There are few reasons I celebrate: girlfriend moving back from Mexico, finding a jellybean in my ropebag, Scooby Doo special on TV. However, when the guys at W.L. Gore decide to launch a new type of Gore-Tex I tend to get out the candles. Honestly I didn’t think it would ever happen. Technology in the outdoor industry has advanced exponentially in the last two decades, and I feel like I would be labeled an ungrateful jerk if I asked, “Is this it?” Well apparently this is not it.
Let’s just say the morning after my celebration I was hungover. Parched, and wondering if that dubious looking cat in my bed took advantage of me in my weakened state, I decided to put all these thoughts aside to edify you on the new technology.
I’m not much one for words so here I go. Thinner Gore-Tex, and less glue. What’s that spell? Lighter more breathable jackets. Luckily I was able to get my hands on a nice new Arc’teryx Alpha FL (FL is also a new Arc grade of clothing and stands for Fast and Light). First shock was the lack of pitzips. How dare you omit pitzips on a hardshell Arc’teryx, do you take yourselves for God? Only a true test will decide.
Let me explain. Understand? No, ok. The Alpha FL jacket from Arc’teryx is a hardshell. As per the aforementioned article there are things you do with hardshells and there are things you do not do with hardshells. The Stupid Test consists of, you guessed it, doing something you don’t want to do in a hardshell.
Things to do in a normal hardshell: Conquer Winter, test waterproofness and walk to the end of the Earth. What do these look like? Like this:
Things not to do in a hardshell: Go for an hour long run in Spring. The stupid test.
I will never go for a run in a hardshell. That is what I promised myself years ago. Nothing can be waterproof and breath enough to keep me dry inside if I go for a run in the rain- nothing. I will sweat in it so much that I will get wet from the inside out anyways, let alone the rain pawing at my face and neck. Gore-Tex says this shell can breath almost twice as well as an ordinary Gore 3-ply. I’m going for a run, and it’s not even raining.
Notice the proper stretching form. I call it the prancing antelope. Now notice certain features about this jacket: might be silly to mention but has great reflective tape in 4 key spots. Arms and torso get seen, and we all know it’s about being seen in Arc’teryx. Secondly, the cut is extremely trim, unlike many of their other hardshells (which are meant for serious layers underneath). The slim fit cut is much nicer for aerobic activities like running, snowshoeing and cross country skiing, and sports needing less garment clutter like rock climbing, and alpine stuff.
You can’t see in this epic photo, but they use a reinforced fabric for the shoulders and hips so you can throw on a heavy pack without worry about wear and tear issues like other ultralight jackets. Oh, did I mention this 3-ply comes in under 300 grams (in fact it is 50grams lighter than the 2-ply Alpha SL). Blah, blah, blah, can I run in it?
The short answer is yes, you can run in it. It was April 6th, the temperature was hovering around 6 degrees and it was windy as heck. Let the stupid test begin. We ran for about an hour up in Mont-Tremblant through some picturesque cross-country trails. Most of the time I wasn’t coughing up phlegm I was focused on the breathability/my sweatiness level. Honestly I was impressed. I have never dared run in a hardshell, but this jacket made me think twice. I did start getting flushed at the 30 minute mark and took off my beanie, but I probably would have done that without jacket as well. Seeing as it wasn’t raining I would always throw on a light softshell, but this test (which turned out to be not so stupid) made me realize that Gore has done a sweet job with this new membrane. As always Arc’teryx has used the technologies available to make a superb versatile piece.
Its questionable breathability has been questioned, and those questions have been answered. If you are looking for one jacket to do everything, from walking the dog in Nova Scotia, to snowshoeing in the Gatineau, to climbing in Canmore, to jogging in Mont-Tremblant, I would definitely put the Alpha FL at the top of that list. The Alpha only has one chest pocket, which I love for weight and compressability, but if you have one of those cell phones from the early nineties and need more pockets then get the Beta FL- two big Napoleon pockets. It has a massive hood so if you protect the ol’ noggin with a helmet then bingo bango you are good to rock. But really the greatest asset of this jacket is the fact it is a burly 3-ply jacket that is lighter and more compact than a less robust 2-ply. That translates to a tiny jacket that will last you a lifetime if you treat it well.
Finally, you can take pretentious photos which will hopefully make it into some Arc’teryx catalog one day, making you millions of dollars... or just embarrass you as most of the above photos assuredly do.
Oh, and it is proudly made in Canada! Nice work Arc'teryx.