NW Alpine Fast/Light Jacket Review

February 6, 2015
NW Alpine Fast/Light Jacket
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NW Alpine Fast/Light Jacket 2-NWAlpine_Fast-Light 3-NWAlpine_Fast-Light 4-NWAlpine_Fast-Light Softshell-test-samples-2
GEAR INSTITUTE RATINGS
81
Weather Resistance
7
Breathability
6
Mobility & Movement
9
Comfort
6
Attention to Detail
6
Value
7

The Good

  • Trim alpine fit, long arms
  • Fantastic stretch and mobility for its durability
  • Perfect under a harness and/or backpack
  • Craft-built in Portland, OR

The Bad

  • Adjustments were not glove-friendly
  • Hood was clumsy-feeling, both with and without a helmet
  • On the heavy side for such a simple garment
  • One single pocket
THE VERDICT

A pure, zero-frills cold weather climbing top, the NW Alpine Fast/Light Jacket was the perfect jacket for single-pitch ice cragging in Montana and Utah. Its simplicity, its shocking mobility, and its stolid water-repellency made it my favorite piece this season for tough climbing in the cold.

FULL REVIEW

The Fast/Light is straight up about its intentions: it wants to climb. It does not care about which color you prefer. It does not want to hear about how sometimes you’ll wear it with your nice corduroy pants. It most certainly doesn’t give a single shit about where you like to carry your phone.

Weather Protection  
The big kudos here go to the Tweave Durastretch fabric that NW Alpine chose for this jacket. Warm, inordinately tough, and hugely mobile, this textile proved to be an excellent choice for a cold-weather softshell. For settled weather, I found that the fit and fabric alone were sufficient protection; when the wind (and resultant spindrift) picked up, I wished for additional adjustments at the hood and hem.

Breathability
Hefty, heat-trapping material and very few openings of any sort definitely limited the Fast/Light’s ability to regulate my core humidity. Only on truly cold days (under 15¼F) could I shovel snow or push hard on an approach whilst fully zipped. Although mileage will no doubt vary, this jacket holds in a larger-than-expected amount of body heat.

Mobility/Comfort
While the Fast/Light moniker isn’t the most apt for this jacket, I totally get why the NW Alpine crew decided against more descriptive names: Unencumbered/Cozy or Snug/Fluid just don’t have the same ring, somehow. Names aside, this long-armed and close-cut piece delivered outstanding comfort and flexibility during even my most gymnastic efforts.

Weight
Considering its trim fit, single pocket, and simple design ethic, I fully expected the Fast/Light to be, well, lighter.  Once I’d experienced its warmth and general burliness, however, I felt that the extra ounces were well-spent.

Attention to Detail
The fabric and patterning on this jacket were top-shelf, but the details could use some work. I added much-needed 1.5mm cord zipper-pulls to my sample, and I really would have appreciated a brim of some sort on the hood. One specific detail that earned my praise and continued admiration: stretchy internal stash pockets for glove or water bottle warming.

Value
I’m prone to spending $20 on a pound of fresh-roasted Kenyan coffee and $15 for a sixer of my favorite local IPA, so take my rating here with several grains of pink Himalayan finishing-salt. The Fast/Light is on the heavy side. Its hood could use improvement. It costs a bit more than many other softies of similar performance. It is, however, built by stoked people trying cool stuff on the West Coast of the USA. It also looks badass. So it earns a couple of bonus points here and gets a seven.

 


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