Alpkit's New Winter 2016/17 Kit | First Look
From a top spec waterproof mountain jacket, via PrimaLoft Active insulation through to a pedal that works with or without cleat and more...
The guys at Alpkit have been hyperactive this autumn, quietly churning out everything from new headtorches, through to neat new mountain bike components, but the biggest new arrivals are from the brand's fledgling clothing range.
Armed with a talented ex-Rab designer, the web-only brand is taking the technical clothing market very seriously indeed. Not only that, as Alpkit marketing ninja Dan Thompson - also a mean hombre on a bike - told us, the company's philosophy has shifted slightly.
In short, while in the past Alpkit has focussed on decent gear at a good price, it's now fully committed to simply producing excellent kit, full stop. The price, pretty much, takes care of itself. The direct sales model, with the kit available only from the website, means that there's no retailer margin to account for.
So a notional identical jacket from bought from Alpkit rather than a more conventional outdoors brand, should always be cheaper.
Anyway, enough of the economics lesson, what about the new kit? We've got a bunch of it to play with and it's genuinely exciting stuff. For a start there's a new, fully-featured waterproof mountain jacket, the Definition. Then there's the Katabatic - great name - a hooded insulation piece using PrimaLoft Gold Active for active outdoors use.
Then there's the lightweight Heiko Jacket, a packable bundle of warmth stuffed with Primaloft Silver insulation plus the latest incarnation of the lightweight Filoment micro-baffled down jacket - we've already previewed that one - and flying below the radar and the waistline, the Chilkoot Softshell Trousers.
Finally, we've also got our hands on the bright new 300-lumen Qark headtorch complete with clever automated functionality, the latest Viper II all-rounder and the neat Lampray 196-lumen camping lantern that'll also charge your phone.
And to round things off, we've a pair of the new Sonder Love Mud Jekyll pedals with SPD compatibility on one side and flats with proper pins on the other. Interesting....
Full reviews to follow, but in the mean time, here are some first impressions of the new kit.
Definition Stormproof Jacket: £210 / 480g (medium)
The new Definition arrived just too late for our round-up of the best 2017 mountain waterproof shells, but we'll be adding it retrospectively. Following in the footsteps of the lightweight Gravitas and the middleweight Balance, the Definition is a no-nonsense, full-on, hardcore mountain jacket.
It's made from a thick, tough-feeling three-layer fabric with a mixed PTFE (that's what Gore-Tex and eVent are made from) and PU (ditto) membrane sandwiched between two layers of durable Nylon.
What's immediately impressive is the spec. The jacket uses a moulded-tooth YKK Vislon main zip, has two big harness-friendly hand-pockets and a phone-sized chest pocket all with water-resistant zips, plus twin core-vents.
The Definition also gets the excellent Cohaesive cord-grips used by Black Diamond and Berghaus on their top-end shells. We really like them, they're tough and super easy to use with gloves. The hem ones have a cord pull inside the pockets for neatness.
The cut's great too. Quite sleek, especially in the sleeves, but with space for winter layers underneath, plus there's a promising helmet-compatible hood with a wired and stiffened brim that fits well and feels properly protective.
After testing around 20 mountain shells over the past two months, we've got quite picky, trust us, but first signs are that the Definition is right up there in design, component, build and fit terms and amazing value for what you get. More soon.
Katabatic Jacket (men's) - £140 / 410g (medium)
Another indication of how seriously Alpkit is taking things is that the brand is using PrimaLoft insulation in two of its new jackets including the Katabatic - main pic at the top of the page. In this case it's the Gold Active variety, which is designed to be more breathable than normal PrimaLoft and also not to need a windproof fabric to stop it leaking out.
Alpkit's used a 'not quite windproof' but more breathable outer fabric for this reason and the idea is that you can use it on the move in cold conditions without 'boil in the bag' syndrome kicking in. Think ice climbing, winter mountaineering, even deep winter mountain biking.
In short, nice feeling fabric, matte and quiet in use. The fit is again slim and sleek, you could happily layer it under a technical shell as well as using it as an outer layers, and you get a non-adjustable, close-ish fitting hood. Three pockets including two hand-warmer ones with a soft, micro-velour liner for the palms.
We'll be using it over the next few week - fingers crossed for a cold snap - and we'll let you know how we get on, but the look, cut and feel are all good and first impressions are that it's significantly more breathable than traditional PrimaLoft jackets.
Heiko Jacket (men's) - £85 / 290g (medium)
Another Primaloft newbie, the Heiko uses 60 gsm Primaloft Silver with lightweight polyester 20D fabric inside and out. The spec includes hand-warmer pockets, chest pocket and adjustable hem.
At under 300g for a compact bundle of warmth, it should be ideal for just stashing in your pack for stops, emergencies and, in really cold weather, for on-the-move use too. It's windproof as well and has a DWR finish to cope with light showers.
The big plus of Primaloft is its constant performance even when damp which makes it an ideal insulation material for the UK's classically wet and woolly climate.
Men's Chilkoot Softshell Trousers: £60 / 340g
Finally on the clothing front, we have a pair of the new Chilkoot Soft Shell trousers. They're made from a light, stretchy double weave Nylon fabric complete with a diamond crotch - I bet they say that to all the boys - and double-stitched seams in 'critical' areas.
You get two hand-pockets, one seat-pocket and a thigh pocket along with a zip-fly, belt-loops - belt not supplied - and a single press-stud fastening.
There's loads of stretch, thanks to 12% Spandex content and the fit is neat without being restrictive. Ours, for a change, aren't tight around the seat and hips. We've used them a few times so far and they work fine.
The fabric's not super tough-feeling stuff and we'd say they're more 'three-season' pants than outright winter ones, though there's a DWR to ward off showers. Nice soft shell pants at a very decent price. More to follow.
A Bit Of AlpLighting
Last but not least, we have three bits of Alpkit lighting to have a play with including the rather neat new Quark headtorch.
Alpkit Quark Headtorch: £36 / 129g
We're like the Quark already. First it's USC-rechargeable, so there's no messing about with battery boxes, just plug it in and it charges. Next it's bright enough for most night-time needs with a 300-lumen maximum output.
The beam's quite spotty, so we'll have to see how it works for running but for walking and general use including mountaineering, it looks promising. And then there are the cunning gubbins functions, a press of a second button allows you to turn the light on and off by waving a hand close to it. It old works on the high setting though.
Finally there's an automatic sensor that switches the light from the low level LEDs to the main one if you from a high light area to one with reduced ambient light. It says here... hang on... hmmm... we'll have to investigate that.
Finally the rear battery box incorporates a red LED that you can switch on with a separate switch either in constant or flashing mode. Same theory as the Gamma, but much larger. Neat.
Alpkit Viper II Headtorch: £18 / 93g
The latest in a long line of affordable Alpkit torches is the Viper II which replaces the original Viper. It's a single-unity headtorch powered by 3AAA batteries and with a single main LED plus two lower-powered red LED side bulbs.
In normal mode it chucks out a respectable 160 lumens, but hold in the second switch on the underside of the light and it will project a 280-lumen beam for as long as you hold the button. Should be ideal for checking out that indistinct zombie-like form at the other end of the field... or just seeing further generally for a moment or two.
Looks like being a capable, budge all-rounder and only a quid more than the - currently sold-out - classic Gamma torch which still has a cult following.
Alpkit Lampray: £35 / 148g
An ideal stocking-filler, which will be why it's currently sold out. The little Lampray - geddit - is a USB-rechargeable camping lantern that looks like a cross between a yo-yo and a large mushroom... It puts out just shy of 200 lumens from its little dome-like head and can either be hung up using a hook or has a powerful magnetic backing so you can stick it to your mate's car and then cry as it drives off into the distance.
There's more though. As well as being a lantern, it's also a charging station so you can use it to perk up your mobile phone. Waterproof to IPX5, 3 hours to charge an iPhone and five hours to recharge itself.
It'll burn for eight hours claimed on high, 12 hours in middle or 120 hours low. There's a strobe too in case you want to have a disco in your tent or camper... nice.
Reviews to follow. More info and being at www.alpkit.com