Friday, October 27, 2023

FarPointe Outdoor Gear and Vado Polartec Alpha Direct Apparel Reviews:: Is This Active Insulation Fabric Worth the Hype?

Article by Markus Zinkl 


In the world of outdoor apparel, innovation and technology continue to push the boundaries of performance and comfort. One such breakthrough that has garnered significant attention is Polartec Alpha Direct, an active insulation fabric that promises to revolutionize the way we experience outdoor activities. As outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers seek clothing that balances warmth, breathability, and versatility, Polartec Alpha Direct has emerged as a noteworthy contender. In this review, we will delve into the unique qualities and benefits of this fabric, exploring what sets it apart from traditional insulation materials and why it has become the center of a growing hype.

What is it?

Polartec Alpha Direct is a cutting-edge insulation fabric developed by Polartec, a renowned leader in the textile industry with a strong focus on creating high-performance materials for outdoor and active wear. 

Source: Polartec

What distinguishes Polartec Alpha Direct from conventional insulation materials is its active insulation technology, which directly addresses the need for enhanced breathability and temperature regulation during physical activities.

Traditional insulation materials, such as down or synthetic fills, rely on layering systems to trap heat and maintain warmth. While effective in providing insulation, they can often lead to overheating and moisture buildup, especially during high-intensity activities like hiking, climbing, or skiing. Polartec Alpha Direct, however, takes a different approach.

This innovative fabric features a lofted, fiber-filled knit construction that is both lightweight and highly breathable. Its design allows for moisture vapor to escape, thus preventing the discomfort associated with perspiration-soaked clothing. Alpha is inherently hydrophobic, resisting oil moisture and drying fast.  Alpha Direct is capable of regulating your body temperature more efficiently, keeping you warm when you need it and preventing overheating during periods of exertion. This dynamic response to changing activity levels makes it an ideal choice for those who demand peak performance from their outdoor clothing.

Furthermore, Polartec Alpha Direct eliminates the need for an additional inner lining, making it not only lighter but also reducing the bulk of the garment. This streamlined construction, combined with its versatility and ability to be worn as a standalone piece, provides a level of freedom and comfort that outdoor enthusiasts and athletes highly value.

In the following sections of this review, we will take a closer look at FarPointe Outdoor Gear and Vado Apparel’s lineup. Their practical benefits and potential drawbacks, exploring real-world performance and how the fabric lives up to the hype surrounding it in the outdoor community.

FarPointe Outdoor Gear

Alpha Cruiser Hoody ($80.00)

Weight: 3.8oz/108g (Size M)

Measured weight: 3.9oz/112g (Size M)

The Alpha Cruiser Hoody offers a lightweight and highly breathable solution for active outdoor apparel. With a fabric weight of 60gsm, this hoodie is constructed with Alpha 60, the lightest version of the Alpha Direct fabric.

The hoodie comes with a relaxed fit, making it comfortable and easy to layer over other clothing. It boasts long sleeves that can be pulled over your hands for added warmth. One minor improvement could be the addition of thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place during active pursuits. The adjustable hood, featuring a minimal drawstring cord, provides extra protection when needed.

What's striking about the Alpha Cruiser Hoody is its soft and comfortable feel against the skin. However, its lightweight nature does make it susceptible to snags on branches and rough surfaces, so extra care is essential to maintain its condition.

During mountain hikes in a temperature range of 8°C - 16°C, this hoody proved to be an excellent active mid-layer. Its exceptional breathability kept me comfortable, allowing moisture to escape during periods of exertion. However, it's important to note that this exceptional breathability comes at a trade-off; the hoody does not provide wind protection. 

Thus, you might need to layer it with a lightweight wind or rain jacket to shield yourself from the elements. In summary, the Alpha Cruiser Hoody is an outstanding choice for active adventurers who require optimal breathability during their outdoor pursuits.

Alpha Direct Camp Pants ($70.00)

Weight: 3.2oz/91g (Size M)

Measured Weight: 2.7oz/77g (Size S)

The Alpha Direct Camp Pants, constructed with the same Alpha 60 fabric as the hoody, are designed with a minimalist approach in mind. These pants are incredibly lightweight, boasting a fabric weight of 60gsm.

Featuring a half-inch elastic waistband and no pockets, these pants provide a clean, uncluttered fit. They are true to size and offer a comfortable, slightly looser fit, akin to tights. If you want a more jogger-like fit, FarPointe recommends sizing up. As camp pants, they excel at keeping you warm in chilly conditions. However, their insulation might border on being too warm for temperatures above freezing. I used them with a 20°F quilt down to around 35°F. 

These pants are versatile and can be used not only for camp activities but also as an active layer during cold mornings. As with the hoodie, they require careful handling to avoid snags and maintain their performance.

Drifter Cap ($30.00)

Weight: 18g (Size: M)

Measured weight: 20g (Size: L)

The Alpha Drifter Cap is a unique addition to the Alpha Direct lineup, featuring Polartec’s Alpha Wool fabric. It uses lofted wool instead of polyester, offering all the performance attributes of wool while being exceptionally warm, ultralight, and fast wicking.

This cap impresses with its exceptional warmth-to-weight ratio. It completely covers your ears, providing a welcome barrier against cold winds. I used it primarily for sleeping in lower temperatures down to 35°F, making it a valuable addition to my kit for chilly nights.

While the Alpha Cap excels in functionality and warmth, it may not win any style awards. However, its performance more than makes up for any aesthetic shortcomings. If you prioritize warmth and practicality, this cap is an excellent choice for outdoor adventures in colder conditions.

Vado Apparel

Alpha® Direct Pullover ($95.00)

Weight: 4.5oz/113g (Size: M)
Measured Weight: 3.8oz/107g (Size: M)

Weighing in at 107 grams, this hoody is constructed with Alpha® Direct 60, ensuring a perfect balance of warmth and breathability.

From the moment I put it on, I appreciated the accommodating fit of this pullover. The long sleeves easily covered my hands for added warmth when needed. The sewing quality was top-notch, and I could feel the fabric's breathability, making it an excellent choice for an active mid-layer.

The elastic cuffs on the sleeves were a nice touch, ensuring the pullover stayed in place during activities. The elastic hem prevented the fabric from flaring out, providing a neat and functional design. While the elastic cuffs did their job, I couldn't help but wish for thumb loops as well to keep the sleeves in place even more securely. The drop tail design kept my lower back covered, adding to the overall practicality of the pullover.I wore the Farpointe for the whole Via Alpina during chilly mornings and see no signs of wear from my pack. It just snags very easily due to the knitted open structu I wouldn't recommend it for bushwhacking.

1/3-Zip Alpha® Direct Pullover ($138.00)

Measured Weight: 4.3oz/122g (Size: M)

The 1/3-Zip Alpha® Direct Pullover is a zippered hoodie featuring Alpha® Direct 60 fabric. The quarter zip version also features a zipper guard, crafted for next-to-skin comfort and made with Polartec's Lightweight odor-resistant Power Dry material.

Much like the regular Alpha hoody, the 1/3-Zip version offered a great fit and quality sewing. It served as an excellent active mid-layer, with the added benefit of the zipper providing additional venting options when things heated up. The comfortable zipper guard was a welcome feature, ensuring there was no irritation against the skin.

The only drawback I noticed was the zipper itself, which seemed a bit too heavy-duty for my preferences. I would have preferred a smaller and more flexible zipper as the weight of the larger one tended to pull the pullover down, impacting its flexibility.

Alpha® Direct Pants ($123.00)

Weight: 5oz/141g (Size: M)
Measured Weight: 4oz/112g (Size: M)

The Alpha® Direct Pants, in the Electric Teal colorway featuring Alpha® Direct 60 fabric, proved to be an excellent choice as an active mid-layer. These pants were breathable and expertly sewn, demonstrating great quality.

The inclusion of side pockets was a practical addition, providing storage space for essentials during outdoor activities. However, I did find that the pants had a slimmer fit around the calves, compared to Farpointe’s pants, the waistband was a bit too loose for my liking, and I would have preferred a lightweight drawstring for more adjustability, rather than the heavier 2.5-inch elastic band.

One aspect that I found unnecessary was the zippered back pocket. It added unnecessary weight, especially considering the weight of the zipper and the pocket fabric itself.


In conclusion, the Farpointe’s designs are more minimalist, making them ideal for those who prioritize simplicity and functionality. On the other hand, the Vado options offer a more refined experience but come with a slight weight penalty. The choice between the two ultimately depends on your personal preferences and priorities when it comes to outdoor apparel, because in terms of fabric performance, they performed identically

Articles in the Review are available here:

FarPointe Outdoor Gear 

 Vado Apparel 

Tester Profile

Markus Zinkl: I’m 33 years old and live in a small village in Bavaria, Germany. I started hiking and backpacking 5-6 years ago. Coming from trail running and with light and fast in mind, I started hiking and fast packing with ultralight gear . Over the years I tried and tested a lot of gear, always in search of weight savings. Although still trying to stay out of the ultralight rabbit hole. I spend most of my days off from work on the trail, with at least one 2-3 week thru-hike. Among the more well known trails I have hiked over the last few years are the GR221, WHR (Walker’s Haute Route), TMB (Tour du Mont Blanc), TC (Tour du Cervin-Matterhorn) and Via Alpina Switzerland. As you probably notice by now, I’m at home in the mountains. So if I’m not running or thru-hiking a longer trail, I’m probably somewhere in the Alps checking out some shorter trails.

The products that are the basis of this test were provided to us free of charge by the manufacturers. The opinions presented are our own.

We welcome comments and questions in the comments section

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