Temperature regulation during high-output activities in cold weather is the golden egg of the outdoor industry. About every outdoor apparel-company has an insulated jacket that supposedly works in this regard. It’s a mid-layer piece that breathes and releases excess heat during activity, yet keeps you warm when you’re standing still. The idea is that you won’t have to remove or add layers during an entire day in the mountains. Does such a jacket exist? I think I found it in the Triple Aught Design Equilibrium series.
Who is Triple Aught Design?
Triple Aught Design is a somewhat new player on the outdoor world. Founded in San Francisco in 2009, the company focused on military-style, tactical apparel. I even reviewed the Stealth Hoodie LT back in 2013. While it worked well as a skiing outer layer, I thought there were too many bells and whistles. But since then Triple Aught Design evolved and are now an up-and-coming outdoor adventure brand.
Triple Aught Design Equilibrium Series
Back to that perfect winter jacket – the Equilibrium Hoodie, Jacket, and Vest arrived at my house in December, and I’ve used them all season so far. From backcountry and alpine skiing, to ice fishing, and even shooting video on a coues deer hunt in Sonora, Mexico, these pieces have seriously stepped up as my new favorite jackets, and it’s all because of the insulation.
The Equilibrium series utilizes Polartec’s Alpha material and Schoeller’s advanced 3XDRY technology. Alpha insulation was developed alongside US Special Forces which has adopted it as their standard issued insulation. It is a new, advanced, breathable insulation technology that works during both rest and dynamic phases in the field.
Over the insulation is a durable, stretch nylon shell treated with Schoeller’s 3XDRY that is both hydrophobic and hydrophilic. 3XDRY wicks moisture away from the interior while simultaneously repelling it on the exterior.
According to Triple Aught Design, the combination of these two technologies offers exceptionable breathability that allows the user to leave the Equilibrium on during both activity and rest. That means no more frequent donning and doffing of layers and equipment that has plagued variable-weather missions in the past. This is especially true for us backcountry skiers.
But does it really work? I’ve been using the Equilibrium Hoodie as my primary backcountry ski jacket all season so far and have a few thoughts.
Of the three Equilibrium pieces, I used the hoodie the most often. I took it backcountry skiing on several occasions in wildly different temperatures. Skinning up mountains is a very high-intensity workout that generates a lot of body heat. So I was curious how well Polartec Alpha really works. Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve found my new favorite backcountry skiing jacket.
The Equilibrium Hoodie regulates body temperature like nothing I’ve ever worn before. On my first tour with the hoodie, it was in the upper 30s outside. That’s pretty warm for backcountry skiing, and I did get a little hot. But the test was telling when my touring partner remarked that I had not yet shed a layer when we were halfway up the mountain. Frankly, I never felt the need to. The hoodie breathes insanely well. The fabric wicks sweat immediately. The insulation allows heat to escape, yet somehow keeps my core warm when I stop on the summit.
That day I never took off the Equilibrium Hoodie. I also never put any other layers on. This one jacket, paired with a merino wool base layer, kept me comfortable all day.
Okay, but what about on a cold day? Well, I went touring when temperatures at the trailhead one morning hovered around 9 degrees. I wore the same kit – wool base layer and the hoodie. Again, I was amazed. I stayed warm (but not too warm) and never had to fuss with taking off and putting on extra layers. This jacket does it all.
The Equilibrium Jacket is exactly like the hoodie, only without the hood. Since the hood is a must for me when backcountry skiing, I used the jacket for other pursuits. Mostly as a mid-layer while resort skiing, as well as other adventures like hunting in the Sonoran Desert.
While alpine skiing, I tend to overheat after a few hard runs, or when bootpacking or traversing to better terrain (which happens often at Alta and Solitude). This jacket has been awesome for the reasons described above. I would wear it under a waterproof/breathable hardshell at the resort for better weather protection. This lessened the breathability effect of the mid-layer, but it was still far more breathable than any other jacket I own.
While in Mexico, the jacket was ideal to wear during cold, pre-dawn mornings on windy ridgelines.
I even wear the Equilibrium Jacket around town. This layer just looks damn good. The cut is clean, the colors are subdued, and there are no annoying logos all over it.
The Equilibrium Vest adds versatility to an already versatile line. I’ve used it on warmer days when I still needed a bit of insulation. Winter trail running is a great example. Recently I spent all day outside in 40-degree temperatures wearing just a plaid shirt and this vest. My exposed arms got a bit chilly but my core felt perfect. On another day I went ice fishing at Strawberry Reservoir. The thermometer read 12 degrees, so I wore the vest under my heavy down jacket for some added comfort. Worked great.
There are additional features in the Equilibrium Series that I really like. With the hoodie, the hood is key. I like to wear a ball cap when skinning, but when it’s 9 degrees outside, my ears get real cold. The Equilibrium hood is awesome in that it’s very warm yet still breathes. My ears stayed toasty under the hood and when I did feel overheated, the hood was easy to slip off.
A rear “hunters” pocket acts as a stuff sack so I can pack the jacket down for storage in a pack. It doesn’t compress as well as a down jacket, but it still smashes down into an impressively small size. The stuffed jacket might even work as a small pillow in a pinch. While wearing the jacket, I’d use the pocket as storage, usually for my gloves. I found it the perfect size to stash gloves when I needed my hands free. Sure beats setting them down on the snowy ground. Both the hoodie and jacket have this pocket, but the vest does not.
All three pieces have an interior pocket, and two hand warmer pockets. The hoodie and jacket also have a Napoleon-style outer pocket, while the vest does not.
The inside lining is soft, supple and very cozy. It also has a lot of stretch for ease of movement.
Of course what really makes these jackets so impressive in my book is the Polartec Alpha Insulation. Not convinced? This video explains how it works.
I really have nothing bad to say about the Triple Aught Design Equilibrium Series. The only thing I should mention is that in order for these jackets to work, you have to be active. I wore the jacket on some cold days where I just stood around in 20 degree weather, or did low-level activity like walking the dog. In those situations I got a little chilly, especially if there was wind. Alpha Insulation is light and allows for a lot of air flow. That’s simply what makes it work. These are active pieces meant for high-output activity in cold weather. To be warm when standing still, you need to first generate body heat through activity. So if you’re looking for a “warm” jacket to wear on frigid days when you don’t plan on moving a lot, then wear your heavy down coat.
If you’re a backcountry skier, trail runner, mountaineer, or like to snowshoe, the Equilibrium Series is exactly what you should be wearing for temperature regulation. I can honestly say that in all my years testing and reviewing gear, I have not come across a jacket that breathes yet insulates during sweaty activity as well as the Equilibrium hoodie, jacket and vest.
You can shop for the Equilibrium Series at the Triple Aught Design website at tripleaughtdesign.com