Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Jack Wolfskin Pre Light Alpha Jacket Women's and Men's Jacket Reviews: Ultralight Insulation and Wind Protection

Article by Dominique and Sam Winebaum 

Jack Wolfskin Pre Light Alpha Jacket ($180)

Dominique:  If Jack Wolfskin’s brand of outdoor apparel has not been on your radar, it is probably going to change. Just a few years ago, Jack Wolfskin made its “Paw Print” in the US market by establishing its headquarters in Park City, UT, along with a store just off Main Street.  

Ulrich Dausien founded Wolfskin in 1981 to fill a gap in the German outdoor industry.  A trip to Alaska retracing the footsteps of the author Jack London with a group of friends was the inspiration for the name of the brand – Jack Wolfskin. In 1994, Ulrich Dausien sold the company to Johnson, a US group. Jack Wolfskin is now the largest outdoor brand in Europe with 500 stores worldwide. Always reasonably priced,  and with a focus since their origins in the 1980’s on sustainability and control of the entire process from design, to in house developed technologies, to manufacturing one can sort of think of them as the LL Bean of Europe.

New to the brand, I tested the Pre Light Alpha jacket, an ultralight hiking (and running)  jacket designed to keep you warm (and not overheated) on the trails, roads, and about town.  

Jack Wolfskin has a dedicated page outlining the many things the company is doing in terms of sustainability.  Our Pre Light Alpha feature: Stretch Fleece X-Lite: 95% Recycled Polyester, 5% Elastane

Filling: Polartec Alpha: 56% Recycled Polyester, 44% Polyester - Another reason to feel good about your Jack Wolfskin’s outdoor apparel and products.

Let’s say that I am extremely impressed with the technologies incorporated into the jacket which deliver a wholesome level of comfort and protection - against the wind, cold, light rain and snow - with a featherlight feel and high breathability factor along with a generous amount of stretch to keep you moving freely.  

The style is attractive and designed to optimize movement and protection, i.e. the hood wraps your head against the elements without budging.  

Sam: I immediately sat up when I read the Pre Light Alpha included both Polartec Alpha insulation and a Pertex Quantum Air shell. I was also a bit surprised as Jack Wolfskin is known for developing most all technologies in house and controlling the entire process from technologies, to design to manufacturing to even retail sales through their own stores and online.

Why excited? Well for starters Polartec Alpha has been in my experience the lightest, quickest drying most breathable insulation out there. Initially developed for the US Special Forces where stop and go in harsh climates requires the highest performance, I have previously tested an adidas Terrex Alpha Jacket and more recently the GoreWear Drive Jacket both among,  if not my favorite, all time winter running jackets .

And light and easy to pack it is checking in at 216g in my medium.

Jack Wolfskin takes Alpha quick drying light capabilities by not using an inner shell to sandwich the Alpha between inner and outer shells as the others do, reducing weight and increasing moisture transmission to the outer Quantum Air shell.

Now the Quantum Air fabric from Pertex is special too. Incredibly light as well and I have tested other Quantum Air garments, it carefully balances some wind protection and some water resistance  with high breathability through many tiny holes. I have found it among the highest performing high output run shell fabrics out there. 

So what a combo to test! 

Features and Tech: 

One needs to take a close look at the shell which is made of three types of fabric.

The PERTEX® QUANTUM AIR shell which in key areas of the body;  namely upper chest, upper back, upper sleeves and the collar, is lined with POLARTEC ALPHA  for warmth.  

To maximize freedom of movement, stretch fleece panels are strategically placed on the sides and under the arms.  

The breathability factor is good all around as the ALPHA insulationis very breathable and very quick drying as, unlike other insulated jackets,, it has no inner lining while providing good insulation. 

The fit is true to size and extremely comfortable.  

The jacket features two generous side pockets along with a super well fitted hood.  

It is available in three different attractive colors: Rose Smoke, PicnicGreen, and Dolphin.  The Pre Light Alpha jacket is more than just a shell and is well priced at $180 given its versatility and many technologies, namely the added warmth via the POLARTEC ALPHA synthetic fill and windproof  PERTEX®QUANTUM AIR shell that also protects against light rain and snow.  In addition, this technical shell comes with a generous amount of stretch which is not always a given and a definite plus for me!  


Dominique: I have mostly been wearing my Pre Light Alpha jacket in early spring when the weather can still be cold along with being windy.   One light layer underneath and I can plow through uninviting early spring weather – this is not a winter jacket when it is nuking outside but works well with a warmer layer underneath in colder temperatures.  I wore it Nordic skiing in cold and windy conditions with one layer underneath and have been running in it as well.  

I plan to bring it as my “warm jacket” on summer hikes when I need to layer up.   

Thermoregulation is very good considering the warm insulation – my only concern is that the jacket could be more odor resistant.   Ultralightweight, versatile, extremely comfortable, the Pre Light Alpha jacket has become my go-to jacket for a number of activities in cold to cool weather conditions.  

Sam: Incredibly light high output activity insulation and moderate wind resistance is what we have here. Packing down small and to a mere 216g in my medium, it is the ideal layer for runs below and above freezing when it is not precipitating and to have in your pack.  

I run “warm” and I have run with it from the 20’s F almost up to the mid 40’s in total comfort in moderately windy conditions and even in damp but it should not be considered a “rain” or highly water resistant shell as say Gore Active is or Pertex other 2.5 layer fabrics.

There is a pleasant light “fuzzy”  standoff from your inner layers from the exposed Alpha so there is never any stick or cling while the Quantum Air by itself where there is no Alpha is equally cling free. 

Needless to say the Alpha absorbs essentially no moisture due to its characteristics and due to the fact it has no inner shell and dries very quickly if damp from sweat and even in high output activities it essentially stays dry while the Quantum shell does get damp.

The fit is true to my size medium with adequate room for a decent midlayer. I particularly appreciate the included hood and 2 big zip pockets.

Ideal for cooler weather running when precipitation is not a big factor, for light insulation arriving at the  ridge top hiking or running with breezes or as ultra light insulated piece for travel or around town, the Pre Light is most versatile and an ingenious combination of two of the most effective insulation and shell materials around.

The Pre Light Alpha Jackets are available now at Jack Wolfskin HERE

The jackets were provided at no charge for review purposes.RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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