Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha Jacket Review

The Prelight Alpha is the third piece I’ve reviewed from Jack Wolfskin, a German company working on building inroads to the North American outdoor market in recent years. The lightweight JWP Down Jacket remains my go-to puffy for long-distance hiking, and I have made good use of the Atmos jacket designed for chilly, rather than cold, conditions.

Now stepping down to the next level of protection, I’ve had a chance to use Jack Wolfskin’s lightweight, insulating Prelight Alpha to fend off wind and chill in moderate conditions. Once again, I’m impressed.

Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha Jacket At-a-Glance

jack wolfskin preflight alpha hilton head review

The reviewer sports Jack Wolfskin’s Preflight Alpha lightweight insulated jacket on the beach at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with Miss Carmen, age 13. Photo by Jody Frank Evans.

MSRP: $179.95
Weight: 7.8 ounces
Shell: PERTEX fabric with stretch fleece panels
Lining: 100% polyester Polartec Alpha synthetic fill
Windproof: Yes
Water repellent: No

Women’s Prelight Alpha here.

Circumstance of Use

I wore the Prelight Alpha more than 20 times for running, hiking and traveling in temperatures down to 45 degrees F in conditions including high wind and light rain. Incredibly comfortable, soft, and flexible, it has also become a regular “house jacket” on chilly mornings.

Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha Jacket Features 

  • Lightweight: 8 oz.; 220 g (men’s small)
  • Pockets: Two zip hand pockets
  • Cuffs: Elastic
  • Insulation: Shoulder, chest, neck and back feature fluffy Polartec Alpha, while the side panels and undersides of the arms feature light baffles
  • Comfort: Soft, flexible, warm material
  • Sustainability: Made from partially recycled materials

Lightweight: The Prelight Alpha weighs about eight ounces but wears like it weighs two ounces tops. Though sheer, soft, and flexible, it insulates admirably. 

Pockets: Two roomy hand pockets with zips are a big plus. There is plenty of room for snacks, sunscreen, or a phone, and the pockets are accessible and easy to open and close.

The Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha insulated jacket sports two roomy zip outer pockets. Clay Bonnyman Evans photo.

Zipper: The zip is streamlined and light, but easy to use even when wearing rain mitts. The similarly lightweight zip on my beloved Wolfskin puffy failed recently, but that’s after more than two years of heavy use, including the entire Pacific Crest Trail and half the Continental Divide Trail.

Fabric: I’m not sure what they’re doing over at Jack Wolfskin, but they sure know how to make a comfy jacket. This gauzy little number is so sheer and light it feels, dare I say it, like some kind of intimate apparel for hikers. For all that, it really does cut the wind, even when wet, and is impressively warm.

Polartec® jack wolfskin prelight alpha

Jack Wolfskin’s Prelight Alpha lightweight jacket features truly warm ‘n’ fuzzy Polartec insulation at the neck, shoulders, back and chest.

Hood: The hood is straight-up—no bells, whistles, or cinches—but it fits snugly, and I’ve had no trouble with it blowing off in high wind.

Packability: As light as the Prelight Alpha wears, I think I halfway expected it to nearly vanish when packed. The jacket doesn’t have a self-packing pocket or anything like that, but when rolled/stuffed it’s about the size of a small cantaloupe. Not uber-crushable, but reasonably compact.

Insulation: For such a sheer little thing, I found the Prelight Alpha to be surprisingly effective in cutting winds up to 25 mph. And though it’s not water-resistant, it really maintains its insulating properties even when wet. The only place you’re likely to feel it is on the tops of the arms, which are not insulated.

Polartec jack wolfskin prelight alpha

The Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha features Polartec insulation in a “fluffy” variety on the neck and trunk, and baffling on the sides and undersides of the arms. Clay Bonnyman Evans photo.

Breathability: Once more, with feeling: as a matter of physics, there is no such thing as a truly “breathable” fabric that also keep moisture out. That’s still science fiction. But the Prelight Alpha is plenty breathable by virtue of its thin shell and insulation.

Durability: It’s difficult to assess durability after just a couple of months’ wear. However, the fabric feels tough. The model I tested is light gray and shows dirt, but it also comes in black and dark blue.

Colors: Yawn… as usual, the “men’s colors” (say that gruffly, while pounding your favorite hard beverage, one booted foot on the bumper of your massive pickup) are supposedly “manly,” which means bo-ring: light gray, “dark sea” (blue) and black. Women’s jackets come in a pretty “rose smoke” (pink), “picnic green,” and “dolphin” (a kind of slate blue).

jack wolfskin prelight alpha

For really color-crazed men (/s), the Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha comes in not just gray and black, but (gasp!) dark blue! Women have a slightly better selection of colors (see photo below). Courtesy Jack Wolfskin.

I like cool colors, and it irks me beyond belief that we live in a world where “real men” are so often limited to a muted colorway slate that looks like it’s been hung out in a coal-choked, 1880s London fog to cure. My question to manufacturers (and women and men hikers): is it really true that men “won’t buy” cool, allegedly “unmanly” colors?

women's jack wolfskin prelight alpha in light pink; studio image

Ethical Considerations: Jack Wolfskin is working hard to be sustainable, using recycled materials and guaranteeing that its process produces/uses no fluorocarbons.  

The Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha features Polartec insulation, including baffling on the sides and underside of the arms.


  • Warmth: Incredibly good for its weight; I’d call it an effective mid-layer or outer-layer for temps down into the mid- to upper 30s.
  • Chill-cutting: I was quite surprised how warm I was in this jacket, even in high wind and rain.
  • Comfort: Dreamy
  • Hood: Offers a good deal of warmth and protection from wind
  • Pockets: Zippered and much appreciated


  • Hood: Not adjustable
  • Packing: I wanted it to crush into a somewhat smaller package
  • Not water-repellent: This isn’t the piece to wear in very wet conditions
  • Price: Pretty steep for a light piece


The Prelight Alpha is basically an ultralight fleece jacket with a wind-cutting shell exterior. It’s exceedingly comfortable and warm, considering its weight. Even though it’s a shell, I’ve come to view it as both a shell and a mid-layer option, say, beneath a waterproof jacket. It’s great for running and hiking in chilly conditions, including rain and substantial wind.

Weight-conscious hikers might balk at 7.8 ounces; my Macpac insulating mid-layer, for example, is half the weight. But overall, I think this is a great, lightweight option for three-season long-distance hiking. I sure use mine a lot.

Shop the Men’s Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha Insulated Jacket

Shop the Women’s Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha Insulated Jacket

Comparable Jackets

Helly Hansen Daybreaker Fleece Jacket

MSRP: $65
Weight: 12.3 ounces
Fabric: Polartec recycled polyester

Black Diamond Coefficient LT Hybrid Hoodie

MSRP: $180
Weight: 7.2 ounces
Fabric: Polartec, Primaloft, Elastane

Outdoor Research Vigor Full Zip Hoodie

MSRP: $110
Weight: 12 ounces
Fabric: Thermo-Regulating ActiveTemp

The Jack Wolfskin Prelight Alpha Jacket was donated for purpose of review.

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