The Alpha Flash is lightweight, low bulk and highly breathable fleece. It's an ideal garment for mountain trad, chilly days on the sea cliffs, cold weather hillwalking or just as an everyday out and about lightweight jacket. I've had this top on test throughout the summer and into autumn, and it has fared well as both a midlayer and an outer layer, weather depending.
The low bulk and slim fit of the Alpha Flash makes it ideal for layering beneath a shell or belay jacket, but when things get a bit sweaty it's just as happy functioning as an outer layer. The stretch fabric allows room for movement in all directions while also maintaining a snug fit against you. There's no excess fabric to flap about and get in the way. I've had this thing out on sea cliffs and mountain crags; in all cases I've worn this as my outer garment while climbing, only sticking on a belay jacket when the wind got a bit mental.
The cuff on the Alpha Flux is a narrow band of stretch material. Designed to be low bulk, this simple style of cuff is used on many jackets these days. They have advantages, but on the downside I don't find they provide as much protection from the wind as a velcro tab that you can fasten nice and tight. On the other hand the collar rises a good way up the neck so if the wind really picks up you can get that zipper right to the top and feel quite comfortable.
Call me sad, but one of the things that excited me about this fleece was that it actually feels fleecey! There might be a bit of nostalgia playing into this, as I used to wear deep pile fleeces as a kid, but on a practical note I don't think you can make a fleece from anything more snuggly than the 120 weight Polartec Alpha Direct fabric that Rab have used here. Comfort is one thing, but being so fluffy it's also a great fleece for insulation, when paired with a windproof outer - you get plenty of warmth for minimal weight. Polartec Alpha Direct is highly compressible, very breathable and air permeable, and fast drying - ideal stuff for a fleece top for active pursuits, in other words. Along the underside of the arms and sides of the body runs a strip of stretch fabric. This aids in mobility, and adds extra breathability to the garment. The net result is that in cooler conditions you can work hard in the Alpha Flash, without feeling too hot and sweaty.
This is a simple top, and that's very much a strong point. The Alpha Flash has a small zipped chest pocket - just enough for your average smart phone or a couple of cereal bars. Along the front side of the hem you get a drawcord to ensure a snug fit and help keep the breeze out. Running along the inside of the main zip is a strip of material to protect against heat loss and discomfort against the zip. And that's it.
This is a great little fleece from Rab, which has rapidly earned itself a place in my go-to kit for long days on mountain crags, or when out walking in cooler weather. Being so breathable and quick drying, it's likely to prove handy as part of a winter layering system too. The stretchy, low density feel of the Alpha Flash makes it comfy and unrestrictive for climbing, and weighing just 255g (size S - our measure) it is lightweight too - a bonus whether you're wearing it or packing it. At first glance the price tag of £100 may seem a bit steep for a top this simple, but I think the build quality and the top notch Polartec Alpha Direct fabric justify the cost.
Inspired by the latest innovations in fabric technology the Alpha Flash radically reinvents the traditional mid-layer.
From long, cold expeditions with limited resources to fast and light mountaineering the Alpha Flash distils everything you need into one mid-layer. Made from the exceptionally breathable Polartec Alpha, the fabric wicks moisture at an incredible rate, keeping you warm and dry even when you're right at your physical limit.
With flexible fleece panels either side, Alpha Flash will never hold you back; moving with you no matter how strenuous the climb. Extremely packable the Alpha Flash boasts an impressive warmth to weight ratio, making it the alpinist's ultimate cold weather mid-layer.
Fore more info see rab.equipment
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