The Arc’teryx Alpha SL Gore-Tex jacket is considered a hard shell or outer shell jacket. The shell of the jacket consists of two (2) layers of Gore-Tex PacLite, with a nylon lining on the interior. The jacket has two (2) hand pockets on the outside, core venting via zips under each armpit (pit zips), an ergonomic hood and a full front zipper. All the zippers are seam taped to prevent water and moisture from entering the shell of the jacket through the zippers. The zippers are operated by utilizing a small piece of nylon attached to the zipper and while the zippers are tight, I have found that zippers that are seam taped should be tight. This insures that moisture does not penetrate the zippers. This jacket was a size extra large and was a color firebrick red. Arc’teryx manufactures this jacket in black, red and blue and produces sizes available in small through double extra large.
I began using this jacket during the late spring and early summer months, while hiking and backpacking along the Buffalo National River. This jacket is extremely light and packs down to the size of a softball, which makes it easy to carry in a pack. While wearing the jacket, I could not help but notice the lightweight and comfort of the jacket. This jacket performed well in steady showers and heavy rain during the spring and summer months. This jacket kept me dry and at the same time was extremely breathable. I found the core venting (pit-zips) in this jacket very useful and extremely helpful with extracting heat from the body while backpacking and hiking in the rain.
This jacket has several chord adjustments to keep it tight around the body and help keep water out. While I would expect to see a chord adjustment around the waist and a second for the hood, I was surprised to discover two (2) other chord adjustments on the hood around the neck area. I found these adjustments extremely useful, as they helped secure the neck area of the hood that never seems to fit just right. These adjustments enabled me to tighten the hood adjustment around the forehead to ensure a good fit and separately tighten the area around the neck. I do wish the brim on the hood were longer, since at times the water would drip off the hood brim and onto my nose and face.
This jacket, while light, is surprisingly tough and durable. After carrying it stuffed in a backpack for hundreds of miles and wearing it in all types of weather, the jacket shows no real signs of wear to the chords, zippers, or the jacket itself. I have, however, got it wet, muddy and dirty at times and have found that using a light towel and warm water does an adequate job of cleaning. Arc’teryx advises that that jacket can be machine washed in a medium setting, but I always try and avoid using the washer on my outdoor gear when possible and in this case I have had no need. When not using, I have simply stored it in a closet with the rest of my outdoor gear and have encountered no problems.
I continued to wear this jacket as my hard shell during the fall and winter months and found it to be just as reliable. The jacket was windproof, continued to be very waterproof, and also breathable. The jacket also fit very well over several layers and was compatible with a backpack and a harness. The jacket continued to be comfortable and did not get stiff, even with temperatures down to freezing. I continued to utilize the core venting (pit zips) even during the colder weather to allow my body to regulate heat. Overall, I loved this jacket, especially the core venting and the chord adjustments and will continue to wear it during all four seasons.