Which Arc’teryx Jacket Is Best for You?

Published on 05/19/2023 · 22 min readHiking & Camping Expert Jessica LaPolla breaks down the most popular Arc'teryx jackets on the market so you can understand which one would be the best fit for you!
Jessica LaPolla, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Jessica LaPolla

Photo by Tyler Moore

When it comes to high-performance outdoor gear, Arc'teryx is a brand that needs no introduction. Known for their innovative designs, cutting-edge materials, and uncompromising quality, Arc'teryx jackets are trusted by outdoor enthusiasts around the world. But with so many different types of Arc'teryx jackets to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. But don’t worry, that's where this guide comes in! Whether you're a seasoned pro or a newcomer to the world of outdoor gear, we've got you covered with everything you need to know about Arc'teryx jackets. From the different types of materials and insulation to the various fits and activity-specific features, this guide will help you find the perfect Arc'teryx jacket for your needs.

So, let's dive in and explore the world of Arc'teryx jackets!

What Is an Arc’teryx Jacket?

Arc’teryx is a high-end Canadian brand that specializes in outdoor gear. They make everything from backpacks to shoes, base layers, climbing harnesses, and of course, jackets! Though Arc’teryx gear is on the pricier end compared to other options, anyone who has used a piece of gear from this company will tell you it’s worth the investment. Their products are built for the most extreme conditions, be it mountaineering on windy ridgelines in Argentina, skiing huge mountainsides in Alaska, or climbing massive walls in Yosemite. Many skiers, hikers, campers, and climbers doing slightly less extreme missions also love Arc’teryx products since they are extremely high quality and can withstand pretty much anything.

When it comes to jackets, Arc’teryx has a ton of different options. It can be hard to sort through them all to find the right one for you, so below, we will go through everything you need to know when narrowing down the perfect Arc’teryx jacket for you and the activities you like to participate in.

What to Consider When Buying an Arc’teryx Jacket

What type of activities am I going to be using this jacket for?

The first question you should ask yourself when shopping for an Arc’teryx jacket should be the type of activity you are looking to use your jacket for. If you are looking to use this jacket for skiing, you’ll likely want something waterproof that has insulation or is large enough to wear an insulating layer underneath. If you are looking for a jacket to wear around town during the cold days of winter, you will certainly want something insulated and possibly that is a longer fit to keep your butt warm as well as your torso. If you are looking for a jacket to toss on at night around camp during the summer, you’ll want something lightweight that isn’t necessarily waterproof. And if you are going to be using your new Arc’teryx piece for some type of high-output activity such as trail running or backcountry skiing, make sure you get something breathable! We will get into the specifics of each of these features below!

What type of weather will I be wearing this jacket in?

Though it goes hand in hand with the type of activities you’ll be using this jacket in, the second consideration when shopping for an Arc’teryx jacket should be the type of weather you’ll be using it in. If you live in a particularly rainy area and are doing a lot of hiking, you will want to make sure your jacket is waterproof. If you are primarily using it for skiing on spring days, you might consider something that's really breathable and not waterproof.

How much am I looking to spend?

Another question to consider when shopping for an Arc’teryx jacket is the price point. As mentioned above, Arc’teryx is a high-end brand that can get pricey fast. If you are looking for a technical shell, you could easily spend upwards of $800 on something like the Alpha SV Jacket. The Alpha SV is made of Gore-Tex Pro and designed to be ultralight, ultra-durable, and primarily used for alpine climbing. If you’re looking for a rain jacket to bring on backpacking trips, the Alpha SV would certainly do the job. But that being said, something like the Coelle Shell Jacket or the Beta Jacket are both half the price of the Alpha SV, at $400 each, and will also do a great job keeping you protected from the rain on backpacking trips.

In terms of insulated jackets, it’s a similar story. You can spend $1000 on the Alpha Parka, which is a down-insulated, incredibly warm jacket intended for belaying climbers in extreme conditions. But if you are looking for something warm for walking the dog in the winter, it’s probably not necessary, and something like the Thorium Jacket is also down-insulated and will keep you nice and toasty for only $400.

The moral of the story is if you are shopping for an Arc’teryx jacket for a high-intensity mission such as a long alpine climb or a mountaineering expedition, you can expect to spend a bit more than if you are just looking for something durable, but for more casual use. Either way, it’s important to take into consideration how much you’re looking to spend on your new jacket.

What style/fit am I looking for?

From slim and athletic-fitting to loose and relaxed, Arc’teryx makes jackets in a variety of styles and fits. Consider your personal style and how you like your clothes to fit to ensure you choose a jacket that you'll feel comfortable wearing.

Are there any specific features I want in my jacket?

Arc'teryx jackets come with a range of features, such as hoods, pockets, adjustable cuffs, pit zips for ventilation, a powder skirt, reflective detailing, or Recco reflectors. Determine which features are important to you based on your intended use for the jacket and your personal preferences.

Different Types of Arc’teryx Jackets

Hardshell Jackets

Hardshell jackets are designed to provide protection from wind and rain while remaining lightweight and breathable. They are often made with Gore-Tex fabric and come with features such as hoods, pit zips, and adjustable cuffs. Some come with insulation, but generally, hardshells are non-insulated.

Benefits:

  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Excellent protection from the elements
  • Can be used in a range of activities, from hiking to climbing to skiing

Be Aware:

  • One of the most expensive types of jackets, especially if it’s Gore-Tex
  • Can be noisy and stiff

Softshell Jackets

Softshell jackets provide protection from wind and light rain or snow while remaining more flexible and breathable than hardshell jackets. The outer material is made with stretchy and breathable fabrics, such as synthetics or nylon, and the inside is generally some type of fleece lining, so they are typically more comfortable to move around in than a hardshell. They can also come with varying features such as hoods, pockets, and adjustable cuffs. These are also generally non-insulated, though there are some softshells that have insulation.

Benefits:

  • More comfortable and flexible than hardshell jackets
  • More breathable than hardshells
  • Can be used in a range of activities, from hiking to climbing to skiing

Be Aware:

  • Will not provide as much protection from heavy rain and snow
  • Less packable than other types of jackets, such as hardshells

Insulated Jackets

Insulated jackets are designed to provide warmth in cold weather. They come with different levels and types of insulation, including synthetic and down, and can be made with either hardshell or softshell fabrics.

Benefits:

  • Provides excellent warmth in cold weather
  • Can be used as a standalone jacket or as a layering piece

Be Aware:

  • Can be bulkier than a simple shell
  • May be too warm for mild or moderate weather conditions

Fleece Jackets

Fleece jackets provide warmth in cool weather while remaining lightweight and breathable. They are made with synthetic materials that wick moisture away from your body. Typically, fleece jackets have zippered pockets and adjustable cuffs.

Benefits:

  • Lightweight and breathable
  • Quick-drying and moisture-wicking
  • Great layering piece for winter and can double as a primary jacket for warmer spring/fall days

Be Aware:

  • Not as as wind-resistant as other types of jackets and not waterproof
  • Not warm enough to be a main jacket on colder days

Casual Jackets

Arc'teryx also makes a range of casual jackets designed for everyday wear. These jackets come in a range of styles and fabrics. They are generally a bit cheaper, and though they are still made from high-quality materials, they are not built to withstand as extreme of environments as most of Arc’teryx’s other jacket lines.

Benefits:

  • Stylish and versatile
  • Can be used in a range of casual settings

Be Aware:

  • Do not provide as much protection from the elements as other types of jackets
  • Not suitable for outdoor activities or extreme weather conditions

Naming Acronyms in Arc’teryx Jackets

Photo by Elvert Barnes courtesy of Flickr

If you’ve researched much about Arc’teryx jackets, you will have noticed that Arc'teryx uses a set of acronyms to indicate different product features and intended uses.

To give one example, the Arc’teryx Atom LT and the Arc’teryx Atom SL are both part of Arc'teryx's Atom series of jackets, which are designed to be lightweight, versatile, and highly packable. The LT stands for lightweight, whereas the SL stands for super light. These two jackets have similar names but different insulation types, features, and face fabric, and there is a weight difference. The Atom LT is a great choice for cold-weather activities where warmth and durability are important, while the Atom SL is a better choice for activities where weight and packability are priorities.

Here's an overview of some of the most common acronyms used in Arc'teryx jacket names:

  1. SV: "Severe weather" is used on products designed for the harshest weather conditions. SV products are typically made with more durable and protective materials and feature more advanced features such as watertight zippers and reinforced hoods.
  2. LT: "Lightweight" is used to designate products that are designed to be light and packable while still providing adequate protection and durability. LT products are often made with lighter-weight materials and feature a more streamlined design.
  3. AR: "All-round" is used on products that are versatile enough to be used in a wide range of activities and conditions. AR products are typically made with a balance of protection, durability, and weight, making them suitable for a variety of outdoor pursuits.
  4. FL: "Fast and light"; these products are designed to be as light and streamlined as possible for fast-moving activities such as trail running or speed hiking. FL products are typically made with minimalist designs and lightweight materials.
  5. SL: "Super light" is used to designate products that are designed to be the lightest and most packable option for a given activity. SL products are often made with ultra-lightweight materials and feature minimalist designs.
  6. IS: “Insulated” designates that a jacket or pants would have some form of insulation. This could be down or synthetic in varying levels of warmth.

These acronyms can help you quickly identify the intended use and features of an Arc'teryx product. However, it's important to keep in mind that not all products with the same acronym will have the same features or level of protection, so it's always a good idea to read the product description and specifications carefully before making a purchase! It’s also worth noting that some other Arc’teryx products, such as backpacks and shoes, use slightly different acronyms.

Features to Look Out for When Buying This Product

Outer Material

The outer material is an important consideration when choosing your jacket since it can affect the jacket's durability in rugged environments, breathability when sweating, and overall performance in different weather conditions.

Outer materials in Arc’teryx Hardshells: Usually, hardshells are made of Gore-Tex or Gore-Tex Pro.

  • Gore-Tex: Gore-Tex is a waterproof and breathable membrane that is often used as the outer material on Arc'teryx jackets. It is highly durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions, making it a great choice for activities like skiing, snowboarding, and mountaineering.
    • Example: The Beta AR Jacket
  • Gore-Tex Pro: Gore-Tex Pro comes in a few different varieties, each with varying weights, breathabilities, and durabilities, but for simplicity's sake, in this article, we will just look at general Gore-Tex Pro! Gore-Tex Pro is also a high-performance material used by Arc'teryx that is both waterproof and breathable. It is more durable than regular Gore-Tex and lighter, making it ideal for use in alpine environments and a great choice for backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts who need to travel light. It is generally more expensive than classic Gore-Tex.
    • Example: The Alpha SV Jacket

Outer materials in Arc’Teryx Softshells: There’s a bit more variability in face fabric when it comes to softshells. Here are some of the different types of materials that Arc'teryx may use for the outer layer of their soft shell jackets.

  • Burly Double Weave: A highly durable and abrasion-resistant fabric. It is a stretchy material that is breathable, water-resistant, and wind-resistant, making it ideal for outdoor activities like hiking and climbing.
    • Example: The Gamma MX Hoody
  • Fortius 1.0: A lightweight and breathable fabric that provides some water resistance and wind resistance but is primarily designed for activities where breathability and mobility are key, such as climbing or hiking.
    • Example: The Gamma LT Hoody
  • Wee Burly Double Weave: A variation of the Burly Double Weave fabric with a lighter weight and more flexible feel. It is still highly durable and abrasion-resistant but is designed for activities that require more flexibility and mobility, such as climbing or skiing.
    • Example: The Gamma SL Hoody
  • Tweave Durastretch: A highly stretchy and breathable fabric that provides some water resistance and wind resistance but is primarily designed for activities where freedom of movement is essential, such as climbing or skiing.
    • Example: The Sigma SL Anorak
  • Luminara: Luminara is a lightweight and breathable fabric that is designed for high-intensity activities like running or cycling. It provides excellent moisture management and dries quickly, making it ideal for activities where sweat and moisture can be an issue.
    • Example: The Cita SL Jacket

Outer Materials used in Arc’teryx Fleece Jackets:

  • Polartec: Polartec is a popular fleece material used in many Arc'teryx jackets. It is lightweight and breathable and provides warmth without adding bulk. It is highly durable, which makes it a great choice for use in rugged environments like mountaineering or rock climbing.

Overall, the type of material used for the outer layer of an Arc'teryx jacket will depend on the intended use and level of protection required. By understanding the different materials available, you can choose a softshell jacket that is best suited to your needs and the activities you plan to use it for.

Insulation Type

The next thing to consider is the insulation type you might want in your Arc’teryx jacket. As we talked about before, you may not want insulation in your jacket if you’re looking for something light to be used as a rain shell or windbreaker. But if you are looking at a jacket that offers extra warmth through insulation, there are a few insulation types used by Arc’teryx to consider.

Down Down is a highly compressible and lightweight insulation made from the soft feathers of ducks and geese. It provides an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio and is ideal for cold and dry conditions. An example of an Arc'teryx down jacket is the Cerium LT Jacket.

Benefits:

  • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, making it a great choice for lightweight and compressible insulation
  • Long lifespan if cared for properly

Be Aware:

  • Loses insulating properties when wet, so it's not ideal for wet conditions
  • Expensive compared to synthetic options

Synthetic Synthetic insulation is made from polyester fibers that are designed to mimic the insulating properties of down. It is more durable and moisture-resistant than down, making it ideal for wet conditions. An example of an Arc'teryx jacket that uses synthetic insulation is the Atom LT Jacket.

Benefits:

  • Retains insulating properties even when wet, making it a good choice for wet conditions
  • Less expensive compared to down

Be Aware:

  • Less compressible and bulky than down, so it can be harder to pack
  • Generally heavier and less breathable than down

Coreloft Coreloft is a type of synthetic insulation that is designed to provide warmth and loft without adding bulk, essentially meant to mimic the benefits of down insulation while keeping the benefits of synthetic insulation. It is highly compressible and dries quickly, making it ideal for activities like skiing and mountaineering. An example of this type of insulation would be the Atom AR Jacket.

Benefits:

  • Retains insulating properties even when wet
  • Lightweight and compressible compared to other synthetic options, making it a great choice for activities where weight and packability are important

Be Aware:

  • Not as warm as down or some synthetic options
  • Can compress over time, reducing its insulating properties

Polartec Alpha Polartec Alpha is a synthetic insulation that is designed to provide warmth while also allowing for breathability and moisture management. It is ideal for high-output activities like climbing and hiking. An example of an Arc'teryx jacket that uses Polartec Alpha insulation is the Proton LT Jacket.

Benefits:

  • Provides warmth while also allowing for breathability and moisture management
  • Lightweight and compressible

Be Aware:

  • Not as warm as some other down options
  • Can be expensive compared to other synthetic options

Gore-Tex Infinium Gore-Tex Infinium is a windproof and water-resistant insulation that is designed to provide warmth in cold and windy conditions. It is highly breathable and has a soft and comfortable feel. An example of an Arc'teryx jacket that uses Gore-Tex Infinium insulation is the Delta MX Hoody.

Benefits:

  • Windproof and water-resistant
  • Highly breathable and comfortable to wear, making it ideal for a wide range of activities

Be Aware:

  • May be less durable than other insulation types, making it less ideal for rough or abrasive environments.

Fit

Fit and style are also important factors to consider. The right fit can make all the difference in terms of comfort, mobility, and overall performance, and Arc’teryx has a few options when it comes to the fit of their jackets.

When choosing a fit, it's important to consider your intended use for the jacket. For example, if you plan to use the jacket for high-output activities like hiking or climbing, a trim or alpine fit may be more appropriate, as it will provide greater mobility and breathability. On the other hand, if you plan to use the jacket for extreme cold weather or mountaineering, an expedition fit may be more appropriate, as it will provide greater warmth and room for layering. Ultimately, the fit and style of your Arc'teryx jacket should be chosen based on your individual needs and preferences.

Activity-Specific Features

Lastly, Arc’teryx offers a wide range of activity-specific features in its jackets. Here are a few examples of those features which you may wish to look for if you are intending to use your new jacket for a specific activity:

  • Climbing: Many Arc'teryx jackets designed for climbing have helmet-compatible hoods that can be worn over a climbing helmet, such as the Alpha AR Jacket. They may also have higher pockets placed to not interfere with a harness or backpack waist belt.
  • Skiing: Arc'teryx ski jackets often feature a powder skirt that helps keep snow out, as well as a Recco reflector for added avalanche safety. Additionally, some jackets, such as the Sabre AR Jacket, have a removable hood that fits over a ski helmet.
  • Hiking: For hiking and backpacking, Arc'teryx jackets may have pit zips to help regulate temperature and increase breathability. The Zeta LT Jacket also features WaterTight zippers to keep out moisture in rainy conditions.
  • High-output Activities: For high-output activities such as trail running or cross-country skiing, Arc'teryx jackets may feature a lightweight, breathable construction with minimal insulation, such as the Incendo Hoody. They may also have strategic venting or mesh panels to increase breathability.

How to Choose the Right Product for You

Even with all this information, it can still be hard to know exactly which Arc’teryx jacket is right for you, given all the different options Arc’teryx offers. Below, I have listed four Curated customers whom I have helped to find their perfect Arc’teryx jacket. Each customer represents a type of person who might be in the market for an Arc’teryx jacket, and a few features they should look for, as well as some recommendations for each of them!

Sarah: The Ski Mountaineer

Sarah is an experienced ski mountaineer who frequently goes on challenging backcountry tours in cold and snowy conditions. She needs a jacket that can keep her warm and dry but also allows for ease of movement during strenuous ascents and descents.

Features Sarah should look for:

  • Lightweight, breathable materials
  • Waterproof
  • A helmet-compatible hood
  • Powder skirt
  • Multiple pockets for storing gear

Recommended jackets for Sarah:

  • Arc'teryx Sentinel AR Jacket: This is a Gore-Tex jacket with a longer hem, designed for skiing and snowboarding. It has a helmet-compatible StormHood, a high collar for protection from wind, and pit zips for ventilation.
  • Arc'teryx Alpha AR Jacket: This jacket is also made with Gore-Tex and has a streamlined design that allows for movement during climbing and skiing. It has a helmet-compatible StormHood and two large hand pockets.
  • Arc'teryx Sabre LT Jacket: This jacket is designed for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, with a Gore-Tex construction, helmet-compatible hood, and powder skirt. It's also relatively lightweight, making it a good option for those who prioritize weight.

Max: The Avid Rock Climber

Max is a rock climber who spends a lot of time outdoors on steep, rocky terrain. He needs a jacket that can withstand abrasion and is breathable enough to keep him comfortable during intense activity. Max also prefers a more streamlined fit so that his jacket doesn't interfere with his harness or gear.

Features Max should look for:

  • Durable face fabric
  • Breathable material
  • Lightweight
  • Trim fit
  • Higher pockets to still be able to access pockets with a harness on
  • Standard, waist-level hem, so there isn’t any discomfort when wearing a harness

Recommended jackets for Max:

  • Arc'teryx Gamma LT Hoody: This is a softshell jacket made with durable, abrasion-resistant material. It has a trim fit, helmet-compatible hood, and adjustable velcro cuffs for a secure fit around his wrists, which will keep his hands free for climbing.
  • Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody: This is a lightweight windbreaker that is perfect for climbing in warmer weather. It's made with breathable material and has a trim fit, adjustable hood, and zippered chest pocket.
  • Arc'teryx Proton LT Hoody: This is a synthetic insulated jacket that is both breathable and durable. It has a trim fit and stretchy, breathable side panels for ease of movement.

Tom: The Urban Commuter

Tom is a city-dweller who frequently commutes by bike or foot. He needs a jacket that is both weather-resistant and stylish enough to wear around town. Tom prefers a more fitted, streamlined look.

Features Tom should look for:

  • Waterproof
  • Stylish, more casual look
  • Insulated
  • Trim fit

Recommended jackets for Tom:

  • Arc'teryx Therme Parka: This is a stylish, insulated parka that is perfect for cold urban environments. It has a water-resistant outer fabric and an adjustable hood.
  • Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody: This is a lightweight, down-insulated jacket that is perfect for layering. It has a trim fit and is compressible enough to be packed into a small space.
  • Arc'teryx Koda Jacket: This is a stylish, water-resistant jacket that is perfect for commuting in mild weather. It has a trim fit and an adjustable hood.

Lisa: The Hardcore Backpacker

Lisa is an experienced backpacker who spends a lot of time hiking and camping in a variety of conditions. She needs a jacket that is versatile enough to handle changing weather and activities but also lightweight enough to carry in her pack. Lisa prioritizes features such as adjustable hoods, ventilation options, and packability.

Features Lisa should look for:

  • Lightweight, breathable
  • Versatility
  • Weather protection and some waterproofing
  • Pit zips
  • Packable
  • Hood

Recommended jackets for Lisa:

  • Arc'teryx Beta LT Jacket: This is a lightweight, packable jacket made with Gore-Tex Pro. It has a helmet-compatible hood and pit zips for ventilation.
  • Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket: This is a lightweight, packable jacket made with Gore-Tex fabric, making it waterproof and windproof. It is designed with a trim fit, making it ideal for hiking and backpacking, and has an adjustable, helmet-compatible StormHood.
  • Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody: This jacket can be worn as a mid-layer or standalone jacket. It is made with Coreloft insulation, making it warm and lightweight, and has a DWR finish to repel light water.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are tons of options when it comes to choosing an Arc’teryx jacket. With a wide variety of jackets designed for specific activities and environments, there is an Arc'teryx jacket for everyone. By understanding the key features to look for, such as materials, insulation, fit, and activity-specific features, you can find the perfect jacket for your needs. Whether you are a mountaineer, a hiker, a skier, or just someone looking for a reliable jacket to keep you warm and dry, Arc'teryx has all types of adventurers covered. Though they are a bit on the pricier end, I have been extremely happy with every Arc’teryx product I have purchased. Their gear performs exceptionally well and lasts a lifetime, so don't hesitate to invest in an Arc'teryx jacket; you won't regret it. If you still have questions, aren’t sure which is the best Arc’teryx jacket for you, or want to chat through anything, please reach out to a Curated Hiking and Camping Expert today. We’d be happy to help!

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