Arc’teryx Konseal Hoody Features:
- Moisture-resistant outer face fabric
- Utilizes Polartec PowerDry
- Highly breathable—maintains comfort during aerobic activity
- No-lift gusseted underarms
- ScubaHood™ for perfect under-helmet fit
- Integrated neck gaiter that also doubles as a balaclava
- Thumb loops on cuffs for total hand protection
- Laminated chest pocket with laminated zip
- MSRP: $169
Lightweight fleece for alpine adventuring
Everyone loves a good fleece. They’re a comforting piece of gear to pull on, soft and cozy in an alpine world that’s severe and cold. In my mind, the ideal fleece will be lightweight, breathable yet still warm, and will climb well without restricting movement. The Konseal has actually been out for some time, but it recently received an update from Arc’teryx. The old version had Polartec PowerStretch fabric, but the new one features Polartec’s PowerDry. According to Arc’teryx, the resulting fleece is softer and more breathable, yet sacrifices the durability of the old version. On a fleece, less durability basically means quicker pilling. I have other PowerDry fleeces and, yes, they will pill. That affects aesthetics, but not performance.
In terms of a foundation, the Polartec PowerDry has quite a bit going for it. It’s a gridded fleece, meaning it’s quite a bit more breathable than non-gridded designs. It’s also fairly stink-proof, has excellent 4-way stretch and has a very pleasant, soft handle. It’s not a hardface fleece, so there’s basically no water resistivity to it and wind cuts right through. So, it’s a fleece for a function! It does well in alpine, high-output settings provided the wind isn’t too cutting (then you’ll want to pop your shell on top). It does less well on wet days or days with bitingly cold wind or, for example, chimney climbing (you’d wreck the face of the fabric).
The cut of the Konseal is fairly generous and gives itself well to climbing. Reaching upward is comfortable and doesn’t result in a rise throughout the garment, thanks partly due to the stretchy fabric and partly due to the gusseted underarms. I’m 5’11” 185lbs and tested the Large, and found that the sleeves and hem were both long on me but it fits comfortably around the waist. The longer cut is fine in the sense that it fits under a harness well and adds extra protection to your hands on cold days (aided by the thumb holes at the cuffs) but the extra fabric can feel excessive. If you’re not particularly tall, choose a size on the small size. Otherwise the fit is great and doesn’t have any odd pinches or bags on the arms, chest or torso.
In terms of the features, the Konseal is a pretty carefully curated selection of function-first elements. We’ve got one pocket, thumb holes, fleece at the chin and a fancy balaclava thing. The single Napoleon pocket is neatly welded into the fabric and features a cord to run headphones through the inside. It’s big enough to accommodate a phone or my last-resort alpine nutrition option for when my tummy is grumbly, the humble Pop Tart. The thumb holes are thoughtfully designed into a seam at the cuff that results in extra coverage at the back of the hand (where you want it) and nothing in the way of your palm. It’s reasonably comfortable to wear for a long time, though not as comfortable as the most comfortable designs.
The stowable balaclava/neck gaiter thing is undeniably cool. For one thing, using it with the hood results in the a feeling of total protection from the elements, thanks in no small part to the hood’s awesome scuba-inspired design that really gives a tight, minimalist alpine fit that’s sublime under a helmet. The neck gaiter stays largely unnoticed at the back of the neck unless you pop it on. From there on, it functions equally well as a neck gaiter or a balaclava, and there’s enough fabric to cover both your face and neck fully. For someone like me who is absolutely anal about sun exposure, this is an awesome contribution. This feature could have easily been bulky and bombed, but Arc’teryx’s execution is perfect. Coupled with the ultra-minimalist fleece touches at the chin, your neck/chin/face area should stay super comfortable in the Konseal.
When it comes to staying warm and breathing when needed, the Konseal does well thanks to the know-how at Polartec. Their PowerDry fleece is an industry staple, and it really does represent a leading technology. This is a fairly low-loft fleece, so don’t expect a ton of warmth out of this fleece; I have no idea why Arc’teryx lists the PowerDry as ‘high warmth;’ there are many fleeces out there with higher piles of the same type of fabric. That said, PowerDry is also chemically odor-resistant and contains 50% recycled material. Nice move, Polartec. Thanks to the deep main zipper on the Konseal, it’s easy to dump heat when things get active and the zipper slides effortlessly (particularly since it’s not a locking zipper).
- Polartec PowerDry is a great foundation – lightweight, warm and breathable
- Garment resists odors well
- Alpine cut rests well under a harness and doesn’t inhibit climbing
- Fancy neck gaiter works well when needed, and stays out of the way when not!
- Scuba-style hood fit is perfect beneath a helmet
- Single chest pocket is perfect for bars or a phone
- PowerDry fleece will pill before long
- Sleeves and torso run on the long side
- Not as warm as the ‘high warmth’ descriptor on the product page would suggest; it’s a light fleece, which doesn’t need to pretend it’s super warm
The Bottom Line: Arc’teryx Konseal Hoody
The Arc’teryx Konseal hoody is a great addition to a crowded market of great fleeces. I think the concealed gaiter is perhaps its biggest selling point, and it really is a nice thing to be able to pop out. All of the features are dialed and function more or less perfectly, so it’s really up to the user to decide how much money to spend, how warm of a fleece is needed and exactly what features will be most useful. But, as it stands, the Konseal has many charms and virtually no serious flaws.
Buy Now: Available from Backcountry.com