Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie
Reviewer: 5’8”, 155 Ibs
Size Tested: Medium
Blister’s Measured Weight: 274 grams
- Torso & Upper Arms: Polartec Alpha Direct 120
- Underarms, Hood, Cuffs, & Side Panels: Polartec Power Grid
- Integrated Wrist Gaiter
- Hood fits under a helmet
- 2 Hand Warmer (zippered)
- 1 Exterior Chest (zippered)
Test Locations: Cameron Pass, Arapahoe Basin, & Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Days Tested: 15
If you’ve been looking for a warm mid layer that also breathes better than a traditional puffy, you have plenty of options these days. Over the past few years, nearly every major apparel manufacturer has come out with some sort of “active insulation” that’s intended to both keep you warm and vent well enough to be used while ski touring, climbing, hiking, etc.
One of the newest additions to this category is Polartec’s Alpha Direct fabric, which is the brand’s lowest-density fleece. Sam Shaheen recently reviewed the Rab Alpha Flash Jacket, and I’d highly recommend you read that review as the Rab piece is very similar to the Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie, which I’ll talk about here.
Here’s what Norrona says about the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie:
“The Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie is our best warmth-to-weight garment within the ski and snowboard range for men. It is perfect for the high intensity adventures as the Polartec® Alpha 120 fabric provides excellent warmth and moisture transport for those demanding climbs. To make sure your motion range is optimized we have added Polartec® Power Grid fabric under the arms and down the sides.”
Norrona says that the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie has an “athletic and slim fit,” and I’d agree. It’s not quite as tight as the Patagonia R1, and is pretty similar to the R2. There’s plenty of room for a thicker base layer, but the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie does not feel bulky under a shell.
The fit is a bit longer than the Patagonia R1 and R2, and I’ve been happy with the range of motion, though high reaches do tug up the fabric a bit. While I haven’t been climbing in in the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie, Sam Shaheen has, and it does work well under a harness.
Materials & Construction
The Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie is composed primarily of Polartec Alpha Direct 120. This is basically a very low-density knit fleece, and seems to consist of a very open knit mesh with rows of fleece “tufts.” Compared to the Polartec Thermal Pro on the Patagonia R2, the Alpha Direct fabric is much more open, noticeably lighter, but a bit less soft.
While Sam Shaheen did not find the Alpha Direct fabric extremely comfortable on skin, I’ve come to really like it, and have spent a lot of time just lounging in the fuzzy Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie at home. However, I have experienced the same snagging of the fabric when putting it on over base layers (especially wool shirts).
The hood, cuffs, underarms, and side panels of the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie use Polartec Power Grid, and the Power Grid used on this piece is a bit lighter than that on the Patagonia R1. The Power Grid fabric offers more stretch than the Alpha Direct fabric, and successfully helps in giving the hoodie a good range of motion.
Beyond the materials themselves, Sam and I were both impressed by the finish quality on the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie. All the seams match up perfectly, and even the grid lines of the fabric appear precisely aligned. I’ve also noticed a similarly impressive level of quality in the Norrona Lyngen Hybrid Jacket and Pants, and expect that this is part of the reason Norrona’s products often cost more than some of the competition.
The Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie has 2 hand warmer pockets and 1 chest pocket, all of which utilize small YKK reverse-coil zippers that I’ve found to slide easily so long as the fabric is slightly tensioned.
The hand pockets are deep and comfortable. The chest pocket holds an iPhone 6 with room to spare.
The hoodie’s cuffs are very comfortable and feature slots on the seam for your thumbs. The thumb opening is a bit tight for my hand, and the cuff is composed of two layers of the Power Grid fabric, so it’s fairly thick. As a result, I don’t often use the thumb slots, but the cuffs are easily pushed under gloves or the sleeves of a shell.
The Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie’s hood fits snugly over my head, and works well under a helmet or over a baseball hat.
Weight and Packed Size
At 274 grams for a Medium, the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie is pretty dang light, and it feels like it’s barely there when you’re wearing it. That said, while it’s warm under a shell, the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie doesn’t offer the same weather resistance and warmth as shelled insulators like the North Face Ventrix Hoodie or Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody. So, I wouldn’t recommend it as a layer you’re going to mostly keep in your pack and take out when the weather gets nasty, but rather as a layer you intend to keep on and toss a shell over when the wind / weather picks up.
When rolled up into its hood, the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie is a bit bigger than a 1L Nalgene.
Here are some of our measured weights (in grams) for some comparable pieces:
251 Rab Alpha Flash Jacket (size Medium)
274 Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie (size Medium)
325 Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hoody (size Large)
346 The North Face FuseForm Dolomiti ¼ Zip Hoodie (size Medium)
365 Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody (size Medium)
427 The North Face Ventrix Hoodie (size Medium)
Like the Rab Alpha Flash Jacket, the Norrona Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie offers essentially zero wind resistance and very little water resistance. Wind cuts through like a knife, and you’ll get wet quickly in any sort of rain. However, I have found that while light, dry snow will stick to the outside of the fabric, it can be brushed off easily without melting in colder temps (below around 25°F).
The Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie is very breathable, and lets plenty of air through the fabric. I usually run pretty hot and often only wear a base layer for my top while skinning, but I was comfortable skinning in the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie in temps up to freezing.
That said, the combination of breathability, warmth, and complete lack of wind resistance makes the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie a bit less versatile than insulators like the North Face Ventrix Hoodie that you can wear in windier / stormier conditions.
I’ve found the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie to perform best while skinning mostly out of the wind (e.g. below treeline), or used under a shell while doing something less active like skiing at the resort. While Sam recommended using the Rab Alpha Flash Jacket without a shell only when there was no wind, I’ve actually been fine skinning with the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie without a shell in moderate winds since I run pretty hot and actually appreciate the rapid cooling provided by the occasional breeze. But to be clear, this is not the right mid layer to wear on its own for frigid, gusty conditions.
Like the Rab Alpha Flash Jacket, the Norrona Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio when it’s not windy, or when layered under a shell.
When under a shell, the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie is significantly warmer than the Patagonia R1, similar to the Patagonia R2, just as warm as the Rab Alpha Flash Jacket, and not quite as warm as the North Face Ventrix Hoodie.
Again, just keep in mind that the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie loses nearly all of its insulative value in the wind.
The only durability concern I’ve noticed is that the Alpha Direct fabric does shed some fibers when rubbed against grabby surfaces like a car seatbelt. I haven’t noticed a drastic loss in fibers, and the jacket has held up well overall, even after brushing up against plenty of branches on the skintrack.
Sam noted his concern about the Alpha Direct fabric losing its shape over time, and while I share his concern, I haven’t noticed any difference in the shape / fit of the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie after my ~15 days in it.
Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie vs. Rab Alpha Flash Jacket
These two mid layers are quite similar. They offer pretty much identical levels of warmth and breathability, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as they’re both primarily composed of the same fabric. The main differences come in the jackets’ features: the Norrona piece has two hand warmer pockets and its chest pocket is a bit larger than that on the Rab jacket. The Norrona Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie also has — you guessed it — a hood.
So, go with the Norrona Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie if you want more pockets and a snug hood to put on under your helmet, or go with the Rab Alpha Flash Jacket if you’d rather stick with a more minimal feature set, lower weight, and lower price.
Who’s It For?
As I noted above, I think the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie makes sense worn on its own during high-output activities like ski touring, provided that it’s not very windy. When paired with a highly breathable soft shell like the Strafe Recon Jacket, the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie becomes a lot more versatile as its warmth in the wind drastically increases when under the shell, but the soft shell fabric still lets you take advantage of the Alpha Direct fabric’s fantastic breathability. However, if you prefer not to bring out your shell till the descent and / or often encounter windy conditions, you’ll probably be better off with something like the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hoody, which offers more weather resistance but still breathes pretty well.
I also think the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie makes a lot of sense in the resort. I’ve skied a few days inbounds with the hoodie and the Open Wear 3L Shell Jacket (review coming soon), and really like this combination. For me, the hoodie provides plenty of warmth under the shell for days with temps down to around 15°F, yet I can open up the shell’s large pit zips and dump heat very quickly thanks to the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie’s excellent breathability.
The Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie is another interesting addition to the active insulation category, and performs very well in many situations. It provides excellent breathability, comes in at a very low weight, has a nice slim fit, and a useful feature set. However, like the Rab Alpha Flash Jacket, the Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie does not do well with wind / precipitation. So, if you are looking for a warm, light, and cozy mid layer that you’ll mostly use out of the wind or with a shell, I highly recommend the Norrona Lofoten Alpha Raw Zip Hoodie.