This is certainly an impressive jacket and one that feels and looks premium. There are all kinds of flourishes and its high-quality fabrics mean that it should last you for many years. However, it’s the antithesis of a less-is-more approach. It’s heavy, expensive and has a few unnecessary features. For a serious mountain mid-layer, I’d look for something lighter and more streamlined; for a stylish jacket with military aesthetics and quality fabrics, step right up!
Premium feel and looks
Use of high-quality fabrics
Four zippered storage pockets
Heavy for a mid-layer
Awkward and unnecessary arm zips
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ThruDark is a British brand with United Kingdom Special Forces Heritage. This military origin is obviously apparent in the stylings of their clothing and accessories, while their founders say that their knowledge of high spec Special Forces kit is what sets their products apart.
The Centurion Alpine Jacket (available direct from ThurDark) is a hooded softshell jacket that’s intended as a ‘mid-layer for advanced technical pursuits across rugged terrain and hostile conditions’. It’s got a premium price, reflected in the fact that it’s got all the ingredients of a very a high-performing garment indeed, including surface treatment for increased durability and water-resistance. So, let’s scratch beneath that surface, shall we?
ThruDark Centurion Alpine Jacket: first impressions
The Centurion Alpine Jacket features two Polartec fabrics and Polartec’s Hardface technology to achieve a blend of thermal regulation, breathability and durability. It was one of the 12 winners at Polartec’s 2022 Apex Awards, which were given out to quality products that make great use of Polartec’s fabrics.
So what does that mean in actual use? Well, it’s wonderfully plush and you can feel the different fabric patterns at work across the garment, including soft to the touch fleece in the arms and around the waist. There are a few issues with the seams but other than this, it’s a very comfortable jacket.
Aesthetically, there are loads of pleasing little touches, like the ThruDark logo zip pulls, which are easy to manipulate with gloved hands, and the Centurion text down the front zip guard.
RRP: $300 (US) / £250 (UK)
Weight: 550g / 1lb 2oz
Sizes: XS to 3XL
Fabric: Polartec Power Air and Polartec Power Stretch
Colors: Obsidian Black
Two Polartec fabrics are at work here. On the sleeves and lower body, Polartec Power Stretch ensures freedom of movement with a strong, dual-surface knit. Meanwhile, body heat is retained thanks to Polartec’s Power Air, which features an internal yarn construction that sheds five times less microfibers than most mid-layer fabrics. Good for the longevity of the jacket and good for the planet too.
These fibres are finished with a polymer surface treatment called Polartec Hardface, which improves the fleece’s abrasion resistance and water repellence. In theory, this should extend the lifespan of the jacket.
You get plenty of storage, with four ample zippered pockets: two on the chest and two in the arms. The chest pockets are very large, which is a real boon, as it gives you the option to have items like maps quickly to hand. They’re positioned to be accessible when wearing a climbing harness or a hiking backpack with its chest straps and hip belt fastened. The arm pockets are located above the upper arm and are also surprisingly spacious.
There’s a nicely padded hood that fits snuggly for when it’s blowing a hoolie. The wrist cuffs are nice and stretchy, making it easy to pull back for a glance at a field watch or similar. Thumb loops allow you to stop the sleeves riding up when you put additional layers on.
On each arm are Velcro compatible arm patches displaying the ThruDark logo. These are designed so the wearer can attach reflective patches or emergency lighting systems, or to display their own insignia.
On the trails
The Centurion served me well on a number of forays into the backcountry, including a few days spent in sub-zero conditions. However, it’s not without fault. As I’m a glass half full kind of person, let’s start with the positives.
First off, it’s a very cozy jacket that provides plenty of warmth, while being breathable enough that I rarely felt hot. The exception to this was during steep ascents. While I could open up the main front zipper. for general ventilation, there wasn’t a great deal of airflow around the underarms.
Its Polartec Power Stretch fabric gave me freedom of movement when I wanted to move quickly or get into scrambling terrain. At 550g, it’s pretty heavy for a mid-layer, so I never felt particularly nimble in it. More of a jacket for slow and steady on the winter trails or sharing a cold drink around the campfire rather than for speed-hiking pursuits in spring.
In cold conditions the zippers are easy to manipulate with winter hiking gloves. The pulls are even textured, making for a strong grip. The positions of the chest pockets are ideal for access when wearing a backpack and I could even fit a standard topographical map in one, zipped up and everything!
The arm pockets are quite a neat idea, giving you additional storage that’s accessible once you’re fully kitted up. However, I found that they were at little awkward to open and close and virtually impossible to do with just one hand due to the direction of pull. This was because I was basically pulling the zip over itself, possibly to do with how close the zipper is to the shoulder seams, where the fabric bunches up and outwards slightly. Had the zipper been further down the sleeve, there may not have been the same issue. Then there’s the fact that, when worn as a mid-layer, the pockets are impractical to get at anyway.
Another bugbear I've got with the shoulder seams is… the seams themselves, along with the seam that runs across the top of the back. In general, the Centurion is plush feeling and wonderfully comfortable, yet this is undermined by these aggressive seams. I could literally feel them wrapped under my armpit, over my shoulder and across my back the whole time. When I put on a mid layer, I'm after a 'barely there' feel, not this.
All in all, I can’t help but feel that, while ThruDark market the Centurion as a mid-layer, it’s too overstated and heavy to really excel in this use. When it comes to hiking and mountaineering layers, multiple thin layers are more versatile and warmer than one thick layer. For the price and weight of the Centurion, I could easily swap in three.
On top of this, features like its Velcro compatible arm patches and the arm pockets are completely superfluous if I’m wearing it as a mid-layer, which I would be on advanced technical pursuits across rugged alpine terrain in harsh conditions. This is because a hard shell, with its high levels of windproof and waterproof protection, is usually essential on these kinds of pursuits.
Don't get me wrong, the Centurion is a quality jacket that scores high in the style stakes. I’d wear it proudly to the pub and it’s undoubtedly great for a lot of hiking applications. I’m just not sure it’s the alpine mid-layer it’s marketed as, when being fast and light is half the battle.
Alex is a freelance adventure writer and mountain leader with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, his native English Lake District has a special place in his heart, though he is at least equally happy in North Wales, the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps. Through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors. He is currently President of the London Mountaineering Club, training to become a winter mountain leader, looking to finally finish bagging all the Wainwright fells of the Lake District and hoping to scale more Alpine 4000ers when circumstances allow. Find out more at www.alexfoxfield.com