Expert Review: Arc'teryx Alpha AR Jacket

This review is my honest opinion of the jacket, which I purchased with my own money in March of 2022.

A woman in a helmet sitting in the snow.

All photos courtesy of Tyese Messerman, by Jay @splitcodecisions

Published on

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the jacket, which I purchased with my own money in March of 2022.

My take

The Arc’teryx Alpha Jacket is a high-end jacket designed to be pushed to the limits. A hardcore adventurer would benefit from this jacket the most, specifically someone interested in the backcountry or climbing. It is highly waterproof, windproof, and super abrasion-resistant for even the roughest conditions.

A woman wearing the Arc'teryx Alpha AR jacket on top of a mountain.

About the jacket

  • Model: Arc’teryx Alpha AR
  • Size: Small
  • Fit: True to Size

About me

  • Height: 5’7”
  • Weight: 130 lbs
  • Experience: 23+ years of snowboarding

Test conditions

  • When I bought this: March 2022
  • Days tested: 20
  • Where I’ve used it: Oregon, Washington, Utah, California
  • Conditions I’ve used it in: Powder, resort, backcountry splitboarding

How it performs

Breathability
5/5
Comfort
4/5
Durability
5/5
Style
5/5
Warmth
3/5
Waterproofing
5/5

What I was looking for

I had gotten into splitboarding and mountain climbing, and I was specifically looking for a lightweight, extremely durable GORE-TEX jacket that could be worn as a technical shell in any weather.

Why I chose this gear

Simply put, Arc’teryx as a brand has been tried and tested so many times and is at the top of the market for technical shells. The material wasn’t so thin that it felt like it could easily rip, yet it was still pretty lightweight and made from high-quality GORE-TEX.

I looked at the Patagonia Storm10, but it was a bit thin, and I also looked at the Norrona Trollveggen, which did seem to be fairly similar in quality, but I didn’t like the fit or the colorways quite as much. I also looked at the Mammut Nordwand Pro, but it had a zip-out snow skirt which I did not need and was even more expensive than the rest.

A snowboarder wearing full snowboard gear including the Arc'teryx Alpha AR Jacket.

What I love about it

  • Fit: I really like the fit of this jacket. I have a small, and I have plenty of room to layer. It’s not too short or too long, and I find that I can pull it down to make it longer or pull the adjustable toggles on each side and cinch it tighter, making it look shorter.
  • Range of Motion: I feel like I have a full range of motion in size small. The design in the shoulder section is flattering yet roomy. I can raise my arms straight up over my head without it pulling across my back at all. I have pretty long arms, and the sleeves are still plenty long when raising my arms as well. I have skinned a lot in this jacket, boot-packed up the headwall of Mt. Shasta, and done a bit of resort snowboarding, and I haven’t felt like it inhibited my range of motion at all.
  • Design: I think the huge design difference between the Alpha and the Beta is the front pockets. The Alpha has the pockets up higher, closer to the chest. This is specifically for ease of entry when wearing a harness. I also find it handy if I have a backpack with the waist strap attached since I can still get into my pockets without undoing the strap. That said, maybe the Beta is a better choice for someone who likes to have pockets to warm their hands and will not be wearing a harness or backpack. Overall, I love the design and fit.
  • Style: Overall, I like the style of this jacket. I hate boxy jackets, but this one is not boxy. The small fits fairly form-fitting if I have multiple layers on (baselayer and down puffy jacket). If I take the puffy jacket off, I have a lot of space, and feels a bit baggy but very comfortable.
  • Quality of Materials: The Alpha AR is high-quality GORE-TEX and feels very tough. It feels fairly thick and rigid, and as I’ve worn it more, I feel like it has become a bit more pliable and comfortable instead of rigid. I have worn it in both crazy snowstorms and rainstorms and never have any dampness leak through.
  • Durability: The material feels very durable. I often have crampons hanging on my backpack and swung into my jacket. And I’ve also had my ice axe fall on it, yet I’ve never had any abrasions to the material. The zippers feel really waterproof and durable too.
  • Pockets: There is one inner pocket made of fairly stretchy material. I have used this for my phone or granola bars, and I think if I really tried, I could fit my skins in it, although I think that would be a stretch. As I mentioned, the two outer pockets are closer to the chest and zip straight down. These are very waterproof and can hold a phone or small pieces of gear, but they aren’t really going to be for one’s hands.
  • Waterproofing: The Alpha has epic waterproofing. In my opinion, this is the biggest reason to buy this jacket. It just repels water like crazy. I can see the droplets form on top of the material and runoff. I haven’t had this jacket wet out at all yet, and I have put it in some pretty wet conditions.
  • Breathability: Two large pit zips under each arm go almost to my elbow in one direction and almost halfway down my torso in the other direction. There is no mesh or liner, so I am straight down to my next layer when unzipped. I assume this saves on weight, but I honestly don’t love unzipping it the whole way because it feels like a gaping hole. But it is certainly breathable, and I can unzip it as far as I want from the elbow side down.
  • Weight: For as tough and durable as this jacket is, it is fairly lightweight. It weighs just over a pound. Other jackets are lighter, like the Patagonia Storm10 I looked at, but one compromises a lot of durability in the fabric when they go a lot lighter.
  • Features: The Alpha AR is equipped with RECCO for safety, which I love. The hood is pretty roomy and fits over my helmet decently. I have a pretty big head, and I can’t get the jacket zipped quite to the top if it is over my snowboard helmet, but pretty close. It doesn’t have any thumb hole liners or anything, it is pretty minimalist as far as extra features, but I like that for what I’m using it for.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Warmth: This is just a shell, so as far as warmth, it is all about what I put under it. Depending on the weather, I like to wear a Smartwool baselayer and then a midlayer jacket. I took this jacket out on one pretty cold snowy day and layered it with a Smartwool shirt, an Icebreaker 250 zip-up, and a Patagonia Macro Puff Hoody, and I was warm. There is a tiny bit of thin fleece right at the top of the zipper, but it isn’t a jacket I want to bury my face into to get warm. I’d want a balaclava as well on really cold days.

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite trip with this jacket was going to SLC for a week. We planned to do some Ikon resort days and a few backcountry days as well. I tried to pack minimally, so instead of bringing an insulated jacket for resort riding, I just brought the Alpha AR and layers. I felt like I could regulate my temperature throughout all of the activities and days we had very well. We had a snowstorm the first few days at the resort and sunny spring-like conditions for backcountry peaks by the end of the week. I stayed in the same jacket all week, just switching up my layers, and everyone commented on what a versatile piece it was.

Value for the money vs. other options

I think this jacket is worth the money if someone is doing activities demanding such a high-quality jacket. It’s not cheap, but it is extremely durable, technical, and lightweight. If one is looking for a jacket only for resort days, a jacket of this quality and cost might not be necessary, but for what it is, it is worth every penny. I would say it is a very similar quality to some of the Norrona jackets, and Arc’teryx sits just a bit cheaper, which is awesome as well.

Final verdict

This technical jacket is a must-have piece for someone who spends a lot of time in the backcountry and unpredictable weather. It is extremely waterproof, abrasion-resistant, and lightweight for any backcountry mountaineering, climbing, or splitboarding excursion.

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Written By
From Whistler, BC to Rainier Basecamp, and from Niseko, Japan to Mt. Bachelor, Oregon, I simply can't get enough of the snow and the mountains! Growing up on the East Coast I learned to ski at age 5 and started snowboarding around age 12, and roamed the hills from Quebec, Vermont, NY, PA, WV and eve...

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