Wednesday, April 11, 2018

UA ColdGear Reactor Exert Jacket Review: Versatile, Light & Highly Adaptive Insulation. And Pockets!

Article by Sam Winebaum with Jeff Valliere

UA Reactor Exert Jacket 
MSRP $150. Available now. See stores below.

                                        Women's                                                        Men's
I am going to say this right up front. The Reactor Exert is among, if not the most, versatile and effective, high output cool to colder weather run, hike, and even everyday insulated jacket I have ever tested. It certainly challenges an old favorite the adidas Terrex Agravic Alpha Hoodie, a very light windbreaker with a touch of front insulation (RTR review). 

It has been my daily run companion since I received it mid winter. At RTR we have been very surprised and pleased by Under Armour new refocused efforts in running and more specifically here the outdoor market. We were delighted with the UA HOVR Sonic road shoe for its innovative design- top to bottom, superb ride, modern understated style and value price (RTR review).  Here UA heads into both road and trail territory with the versatile Reactor Exert.

The Reactor Exert has a whisper light pattern of UA ColdGear Reactor 3G insulation fronted by soft shell wind or I would say more like "breeze protection" over the chest. The shoulders have a Storm treated single weave fabric for pack strap resistance and some water resistance. It uses highly breathable, stretchy UA Base 2.0 fabric along the sleeves, hood, and back. 
Making it way more than a "sweat shirt" or mid layer, which are about its weight, it includes:
  • 2 deep zip side pockets whose mesh sewing also allows deep drop in space from the inside for gloves and hats in separate compartments. 
  • chest pocket with an ingenious phone "seat belt' that keeps phones from bouncing 
  • elastic thumb loops, 
  • highly functional hood with no draw pull
  • hem drawstring and a center front tab to keep the jacket in place when un zipped,
  • even subtle hits of reflectivity showing through a front quilted stitching pattern.
The sizing was correct and expected for my usual medium. The fit is morelike a somewhat relaxed jacket than snug sweatshirt or bike jersey. There is some stretch, particularly sleeves and back so the jacket should adapt well to both thinner and stockier builds.

I have worn it extensively in temperatures from mid 40's to teens with at most just a thin base layer underneath. The Reactor Exert branding is spot on to its performance. As claimed the fabric is adaptive to conditions, there is very little damp feeling even when working hard, and it adapts to temperature changes very rapidly. This adaptation is helped by the combination of the very breathable waffle shaped Base Fabric on the back and the front chest tab. I was amazed when I rounded into a strong wind after a hard. sweaty effort and did not feel the usual chill.

 It always provided sufficient but never to much warmth when things got chiller and provided decent wind protection, understanding that the focus here is breathability and adaptability. If it is really windy and stormy throw over the companion Scrambler Hybrid Jacket with its breathable waterproof shoulders and windbreaker lower portion. All the same pockets included. This said it is one is wet that one gets cold. All the pockets have come in handy and with its styling it can also be worn anywhere, anytime when not "exerting". The fit is between a base layer and an outer jacket but closer to jacket fit, A layer beneath can be easily accommodated.

Jeff: Like Sam, I agree that this is among the most versatile jackets I have ever used.  The moment the Reactor arrived, I was instantly hooked on it and have worn it for just about everything and anything since.

I have worn it on cold, snowy runs with temps in the 20’s and have been comfortable and warm with just a baselayer underneath, maybe add a light shell if the wind really picks up.  The Reactor breathes really well, a great balance of insulation in all the right spots with breathable panels to prevent claminness.  The hood is warm and secure and fit is great for adding a few layers underneath, without feeling too snug, or too bulky, I guess a “relaxed/athletic” fit.

The zippered side hand pockets, as well as the chest pocket are great for stowing small items or phone in the chest pocket comfortably.

In addition to it performing very well on cold snowy runs, the Reactor works well in warmer temps, having run in temperatures into the 50’s without feeling overheated, have worn it hiking in temperatures 30’s,40’s, 50’s and 60’s, have worn it canyoneering, biking and ice skating.

In addition to it being an amazing piece of outdoor gear, it double as an all around, casual day to day hoody, which I wear all day around the house and to the office, with a subtle, understated casual athletic look.

ColdGear Reactor Insulation
The ColdGear Reactor insulation is sandwiched in a somewhat open pattern between the breathable outer shell and a thin inner mesh. It is designed to be breathable, water/sweat resistant, with a high loft to weight ratio, stretchability, light weight, and resilience. So far all  true in practice. Remarkable stuff which reminds me of Polartech Alpha..

  1. The ColdGear Reactor insulation is in an elaborate somewhat open pattern on the chest and shoulders sandwiched between the outer soft shell and a very thin inner mesh, 
  2. The outer soft shell provides decent wind protection but focuses on breathability. The accenting quilt pattern's inner stitching is reflective. The shoulders have a pack wear and somewhat water resistant fabric.
3.  The hood is easy to pull on and adequately snug. It is is made of the same waffled Base 2.0 fabric as the back and sleeves and is highly breathable.
4.  The inner side of the outer pockets is cleverly sewn so that each zipper pocket is backed by a large second drop in pocket


A supremely versatile and effective piece of gear the Reactor Exert is a great option for any sport or activity where exertion and some adaptive warmth are required. It performed magnificently in changeable cool conditions without a shell. I was never to cold or to warm no matter the weather, terrain effort or the pace. Highly Recommended.

Jeff:  I would highly recommend the Reactor Exert jacket for anyone looking for maximum versatility in a wide range of temperatures/conditions and various activities, as well as doubling as a casual jacket that can also perform.  I think of some of the backpacking trips or trips abroad I have done, where I have tried to minimize the gear I carry and the Reactor would be a perfect addition to those scenarios as well.

Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half.

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several. 

For full run bios see our Reviewers Bio Page here.
The Reactor  was provided at no cost.The opinions herein are entirely the author's

Comments, Questions Welcome Below!
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