Adidas Women's Agravic Alpha Shield Jacket Review
For lots of my activities the key clothing piece I find myself using time after time is a lightweight insulated jacket. Something that works well in chilly weather and yet can ventilate well when I'm working hard. A layer that can fold up small enough to fit in a pocket and dries quickly. A windproof layer that will shed a bit of light rain. It's a lot to ask of a garment, but that's what I use more of the time than just about anything else.
Earlier in the summer Paul got asked to test one of the new Adidas Agravic Alpha Hooded Shield Jackets but when he saw the specs, and knowing that I was always on the lookout for this type of top, he suggested I review the women's version instead. Please read on to find out why I'm glad he did….
The Agravic is designed for high output activities like mountain biking, running or climbing. It has an outer shell of ultralight but durable Pertex Quantum and a layer of Polartec Alpha insulation across the front. This combination has allowed Adidas to make a jacket with a total weight of only around 170 grams. A very manageable carry and wear weight. Besides the fabrics, there is a full length front zip and high collar offering adjustment and protection and there are 2 hand pockets, a volume adjustable hood and bottom hem drawcord. Finally, there is a reflective logo and the jacket can be stored by stuffing it into one of the side pockets.
I have used the jacket for climbing and multi-pitch belaying on chilly Snowdonia days and I have taken it as an additional layering piece on hillwalking adventures. However, my big thing over this summer has been mountain biking and the Agravic has had a lot of use on many rides - on warmer summer days I often started off with the jacket on but ended up taking it off once warmed up but, now the autumn chill is upon us, I have often found it comfortable to leave it on for the whole ride.
The Adidas Agravic is a trim fitting jacket but with enough room for an additional thin warm layer underneath if needed. The hood has plenty of volume to be worn over a hat and the volume adjusts simply with a pull of a single drawcord. I struggled to get the hood over a climbing or biking helmet but have found alternatives - for climbing I have found it best to wear the hood under my helmet and as a rule I don't wear hoods for biking so this wasn't a consideration for me (I most often tuck the hood down the back of the jacket to get it out of the way). The collar sits comfortably high and having a full length zip offers plenty of adjustability and makes it very easy to get on and off.
I can’t say that, on this type of jacket, I get much use from hand pockets and I would have really preferred an outer chest pocket instead - if I'm wearing a harness the hand pockets are in the way and for biking I find having anything stored in lower pockets can be a pain. One of the side pockets is set up for storage with a 2 way zip and hanging tab so it can be dangled off, for example, a climbing harness
So, the features on the jacket are simple and functional, but the real winner in this garment is the Polartec Alpha insulation. I have used Alpha in several garments and think it is the best synthetic insulation I've come across. In simple terms Alpha has a unique structure which helps wick moisture from the core to the outer surface very efficiently. If you want the full Polartec explanation it goes like this...'by placing patented low density fibers between air permeable woven layers we created a more efficient fabric for regulating warmth and transferring moisture. This advancement increases thermal adaptability in changing conditions and different phases of physical activity'. Going back to simplicity again, what most users really need to know is that garments with Alpha will keep you comfortable at a broader range of output levels.
I know Alpha works superbly well and so I was confident in the insulation in the Agravic, but this was the thinnest Alpha I had tested and, as I felt how thin the layer was, I can't deny I was unsure if it would offer much benefit at all. I actually should have had more faith in Alpha - this insulation works brilliantly. The Alpha adds noticeable warmth and yet stays comfortable even when working hard. This was particularly noticeable for biking where I would sometimes get rather hot as I slogged up a hill, but soon cooled to a reasonable level when I stopped.
Having said that, I often don't stop at the top if there is a descent to enjoy. At these times the Alpha meant that I would stay comfy on the downs and the Alpha would frequently have dissipated any moisture created on the climb by the time I was at the bottom. Very impressive. I did also, at first, think this jacket would benefit from insulation all the way around, but now I am certain Adidas got this right too - it works perfectly just as it is.
The other key factor in the Agravic’s performance is the shell fabric. I have used Pertex Quantum before and really rate this lightweight material. Adidas have actually used a mix of Pertex fabrics on different parts of the jacket and the combination works really well. It cuts out wind effectively and complements the insulation layer. It is also quite a soft feel fabric which isn't noisy in the wind like some ‘crispy’ shell materials.
The Quantum is standing up to use well and, even though the model I was sent is in a light orange colour and I wear a rucksack when biking, it stills looks as good as new. This is also notable considering I have done a number of climbs in the jacket and it has been washed a number of times with Nikwax Tech Wash.
One thing that Quantum certainly isn't is waterproof. When I've used the Agravic in rain it is only a few minutes before the rain is seeping through. I don't mind this as I would rather have better breathability rather than waterproofness during high output activities, but it is something to be aware of. It also means that you can't carry the Agravic as a shell layer.
The Agravic is quite a long jacket (although at 5'4" I am on the short side so that may explain it somewhat) but this actually works great for offering protection and stops it riding up when I'm wearing a rucksack. Having got used to it, I wouldn't now want it to any shorter.
So far I have always used the jacket with a lightweight baselayer underneath and the combination has worked a treat. Now the days are getting cooler I anticipate first using a thicker basealyer and then, ultimately, both a baselayer and midweight insulation layer under the jacket. There is enough room to do this and I have every confidence the Alpha will cope well.
You've undoubtedly worked out that I think the Agravic is an exceptional jacket. The combination of Pertex Quantum and Polartec Alpha is superb, but it's brilliant performance also comes down to the way the Adidas designers have considered where to use what and how the various materials should interact. They have done a great job in every way. Infact, the only things I would change would be to not have hand side pockets and to make the orange colour of the jacket I tested slightly less pastel shaded - although I realise colour preference is very subjective. If you are a fan of high output activities I would put a massive tick in the box for the Adidas Agravic Alpha Shield jacket.
Reviewed and posted by Cal
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