I have been using the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket since I got it back in October of 2019. Since then I have used it as my primary insulating jacket, affectionately known as the puffy, all throughout the winter and on a variety of activities. In the middle of winter I also used the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket as my daily jacket. Overall, I have to say I am really happy with this jacket but that does come at a caveat-price.
I purchased my Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket on sale for around $140 from Columbia’s website. I checked last week and Columbia had the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket on sale for $144 online. However, full retail price for the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is $240. My jacket is a size medium in black. The Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is offered in black, azure blue, and slate gray from sizes small to XXL. The Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is pretty true to fit. I am 5’ 11”, 160lbs, with a slim build. The medium has plenty of room for layering underneath but doesn’t have a too baggy fit when worn by itself.
Overview The Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is a down insulated jacket which utilizes an 800 fill water resistant down. The shell of the jacket is Nylon and the lining is Polyester. The inside lining of the jacket utilizes Columbia’s Omni-Heat 3D technology which basically looks like a space blanket. It is soft and very comfortable directly next to skin but does have a rather unique appearance. Given the name this jacket does include a hood which Columbia categorizes as a “scuba hood”. It is pretty roomy and I was able to squeeze a helmet underneath it and get good coverage with just a little pulling up on the shoulders. Without a helmet the hood is actually a little too roomy but not a major issue. It is almost like the hood is in between styles.
Feature wise the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket has two zippered hand pockets, a hem drawcord, and a hood drawcord. The zipper runs the full length of the jacket and has a little zipper garage or covering at the top so that when the jacket is fully zipped up the zipper doesn’t rub against skin. The two hand pockets do create internal stuff pockets that can be used to for gloves to keep them warm. The whole Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is packable into the left pocket to keep the jacket in a more condensed form.
One feature I really like on the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is the cuffs. It might sound like a really small thing but they are just comfy. The cuff is stretchy so you can get small gloves through but keeps the jacket in place even when the sleeves are pushed up the forearms. A small but nicely done feature.
Columbia doesn’t have a claimed weight for the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket on their website. On my scale the jacket weighed 387 grams. That is definitely not what I would consider “heavy” for a fully featured jacket but it is almost 140g heavier than a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisper which to me is kind of the industry standard for a puffy jacket. To be fair, the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is still about 30g lighter than Patagonia’s Down Sweater Hoody.
Warmth I found the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket to be a pretty warm jacket. I actually can’t think of a single time I was cold while wearing it. Typically I use the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket as a summit jacket and it does a phenomenal job even in temperatures down to the 20’s. Now, I had proper layers on for those conditions so I wouldn’t consider the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket to be a miracle worker but it does the job it was designed for.
Packability By using 800 fill down Columbia was able to make the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket pretty packable. I usually just stuff it straight down into my pack so that the jacket can fill up all of those little empty spaces in my pack. I have not had a hike yet that I didn’t bring the Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket with me because I couldn’t fit it. When stuffed into the pocket the jacket is about the size of two Nalgene bottles in a squarish shape. I think this is pretty good for a down jacket but at the same time competitor’s jackets will usually pack down somewhat smaller.
Value when on sale
800 fill down
Cuff’s are nice
A little heavy
Not the most compressible
Full retail is a bad value
Summary There is a lot to like about the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket! It is a fully featured 800 fill down puffy jacket with a hood. For the record I definitely prefer jackets with a hood as they are more versatile. Whether or not I can recommend it comes down completely to price. Basically, this is a great jacket and doesn’t leave much to be wanted but it does lack a little of the polish/finish from other brands.
I don’t think the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is as good as a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, flat out. And at full retail the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket is $240 versus $325 for the Ghost Whisperer which isn’t insignificant but I don’t think that covers the quality or longevity difference. However, at the $140 price point that the Columbia Alpha Trail Hooded Jacket can reliably be found at it is way more than half the jacket for less than half the price.
On a sale price, like the current $144, Columbia delivers a hell of a budget puffy jacket that provides the must have features but does sacrifice just a little in weight/packability when compared to the high end of the industry. At full retail the price I would opt for one of those high end industry brands that are comparable in price at $240.
I recently made a COVID-19 derived big order from Patagonia when they brought they store back online. One of the items I purchased was the Patagonia Quandary pants in a size 31x32, in Forge Grey, which retail for $79.00. I picked out the the Patagonia Quandary pants to be a sort of mid level or all around hiking pant. I have a pair of Patagonia Simul Alpine pants which are a soft shell pant as well as a pair of Columbia fishing pants that are super lightweight.
I chose the Patagonia Quandary pants because they checked a lot of the boxes in what I look for in a hiking pant. They are a mix Nylon and Spandex fabric with a DWR coating which means they are both stretchy and somewhat water repellent. Inside the waistband is a pull tie for tightening but the Quandary pants also have belt loops. Pocket wise you have your normal hand pockets and a small coin pocket up front. On the right leg is a zippered pocket. The back has two pockets with the left one being zippered. All of the zippers have zipper garages to keep them from flapping about.
Overall the fit is what I would call on the slim side. I typically wear a 31-32 waist depending on the brand. The 31 waist on the Patagonia Quandary pants is great but they are slim through the thighs. I like the feel around the legs which cuts away excess fabric but the thigh might be a smidge tighter than I would prefer in a perfect world. However, in my initial wear around the house the stretchy fabric meant I still had a full range of motion.
Patagonia claims the weight of the Quandary pants to be 284g and I got 293g on my scale but I hadn’t removed the tags yet so definitely close enough. They are available in four colors: Ash Tan, Forge Grey, Industrial Green, and El Cap Khaki. Sizes run 28 to 40 waist with short, regular, and long options.
I will follow this up with a more a detailed review of the Patagonia Quandary pants after several months of use in variable conditions. The link below is directly to Patagonia’s page on the Quandary pants. It is not an affiliate link: Patagonia Quandary Pants
We’ve had the Osprey Daylite 13L pack for almost 9 months and although we are big fans of Osprey neither of us want anything to do with the Daylite 13L.
Our Use We purchased the Osprey Daylite to be a lighter pack for smaller days or to supplement one of our more technical packs that are in the 20-24L range. We have used the Daylite for a bunch of the hikes over the last 9 months. I think the Daylite might be a solid everyday use pack for work, gym, school, etc. but we have not used it in that capacity, but instead as a hiking pack. We got our Osprey Daylite from REI here in Albuquerque for $50 which is the retail price. There are a plethora of color options available now, 8 to be exact, but ours being a 2019 model is no longer available. I would call it a blue and black model. This review is not paid and we have not been compensated in anyway for writing it.
Overview The Osprey Daylite has a capacity of 13 liters. The pack has two main pockets and a separate water bladder pouch. A water bladder is not included with the Osprey Daylite. The water bladder pocket sits right behind the mesh back panel which makes it very easy to take a bladder out to refill while the pack is full. The large main compartment has a stretchy pocket that is pretty similar to most packs water bladder pouch but is there to help keep gear somewhat organized. The smaller of the two main pockets has two small mesh pockets for organizing small items like Clif Bars or a headlamp. There is also has a bight red clip for keys which is one of the features I love, but it is a common Osprey feature and hardly unique to the Daylite.
On the outside there are mesh water bottle pockets on either side and two straps for cinching down the pack when not completely full. The Osprey Daylite 13L has a removable waist belt and a siding sternum strap with a whistle integrated into the buckle. Osprey claims 1 pound exactly for the Daylite and it came out to 1.01 on my scale.
Good zipper pulls
No outside shovel pocket
No trekking pole attachments
Water bottle pockets don’t hold bottles in
Summary I feel like Osprey meant for the Daylite to be an accessory pack to larger packs or an all around school backpack that can be handle short to medium days on the trail. In a lot of ways on paper the Daylite hits everything you would look for in such a pack. It is lightweight, relatively cheap, comfortable, and 13L is a solid size for such use. But this is where long term reviews have a HUGE advantage over shorter periods; the flaws with the Osprey Daylite only show themselves after repeated use.
The Osprey Daylite just doesn’t work well compared to the competition. The water bottle pockets won’t hold a bottle in for anything. Literally even a small bend over and your bottles will probably go flying. We’ve taken to running one of the compression strap through the lid of a Nalgene bottle to try and keep it in place. Size wise I think 13L is a great place for short to medium hikes in decent weather. But the Osprey Daylite lacks a few technical features that are in Osprey’s product arsenal to round out the size. Some great examples would be an external shovel pocket for a rain jacket or even a mesh or bungee strap system. There are no attachment points for trekking poles or tools. I love the stow and go trekking pole system on my Osprey Stratos 24L pack. Even just a few lash points on the bottom or sides of the Daylite would make it more versatile. Although the Daylite is lightweight it is not a particularly compressible pack for stowing it in a larger overnight pack to be utilized for short summit bids.
Overall, the fundamental problem of the Daylite is a functional pack but there are just other packs that fit into a similar space and do it better. For example, the Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole 20L Pack (Link to our Review) or the REI Flash 18 or 22L. We can’t really comment on the Osprey Daylite as an all around everyday backpack but when it comes to hiking it leaves quit a bit to be desired. We have basically replaced this pack in our lineup with the 16L Ultimate Direction Adventure 4.0 Hydration Vest on the low side and the Patagonia Black Hole 20L Pack on the higher side.
The below link is a direct link to Osprey’s page for the Daylite so you can check it out if interested. It is not an affiliate link: Osprey Daylite 13L
The amount of gear we have bought during the COVID-19 crisis is really starting to add up, but I’m pretty happy with this one. Our local climbing gym, Stone Age Climbing Gym, has beefed up their online store due to the actual gym being closed. Stone Age has also been running special daily deals. They recently had a deal on the Petzl GRIGRI for 30% off!
We started climbing a couple of months ago and are looking to keep advancing our skills. At Stone Age you have to use an assisted belay device to lead climb so a GRIGRI was a purchase we planned to make at some point in the future. However, when Stone Age offered them for 30% off it seemed like a great way to get a good piece of gear we would eventually need while being able to offer at least some support to our local gym. So we ordered the Petzl GRIGRI in blue which was on sale for $76 down from the usual retail of $109.
For those who are unfamiliar with the GRIGRI it is an assisted breaking belay device. All belay devices are basically friction creation devices that allow the person belaying the climber the mechanical advantage to easily hold the rope when the climber falls. Since we started climbing we have been using a Black Diamond ATC, one of the most popular belay devices. The Petzl GRIGRI is an assisted belay device in that it has a cam inside of it. When the climber takes a fall the GRIGRI pivot and hold the rope. The device doesn’t replace an attentive belayer but is an additional layer of protection. The GRIGRI is one of the most popular assisted braking belay devices on the market.
The Petzl GRIGRI is available in Blue, Orange, or gray. Petzl has a claimed weight of 175g for the GRIGRI and it came out to 177g on the home scale, pretty close.
We are a little sad that we will just be sitting on this piece of gear until this crisis is over. But rest assured as soon as we can we will be back at Stone Age Climbing Gym! After some extensive use we will let you know how we like the Petzl GRIGRI.