For the record, NW Alpine doesn’t make women’s running clothes, although I hear rumors of this changing next year. The NW Alpine Insulated Running vest came to me by way of my husband. He was supposed to do the review, but the provided vest didn’t fit him. The small was too small for him, but mostly fit me (I’m 5’7” and 130lbs). I quickly claimed it as mine. The vest was specifically designed with pack-wearing runners in mind and has high and snug armpits to minimize shifting while running. This design feature is a win on the trail and makes it more wearable for me and I suspect for other women too even though it is designed for a man. The vest fits well, except for folding at the waist when it is zipped, which gives me the I-just-ate-two-burritos look…not my favorite and the fold inhibits access to the back pocket just enough to notice. I suspect a female-specific design would resolve the fold and pocket access issue.
The vest is sleek in appearance and fit, but it is also incredibly warm. This warmth is due to the Polartec* Alpha Insulation, which also allows the vest to be thin and light. Because it is so compact, it is easy to layer, or roll up and stuff in your pack. I’ve worn it alone, with my Patagonia Houdini, and with my Arcteryx Norvan. Recently, I took it on a business trip expecting to wear it while running, but I actually wore it most days under my blazer. This was an unexpected use, but one that I was grateful for because I didn’t pack a coat and the convention center was frigid. So, it has quickly found its way into my essential transitional gear, and I expect to use it throughout the winter.
It has one lumbar pocket, which is enough as a layering piece, especially if you are wearing a pack (or suit jacket). It claims to be breathable, and maybe it is relatively, but by the end of my runs, it is sweaty on the inside. This isn’t a complaint, as most really warm products aren’t what I would call breathable; it is just an observation. The one aesthetic that took me a minute to like was the sheen of the fabric. It is very shiny. I am more of a matte kind of woman, but it has grown on me.
The zipper has a fancy specification, #5 Nylon Coil (YKK Zipper), which means nothing to me, but is supposed to be good for mountainous environments. My one comment about the front zipper is really about the fabric tied to the end to make it easier to grasp. When the jacket is fully zipped the zipper pull and fabric tab bounce and hit my face. Not cool. I plan to remove the fabric pull so this assault will be a thing of the past.
NW Alpine is a local PNW company and this vest is made in Oregon. The Insulated Running Vest is a sleek piece of gear that integrates well into the colder weather running kit. I didn’t know I needed or even wanted a vest of this type before I had it, but now it seems essential. I hope to see the brand expand their running line to women, so I can fully get on board.
NW Alpine Insulated Running Vest – Retail $110 (Use CHURNER20 for 20% discount and it’s yours for $88)