Alpha Direct’s total lack of wind resistance, it’s important to carry a windbreaker jacket with you to wear overtop. Combined, these two mimic the insulation of a thinner-than-average sweater weight puffy jacket. You can also use your rain jacket instead of a windbreaker and achieve a similar effect. Only this is far less comfortable because rain jackets are less breathable/stretchy, and feel clammier.

Ultralight Alpha Direct Insulation System

  • 4.9 oz Alpha Direct hoodie (avg weight from our list)
  • 3.7 oz Patagonia Houdini
  • 8.6 oz total

Example of Traditional Ultralight Insulation System

Analysis

While the traditional ultralight system is probably 25-50% warmer, it is also 90% heavier. As such, the Alpha Direct system compares quite favorably for fair weather summer backpacking.

Wear the Alpha Direct hoodie when all you want is a fleece. Wear it with the windbreaker when you want a puffy. Or wear the windbreaker by itself when it’s breezy but not too cold! The only thing you miss out on is being able to wear a fleece and a puffy at the same time (because your fleece becomes the puffy), which is why we don’t recommend this system for cool or cold weather backpacking.

The Alpha Direct system we highlight above is probably warm enough for trips where evening temps drop into the mid 40s (F), assuming you have a warm sleep system to retreat into. And for colder trips, there’s no reason you can’t also bring a puffy jacket to supplement the system.

windbreaker over alpha direct hoody

Buyer Considerations

Is an Alpha Direct Hoody Right For You?

If you are an ultralight backpacker who cares deeply about lowering base weight, then yes! An Alpha Direct hoodie is likely the right choice for you. But check yourself and be realistic before buying. This ain’t your grandpa’s fleece. An Alpha Direct hoodie is likely going to be the single least durable garment you’ve ever worn. Not only is it incompatible with bushwhacking, rock climbing, and many other forms of “roughing it,” but plenty of folks are simply too hard on their gear. If you have a track record of taping up puffy jacket holes, puncturing sleeping pads, patching tents, replacing pants, and otherwise damaging your outdoor gear, then an Alpha Direct hoodie is likely not a good choice for you. The same is true for people who hike with dogs, or are prone to tripping, falling, scraping themselves, and are otherwise clumsy on the trail. If that’s your style, we encourage you to check out our guide to lightweight fleece jackets, which are much more durable at the expense of only a modest hit to warmth-to-weight ratio.

Why Don’t Mainstream Outdoor Brands Make Alpha Direct Hoodies?

For starters, mainstream outdoor brands are usually 5-10 years behind the Cottage Ultralight Industry when it comes to adopting cutting edge lightweight materials into their product line. What’s more, most of the mainstream brands sell to audiences who are inexperienced with caring for ultralight gear, and would immediately eviscerate an Alpha Direct hoodie, rather than using it with the proper care it deserves. Lastly, many of those brands warranty their products, and the previous point would be exacerbated by a multitude of returns and negative reviews, rendering the design investment pointless. That’s why we were surprised to see largely non-technical Eddie Bauer manufacture an Alpha Direct Hoodie (the Super Sevens Fleece), and why we were not surprised to see Beyond Clothing choose 186 gsm fabric instead of standard issue 90gsm in their Alpha Aura Jacket.

Price

At time of publication, $90 to $100 seems to the going rate for an Alpha Direct Hoodie, with outliers as low as ~$74 and as high as $150, depending on features and brand. As ultralight gear goes, we feel they’re a pretty good value for the weight savings you are likely to achieve.

Weight

Because they’re mostly all made with the same 90 gsm fabric, there is very minimal weight difference between models. For the most part, they weigh five ounes, +/- one ounce. The weight differential stems from a combination of fit (looser fitting garments are made with more fabric and are heavier), and features (zippers, elastic cuffs, kangaroo pockets etc).  A super minimalist model without bells and whistles is generally superior in the sense that its performance is largely the same but weighs 20-25% less (the difference between a 4oz and 5oz garment, for example).

What About Kangaroo Pockets?

Kangaroo pockets are the overall best pocket configuration for puffy jackets and fleeces. They’re very useful, doubling as a large storage space and hand warmer, and we love them on most outerwear. However, they are at their absolute worst on an Alpha Direct Hoodie. That’s not to say they are unwanted, unwelcome, or strictly bad, just that you should lower your expectations for this feature on these garments. That’s because the fabric is so light and airy that any object heavier than a pair of gloves or beanie will pull awkwardly down on the pocket, bounce around as you move, swing back and forth, stretch out the pocket, and generally just not sit well. Put something too heavy in there, like a water bottle, and you might blow out the pocket stitching completely.

What’s more, by the time you get to camp and temperatures drop, you will likely have added a windbreaker overtop of your Alpha Direct hoody, covering up the kangaroo pocket and rendering it functionally useless. There’s also something to be said about the near-perfect minimalism of a feature-less Alpha Direct Hoodie, and how adding pockets and doodads can detract from that. As a positive, it does add a bit of additional core warmth. But it also increases manufacturing costs. Roughly $15-35 dollars, depending on who you purchase from. So whether or not to choose a model with a kangaroo pocket is mostly up to your personal preferences. The good and the bad come out in the wash, leaving us largely ambivalent to this feature.

Standard vs Balaclava Hood

With Alpha Direct Hoodies, you generally either get a standard drapey hood, or a balaclava fit. The designers manufacturing them seem to be split about 50-50 on this. And neither is strictly better or worse than the other, it just depends on what you like and how you will use it. A standard hood is comfier around camp or wearing as head insulation with a quilt. A balaclava performs better in wind or under a helmet. Both do great overtop of a cap. If you’re reading this buyer’s guide, you likely have enough experience with hoods to know whether you prefer balaclava or traditional fit, and you should stick with what you like. A couple hood features to call out is that if you opt for a standard hood, we recommend choosing a model with a cinch or drawstring-tie-off closure system to ensure the hood stays up in wind and can trap maximum heat in the cold. Another pair of notable features come from the brand Beyond the Trailhead, and their Alpha Direct Rip-Back 90 Hoodie. We nod to the neck buttons, which when used, create a neck-gaiter-like cowl. They also offer a dual layer hood (2 layers of 90gsm alpha direct), which we have not tested, but likely could eliminate the need for carrying a beanie. Cool features!

60 vs 90 vs 120 gsm Alpha Direct Fabric Weight

Alpha Direct is typically offered in three fabric thicknesses, measured in grams per meter squared (gsm). There is 60 gsm, 90 gsm, and 120 gsm. If the entire Adventure Alan & Co crew is certain of one thing (and we’ve also consulted with designers and industry experts) it’s that 90 gsm is the best fabric weight of Alpha Direct fleece. It offers the best blend of warmth, durability, and weight. We don’t see much point in the 60 gsm variety, as it’s not warm enough to replace a fleece, and even less durable than the 90 gsm. We would only consider the 120 gsm weight for use in late fall, winter, and early spring, when daytime temps don’t go above freezing. That’s because it’s too warm to wear on the move in calm conditions, too warm to wear on the move layered under a windbreaker, not warm enough to substitute as a puffy in true cold conditions, and not warm enough on the move in strong wind. Despite 120’s higher warmth-to-weight ratio, it’s less versatile.

Half-Zip & Quarter Zip Configurations

In studying the marketplace, we have seen some manufacturers design their Alpha Direct Hoodies as either a quarter, or half zip pullover, but we are unimpressed by this feature. For starters, it adds structural bulk, weight, manufacturing cost, and an additional failure point. But we also don’t see much purpose. Traditionally, half-zips are great for venting, but Alpha Direct is already so preposterously breathable that opening up a zipper is hardly additive. It would provide a non-zero amount of extra venting, but the benefit is so small that we don’t recommend seeking it out. Like kangaroo pockets, half-zips are at their least effective when paired with an Alpha Direct hoodie.

Elastic Cuffs & Hem

Some manufacturers design the cuffs and hem and hood trim to include elastic, rather than fold over and sewn. This is definitely desirable, as it protects edges from wear and tear, and gives the fabric a degree of stretch, finished look, and extra durability that static sewing does not.

How to Make it Warmer

For cooler weather trips, we recommend adding an ultralight puffy jacket into the system, like the Zpacks Goose Down Jacket. A down jacket also acts like a windbreaker overtop of the Alpha Direct hoodie, preventing heat from drifting off as you walk. That said, we don’t recommend cutting the windbreaker from the system, as its still useful in cool-not-cold temps, and when on the move in cold temps.

Alison wearing an Alpha Direct Hoodie

Conclusion

At Adventure Alan & Co, we’re always looking for functional ways to reduce carried pack weight. Upgrading from traditional fleece to a Polartec Alpha Direct Hoodie is an effective way to achieve this that most hikers have yet to adopt. Between us, we own countless fleeces, yet for all serious backcountry missions, we choose Alpha Direct nearly every time. It is warm, comfortable, breathable, quick-drying, and extremely versatile when paired with a windbreaker. We recommend them very highly and hope you decide to pick one up. Let us know what you think in the comments and happy trails!

If you’re purchasing an Alpha Direct Hoodie, you must pair it with an ultralight windbreaker! And while you’re here, don’t miss our guide to traditional lightweight fleece.

LEVE Outdoor Co Alpha Direct Hoodie 90