Don’t Leave Home Without It

Arc’teryx Alpha SL Jacket

Bailing off the sixth pitch of Petit Grepon (5.8) in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, in the face of a rain and hail storm, our tester put this “emergency storm jacket for an alpine environment” to the test. The Arc’teryx Alpha SL Jacket ($319; was a godsend for the two-hour downpour while the tester and her partner rapped down almost 800 feet. She called it “the only piece you’ll ever need for light alpine duty, whether pebblewrestling or plugging gear.” The waterproof-breathable hardshell is comprised of Gore-Tex PacLite, which feels softer than other hardshell materials. It’s flexible, too, so this jacket packed down to the size of a small cantaloupe to fit in a summit pack. A flawless hood went over a helmet easily, with the zipper extending up to the chin, and the overall cut and shape were fitted enough to keep out aggressive wind and rain without being restrictive to movement or vision. Another favorite was the drop-back torso, which extended farther down in the rear to protect your delicate derriere—crucial on the exposed raps. The crowning feature of this technical shell was how it felt: pliable for climbing’s reachy movements, and lightweight and airy for breathability.

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I hiked Yoho Valley and Banff in heavy rain in Beta version of this jacket and remained totally dry. The breathability was fantastic.

Climbhigh - 12/06/2012 5:40:00