Back to the review of outdoor jackets… much thought goes into the purchase of these jackets for me. I do not want to have tons of jackets that do the same thing, but I would like a few good quality jackets that do as much as they can. This time I was searching for an insulated jacket that will keep me warm, but won’t sweat me out from the inside.
After a lot of research on polyester fill jackets (down was not an option… it is useless when wet, from either rain, or sweat), I ended up looking for a breathable option, and the material that kept coming up as recommended for this purpose was Polartec Alpha.
I’ve already raved about the material Polartec came up for in rainwear (the Polartec Neoshell fabric), and this is pretty much the same kind of thing. Alpha was developed with Polartec in combination with the US military special forces groups. It maintains it’s insulation in wet/soaked condition, and breathes the hot sweat away in aerobic conditions. Sounds like a perfect combination? Well, it almost is….
The Rab Strata Flex excels in keeping core areas warm, it has a great Polartec PowerStretch side panels, and is super light. The problem it has keeping it from being the perfect jacket is those stretch side panels. They let in wind… quite a bit in fact. So on a calm day, or used under another layer… this jacket is MAGIC. Keeps you very warm, while breathing with your heat to keep you from overheating… but add in a breeze and you will feel a chill on your sides, and the sides of your arms (all the area that there is the stretch fabric).
The jacket is cut quite close (athletic fit they call it), and layers underneath other coats quite well… two zippered hand pockets and no hood round out the feature set.
If you are running, hiking, snowshoeing, crosscountry skiing, or just about any other aerobic cold weather activity… this jacket is beautiful. If you were to layer it under another warm layer, you’d get some wind resistance from that outer layer, while keeping some of the breathability of the Strata Flex against your body…. a rain shell over top really compliments the fabric (Neoshell over Alpha is bliss!).
Is this a perfect jacket… no, not really. If it had no stretch panels, and a slightly more wind resistant fabric… yes, then it would be. As it stands, it is a great layered piece, or something to be worn during peak aerobic activities (cross country skiing, or winter running).