By Jenn K.
The manufacturer provided this vest for the purpose of this review.
The evenings and the early mornings have been chilly here in Southern California. The temperatures have been in the upper 30’s to upper 40’s at night. Typically in such temperatures I would wear a vest with a long sleeve layer underneath so it is perfect that I get to review the Cotopaxi Altiplano vest.
The Cotopaxi Altiplano Vest is manufactured in Bangladesh. There is a tag on the inside noting that the purchase of this vest helps provide primary and secondary schooling to children in Ecuador through the partner, JUCONI. Cotopaxi is a fairly new company and that “funds sustainable poverty alleviation, moves people to do good, and inspires adventure through innovative outdoor products”.
The vest is sharp looking and looks like something made with good quality in mind. I can wear it to work and not look like a hobo and it still has an outdoorsy look for the trail. It is available in sizes from XS to XL. Originally I requested a size medium as I usually wear and as indicated by the size chart. However, after receiving the medium sized vest I tried it on and determined there was no way I would get a layer on underneath and zip up the vest. So I exchanged it for a large, and it fits perfectly. I can actually wear a thin or a thick layer underneath and still be able to zip the vest. I received the grey color, but the grey is not a regular slate grey color. It is a lighter grey with a tinge of a rose to it. I actually like it, as it is different than what I am accustomed to.
The main vest material is a polyester ripstop shell with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish. This finish is supposed to allow water to roll off the garment and not penetrate the fabric. I will definitely check this feature out. And it is the perfect time of year because we are in our wet season here. The exterior is also designed to be wind resistant.
The inside fill is called a lightweight Polartec Alpha insulation. The insulation is very thin and it feels like one complete panel. The lower back and underarm panels are made of a knitted stretch fleece (Polartec Power Stretch). I can see where this material would be helpful to wick away moisture and for movement.
This vest is designed to be lightweight and packable. It is definitely both. There is an inside zippered stuff pocket. The vest packs in to the pocket, but there is no way I can zip it closed and honestly the way the zipper is oriented and not a double zipper by design I doubt it was designed to be zipped. When the vest is stuffed inside the pocket there is no way it is coming out unless physically pulled. The stuff pocket is not square shaped when stuffed, the shape reminds me of the human heart shape. The width when stuff from seam to seam at the widest point is 7 in and the length is 7 in from center to seam.
There are two zippered external hand pockets and the main zipper has a storm flap. All the zippers are easy to open and close with no catching of the vest material and they all have pull tabs. The hand pockets are lined with a knit material. What is nice about the pockets is that they appear to be hidden when looking at the vest since the opening is lined up against the side of the knitted under arm panel. The hand pocket zippers are sea green which may make them easier to see in the dark.
The care instructions for the Altiplano Vest are to machine wash it in cold water and line dry. Also it is indicated on the tag to avoid the use of fabric softener, not to bleach, and not to dry clean the vest. There is also indication that it is best to launder the vest separately. There is a hang loop inside the collar that may come in handy for drying the vest.
Update: January 26, 2016
I have worn the Cotopaxi Women’s Altiplano Vest almost every day this past month. I love it! It looks great, keeps me warm, and it is packable. I have only been wearing long sleeve layers under the vest; such as cotton, moisture wicking fabrics, or a lightweight merino wool. The vest has been worn in temperatures ranging from the upper 30’s to the low 60’s. Of course in the colder temperatures I wore a heavier and weather appropriate under layer so my arms would be warm. I am actually surprised how warm I have been in this vest since it is so lightweight. I have also worn the vest in gusty winds and it did a good job of keeping the cool wind from contacting my body.
There has been rain in Southern California and I was able to wear the vest during a light rain sprinkle. The vest did not wet out and it did not seem as though moisture penetrated the fabric. However, this was a very light rain sprinkle so it is not a good test of the vest’s water repellency.
I will say that I am impressed with the ripstop shell. I thought for sure I was going to tear the material when I brushed against some vegetation while hiking. I am happy to say there was not a tear or snag in the material.
The vest fits great with various thicknesses and types of layers underneath. My arms were never constricted when moving them. The main vest zipper works perfectly fine; no splitting open at the bottom nor does it get stuck. The small pocket zippers are the only ones that caught on the neighboring material. This was easily fixed and not a permanent problem.
I have used the pockets a bunch. My cell phone fits in either pocket along with my keys and lip balm. I noticed the pockets are also a good height when my hands are resting inside to stay warm.
I wore the Altiplano Vest so much it got a little dirty and I needed to wash it. I placed it in the washer on the delicate cycle and placed it on a drying rack to dry. The vest dried over night and all of the dirt smudges were washed away. The inner fill has not bunched up nor became separated from wear or washing. Also there is no pilling of the knitted stretch fleece material that makes up the underarm or lower back panels.
This vest packs down pretty small. On the trail I stuffed it in my backpack and around town I stuffed it in my messenger bag. At home I usually hang the vest in my closet and at work I stuff it in my locker. With all this compacting and stuffing of the vest for storage the fill is still intact.
Final Update: March 1, 2016
The Cotopaxi Women’s Altiplano Vest has been worn for the past two months. I cannot think of anything negative to say about it. It is a lightweight vest, that packs down small, and has kept me warm in temperatures over the freezing mark (it was hard enough to find freezing temperatures where I live).
I think what I like most about this vest is that it does not have a boxy fit and fits a woman’s shape well. The material is a good quality (has not snagged or torn) and the styling is unique with the sides and back panel of stretch fabric (Polartec Power Stretch). The stretch fabric also helps with movement when putting on a pack or when reaching. I am impressed that the inside fill has not bunched up with washing or from stuffing the vest. The Polartec Alpha insulation is still one continuous sheet and shows no signs of separation.
While on my fitness walks I noticed that I did not overheat prematurely in the vest and that I did not feel sticky under the vest. The insulation proved to be not only warm, but also moisture wicking.
I still have only worn the vest in a light sprinkle of rain and heavy fog. The light rain did not penetrate the exterior shell. The vest still kept me warm while the exterior was slightly damp. I am curious to see how washing with affect the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish.
Another few great things about the Altiplano Vest are that the zippers have not snagged, I still find the pockets to be roomy, and it dries quickly after washing. There are no snags or tears in the ripstop exterior shell and the knitted stretch material has not stretched or pilled from washing or wear.
I am very happy with is product and I plan on continuing to wear the Cotopaxi Women’s Altiplano Vest for many cool weather seasons to come. It may be beneficial to try the vest on before purchase or order up a size if layers will be worn underneath as I found my regular size too small.
The Altiplano Vest retails for $129.95 and is available in two colors (charcoal and grey). For more information please visit www.cotopaxi.com.