Triple Aught Design Stealth Hoodie LT
Reviewer: 6’3″, 185 lbs.
Size Tested: Large
Front Zipper Length: 28.5”
Blister’s Measured Weight: 879 grams
- Shell Material: Schoeller® 3-Layer 230 g/m2
- Membrane: c_change™
- Treatments: 3xDry™, coldblack®
- Fully Seam Taped
- Laminated, Reinforced Elbows
- Single Underarm Panel with Pit Zip
- Chest Pockets with Media Ports and D-Rings
- 2 Upper Arm Pockets with Media Ports, D-Rings
- 1 Left Forearm Pocket
- 1 Double-entry Hunters Pocket
- Full Front Water Resistant Riri Zippers with Full Length Wind/Draft Flap
- Adjustable Locking Drawcord
- Drop-Tail Hem
Test Locations: Rocky Mountain National Park, South Platte, Utah Desert, Summit County CO, Foothills and towns around Golden and Boulder, CO
Days Tested: 35
The Stealth Hoodie LT was my introduction to Triple Aught Design, a San Francisco- based outdoor gear brand whose products include apparel and packs, as well as smaller hard goods like knives and flashlights. Their gear has a military-inspired aesthetic, while the brand’s concept contains engineering themes exemplified by its name (an homage to precision tolerances used in machining). In keeping with this concept, I’m going to start this review off with a discussion of some of the technical elements of the jacket.
Stealth Hoodie LT Shell Material: c_change vs. Gore Pro Shell
The Stealth Hoodie LT is a 3-layer waterproof breathable shell listed on Triple Aught’s website as a softshell. Don’t be fooled, however. This shell has, among other layers, what TAD calls their “c_change fabric,” a waterproof-breathable (WPB) membrane made by Schoeller. As a result, the shell performs much more like a hard shell in terms of actually being waterproof (rather than water resistant like a soft shell), though the naming convention at work here is pretty flexible.
C_change differs from other 3-layer WPB fabrics, such as Gore-Tex Pro, however, in the way it works on a nuts-and-bolts level. Gore-Tex, and other PTFE-based (PTFE: Polytetrafluoroethylene; better known as Teflon) membranes use a porous but extremely hydrophobic membrane that causes liquid water to bead up, preventing it from slipping through the pores of the membrane / jacket from the outside. (The pores are smaller than the water droplets as dictated by, among other things, the surface energy of the material.) Water vapor on the other hand, is a gas and is thus able to travel through the pores of the membrane/jacket and away from your body.
(Aside: If you’re at all interested in hearing more about the science and industry standards that govern the technical outerwear world, I highly recommend checking out Sam Shaheen’s Outerwear 101 and Outerwear 201 articles.)
Schoeller takes a different tack with c_change, however, employing a temperature-sensitive polymeric structure that allows the membrane’s pores to be drawn open by natural thermal expansion, increasing their size, and increasing the membrane’s breathability. In cooler temperatures, the membrane’s structure condenses, improving insulation. This means that breathability is strictly dependent on temperature.
The way c_change functions might sound problematic, but it depends somewhat on how you’re thinking about the factors involved. On the one hand, colder temperatures will reduce the permeability of the fabric, and increase the amount of perspiration trapped inside. On the other hand, you’re likely to sweat much less in cold temperatures than in hot temperatures, and when it is cold, trapping more atmosphere within the shell will help keep you warm. The increased breathability at warmer temps also means you’ll be more comfortable wearing the jacket for longer if, say, you’re hiking in agreeable temperatures but a not-so-agreeable downpour.
So will this help you or sting you? The fact is, it’s hard to tell the difference between c_change and other premium membranes like Gore Pro Shell. That is to say, it’s breathability is excellent, even when it’s quite cold and the c_change membrane is at its least permeable/breathable. (I should clarify that I have not had the chance to compare c_change to the new Gore Pro, which is different from the older Gore Pro Shell. Sam Shaheen has found that Gore Pro breathes a little better than the Gore Pro Shell, so c_change may not be as comparable to Gore’s latest material.)
Inner (tricot) & Outer (DWR) Finishes
Like other 3-layer shells, the Stealth Hoodie LT features a face fabric that is treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish and a tricot wicking layer next to the skin. In this case, both components of the shell material are incorporated into what Schoeller dubs their 3XDRY finish. The inner, next-to-skin tricot layer is treated to be made hydrophilic, and it works quite well to draw up moisture and is extremely comfortable against bare skin. The hydrophobic DWR on the outside of the shell works equally well and is, like the rest of the jacket, extremely durable.
The last design element to examine here is another finish on the Stealth Hoodie LT’s outermost layer, which Schoeller calls coldblack. Triple Aught Design describes it as “a special finishing treatment that reflects UV rays to keep you cool.” For what it’s worth, this phrasing is a little imprecise, as it conflates two different qualities of the finish. Coldblack may reflect UV rays and it may help keep you cool, but not with the causal relationship Triple Aught’s wording implies. The first feature, UV protection, does add some coverage for your skin (though is anyone actually worried about sunburn through a completely opaque triple-layer hard shell?) and reflecting UV light keeps the colors in the fabric from fading. Perhaps more importantly, though, the finish also reflects infrared (IR) light in addition to UV light. And it is the IR wavelengths in particular that are actually responsible for solar heat gain (the warming effect of sunlight). So essentially the coldblack finish reflects heat and blocks UV light, rather than reflecting heat because it blocks UV light.
I’ve only had the Stealth Hoodie LT for a handful of really warm days to this point so I hesitate to comment on how effective the IR-reflectivity is in more serious heat, but the jacket is beefy enough that I’m not going to be reaching for it in really warm weather anyway. More on that shortly.