Arc’teryx is well known to make top-notch shell jackets. Their Alpha product line focuses on alpinism and climbing and stands for “lightweight, minimalist climbing and alpinism products that protect from alpine environments.” Weight was a main concern while researching our gear list for the Great Himalaya Trail: we needed to have gear warm enough to deal with Himalayan winter conditions, yet light enough to carry it through the high mountains for months on end. The Alpha SL Hybrid jacket is a great combination of functionality, low weight and durability. This jacket was one of the few items that made it back without a single hole.
- Material: [membrane/laminate] Gore-Tex Pro 3L, Gore-Tex Paclite; [shell] 40D nylon
- Fabric Waterproof Rating: guaranteed waterproof
- Fabric Breathability Rating: guaranteed breathable
- Hood: yes, helmet-compatible
- Fit: athletic with e3D
- Venting: underarm zip vents
- Powder Skirt: no
- Pockets: 2 zippered hand
- Seams: fully taped
- Wrist Gaiters: no
- Liner-Compatible: no
- Weight: 280g
- Recommended Use: alpine climbing, hiking, trekking
- Manufacturer Warranty: lifetime
Weather protection & durability
I wanted a jacket that is properly water- and windproof. Though I used the lightweight model, this is a solid jacket. We spent nearly 3 weeks in the Kanchenjunga area with pouring rain every day: I got cold, but I did not get wet. I’ve never had a jacket before that was able to hold off so much water for such extended periods of time. Rain in the Himalaya can still be torrential in the beginning of fall: the last big downpours of the late monsoon hit the lower slopes still at full force. It rained for hours at a time, and the jacket kept my dry. Our highest point was 6200m but on many other passes above 5000m as well a vile, cold wind was blowing. I rarely felt any of it. I had purchased and extra lightweight wind jacket, but only used it once or twice when it was really nearly storming.
For a lightweight jacket it is extremely durable. Himalayan rock can be very abrasive, and most things in my pack came back with a hole or a couple of stitches. Not the Alpha Hybrid. I scratched and scraped it over rocks, climbed on ledges and pushed through dense jungle but the jacket survived. The only way to tell that it had really been used was from the layer of dust accumulated on it. This is truly impressive after four consecutive months of heavy-duty use.
Breathability & mobility
Good waterproofness and windproofness usually comes at a cost to breathability. It could get clammy inside of the jacket when temperatures are higher. Still, on sunny days with a few plus degrees I usually wore it as a windbreaker for full days without sweating too much. Breathability on this jacket is really good. One feature that really helps with breathability are the pit zips. Because it’s also so breathable this jacket can be used over a wide range of conditions. It’s a really nice all-round jacket, and it packs up small it’s never a bother to take.
The GoreTex Paclite fabric that is mainly used for the jacket is supple, allowing for good movement when climbing or scrambling in the hills. Stiffer GoreTex Pro is used on sensitive spots: around the shoulders and the armpits, for example. Yet Arc’teryx foresee how to make these stiffer fabric mobile too thanks to intelligent articulation patterns that allow these fabrics to move freely with you. The cut is athletic but roomy enough to allow for big movement, and the sleeves are cut long with articulated elbows so that you can put your arms up without pulling the entire jacket with you. It’s a comfortable jacket to wear and move around in.
It is one of Arc’teryx SL lightweight models, so it’s basic and streamlined to keep the weight down and limited only to the essentials.
One of my favorite features on this jacket is the hood: the hood is big enough to hold a helmet, but easy to adjust when you’re not using one. This was actually the first hood that never bothered me: it fits snug around your head to keep the rain out, but it doesn’t impede sight or start blowing off when the wind is coming head-on. The hood is easily adjusted with a one-hand strap on the back, and in addition there are cords to adjust the bungee around the chin guard.
The pitzips are great too, though they can be hard to handle, especially in the upwards direction. It usually takes two hands to open or close them. The hand pockets are placed on the chest so they can be used in combination with a harness. They are small but big enough to hold essentials, or to warm your fingers quickly on an extra cold day.
Though made for the fast-and-light approach, the Arc’teryx Alpha Hybrid jacket is a versatile and very durable jacket that can stand up to some very tough conditions. Arc’teryx is pricy but if you’re looking for something that can be used for trips in different seasons over a long timespan, this is definitely a jacket worth considering. It will keep you dry and sheltered for years.