Make & Model - Rab Alpha Direct
MSRP - $265
Colors - Black, Cayenne, Merlin
Insulation - Polartec Alpha Direct
Fit - Athletic
Pockets - 2 hand, 1 Napoleon
Intended Use - High output activity

Polartec's brand-new Alpha Direct Insulation first comes to market with Rab's jacket. The idea behind it is an even more breathable version of the venerable Alpha Insulation. The result is a cozy feeling open fleece liner and incredible breathability when doing anything aerobic in the cold. Of note is the hood, which rolls up and stows with a hook-and-loop tab for layering under a shell (we loved it), and the thumb loops are the cuffs (we could do without them).

Our first day in the Alpha Direct, we put in 6,000 vertical on skis chasing photos of a herd of mountain goats in Utah's Wasatch Range (never did get the shot). For stop-and-go, high-output activities, this jacket breathes better than anything else on the market. It also had the widest comfort temperature range, allowing us to wear it around town over a T-shirt up to 50 degrees F, while keeping us warm when layered under a Gore-Tex shell well into the single digits. If you're going to upgrade one piece of apparel this season, the Alpha Direct is your best bet.

– Most breathable puffy on the market
– No-frills waist and hood

– Hood hook-and-loop closure gets stuck in the fleece liner if you're not careful about stowing it.

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