Arc’teryx Alpha AR Jacket Review – An HONEST Review

The Arc’teryx Alpha AR Jacket is the most well-rounded climbing jacket we’ve had the pleasure of owning. It should make sense as Arc’teryx is known for their quality while their Alpha family line is designed around climbing, and the AR version is their most versatile.

AR stands for All-Round, which is the best way to describe the design focus of this jacket. It does a commendable job of balancing performance, weight, durability, and functionality. The jacket construction material is a durable 3 layer Gore-Tex Pro, making for a jacket with excellent protection from rain, rock, and snow. It’s roomy enough to combine with insulation for easy layering.

While the jacket provides exceptional performance, it does come with two notable downfalls. The climbing-focused design of the Alpha jackets means that the breast pocket, cut, and hood are not as functional as the Zeta and Beta jacket lines. Finally, the price point of the jacket does feel prohibitive.

It does manage to deliver on its promise of protection from the elements with a design that is not restrictive for climbers. We recommend the jacket for those who spend climbing in the mountains or wet weather environments.


Arc’teryx Alpha AR Jacket Review

Blue Version of Arc'teryx Alpha AR

Quick Specs: Price – $599 | Weight – 12 oz. | Materials – N40D Gore-Tex Pro

Pros
  • Excellent protection from the elements – wind, ice, rain, and snow.
  • Breast pockets are easy to access with harness
  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Decent ventilation thanks to Gore-Tex
  • Lightweight for a well rounded jacket
  • Pit zips for temperature management
  • Adjustable hem that is well cut for climbing
  • High collar and hood for protection
Cons
  • Price
  • Climbing Focus
  • Lacks packability

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Performance of Alpha AR

In the backcountry, the jacket does exactly what it’s set out to do, protect you from the elements and keep you dry. The Alpha jacket line is made for climbers, the Beta is for mountaineers, and the Zeta is for hikers.

This is why we recommend the Zeta SL for most recreational users in the mountains. All of these jackets overlap, and they all do a great job in general. That does come with a caveat, as some are more versatile than others.

Suppose you’re looking for a robust jacket as a climber, then the Alpha does an excellent job and can also be used on the trail. The Zeta pockets and cut aren’t conducive to climbing, while the only downside to the Alpha in hiking is that the breast pockets are slightly tougher to access.


Construction and Design

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The AR is the most versatile jacket in the Alpha family line and is recommended to most climbers. There are two other jacket designs, the SV (severe weather) and LT (lightweight).

The primary material of the Arc’teryx Alpha AR is N40D Gore-Tex Pro. It’s a three-layer composition of a tough nylon denier, waterproof coating, and a breathable membrane. The 40 denier nylon does a great job in weight, weather resistance, breathability, and abrasion resistance.

It feels like the sweet spot for weight, yet it remains durable, and it shows no signs of wear after plenty of time rubbing against rock, which was obviously Arc’teryx’s goal in the design and selection of the materials used in the jacket. Areas at risk of high wear for climbers are reinforced, such as the shoulders and arms.

The cut and design are clearly focused on climbing, thanks to several design features. The Storm hood is helmet-compatible with a shorter brim and integrated collar for better protection/comfort.

Green Arc'teryx Alpha AR

A shorter hemline in the front and a longer hemline in the back make for greater mobility and weather protection when wearing a harness. We find that the integration is seamless, and it fits perfectly underneath our harness.

At first look, the notable design feature is the high chest pockets located in the center of the chest, which are easy to access while climbing. They also work well with multiday or climbing packs and can still be readily accessed.


Comfort of Alpha AR

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In terms of comfort that Alpha AR provides great mobility, warmth, and breathability. The jacket is soft, flexible, and moves with you when you’re at your local climbing spot, hiking to a lake, or clambering up a frozen waterfall.

In addition to the already excellent breathability of the Alpha AR, Arc’teryx has added pit zips for further ventilation. Once you start working up a sweat, these give you instant airflow when and where you need it most. It’s a nice feature that feels just as useful for mountaineering and hiking as it does for climbing. We find it most useful on low elevation approaches where we work up to more of a sweat.

The Alpha AR also has Velcro cuff adjusters, which keep the sleeves firmly in place without becoming tight or constricting. Due to the Stormhood front zipper reaches past your chin when zipped up. The chin guard has a microsuede finish that stays soft and comfortable even after numerous uses and cleanings to prevent chafing. 

If you’re using the Alpha AR for ice climbing, several jacket features are meant specifically for climbing comfort. The hem and hood adjusters are easy to use even when you have on gloves or mittens, and the Hemlock feature on the lower hem prevents the jacket from slipping out from underneath a climbing harness. 


Fit of Alpha AR

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The Alpha AR has a regular fit and should be about hip length. The Alpha AR is true to size, so if you take measurements and follow the sizing chart, you should find the right fit.

It’s a bit shorter than some of Arc’teryx’s other jackets because the jacket was made for climbing and is designed to be compatible with a climbing harness. The Alpha AR also has a helmet-compatible hood, which is essential for climbers.

Even if you’re not using the jacket while climbing, the excellent coverage and adjustment options for the hood keep the wind out and your head nice and warm. Although, it does feel a bit roomy for general use.  

Although climbing and alpine jackets shouldn’t prioritize aesthetics, the Alpha AR still succeeds in looking pretty cool. Plus, it comes in a few different color options, so you can pick something that matches your personal style. 


Features of Alpha AR

Interior of Arcteryx Alpha AR

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make or break a jacket. Arc’teryx doesn’t leave much desired in terms of extra features, pocket placement, and functionality. The two chest pockets have pleated interiors, which helps them lie flat when not in use, but still allows for plenty of space to warm your hands if you start to get cold.

In addition to the chest pockets, there’s also a nifty internal zippered pocket. Interior pockets are always a nice feature to add, and this is the perfect spot to store small items you’d rather not leave behind when you’re out.

Not only is the material of the jacket high quality, but Arc’teryx has made sure to use excellent zippers that won’t snag or let in the cold wind. The full-front zipper has a water-tight closure, and the wind flap seals out any cold wind which might otherwise enter.

A final feature of the Alpha AR is the inclusion of a RECCO reflector in the hood brim. For potential recovery in avalanches. We wouldn’t recommend the jacket for skiing too much due to the lack of a skirt, but it certainly has warmth and weather protection.


Protection From the Elements 

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The Alpha AR was made to withstand some pretty harsh conditions. While Alpha SV offers a more robust 100D Gore-Tex, the 40D in the AR version of the jacket is no slouch. It provides excellent coverage and protection for rain, sleet, or snow.

In addition to the material being waterproof and windproof, all the exterior zippers have a WaterTight closure. Arc’teryx does make note that although these zippers are definitely water-resistant, they aren’t totally waterproof. We haven’t experienced the zipper leaking yet, even in heavy rain.

If you’ve had problems needing to replace jackets after only a season of use, upgrading to the Alpha AR is probably a worthwhile investment. We’re now moving into our third season of wear, and it shows little signs. All the truth be told, we test many jackets out, so it doesn’t see as much wear as the everyday person.


Drawbacks of Alpha AR

There’s certainly a lot to love about the Arc’teryx Alpha AR, but there are also some potential issues you’ll want to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to purchase this jacket. First and foremost is the price. The Alpha AR is by no means a cheap or budget-friendly jacket, so you’ll want to be certain about how much you’ll be putting it to use before purchasing. 

Keep in mind, though, that sometimes more expensive products, like the Alpha AR, can pay off in the long run. Instead of needing to replace a poorer quality jacket every few years, you’ll have one that lasts and remains in almost good condition for a long time. 

The main question you should ask yourself when considering getting the Alpha AR is whether or not you’ll use it enough to make the price count. If you’re already a climber going out on frequent mountain expeditions, the answer will probably be “yes.”

If you’re more of a hiker or looking for something for camping, you might want a jacket that’s a bit longer and has a different pocket placement for more comfort. The Zeta jacket line is more affordable and designed with hiking in mind. Then there is the Beta line which is more of a more well-rounded jacket for mountaineering, hiking, and some climbing.


Takeaway

Since it’s designed with the specific intended use of climbing and mountaineering, it’s probably going to be a hit or miss in terms of whether it’s functional for your lifestyle. However, if you are in the market for a climbing-specific shell, it’s near impossible to find a better jacket than the Arc’teryx Alpha AR. We’ve tried a lot of hardshell jackets and our favorites are almost all from Arc’teryx.

Keep in mind that although it’s an upfront investment, the superior quality and durability of the Arc’teryx Alpha AR can more than pay off in the long run, not only with comfort but also since it’s designed to last for many years of use.


Final Overview of Arc’teryx Alpha AR

Blue Version of Arc'teryx Alpha AR

Quick Specs: Price – $599 | Weight – 12 oz. | Materials – N40D Gore-Tex Pro

Pros
  • Excellent protection from the elements – wind, ice, rain, and snow.
  • Breast pockets are easy to access with harness
  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Decent ventilation thanks to Gore-Tex
  • Lightweight for a well rounded jacket
  • Pit zips for temperature management
  • Adjustable hem that is well cut for climbing
  • High collar and hood for protection
Cons
  • Price
  • Climbing Focus
  • Lacks packability

Shop For Alpha AR

About Cameron

Cameron Seagle is one of the principal writers and photographers for The World Pursuit. He is a travel expert that has been traveling the world for the past six years. During this time he established a passion for conservation and environmental sustainability. When not traveling he's obsessed with finding the best gear and travel products. In his free time, you can find him hiking, mountain biking, mountaineering, and snowboarding. His favorite countries are Ireland, Scotland, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Japan.

You can learn more about Cameron on The World Pursuit About Us Page.