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.