I was pretty excited to get my hands on a Senchi Designs hoodie in the fall of last year. I had never seen anything quite like its Polartec Alpha fabric, and my gear obsessed self was certainly curious how it would perform and function. These fleeces currently sell for $75.
This review is based off of my experience using this fleece for my 10 day thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. This trip featured day time temps between 40-70 degrees, and night temps between 20-40 degrees. During these 10 days i'm pretty sure I only took it off once!
- Materials: Polartec Alpha Direct 60
- Weight: Medium/Large is 3.4oz
Things I like:
Exceptionally Light and Comfortable: This hoodie weights next to nothing. At 3.4oz, its warmth to weight ratio is off the hook. While it might make you look something like a muppet, Polartec Alpha is exceptionally soft even when directly against your skin (undershirt very optional). It's not itchy, and the elastic cuffs and hood help things fit my body in the exact correct spaces. As a 6'0 - 165lbs human, the M/L was just about perfect. It is a bit see through, so if you are planning on wearing it without an undershirt, just take note. It packs down tiny when not in use, it dries incredibly quickly, and while it's a bit smellier than wool, it's not terrible.
Versatility: Because the Senchi Designs Hoodie is made from Polartec Alpha, it is both exceptionally breathable when warn by itself (or with a t-shirt underneath), and incredibly insulating when paired with a wind shirt or rain jacket on top. While perhaps a seemingly contradictory set of qualities, I found the pairing really useful. On warmer days it kept the sun off my body, and the airy nature of the fleece kept be from overheating/sweating when facing steep inclines. On cold days or more exposed ridges, I simply tossed on my rain jacket and found myself immediately warm. At night in my quilt, I found it kept me absurdly warm. With only the addition of my rain jacket during the colder days, it handled hiking temps between 30-70 degrees pretty easily.
Minimalist: No pockets, no zippers, no cinches, and no extra material. It uses the lightest insulating fabric on the market and pairs it with an ultra simplistic and functional design.
Things to note:
Durability: Because Polartec Alpha is so ultralight and airy, it certainly lacks some durability. That said, after 260 miles of wearing it through all types of trail conditions, I was surprised it wasn't beat up worse. It certainly has some runs and a couple of snags, but everything so far has been aesthetic and mostly imperceptible (unless your looking for it). That said, if you are planning on bushwhacking, be careful. Alpha does seem pretty grippy to passing twigs, and I imagine a longer thru-hike could see this hoodie take a pretty visible beating.
Fit: It is a very athletic fit. There isn't much extra fabric built into the design, and while that helps reduce its total weight, it's far from being baggy. Don't expect to put any substantial layers underneath.
Requires knowledge of layering: This fleece is not for everyone. If requires a pairing with either a wind shirt or a rain jacket to maximize its warmth, and if you are really hard on your gear/clothing, Polartec Alpha isn't the fabric for you.
If you've been buying into the sensational buzz around Senchi Designs fleeces, you won't find anything contrary from me. The versatility is amazing, and the ability to wear this fleece as both an active and stagnant piece is something I really enjoyed. I've never lived in a single piece of clothing as much on a trip as I did in this hoodie, and it'll be a staple of my kit moving forward.
Garage Grown Gear is both fortunate and excited to be releasing our own Senchi Designs drop of 100 hoodies this upcoming week! If you’re not already signed up for our newsletter, be sure to put your name on the list to be the first to find out! It may or may not be happening sometime on Wednesday...
I was wearing a Bluey Merino tee underneath.
All these pictures were taken post trail, and as far as I can tell, the performance is still great! A couple of snags/runs, but nothing terrible. So far I’ve only washed it once, and that was after returning from the SHT. I didn’t wash it while on trail, and while it was a little stinky towards the end, it wasn’t particularly noticeable. That said, I was by myself, and my nose tends to get really desensitized really quickly :)
I didn’t have an issue with it being my active and my sleeping layer. Honestly I find it pretty convenient! I do have different layers on bottom that I sleep in, but I never find myself particularly uncomfortable always wearing the same stuff on top. I had an EE Torrid Jacket along as well, but I didn’t really use it much because the Senchi Designs + Rain Coat combo really did the trick for most of the temps I encountered.
Hope that helps add a bit!
Thanks for the review! What were you wearing for an undershirt? How is the loft looking/functioning now, after your trip? How often did you wash it? Would you bring a separate sleep layer next time, or were you fine+ hiking and sleeping in it? Cheers! 10 days is quick! Very cool.