Pinnacle? Apogee? Top Dawg? Other than the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Alpha may describe Arc'teryx's top-o-the-line products. The Alpha IS jacket is just this; its expensive as hell and it's one of the best jackets I've ever thrown over my shoulders.
With so many SKU's, companies like Arc'teryx have to position each of their jackets (and all products, actually) for a specific use. I believe that some time they are bang on, and some times , they're not. The Alpha IS offered as an alpine, ice and expedition climbing jacket and I don't do any of these things. I use it as a resort jacket, a throw-in-my-touring pack jacket and a walk around town in cold, mixed precip jacket.
Side-view. Though it's helmet-compatible, the adjustment allows for a dialed fit. Note that I'm not wearing a helmet here.
Unlike many Arc'teryx hardshells, the Alpha IS features elasticized cuffs which work best with gauntlet-style gloves (like the Alpha SV gauntlet gloves I am sporting in the pic at top). This may be in part due to the jacket's intended ice climbing usage.
More climbing features here. The zip from the bottom and button allow the jacket to be worn with a harness. Even without a harness, it's a handy feature for heat regulation.
Wow. Just wow. The Alpha IS is an ideal jacket for lift service days, is compressible enough that it works in your pack as a warm and weatherproof layer and it is perfect for hitting bars in town early and late winter when you aren't sure what to expect for the walk home (just don't leave it alone at your table).
We have had the pleasure of reviewing multiple Arc'teryx jackets over the last decade but this is definitely one of our faves. The initial claim in Arc'teryx marketing material was that this jacket would do away with the need for a mid-layer. After having run the piece for a while, I agree—for lift service shredding, but not for touring in the BC interior. I have found it too warm in our comparatively temperate climate.
As usual, the fit is bang-on. I like jackets on the snug side (rather than gangsta/baggy) so the medium works perfect for my skinny 6' 2" on a 175lb frame. It's designed for alpine, ice and expedition climbing That may explain its remarkable weather-proofness, elasticized cuffs and lack of pit zips.
A quick word about Thermateck, the insulation that make it all happen. I'm not sure what the magical mojo is in this fabric, but it rarely if ever gets wet. When it does, it dries super fast. Thank you.
The only hurdle with this jacket is the price tag. At $1,200 it's tough to justify for all but the most gear committed. What can I say..? Save you shekels or ask that rich uncle to leave you one in his will. This jacket is niiiiiice.
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