Millet Elevation Airloft Hoodie Jacket Review

30th Dec 2018

Millet Elevation Airloft Hoodie

I review a lot of outdoor gear and love this role.  There are cool and genuinely innovative new products constantly coming onto the market and it is a privilege to get the chance to try them out and share my findings with the adventure community. 

Inevitably, when you’ve been in the game a while, you see products from some companies on a regular basis and one of our favourite manufacturers is Polartec.  This leading fabric manufacturer has been in business for many decades and they are responsible for truly industry changing developments.  Their fabric products are used, or have been used, by all the main outdoor clothing manufacturers.  

In the autumn I was asked to review the ISPO award winning Millet Elevation Airloft Hoodie jacket using Polartec’s new Power Fill insulation.  I  jumped at the chance and am delighted that I did.  You’ll see from the following review that I really liked the jacket, but the big winner here is the insulation. So, I also wanted to take the time to also look at how this fits into Polartec’s innovation timeline.  

Please do bear with me as it ends up being a long review, but hopefully you’ll find all the background info interesting too.  The first bit is all about Polartec and then we get onto the jacket…….   

Polartec

Polartec has been in business a long time.  The company was established in 1906 as Malden Mills and eventually became Polartec in 2007.  Over that length of time any company is sure to learn some important stuff about fabric and they definitely have.

Polartec Innovations

The pace of innovation in outdoor equipment is staggering.  Companies are willing to put money and resources into creating better performing hardware and software and, for us as end users, it means we have better products that are lighter, perform better and look great.  These innovations are particularly apparent in the new clothing we see coming to market - and Polartec is one of the key companies providing the fabrics to drive this change.  

In 1981 they created a game changing synthetic fleece that soon became the standard by which others were judged.  They later developed Power Dry and Power Grid to improve the mechanical wicking ability of fabrics and, in doing so, created a system that would last the life of the garment and perform for high output activities in variable conditions. 

Their Power Stretch and Power Stretch Pro fabrics have become the standard for stretch fabrics suitable for high movement sports and when they introduced Power Shield softshell fabric there was now a highly breathable wind and water resistant material available that changed the perception of what protective fabrics could do.  Oh yes, and Polartec’s Neoshell material upped the expectations of how a waterproof breathable fabric could perform.

Finally,  Polartec have been industry leaders in insulation development.  Their Alpha was a remarkable step forward in what could be achieved with lightweight synthetic insulation and they continue to champion new technologies that allow outdoor enthusiasts (and a host of other users including industry and military groups) to perform with comfort and efficiency.

Environmental Protection

But, amongst all this, it is easy to forget that Polartec have also driven the industry with environmental initiatives and they should be massively applauded for that.  Polartec are a huge force and clothing manufacturers will use their materials because they are the best available - if they can help offer solutions to the environmental crisis alongside then that is a huge additional driver for the outdoor industry.     

There are almost too many innovations in the companies history to list, but it is worth offering a few key examples.  In 1993 they led the industry in developing a fleece made from post consumer plastic and they introduced a 100% upcycled polyester fabric in 2010.  By developing the mechanical wicking efficiency of materials in their Power Dry and Power Grid offerings, they created a system that would last the life of the garment rather than the temporary chemical wicking applications that had previously dominated the market. 

The list goes on and the development goes on too.  They have recently tackled the huge problem of microfiber shedding with Power Air.  This insulation harnesses individual air pockets knitted into a single fabric and its unique structure is proven to shed 5x less microfibers than other premium mid-layer fabrics.

Millet Elevation Airloft Hoodie

And so, with apologies for the lengthy preamble, time to review the star of this show.  Millet’s Elevation Airloft Hoodie is the latest from the stable of this long established and extremely well respected French brand.  Millet was set up by Marc Millet and his wife in 1921 and the who’s who of famous mountaineers that have used or helped develop their products deserves sharing.  It was a Millet rucksack that Louis Lachenal and Maurice Herzog wore for the first ascent of an 8000 metre peak (Annapurna) in 1950 just as Reinhold Messner wore one of their packs for his solo ascent of Everest in 1978.  The list goes on and the company are still at the forefront of modern mountain adventure.  The Elevation Airloft continues their quest for pushing boundaries.

Features

The jacket is a well featured ultra light synthetic insulated garment with the usual features expected of a high end performance layer.  There is a 2 way front zip with zipper garage, beard guard and full length draught baffle.  The jacket has a Napoleon style zippered outer chest pocket and zipped interior pocket.  There is lycra elasticated cuffs, elasticated waist hem and snug fitting elastic hemmed hood.  That’s it for the key features - all you need but nothing superfluous.  

But that’s only really the start.  The key to this jacket is in the choice of fabrics and how they fit together.  Millet have used tried and tested Pertex Quantum outer fabric which is a great choice  for this type of jacket because the ultra fine yarns offer windproofness while also allowing air to pass through to ventilate and allow the insulation to loft.  Quantum is also very lightweight and has good abrasion resistance.  For the lining Millet have used a lightweight 100% Polyamide which is slippy enough to layer easily over under garments and also breathes well for wicking when working hard.

And then we come to the insulation.  Millet have insulated the Elevation with another new Polartec product called PowerFill which uses a matrix of hollow polyester fibres engineered into a geometric pattern forming thousands of air pockets.  This construction is designed to allow warm body heat to be trapped within the pockets producing class leading insulation for weight. 

However, that isn’t all.  PowerFill uses an exclusive melting process which bonds each fibre and eliminates the need for a scrim.  This increases design versatility, durability and drapability as well as providing unmatched warmth.  The end user should find a garment that drapes well, breathes well and is durable enough for sustained use.

I was intrigued to see how the insulation performed, but Millet have also chosen PowerFill for another key reason.  In line with their environmental aims,  Polartec make this insulation from 100% Post Consumer Recycled (PCR) material (the Elevation I tested uses a 80/20% PCR insulation but Polartec have now developed the ability for this to be 100% PCR and this will feature in future products).  This is a brilliant way to reuse old plastics that may otherwise be clogging up landfill.

Lastly,  Millet have thought carefully about how to get maximum benefit from the insulation.  The Elevation features what Millet describe as a hybrid build which, they say, concentrates warmth in the right places while promoting mobility and breathability.  You will easily see this in the jacket because the upper section has a seamless build designed to allow more intense warmth and the stitched lower section is said to optimise moisture wicking during exertion.

In Use

The Elevation is, due to the contracting colours and stitching pattern, a striking looking jacket.  The one I was sent features a navy blue lower section and lighter blue upper with single red pocket zipper (the main zip matches the fabrics).  I actually think it looks great, but you’d want to be sure it works for you.  They do offer a grey alternative. 

The jacket is designed to be a trim fit and I found the medium perfect for my 38/40” chest.  It is snug enough to layer easily under shell layers but roomy and stretchy enough to allow free movement.  It is actually a really good fit.

The hood is designed to fit under a helmet and which is ideal for this type of top - far better on a mid layer insulating piece for it to fit under rather than try to fit it over.  A lot of the time you will be likely to be wearing this top without a helmet anyway. 

The pockets configuration is spot on.  I am so glad that Millet kept this simple and didn’t add handwarmer pockets.  When you are wearing this jacket as an active layer this all adds extra bulk and weight.  There is a pocket inside for your phone and an outer one to store a few essentials - perfect.  

And so it is that simple.  This is a great fitting and lightweight insulating layer ideal for mountain sports and, with synthetic insulation, it will work well in damper conditions or when building up moisture through exertion.  It will suit a wide range of activities and exertion levels.  

Which leads me, of course, to that insulation.  The Polartec synthetic insulation that proved a game changer for me was Alpha.  By some fabric construction wizardry Polartec had produced a garment that could perform in a broad range of conditions and when exerting hard.  It is a superb insulation because you could leave layers on when you would previously have had to switch them around far more.  This is now the benchmark for me with synthetic insulation.

Fortunately, I think PowerFill is easily as good, and is some ways actually better than Alpha.  The soft feel of this insulation is great for a mid layer and it wicks extremely well - I deliberately wore the jacket on some cold weather mountain bike rides to test this out.  Moisture did build up inside, but once you stopped you could almost feel the jacket drying out.  It is very impressive.

It is also impressively warm for its weight.  I have used it for cold weather cragging and for skiing and the combination of the windproof outer layer and the high performance insulation is very impressive.  The recent benchmark for me is the Patagonia Micro Puff and I am sure it is as warm as that. 

I can’t comment on long term durability yet, but so far the jacket has been in use for the last few months and shows no sign of any wear and tear and the insulation keeps lofting up superbly.  I imagine this jacket will keep performing for a good lifespan. 

The Elevation is also compact enough to tuck away in the bottom of a pack (although it would be nice if it came with a stuff sack) and light enough, at 390 grams, to forget you are carrying it. 

Summary

It is a great feeling to be wearing a garment that is made from pre used waste and it is also brilliant that there are companies like Polartec who are willing to put their technological knowhow and research resources into creating them.  I think they should be applauded and supported by consumers.  

However,  that only works if the product actually performs.  With the Millet Elevation Airloft Hoodie the PowerFill insulation, combined with Pertex Quantum, offers a great multi use garment that will be perfect for many fast moving adventures.  It is a great jacket.  

So,  there is nothing more to say really….except please do look for PCR fabrics when choosing your next garments.  And, if the Millet Elevation Airloft suits your needs,  you really won’t go wrong.  The Elevation Airloft retails at £190 but it looks like you can beat that significantly with a shop around.  The video links below also give a flavour of what makes Polartec PowerFill tick and there’s a short video showing some of the key features of the Elevation (although please note that this shows only the jacket version which has side hand warmer pockets and no hood).  


Posted by Paul