Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review

The Alpini is a lightweight furnace and lands on our recommended list, but how about a version for non-climbers?

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

The Alpini easily merits our Recommended rating based on its light weight and high warmth to weight ratio. However, from a backpacker’s point of view, it’s not perfect. The jacket’s unique side zippers and Velcro cuffs are not particularly useful for backpackers. Our preference would be a minimalist version that eliminates those features. If Brooks-Range produced that version, it would merit our Highly Recommended rating.

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by Will Rietveld |

Introduction

This separate review provides additional descriptive and performance information on the Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak. Read our forthcoming article, Ultralight Three-Season Down Jackets State of the Market Report 2010 for a state of the market analysis and comparative specifications and performance for a range of ultralight down jackets.

Brooks-Range designs and manufacturers gear for mountaineering. Their new Alpini Mountain Anorak is seriously warm, lightweight, and capable. But it is designed for climbers, and combines with their Elephant Foot Sleeping Bag (a waist high sleeping bag) to create a lightweight sleeping system. How suitable is the Alpini Mountain Anorak - by itself - for lightweight backpacking and other lightweight pursuits?

Description

The Alpini Mountain Anorak is a lightweight and warm garment, a pullover style with a half-height front zipper, two unique side zippers, reach-through front pockets, and adjustable cuffs. The manufacturer weight for size Medium is 12.6 ounces (367 g). It contains 5.2 ounces (146 g) of 800 fill-power Canadian goose down, which yields a single-layer loft of 1.6 inches (4.1 cm). Brooks-Range claims a comfort rating of 15 F/-9 C. Applying some math, the jacket is 45% down using our measured weight for size Large. This big boy is one puffy jacket! It’s also available with a hood.

The shell fabric is a very lightweight 15-denier 0.86 oz/yd2 (29 g/m2) ballistic mini-ripstop nylon with DWR, which is soft to the touch and quite durable with reasonable care.

Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review - 2
Front and rear views of the Brooks Range Alpini Mountain Anorak, size XL.

Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review - 3
The Alpini has two unique 12-inch (30 cm) side zippers with two pulls (left). Each zipper has a Velcro tab at the bottom to keep the zipper from opening by itself. With the zippers open, the bottom of the jacket opens up (right) for ventilation and to accommodate a climbing harness.

Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review - 4
The front of the jacket has a simple reach-through pocket (left) with an elastic binding on the openings. Adjustable cuffs (right) have Velcro tabs identical to those at the bottom of the side zippers.

Performance

Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review - 5
I tested the Alpini Mountain Anorak on a five-day winter camping trip where we slept in a GoLite Hex 3 floorless tent. Nighttime temperatures dropped into the single digits; I wore the Alpini in camp and in my sleeping bag. I also tested the Alpini on several backcountry skiing and snowshoeing trips.

The first thing I discovered is that the Alpini runs small. A size large normally fits me, but the Alpini in that size (the red one in the photo above) was a bit too short in the body and tight in the sleeves. It will layer over only a thin baselayer. I exchanged it for an extra large (the yellow one), which fits me well with more room inside for layering.

The Alpini is a furnace! In Part 1 of our state-of-the-market article cited above, we report that the Alpini is one of the warmest jackets we tested. It has a very high fill weight:jacket weight ratio. Brooks-Range apparently uses very high quality 800 fill-power down, because 5.2 ounces (146 g) of it produces a really puffy jacket. Other jackets with 4 to 5 ounces (113-142 g) of down fill I tested were not nearly as puffy or warm.

Although the Alpini is very light weight and warm, I have an issue of the side zippers and Velcro tabs. Personally I did not find the side zippers that useful for venting, so for me they are just extra weight. For colder weather activities (backpacking, snow camping, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing) I normally wear lighter layers during the day when my exertion level is high; I don’t wear a heavy-duty down anorak because I would get too hot. The Alpini is too much jacket for daytime use, unless it is wicked cold and/or windy. My main need for the Alpini is in camp for cold evenings and mornings, and in my sleeping bag at night to extend its warmth.

Also, the jacket has a total of four Velcro tabs - two on the side zippers and two on the cuffs. They don’t snag on the jacket itself, but they do snag on other gear when I stuff the jacket into a backpack. Velcro can damage other fabrics, and I personally prefer a Velcro-free jacket.

The bottom line for me is I would much prefer a version of the Alpini without the side zippers and Velcro tabs, and I would like a #3 front zipper to further reduce weight. That said, I readily acknowledge that the side zippers can be very useful for any cold weather activity (like climbing) where one’s exertion level varies, and it’s not convenient to remove the jacket.

The jacket has a tendency to slide up my torso when I raise my arms, and I find myself repeatedly pulling the bottom of the jacket back down over my butt. Perhaps a good design for non-climbers would be to eliminate the side zippers, and add a lightweight hem drawcord so the jacket can be snugged below the waist. So, my suggestion for Brooks-Range is to offer another version of the Alpini without side zippers and Velcro tabs, add a lightweight hem drawcord, and go to a #3 zipper on the front. That version for non-climbers would be easy to create (simply sew the side seams instead of putting in zippers, and add simple elastic cuffs), would be less expensive to manufacture, and would cut a couple of ounces.

Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review - 6
I tested the jacket’s water resistance in a March shower and found it sheds rain very well (left). In my one-hour indoor “puddle test” (right), no water soaked through the fabric or seams at all. The Alpini has an excellent DWR finish that readily sheds water, and the seams are stitched tightly so no water goes through.

Comparisons

Our forthcoming article Ultralight Three-Season Down Jackets State of the Market Report 2010 provides complete specifications and ratings for the Brooks Range Alpini Mountain Anorak in comparison to a range of other lightweight down jackets. The jackets most similar to the Alpini are the PHD Ultra Down Pullover, Minimus Down Pullover, and Nunatak Skaha Anorak.

Assessment

The Alpini easily became my favorite jacket for winter camping. It’s super warm and very light weight. I would also take it on early spring and late fall trips in the mountains. I don’t mind the pullover style at all; it pulls on easily enough and seals warmth inside.

For colder weather backpacking or winter travel with skis or snowshoes and snow camping, I can easily do without the jacket’s side zippers and Velcro cuffs. I would love to see a version of the Alpini without the side zippers and Velcro tabs, a lightweight hem drawcord, and a lighter front zipper. For me that would be perfect.

Specifications and Features

Manufacturer Brooks Range (http://www.brooks-range.com/)
Year/Model 2010 Alpini Mountain Anorak
Style Hoodless Anorak with half-height zipper
Fabrics Shell and lining are15d 0.86 oz/yd2 (29 g/m2) ballistic mini-ripstop nylon with DWR
Insulation 800 fill-power Canadian goose down
Construction Sewn through with 4-inch (10-cm) horizontal quilting, set-in sleeves
Loft Measured two-layer loft is 3.25 inches (8.3 cm), single-layer loft is 1.6 inch (4.1 cm)
Features Down-filled stand up collar; 14 inches (36 cm) reversed 5C YKK front zipper with one slider, stretch fleece chin guard, and storm flap under zipper; two 12-inch (30-cm) reversed 5C YKK side zippers with two pulls and Velcro tabs; reach-through front pocket; simple elastic binding on pocket openings and hem; adjustable cuffs with Velcro tabs, 3-inch (7.6-cm) dropped tail
Weight Size XL tested (size Large weighs 11.2 oz (318 g)).
Measured weight: 13.2 oz (374 g)
Manufacturer specified average weight: 12.6 oz (357 g)
MSRP US$249, Hooded Anorak US$264
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/brooks-range_alpini_mountain_anorak_review.html, 2010-05-25 00:01:00-06.

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Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review on 05/25/2010 14:43:05 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review on 05/25/2010 19:36:51 MDT Print View

Will,

Nice review as usual but there is one statement in it that I question. You said, "The jackets most similar to the Alpini are the PHD Ultra Down Pullover, Minimus Down Pullover, and Nunatak Skaha Anorak."

My data shows both the WM Flight and the FF Hyperion are less weight, fractionally warmer, and providing the feature set you desired. Are these competitive jackets in your pending SOM report?

Regards,

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak Review on 05/25/2010 20:01:54 MDT Print View

Nice review Will!

Gerry Volpe
(gvolpe)

Locale: Vermont
Question on 05/26/2010 12:23:54 MDT Print View

Excellent article as always. Your previous state of the market on bags helped me decide on my most recent acquisition. I have a question that is a bit of a tangent. This is the second time you have shown the picture of you in the Hex 3. I was wondering about the ski as centerpole, it is a great idea. Anyway How do you set it in the snow so as to adjust the height correctly? Also do you cover the ski tip with anything or just use it as is? Any insight into your technique would be appreciated. Thanks

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Responses to Brooks Range Alpini Questions on 06/01/2010 08:26:50 MDT Print View

Hi All, here's my responses to comments and questions:

Richard: Of course the FF Hyperion and WM Flight are also similar to the Alpini. I chose to narrow it a bit by listing the MOST similar jackets. Since the Alpini is an anorak, I chose to list other anoraks with similar insulation.

Gerry: I went on the winter camping trip with BPL Senior Editor Mike Martin, and we used Mike's Hex. Here is Mike's response on how we set it up: "The ski tip is used without any special padding. I know from experience that the Hex pole needs to come up to my chin on level ground. My skis are a bit longer than that, so I knew I would have to dig down a bit. I used a stuff sack filled with snow under the bottom of the ski. If the tent is a bit droopy, just shovel a bit more snow under the sack. Finally, I leave
the tiedown straps (or cords in the case of my modified Hex) loose until after the center Ski/pole goes up. Then the final pitch can be adjusted by cinching down the straps.

All that said, we had a pretty sloppy pitch when we used the tent. We should have spent more time grooming the site, and the deadmen could have been located a bit better. But, we were cold and tired, and there was no wind that night, so it was "good enough".

Best, Will

Gerry Volpe
(gvolpe)

Locale: Vermont
Hex set up on 06/01/2010 08:38:46 MDT Print View

Thank you very much for the response. I will definately experiment with that next winter.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
Brooks-Range Alpini Mountain Anorak - how warm? on 05/10/2011 11:10:42 MDT Print View

How warm is this? Does the MB Alpine Light really feel warmer in use? I find that amazing!