Friday, 6 October 2017

Alpkit Koulin Trail Tights review


Alpkit - the British company that has always been a bit different (in a good way) and has produced solid kit at solid prices. They've always been good 'bang for the buck' (or indeed pound) without ever being a 'value' or 'budget' range. Over time, they've built up their reputation with ever improving gear and the issues a few years back with stock shortages are now a very distant memory. This has always been a customer and user-driven company with their staff 'real' outdoors people who are just 'one of us' and communicate this in their marketing.

In recent times they've stepped up their game with both an increase in quality (such as using Primaloft in their insulated jackets) and a huge increase in the range of stock they provide. During this time their prices have gone up but I would say they are still very well priced in all they do. They're one of those companies that listen to their customers well and are small enough to implement changes quickly and well. They also keep their 'classic' ranges going while improving them.

Onto the Koulin tights which I feel are already a classic item. 


OK so you may or may not wear tights as a guy. When I initially considered the Koulin tights, hideous images of A'level drama trips flashed through my head along with people mocking me for looking like a ballet dancer on the hills. There's also the slightly sensitive issue of close fitting tights and your manhood on display and the occasional wolf whistle from obviously deluded females! Having to wear them into Sainsbury's once was an experience...

The Alpkit Koulin tights. Not in Sainsbury's...

Out and About

But having bitten the bullet, I pulled them on (literally) for a trail run up through Grisedale, over the Eagle Crag scramble, up Nethermost Pike, to Helvellyn and back down to Patterdale via Striding Edge. Amazing run and no-one else around save for a guy with his terrified girlfriend. Wonder if that relationship is still going...

Eagle Crag scramble. No it's a bit harder than it looks here!

If you haven't worn trail tights then they are unbelievably freeing, light and easy. They simply flex with your legs which is liberating. The Koulin tights have just the right amount of stretch in them to move with your body. Compared to even the amazing Montane Terras, I'd liken the effect of wearing the Koulin tights to running in trail shoes compared to running in boots. On a recent trip up Great Links Tor on Dartmoor, it was so easy to climb as the tights are so flexible but also strong.

Heading back from Great Links Tor, Dartmoor

The Fit

I'm a 30 waist (at most) and with a fairly standard, athletic kind of build. The small in the Koulin tights was a perfect fit. Getting them on requires a wee bit of tugging to get them up the legs. At the bottom of the tights on the outside of each leg there is a zip at the bottom (about 17cm in length) which can be done up, even if it doesn't feel like it. Helps get them on and off. Some people aren't fans of zips but I found they helped. They are slightly long (I have slightly short legs I guess) but this also means the tights easily sit on or above the waist.

The Features

The tights are highly breathable and move moisture well and dry quickly. The stretch is excellent and it jumps back to shape after use and washing, so no worries there. There are meshy panels in a couple of non-essential places to aid breathability.  A drawstring inside the tights at the front will also help.

There are two side pockets which I generally use to stash my (fairly large) smartphone on one side and a compass on the other. However, they will take more than that. At the back is a red zipped pocket which will take keys or other valuables.

The sensitive issue of your parts showing when wearing tights can be diminished by (a) not strutting around like a peacock; (b) wearing a pair of shorts over them or a long (I actually just wrote 'pong') baselayer; or (c) as I did, wearing a pair of Under Armour boxers underneath.

There is also a reflective logo and trim on the sides of the tights which is essential. They are pretty light and they seem very hard-wearing too.

If you spot this person, seek immediate medical help or counselling...


The Koulin Trail tights are ideal for trail running, running, hiking or even gentle scrambling. It's almost converted me away from wearing trousers when walking and certainly they're pretty good for trail running in 2 or 3 seasons. At £25 (October 2017) they're also brilliant value. Just don't tell anyone - I don't want hundreds of Alpkit gear clones out on the hills with me ;)

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Montane Further Faster Neoshell Waterproof Jacket - Initial Impressions

Recently, I started to look for a new waterproof. I have a North Face Five Point jacket which is fantastic. But I was looking at something a bit lighter, hopefully more breathable and in another colour. The North Face jacket is black and my waterproof trousers are black. My Montane beanie is, er, black... Anyone noticing a theme yet?

So in a sale I saw the Montane Further Faster jacket. At 443g it wasn't the lightest jacket but with Polartec Neoshell in, I knew it would be the most breathable fabric on the market. Contrary to the advice I received in one outdoor retailer, Neoshell is the leading breathable material on the market (as of this review, July 2017). Gore Tex Active isn't in the same ballpark. The later version of Gore Tex Pro is pretty similar but Neoshell has a greater air permeability - meaning a minuscule amount of air can get into the jacket and help the thing breathe more.

Yes, Paramo may have a unique system but in the Summer (or non-Winter) it is simply too warm for someone like myself who runs very hot.

Polartec Neoshell (due to the nature of the way it works) will not currently ever be able to be very lightweight. The lightweight fabrics are the 2.5 layer system which dispenses with a protective lining fabric (unlike a 3 layer fabric). 

So what of Pertex Shield + or other manufacturer's own brand 2.5 layer fabrics? Well, these are all fine but not as breathable (certainly not as resilient) as '3 layer' things like Pro Shell. Now, when we say 'breathable' and 'less breathable' we are not talking huge gulfs in breathability. A waterproof is designed to keep the elements out and so will never be as breathable as a windproof or a soft-shell etc, which all allow air and the elements in and out - meaning they breathe and dry more quickly but won't keep the rain out as effectively as a waterproof!

OK, so onto the mini overview. Bear in mind this is taken from a jacket I received (and subsequently didn't keep) but was able to look over and test in a home environment. So this couldn't be a real world review as the jacket was returned. But the time looking at the jacket may help some of you decide if this jacket is the right one for you...

The Montane Further Faster is compared with the North Face Five Point jacket and an old Montane Venture jacket which uses eVent.

Here's something I wrote on a forum:

This is a mini 'review' of the Montane Further Faster jacket...

I'm an athletic build medium. The first thing I noticed about the Montane Further Faster (FF) jacket (I got a medium) is how large the arms are. There is a lot of space in the arms - both the upper and lower arms. I've got an old Alpkit down jacket and the FF jacket can go over that so will the FF will work over an insulated layer. The FF jacket has a very slightly 'boxy' rather than 'fitted' design. The TNF jacket is perhaps very slightly more 'boxy' than the FF on the torso, but there's not much in it.

In the body area, the Further Faster jacket is about the same as my TNF. The FF has slightly better articulation over the shoulder area. Pockets are about the same size as on the TNF as the FF and fit a non-laminated OS Explorer map easily - a laminated version is a bit more tricky on both. The drawstring system for the waist is better on the Montane, as the TNF one is inside the pockets. The one area which is weird on the FF jacket is an elasticated area on the back 'waist' height of the jacket, measuring around 20cm. This cinches the jacket in and presumably may help rain fall off on the back of the jacket. Whatever its (valid) use, it looks weird and seems unnecessary. This was enough to put me off the jacket.

The hood is a bit more sturdy on the TNF compared to the FF and fits over a helmet a wee bit better. Both are good hoods with side and rear adjustments but TNF is slightly better and more sturdy for me. The Montane Venture hood is dire, mainly because it's an old system.

In terms of length at the front, the Further Faster jacket is about the same as the TNF one and not quite as long as the old Venture. A review on I think TGO said the FF jacket is very short at the front but it's not terrible. In the course of looking for another waterproof, I tried on a Mountain Equipment Zeno jacket which was longer front and back (and more fitted than the Further Faster). The Montane Spine jacket was also 'longer' (understand the word 'longer' doesn't mean 'long') and a way better fit than the Further Faster.

Between the three jackets I own, the 2008-2009 Montane Venture has the best 'fit' in terms of fitting my body shape, without any doubt. The arms aren't as wide compared to the FF, which *feels* way too spacious, especially in the upper arms. Having said that, I measured the FF jacket arms compared to TNF one and they're not that different. FF one is slightly 'fitted' at the cuffs.

People also talk about 'noise' when moving with Gore Tex Pro. I'd say this is an issue as the Gore Tex Pro is more 'stiff'. But it's not a huge difference, with the Venture and eVent being comparable to the FF. I like that the FF has reflective detailing on it. TNF one doesn't but I use this more in winter and snow.

No idea yet on breathability or sustainability of the FF in comparison but am positive it'll be more breathable than the TNF one.

Outer fabric on the TNF is bomber - FF seems slightly less so. The FF has very long arms and covers my hands! TNF one ins't quite as long on the sleeves, nor the old Venture. The Montane Spine and ME Zeno also aren't as long. The FF arms are extremely long and presumably so to fit over gloves in a snowy alpine type situation.

I love Montane stuff normally. It's high quality and fits me like a glove. The Further Faster jacket is unusual in that it's not quite the case with especially the sleeves being too spacious. It's not a fitted jacket for an athletic build. It is very high quality and has all the features a jacket should have. Montane have gone above and beyond in terms of build quality and features but without the fitted nature of the jacket it's not quite the one for me. This is not a criticism at all, just a different use to the one I would have for it.

The search for a lightweight and breathable jacket is basically not possible. There has to be a compromise. The Further Faster is brilliant for someone who wants a fully featured jacket with the highest breathability on the market. I'll have to look for a lightweight jacket elsewhere and probably compromise on breathability!

Overall the Further Faster is highly recommended but try one on first!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Montane Terra Pants - Review

Wearing the Montane Terras on the Climbers Traverse path up to Great Slab and Bowfell

As you can't see in the picture above, I'm wearing the Montane Terras. Fear not, I am wearing them in the picture below. Phew, what a relief.

The Montane Terra Pants in the, er, 'great indoors'. La Sporitva trail shoes (amazing!) complete the look...

Lots has been said about these but I can honestly say they're my favourites outdoors trousers and my absolute go-to ones - well, unless doing some heavy duty scrambling when I pull out an older pair of Craghoppers.

Why so special?

Well they're incredibly lightweight and nice to wear. Unlike my Bear Grylls pants, the Terras don't make you sound like you're a moving paper bag. (Add in a Goretex Pro jacket and you have a combo of moving paper bag and crisp packet all in one...)

The Cordura reinforcement (black area)

The fabric is resilient and yet they feel almost like a second skin. The main fabric is TACTEL and the reinforced areas are CORDURA which is very strong. There is reinforcement in the important areas such as the knees / thighs and around the rear quarters (the 'buttocks' in the words of Forrest Gump if you've seen that movie...)

The reinforcement goes right down to the inside of the lower leg / ankle. Brilliant.

There is a great level of venting available - at the bottom of the legs and at the top of the legs around the thighs. This makes them incredibly useful for Spring and Summer excursions.

Showing a bit of leg - steady on ladies...

Venting at the top comes with mesh to help with modesty and even potentially keep out some bugs...

The pants are also articulated which may sound like a fancy word unless you've actually worn them to see how they move with your body.

Back in the day I used my army lightweights. Good and durable and solid. Then the Craghoppers Kiwis which were strong and practical. The Bear Grylls pants were a step in the right direction, let down by the rustle and excess pockets. But the Montane Terra Pants are absolutely brilliant for movement. They are unlike any other outdoors trousers I have ever worn. They are so good for moving, climbing things, scrambling around. And that's down to the articulation.

They also have some good pockets with mesh lining.

Pocket pulled out

A waist belt completes the pants with all they need. I am a waist 30 and got these in small. The one slight thing is that even with my ickle waist they are slightly tight, yet I can pull the waist out around 10cm! So the issue is with the elasticated waist possibly being a bit overzealous. But that's the only fault I can find!

I have worn these in various temperatures and they've been fine. They have dried very quickly in light showers and are incredibly breathable. They're durable and lightweight too. Perfect.

Montane Minimus Pants (Waterproof trousers) Review

My go-to waterproof trousers have been the Berghaus Deluge over trousers in the last few years. You would be hard pushed to find something more resilient and relatively breathable for the price.

However, what about those Spring and Summer months when the boots are put into hibernation and the temperatures rise enough for the lightweight kit to make an appearance...? Cue another pair of lightweight waterproof over trousers. On offer were the Montane Minimus so I got them - paid around £45.

Their first test was a slight mishap in that I wore my boots and mistakenly packed the Minimus pants instead of my Berghaus ones. Cue me stumbling around in heavy rain and sleety snow trying to get them on - unsuccessfully. The only way was to head for some cover, take off my boots, put on the waterproofs and then put my boots back on. Note to self: don't do that again.

The waterproofs themselves held out fine except for the usual plastering of mud as I considered and then thought better off a river crossing and headed back along a path...

Dartmoor in the murk and sleety snow. Location of a hapless hiker trying to put on the pants...

Back to the review, the pants are extremely lightweight (140g) and understandably very different to the Deluge pants which are more weighty. I don't think I'd be dragging them across scrambles on Bristly Ridge or through gorse on moorland. But they're probably more resilient than they seem and that's the price for going lightweight.

The outer fabric has a ripstop type face. The breathable fabric is 2 layer Pertex Shield which isn't breathable on the level of 3 layer fabrics like eVent and Goretex but is pretty good. Over the period of about 90mins walking quite quickly in rain and snow I didn't have any issues with breathability or leakage but that's obviously to be expected! They did well in a wet-ish day in Lakeland too.

Top of Fisher's Wife's Rake

The pants have some nice touches. They have 1 1/4 length leg zip which really helps getting them on over shoes and trainers etc. There is just one zip on the legs, probably to minimise weight.

Down the leg of the Montane Minimus

The zip on the Montane Minimus

There is also a strap lower down the leg (calf area) to cinch in the waterproofs when you're moving fast through the mountains or you're trail running. Nice touch. There is also reflective detail on the Minimus pants as well - much needed. The waist has a simple draw string at the front.

All in all, the Montane Minimus waterproof trews trousers pants (choose appropriate name) are a very good pair of lightweight overtrousers. They won't breathe as well as eVent or Goretex etc but they're not as expensive retail price either. They may not have the features of Paramo offerings but they don't have the price or the heat either. They're not as resilient as things like the Berghaus Deluge but they're under half the weight!

You pay your money and you take your choice... Ideal for moving fairly fast (just not too fast so you get too hot) and for trail running, just as Montane say.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Montane Hi-Q Luxe Jacket Review

Who else has got an insulated jacket addiction?

OK, so maybe it's not an addiction but I've often looked for an insulated jacket that is warmer than the Montane Flux, not beasty enough to take up half a pack and resilient.

Is the Montane Hi-Q Luxe that jacket? Well, almost. The one thing I've found is that it's perhaps less resilient than the Flux jacket which has a pretty tough exterior.

On Dartmoor with a snow storm incoming. Very cold!

Montane Linky -

Just a note that my version of the jacket was the first incarnation. I'm not sure whether later versions (2016 one) is any different except for more colour variation.

A snap sale at Gaynors in Ambleside saw me take a gamble at the Hi-Q Luxe in an attractive black colour (the only one on offer sadly). Never mind, at least you'll be warm on the hills, even if MRT can't find you if ever anything happens..!

It's been put through its paces across the snowy Northern fells, the windy mountains and over the deceptively cold Dartmoor.

So the first thing to say is that the Hi-Q Luxe is pretty warm. There's a mix of Primaloft insulation which Montane claims is more like down. It has a Gold Primaloft 'Luxe' fill which makes it one of the warmest Primaloft fills on the market. It mixes this with a micro baffled design and a PEAQ down interior lining which is pretty nice on the skin!

The jacket is significantly warmer than the Montane Flux (my go-to jacket generally). The Flux also has things like reflective bits on which are great touches. The Hi-Q Luxe doesn't have these which seems a bit unfortunate. I would say the jacket is probably close to twice as warm as the Flux, if you want a comparison.

The outer is Pertex Quantum ripstop which is not as resilient as the outer of (say) the Flux jacket, so I wouldn't be wearing this for any scrambling or climbing personally (unless it was underneath a hard shell). Having said that it'd be too warm for climbing except very cold temps.

The jacket is very articulated and moves well with your movement, if that make sense! The pockets are great and warm for your paws if they get nippy. The one unique thing is the Hi-Q Luxe has articulated ("low-bulk") sleeves which means you can pull the jacket up your arm if needed to aid ventilation. Haven't had the need or desire to do this but it's interesting. It means the 'cuff' of the arms is slightly up inside the sleeves of the jacket, rather than right at the 'ends', with the jacket 'curving round' under the arms - if that make sense! I hope it doesn't make this part of the jacket more prone to wear, which would be one possibility of this.

Haven't worn it while wearing a helmet so can't comment on that but the hood is definitely helmet compatible. Chin guard and pretty good zip toggles mean the jacket would be pretty good with bulky gloves on. Quality zips. Have only used when out wearing smaller gloves so far.

Sizing is spot on. I'm a medium in everything really and got this in a medium. There is enough room to get a mid layer underneath very easily. I can also get my medium (TNF) waterproof over the top of this too. I'm of a wiry type of athletic build if that helps anyone with sizing! Montane clothing fits me pretty much perfectly.

I've worn this out in drizzle and mizzle - so nothing too wet or certainly not dreich conditions. But in lighter rain and even some snow the jacket has beaded pretty well. So the claimed insulation when wet isn't something I've tested heavily as yet.

Looking across to Scafell Pike on a deceptively cold April day - despite the mild winter

One thing I will say about the jacket (and this could be due to the interior lining) is that it's unbelievably 'electrical'. Every time I wear the jacket or take it off, I am charged up and get static electric shocks immediately. I've never had a jacket so prone to this. So if you're someone who gets static shocks easily, avoid this jacket or only take it off with gloves on! This does make me cautious to recommend the jacket wholeheartedly, to be honest - but this is possibly more to do with me than the jacket.

But if you're looking for something with a bit of extra warmth than something like the Montane Flux and that packs down pretty small, this could be the perfect solution. It isn't really designed for serious adventures through bracken and against rock too much. But it is a very warm, stylish and useful bit of kit for those colder days! It's also a good jacket for those colder days and evenings around town!

I have seen a few reviews on Cotswold about some threads pulling / some filling migrating to the outside. I I do have this problem in part on the left shoulder of my jacket and believe it to be the filling migrating out. No such problems with the Flux or other (non-down) related jackets, so when Montane say the jacket is a bit like down, maybe this is what they mean!

As for me - my search goes on and this jacket may well be sold next Autumn. Don't get me wrong, the Hi-Q Luxe is great but the slightly less robust exterior is enough of a concern for me to see what else is out there. Recommendations anyone?

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Look What We've Found Meals Review - Boil in Bag Style Meals

UPDATE June 2017 - Since this article was done (Feb 2016), lookwhatwefound have changed their range slightly. There is now no chicken and mushroom, no red thai chicken curry, no chicken korma. Instead there is now a chicken casserole which I've tested and is equally tasty as the lamb casserole but with slightly fewer calories. The meals now only seem to be stocked by Waitrose, Booths and Ocado.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been buying some of the boil in a bag style meals from 'Look What We Found' ( I purchased all these myself and have no connections with the company in any way.

Although not specifically designed for the outdoors, these can be boiled in the bag in your burner. Plus they are very well priced - £1.50 to £2.50 in price. I'd also add that when doing a boil in the bag meal that's a 'wet' one (as opposed to the freeze dried), it's always advisable to rotate the bag when cooking to get it to cook through (or shake the bag halfway through cooking) - taking it out of the pot first...

If we compare these with (for example) the 'Beyond The Beaten Track' meals, the BTBT meals are 300g and give a slightly higher calory intake - for £4.00 for a meal (or £6.00 for a self-heating meal). I've had the Pasta Bolognese meal and it was pretty tasty and reasonable value. The chocolate dessert was pretty tasty!

If we take the Wayfarer meals, these are also 300g (££4.00 - 4.49 each or so) and with a similar calory count and taste to the Beyond The Beaten Track ones. I really enjoyed the sausage and baked beans from Wayfarer.

What I'd advise is that you either eat 2 of these at a time, or add in some other food with them - be that raisins, pre-cooked pasta, pre-cooked rice, pitta bread, regular bread, crackers etc. With that, you'd have a very tasty meal!

So here's my mini review of the meals! These are rated against the other Look What We Found meals and not against other meals. These are my personal preferences and opinion only - your favourites and intended uses may well be different! I have mainly heated these by microwave (did this after a tooth extraction as these meals are quick and easy!) but have mentioned when heated on the stove.

1. Chilli Con Carne

This has a good balance of minced beef, kidney beans and red peppers. Very tasty and not too spicy. Definitely could be eaten on its own but would also be great with some added in extras like rice. 270g providing 262kcal of energy (97kcal per 100g).

Score: 8/10

2. Chicken with Mushrooms

Very tasty and would work well as a sauce. Wasn't a huge amount of chicken in this and it's more runny than (for example) the Chilli Con Carne. You'd definitely need to top this with rice or pasta etc as I think this is what it's designed for. 250g providing 200kcal of energy (80 kcal per 100g).

Score 6/10 (but if used as a sauce it'd be 8/10!)

3. Red Thai Chicken Curry

Again quite spicy but not overly so. Lots of bits of chicken. I added in a bit of rice to this one to see how things would taste and it was pretty good and quite filling. Again, this seems designed to be eaten with rice etc. 250g providing 345kcal of energy (138kcal per 100g).

Score: 6/10

4. Lamb Hotpot

The Lamb Hotpot is a little bit more than the other meals (at a whopping £2.49!!) So for this extra 50p or so, what do we get? Well, we get a really tasty meal. I must admit, despite microwaving this, it didn't taste like a microwave meal but was tasty - good meat and lovely potato! 250g gives you 215kcal of energy (86kcal per 100g).

Score: 9/10

5. Beef Meatballs

Beef meatballs is slightly harder to review considering I never normally eat any! However, the food tastes better than you'd imagine in a microwave format. I think there were 5 meatballs and these were a reasonable size and tasted good. The tomato style sauce is tasty and not at all bland. Another solid tasting meal and could be eaten on its own. 250g gives you 265kcal of energy (106kcal per 100g).

Score: 7/10

6. Chicken Korma

The Chicken Korma was another tasty offering. Again, probably just the right kind of level of 'spice' (not really spicy but a nice edge). The meat was pretty much in one single lump. I cooked this in the burner as a boil in the bag style meal to test it. I'd recommend cooking for the same kind of time as other meals - up to 10mins or so - just to make sure the chicken is piping hot. I then ate it with some pre-cooked rice which I'd recommend as it needs this. 250g gives you 320kcal of energy (128kcal per 100g).

Score: 8/10

7. Chicken Tikka

And for my final test... Chicken Tikka. This was pretty good - probably as spicy as anything else but nothing too hot. Cooked up some regular rice with this and added it in to make a great and tasty meal.  Around 6 solid bits of chicken in there with some smaller bits too. 250g gives you 338kcal of energy (135kcal per 100g).

Score: 7/10

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Montane Alpha Guide Jacket Review

Update - for AW2017 the Montane Alpha has been replaced by the Halogen Alpha which is a slightly different jacket - with Pertex Microlight outer all over and with 50g of Alpha across the jacket. The result is a lighter jacket at 351g instead of 510g for the Alpha Guide.

In recent years, Polartec have really created some innovative technologies - from various forms of insulation and fleece through to their extremely breathable NeoShell that seems to out-breathe any other hard shell.

The Montane Alpha Guide 

Montane Alpha Guide modelled very badly by Noddy

Designed mainly for climbers (and in cold temps), according to Montane, their Alpha Guide jacket packs 80g of Polartec Alpha (around the body, with a Pertex Microslight stretch face) with a DRYACTIV stretch material elsewhere on the top (arms, hood, shoulders).

Hood (with brushed liner)

Sleeve with thumb loops

Inside, there's a breathable lattice type material to wick away the sweat ('PEAQ Hyper' - which sounds like a Star Trek character...) 

Montane Guide inner  with 'PEAQ Hyper'

The jacket has a very active fit which is intentional. If you're thinking about wearing this with a few extra pounds around the waist etc, you may want to look elsewhere as the next size up would defeat the object of having a close-fitting top. The Alpha Guide also has some waist toggles to tighten things and a double-zip so you can get access to your harness etc.

So enough of the waffle, how does the thing work? Does it work? Is it better than a fleece?

The first thing to say is that it is deceptively warm. The day before the sunny-looking snowy pics taken on Heron Pike, I did the corridor route from Seatoller up to Scafell Pike in some brutal weather - heavy rain, low mist, very strong winds and then hail into snow. I had a warm winter baselayer, the Alpha Guide and a Goretex Pro hardshell on the top. The temps were low degrees C into minuses as I ascended. With the wind it was unbelievably cold (-12C or so). On the way down I found that my back was sweating quite a bit. It wasn't the hardshell leaking so was my sweat! I do beast walks quite a lot and my waterproof did get blown up in the winds. But probably I was a bit too hot!

Blasted atop Scafell Pike

The Alpha Guide itself is great and I didn't really feel cold until I started coming down, slowed down and felt the wet on my back. But then again I'd had rain for pretty much 90% of the 9 1/2 mile walk. 

I would recommend using the Alpha Guide carefully and in cold temperatures only. If you're on a mission either walking or climbing I'd advise thinking carefully about baselayer and not wearing a thick one unless temps are below zero without windchill - this is certainly true if you get hot easily like me. It may also be that it doesn't breathe as well because of being under a hardshell (maybe I do need that NeoShell waterproof...)

On other days I used the top, I was also warm. In the pics below (Heron Pike), I had a lighter baselayer and despite the winds, the Alpha Guide worked well (I only wore a baselayer on the steep start of the ascent). As long as you're moving and it's cold, it's great. 

The jacket does let the wind in and is fairly breathable but you'll need to judge when it's needed and when it's not,

So compared to a fleece? Hard to tell but they're probably similar. I did Fairfield in Feb 2015 and wore a fleece that day and it was about the right kind of balance on a day that hovered in and around -1C.

I would say that the Montane Alpha Guide is a great specialist jacket and would suit things like climbing in the cold and even winter climbing where it wasn't snowing etc. I'm looking forward to a cold winter where this can get some serious testing both on walks and winter mountaineering. I'll post back with my results. 

But if you want something different to a fleece (and certainly something that dries quicker), that compresses well, that is a sound midlayer and looks pretty darned nice, the Alpha Guide is a good, if not essential bit of kit. I'm sold on it anyway.