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Waterproof Jackets

Alpkit Gravitas Jacket | Review

Alpkit's debut waterproof jacket is a svelte, shimmering lightweight shell using impressive fabric and with some neat features including an excellent hood.

Neat cut and medium length make for a sleek outdoors all-rounder.

New from online outdoor specialists Alpkit, the Gravitas Jacket – available in both men’s and women’s versions (£120.00 / 169g) – is the brand’s first waterproof shell and it’s a lightweight cracker of a jacket made from a state-of-the-art fabric and with some properly neat features. And all at a really competitive price.

The jacket’s aimed, says Alpkit, at ‘fast and light activities like trail running, biking and adventure racing’, but there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t stick it in the lid of your walking pack in case of unexpected downpours.

The semi-elasticated cuffs fit nicely.

Fabric Affairs

At the heart of the Gravitas is that up-to-the-minute, lightweight fabric. It’s a sandwich made from a lightweight PU membrane sat between two layers of 7-denier material. A shimmering, semi-translucent affair that also boasts serious laboratory test credentials.

Specifically a hydrostatic head of 20,000mm – read ‘very waterproof’ – and MVTR figure of ‘40,000 g/sqm/24hrs’, or in other words, on paper at least, around twice as breathable as most own-brand waterproof fabrics. Of course lab test figures don’t always translate into real life, but it’s a good start.

Fabric is a three-layer affair with PU membrane sandwiched between shell and liner fabrics.

he design is stripped-back but not spartan, so while the cuffs are semi-elasticated and there’s just the one large-ish zipped chest pocket, the hem with a short drop-tail, is fully adjustable, and the hood is a cunning, semi-elasticated confection adjusted with a single cord-pull at the back of the head and complete with a stiffened and wired brim. More about that in a minute…

It’s also very nicely put together with neat touches like minimal seaming, stitching that’s tucked away to minimise abrasion damage and neat internal seam-taping. We like the ‘stealth’ chest pocket too. It certainly doesn’t look or feel like corner have been cut or quality skimped on.

The end result is a jacket that in a medium men’s version weighs a genuine 169g not including the 7g colour-matched mesh stuff-sac and looks great.

Hem is fully adjustable as is the hood, cuffs use a neat, semi-elasticated design.

How Does It Work?

Initial signs are that it works very well indeed. The cut is close, but not skin tight. There’s room for us at least, for a baselayer and a lightweight fleece underneath for cooler days. If we were being hyper-critical, we’d maybe have liked a shorter front / longer tail cut specifically for running and biking, but for all-round use, it’s pretty good as is.

The fabric feels comfortable against the skin, something that’s not always the case with lightweight 2.5-layer materials which can feel slightly slimy, so it’s stlll comfortable over a baselayer tee. It’s also, so far, proved to be decently breathable.

For normal walking use we found it super comfortable and not remotely clammy. With higher tempo stuff like running and cycling, you can overwhelm any waterproof fabric and sure enough, this was the case with the Gravitas too, but keep things steady and it’s impressively non-clammy.

It also – once you stop – allows damp under-layers to dry out briskly too. It’s not magical, but it’s right up there with some of the most breathable waterproof fabrics we’ve used in jackets costing up to twice as much or more.

Hood has only one adjuster out back, but works impressively well. Note the elasticated sides that allow you to don and remove without adjusting the main zip.

Top Hood

The other real stand-out feature of the Gravitas is the hood, which works brilliantly. It’s a snug-fitting design which has just a single adjustment pull-cord at the back of the head. Snug it up and the hood cord tightens on the crown of your head and moves with your direction of gaze.

It also has a small but excellent wired peak that sits over your eyes like a stiffened cap brim and does and excellent job of keeping rain and small animals out of your eyes… finally, the sides of the head-opening are elasticated, which means you can pull the hood on and off without needing to undo the main-zip at all.

It’s something we’re so accustomed to doing that for the first few hours, we found ourselves unzipping anyway, but once you get used to the Gravitas, you realise you can simply pull the hood on and off with minimal zip faff. Genius, particularly if you’re wearing gloves.

Waterproof jackets – a new journey for the Alpkitties.

It’s also one area where we have minor quibbles. In really strong, head-on winds, the hood might in theory, blow open – that said, it’s never happened and by the time things got that bad, we reckon you’ll have other things to worry about, like simply standing up.

We also wonder how durable with Lycra-bound edges of the hood will prove to be with sustained use over several years – wait and see we guess. You can also, if you choose, fit the hood comfortably under a climbing helmet if necessary making it an emergency option for rock climbers and ultra-light alpinists as well, even if it’s not pointed that way.

While we’re being picky, the neat, semi-elasticated cuffs fit nicely, but also meant that the sleeves could only be rolled part-way up our forearms for added venting. It’s not the end of the world, but as habitual fore-arm flashers, we’d like a bit more indecent exposure.

Semi-elasticated cuffs work well, but do mean you can only roll the sleeves part-way up.

Initial Verdict

With Alpkit’s newly anointed clothing designer coming from Rab, it’s maybe not a coincidence that the jacket the Gravitas reminds us of most is that brand’s excellent Flashpoint. Like that jacket, the Gravitas is light without feeling flimsy, has good levels of breathability and waterproofing and has been nicely put together from an impressively light three-layer fabric and its hood is quietly brilliant.

And while Alpkit has focussed on the jacket’s running, cycling and adventure race capabilities, we reckon the longish, close, but not tight, cut and a cracking hood make it an excellent lightweight all-rounder for lightweight walkers and even climbers too.

In fact, for pure running or cycling, a shorter front and longer drop-tail, might well work better, but for general outdoors use, the current configuration is just fine and offers a little more welcome crotch protection too.

Finally, Alpkit’s direct sale business model means that the Gravitas is exceptionally good value for money. It’s not cheap, but you’re getting a lot of jacket for your money.

That’s the story so far. We’ll update once we’ve got some more hill time with the jacket.

Pros

Light, packable, breathable fabric, excellent hood design, athletic cut, excellent value, decent build quality.

Cons

Sleeves could roll up slightly further, could maybe use a shorter front.

Overall score: 4.67

Performance:

4.5

Reliability:

4.5

Value:

5.0

More info: www.alpkit.com.

Full Specification

  • Three-layer lightweight fabric with PU membrane
  • Semi-elasticated cuffs
  • No visible stitching and narrow seam allowances
  • Semi-elasticated hood with single-pull adjustment
  • Stiffened and wired hood peak
  • Full hem draw-cord with adjustment
  • Single zipped chest-pocket
  • Colour-coded stuff-sac included

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