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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