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Senchi Designs Lark Polartec Alpha Hoodie Review

Senchi Designs Polartec Alpha Lark Hoodie Review

The Senchi Designs Lark is an ultralight Polartec Alpha Direct Hoodie that is quite warm when worn in a sleeping bag or under a rain shell or wind shirt. Weighing just 5.1 oz, it’s half the weight of other types of gridded or brushed fleece hoodies and much more compressible. I’ve been using it for the past few months for hiking and backpacking in summer weather as an outer layer, for sleeping under a quilt, and inside a rain jacket or wind shirt as a mid-layer.

Specs at a Glance

  • Size Tested: Large (true to size)
  • Weight: 5.1 oz / 145g (actual)
  • Material: Polartec Alpha Direct 90 gsm
  • Ventilation: Quarter Zip
  • Includes: Fine mesh bag to protect hoodie when machine washing
  • Color: Dune
  • For complete specs

Polartec Alpha Direct or Polartec Alpha as it is frequently called is a porous and gauzy type of synthetic fleece that was originally designed to be the insulation layer inside a windproof jacket, but its use as a standalone material for hoodies has taken off because it’s so comfortable, lightweight, and warm to wear by itself. That said it does have some limitations: it has no wind resistance and and provides little insulation when it gets wet, particularly under a rain jacket, when it becomes soaked with perspiration and internal condensation. Durability is also a concern since it’s easy to tear if you snag it on a branch and contact with Velcro will pull and tear the fibers, so contact with it must be avoided at all costs.

I have used three different Polartec Alpha Hoodies this spring and summer:

While they’ve all been equivalent in terms of performance, I like the fit of the Senchi Designs Lark Hoodie the best in terms of chest girth and length. The Farpointe Hoody is nice, but I had to modify it slightly to prevent the hood drawstring from pulling out, a detail that I thought should have been addressed by the manufacturer instead. The Lightheart Gear Hoody is the most durably made of the three with two layers of material in high-wear areas, but it’s too long, sticking out under the hem of my shorter rain jacket where it gets soaked when it rains.

The Senchi Lark Hoodie makes a great sleeping layer when used with a quilt.
The Senchi Lark Hoodie makes a great sleeping layer when used with a quilt.

The Senchi Designs Lark however has been perfect for my needs. It’s a simple garment with a quarter zip for temperature regulation, elastic wrist cuffs, and an elastic hemmed hood that fits well over my head without being too snug or too loose. It’s also the perfect length, coming to my waist, so I can wear it with any of my rain jackets without having it stick out the bottom where it can absorb rain.

I also like the fact that the Senchi Lark comes with a fine mesh wash bag to protect the hoodie when I machine wash it and is designed to reduce micro-plastic waste from PET plastic apparel. That’s something the other two hoodie manufacturers don’t include. I machine wash the hoodie in this bag in cold water and then hang dry it to prevent shrinkage and so far it’s held up wonderfully under that treatment.

The elastic wrist cuffs fit well and help seal out drafts.
The elastic wrist cuffs fit well and help seal out drafts.

Recommendation

The Senchi Designs Lark Polartec Alpha Hoodie is an ultralight fleece hoodie with a quarter-length front zip for ventilation. It’s a great mid-layer garment for use under a rain jacket or wind shirt or for sleeping in at night when camping. The Lark is durably made with elastic wrist cuffs and an elastic-bordered hood that fits well and is waist length so that it pairs well with any length rain jacket or vest. The Lark Hoodie comes with a fine mesh wash bag to protect the hoodie when machine washing is designed to reduce micro-plastic waste from PET plastic apparel. Highly Recommended!

Disclosure: The author owns this product.

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9 comments

  1. Could you elaborate about it’s use with a rain jacket a bit? You hint that it doesn’t insulate too well under heavy rain when it saturates with condensation. How does it compare to a regular fleece in that use? How about shelled active insulation such as patagonia nano air?

    • Sure – It contributes no warmth when its wet (more like insert), but it will prevent rain on the surface of a rain jacket from sucking the heat out of you by breaking the thermal chain. That works fine as long as it’s not cold or cool out (which it often is when it rains). A regular 100 or 200 fleece (take your pick on type) is far better because it resists complete soaking (the air pockets under the surface retain heat). Shelled active insulation is simply too warm under a rain shell and when it get it gets wet takes longer to dry. I wouldn’t recommend wearing a synthetic jacket under a rain shell in rain.

  2. I had no idea this existed until now. Will consider buying for under shell, looks to regulate temperature well in combination with pit zips. I sleep hot, and have frost-bitten my feet due to sticking at least one out the side of a quilt in deep winter to regulate heat, and so not going to sleep in it.

    My current go-to that works for me is the Bight Gear Fissure hoodie: https://bightgear.com/products/m-2019-fissure-fleece. Not a shill, just performs outstanding while hiking and in camp, although the Senchi Designs Lark Polartec Alpha Hoodie looks to have its space too depending on the time of year and local conditions. Thanks for the review.

  3. I saw you reviewed both the Senchi and the Kuiu Peloton 97 recently. Which would you choose if you could only have one of them as the mid layer in a base-mid-puffy and rain jacket 3 season layering system?

    Thanks!

    • I’d probably go with the Peloton 97. I haven’t found Polartec Alpha to be that warm when it gets soaking wet. It dries fast true, but that doesn’t help much when the air gaps in the fabric are saturated. The tighter weave of the Peloton resists becoming overwhelmed by moisture.

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