The FarPointe Alpha Cruiser is a hoody made with Polartec Alpha Direct, an ultralight polyester fabric with an open mesh weave that makes a good insulating mid-layer when worn under a wind shirt or rain jacket. While it traps warmth very effectively and is super comfortable to wear, the Cruiser’s Polartec Alpha Direct construction makes it less general-purpose than other types of fleece with a tighter weave. Still, it’s a very attractive mid-layer because it is so lightweight, wicking, and fast-drying.
Specs at a Glance
- Size Tested: Large (true to size)
- Weight: 5.0 oz / 141g (that’s not a typo)
- Material: Polartec Alpha Direct 90 gsm
- Color: Deep Glacier
The Alpha Cruiser is a very simple hoody with a fitted, human-sized drawstring hood. There’s really not much to it. The sewing is neat and tidy, but Polartec Alpha Direct is such a gauzy, unsubstantial fabric that there’s not much you can do with it except double up the fabric at the hem, wrists, and neck, and sew a drawstring channel for the hood.
If there’s one critique I have about the design of the Alpha Cruiser hoody, it’s with the hood’s paracord drawstring which is knotted at the ends but is potentially easy to “lose” inside the hood. If you’ve had a pair of sweatpants where the waistband cord gets pulled into its channel and can’t be retrieved, you know how frustrating this can be.
So the first thing I did when I got this hoody was to thread the ends of the cords through a cordlock and knot them together so that could never happen. It’s curious why FarPointe doesn’t do this at the time of manufacture, but it’s an easy fix and inexpensive.
That said, this hoody is incredibly warm and comfortable to wear, even on bare skin. The first day it arrived, I slept in it because I didn’t want to take it off! The spaces in the weave trap warm air much like the mesh Brynje baselayers I wear in really cold weather for hiking. But unlike other Polartec hoodies with thicker weaves, the Alpha Cruiser has no wind resistance, so it must be worn under a wind shirt or rain jacket/hard shell if you to exploit its insulation benefits.
FarPointe offers the Alpha Cruiser in two weights: the 90 gsm (grams per sq meter) version I purchases and a 60 gsm version which isn’t as warm. The 90 gsm is very warm to wear as a mid-layer when hiking in cold weather and I’ve found it best to wear underneath a thin wind shirt or jacket, preferably one with good ventilation like the Warbonnet Stash Jacket (made with breathable quilt fabric) I’m wearing here, which has 22″ pit/torso zips down the sides. Otherwise, you’re bound to overheat and perspire, which I try to avoid, especially in cold weather.
For example, I can wear the Alpha Cruiser under a wind shirt/jacket and be perfectly warm and comfortable when hiking in 15 degrees (F) weather. That’s how warm this mid-layer is when you build up some body heat from hiking. Starting out, you will be cold though.
Polartec Alpha Direct – Issues of Note
But the problem with garments made with Polartec Alpha Direct is that they have no inherent wind resistance, so they have to be used under a more wind-resistant garment like a wind shirt if you want to stay warm on a windy day. Without an external shell, the wind will cut right through the Polartec Alpha Direct and chill you. You simply can’t wear the Alpha Cruiser by itself on a cold and windy day. This is different from other Polartec fleece hoodies that have a tighter weave and can be worn by themselves, even in cold and breezy conditions.
Durability is also a concern because it is very easy to snag and tear a hoody or jersey made with Polartec Alpha Direct on a branch when it is worn as an outer layer. You really want to wear an outer garment over it to protect it, particularly if you hike off-trail in forested terrain. These are important issues to bring up, despite the hype surrounding the fabric.
The FarPointe Alpha Cruiser is a hoody made with Polartec Alpha Direct, an ultralight polyester fabric with an open mesh weave that has an extraordinary warmth-to-weight ratio. It’s a very simple garment that’s optimized for use under a wind shirt or rain jacket because it has no inherent wind resistance. When wearing the Alpha Cruiser, I’d encourage you to wear it with a jacket that has very good ventilation characteristics like pit-zips so you can regular the amount of heat that the hoody retains. The 90-gsm weight hoody reviewed here is ideal for cold-weather hiking and is an easy layer to carry when you want extra warmth because it is so compact and lightweight.
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Philip, thanks so much for testing an Alpha hoodie. Ive used a Macpac Nitro the past 2 cold seasons, same Alpha as Farpointe. It provides amazing warmth. I got it as I sweat a ton and Alpha has that covered. I wear a base layer based on conditions, Capilene or Merino, top with wind shirt (Montbell, OR, Patag). At stops the puffy seems super warm covering the Alpha while my sweat dissipates – the Alpha is very warm under a puffy. Thanks for creating awareness of War Bon wind shirt – hard to find a wind shirt w arm zips! Alpha fabric great for active cold weather activities!
Could this replace the basice fleece that many people hike with?
I don’t think so. Well, not unless you hike in a wind free zone. I can hike in a 100 or 200 weight fleece hoody in wind and not be chilled to the bone in cold weather (because it has more wind resistance and breathability) down to 20F easily. Can’t do that with 90 gsm alpha. I’m still pondering where alpha fits into my layering system and toying with the idea to use it as a camp layer or sleep layer (more passive, than active).
wouldn’t alpha direct layer work great with a wind shirt shirt like ee Copperfield?
very flexible and warm. could even replace puffy.
Until you have to take the wind shirt off because you’re too warm, but there’s still cold wind. Then it’s pretty worthless. Less of an issue in three season, but it would suck in winter.
I have a RAB Polartec Alpha zip up that I love. But the big issue with the RAB garment is that it has a side vent mesh that gets wet unlike the Alpha fibers, which do not abosrb water. Is the FarPointe all Alpha with no stretch mesh or vents of any kind? If so I would imagine that it is a far better garment.
Also, I do the exact reverse of what you do with a windshirt (something I read in one of Mark Twight’s books). I wear a thin base layer, then a windshirt (I have both a lined and unlined Marmot Precip windshirt) and the Polartcec Alpha on top. This cuts the wind and keeps the sweat from getting into the Alpha fibers. (I do this with all of my layers actually not just the Alpha for the same moisture management). I find this keeps my insulation far drier and I can wear less layers overall for the given temperature. I’ve been out with temps as low as 20 deg F with decent winds in this set up and stay comfortable while moving. I see your point about the durability though. It is definitely a delicate garment and wearing it the way I do exposes it to damage more so I have to be selective about how I use it.
I’m a fan of Mark Twight too, but hadn’t thought of using a VBL with it. I honestly prefer a powerstretch hoody that has more wind resistance and a regular base layer under it. The FarPointe is all alpha.
I have the RAB alpha fleece zip up and have been quite pleased with it. This is a spot on review of alpha fleece strtengths and weaknesses and optimal combinations. I’d second the note on wicking and how little moisture it absorbs, and how easily it dries out. I pair it with light weight RAB wind shell. With 120 weight in some conditions it works great without wind shell, or over wind shell. I’ve not had much issue with the side panels noted by Barry.
BTW nice to see a mention of mesh layering–I’m a fan, and have used the Brynje products as well as synthetic cheapo ‘club tops’ lol you can get on Amazon for $10 bucks–order one size up!
Is there a basic 100 weight 1/4 zip or 3/4 zip hoodie on the market?
Wishing Mountain Hardwear would put a hood on the microchill….
I’ve been experimenting with alpha direct for the past several years in Colorado, and it’s an interesting fabric. I pair a Farpoint 90 gsm with a 7D windshirt as static insulation at camp (typically above 10k elevation) and find it performs well in the summer months down to the low 40’s.
I’ve been using this system as a replacement for my puffy on warmer trips, and the modular set up has some advantages.Total weight is under 8 ounces, and I like being able to use the windshirt on it’s on as an active layer while I’m hiking on chilly mornings. I also sleep wearing the alpha inside my quilt on colder nights, and find it very comfortable.
As a comparison, a jacket like the EE Torrid performs very similarly to the modular alpha/wind shirt set up, with the Torrid maybe providing about 3 degrees more warmth while static depending on conditions.
Wore the 90/60 version out with my normal baselayer hoodie over it, so the alpha was next to skin. I felt like it worked really well at adding a bit more wind resistance and abrasion resistance under pack straps. I really like alpha under a breathable windshirt like a mhw kor preshell and as a sleep shirt in the winter.
I have a Mtn Hardwear Airmesh Hoodie that is very similar. it is one of my favorite cold weather layers because it breathes well enough to hike it
I just bought an Airemesh hoody and have the same opinion. It’s my favorite new base layer.