Image source: Ange Percival
Over 20 years of hard-shell design and manufacturing has led to the latest incarnation of the Arc'teryx Alpha FL Jacket. Having first been produced in 2012, the Arc'teryx team refined the design in 2014 before revisiting the jacket to produce this year's version.
We got our hands on one of the jackets to see if it lived up to its predecessor's reputation.
Arc'teryx Alpha FL jacket classification
"Climbing and alpinism focused pieces: harness compatible length and waistline; chest pockets accessible while wearing a pack or harness; maximum articulation for overhead motions; helmet compatible hoods; drop hem; highest possible durability-to-weight ratio; emphasis on lightweight materials."
FL (Fast and Light):
"Minimalist garments designed to be very light with high performance, for travelling fast and light in variable weather conditions"
The first thing you notice when you pick up the jacket and put it on is how light it is, a mere 315g (medium). This is extremely light; in fact it is the lightest jacket in the Arc'teryx range that is constructed from GORE-TEX Pro.
On the outside, the fabric has a nice matte feel that doesn’t rustle too much when you move and the inside rests comfortably against your skin. A quick stretch, twist and raise of the hands over my head and I can say that the jacket moves really well with your body.
Clipped to the jacket was a small stuff pack for storage. At first I was sceptical about fitting the jacket in, the pack looked tiny. I gave it a go and it ended up being surprisingly easy to pack down; hardly taking up any space in my rucksack.
Despite the small weight it feels well-built and substantial, ready to hold off rain, wind and snow.
GORE-TEX Pro: gives rugged, breathable waterproof protection
e3D patterning: allows for excellent mobility
No-lift gusseted underarms: the jacket remains in place when reaching for climbing holds
N40p-X face fabric: lightweight and durable it has great water repellency
Helmet compatible StormHood: rotates without blocking vision
Stuff sack with clip-in loop: packs down to a small size
Harness compatible: the shape of the hem cord-lock keeps the harness in place
Externally accessed hood drawcords: adjust the fit with no need to undo the jacket
Die-cut cuff adjusters: reduces bulk and doesn't catch
Design Manager Greg Grenzke talks about the evolution of the Alpha FL Jacket and how it was produced.
Designed to be simple to use and as light as possible there is not an endless list of features on this jacket, but it's what's not there that makes it so great. One instance of this 'less is more' mentality is the use of GORE’s smaller than normal seam taped with a micro allowance that reduces bulk and weight without comprising its waterproof capabilities.
The cut, joints and hood have been married together brilliantly. An underarm ‘no-lift’ gusset coupled with articulated elbow joints gives you the freedom to reach for holds. Made to have a close, medium length fit the e3D (3-Dimensional patterning), developed with their athletes to best enable movement. The hood fits a helmet without being overly sloppy and allows you to twist and move with ease. It comes with three easy adjust pulleys and a high collar to shield your face.
There are two pockets on the chest of this jacket, one on the inner and one on the outer. They are big enough to fit a mobile phone, energy bar and your keys, but that's about it. The outer pocket features Arc'teryx’s new push-to zip which removes the need for a cover, improves the seal and is glove-friendly.
At the hem of the jacket it has two hem adjusters and a foam insert to prevent the jacket riding up and over a harness. The medium length also helps to place the jacket below your harness.
It's a minimalist jacket so the lack of pit zips and bigger pockets may annoy some people, but the lightness and range of movement more than compensate for this. Also at this price point it's going to be difficult to find another jacket that performs as well.
You only have to look on Arc'teryx's Instagram page to see some of the intense climbs this jacket has been worn for. Wind, rain and cold temperatures, this jacket is going to protect you from the lot.
If you’re a climber looking to save grams wherever you can whilst having the protection of GORE-TEX Pro, this is probably the jacket for you.
For more information about waterproof jackets and the tech they use take a look at our waterproof fabrics buying guide