Started in 1981 by hard core climbers John Bouchard and Marie-Odile Meunier, Wild Things has more recently focused on technical outerwear for the U.S. Military, law enforcement, and some consumer markets. Last winter, however, the company returned to its roots and completely relaunched the Alpine line consisting of base layers, mid layers, and outer layers, as well as climbing packs and expedition duffels. As the only hardshell in the line, the new Alpinist Jacket has been designed for extreme versatility.
The Alpinist uses a hybrid fabric construction to offer both breathability and durable weather protection in a single piece. The torso is made up of a lightweight eVent 40d fabric, while the hood, shoulders, and top of the arms are all made from a heavier 70d fabric supplied by Stedfast, a company that manufactures material for the military and other industrial applications.
Like most hardshells, the Alpinist performs best in certain situations. Much like its name suggests, the jacket performs best during winter outdoor pursuits such as ice and alpine climbing or skiing. The full rib pit zips come in handy for airing out in situations where it is too difficult to drop your pack or take the time to shed a layer, or even if you want to access that energy bar and camera you stashed in your mid-layer pocket to keep warm.
In the cold, rainy, and often humid conditions of Northern California winters, you tend to work up a sweat pretty fast. The hood is much better suited to outdoor pursuits where you are wearing a helmet anyway. Without a helmet, the hood tends to sag or blow off if windy and allows rain inside. The fleece chin guard is a nice cozy addition for any season.
The Alpinist weighs 1 lb 4 oz., so not exactly in the light and fast 8 oz. range but still won't add much weight to your pack. The jacket stuffs down nicely for storage until the weather turns fowl. Two waterproof chest pockets are roomy enough for storing your easy access essentials or an extra pair of gloves.
Bottom Line: For any cold weather pursuit where you want the added weather protection, check out the men's and women's Wild Things Alpinist. At less than $300, the jacket falls on the more affordable hardshell side.