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Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket - Women's Review

Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket - Women's
Top Pick Award
Price:   $749 List | $600.31 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Incredibly durable, highest rated for weather protection
Cons:  Least mobile fabric, short cut, least breathable fabric, very expensive
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx

Our Verdict

Are you looking for a jacket that will take you to the summits of the highest mountains in the world? Check out our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions: the Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket. With its three-layer Gore-Tex Pro Membrane and N80pX face fabric, it provides top-notch weather protection, making it capable of handling any storm. It's loaded with features that alpinists and climbers alike both love, including a removable harness hemlock system that keeps your jacket from riding up. It also offers harness compatibility and pockets designed for across the chest access. Cool huh?

New Version Available — February 2017
Our Top Pick was updated! Keep reading for a full summary of all the updates.

The Arc'teryx Theta AR - Women's and Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket - Women's are the most like the Alpha SV. Both are less expensive, and the Theta has a similar level of weather protection. Our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions weighs a little more and doesn't pack down as well as these other jackets, but it does have climbing oriented features (mentioned above) that neither the Theta or Beta AR donned. If you're looking for a shell specialized for mountaineers, ice climbers, or any kind of alpinist, check out this ultimate mountain armor - our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hardshell Jacket for Women


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
February 22, 2017

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The New 2017 Alpha SV vs. the 2014 Alpha SV


With a complete overhaul in design and fabrics, the new Alpha SV is designed to be both "lighter and stronger," according to the manufacturer. Arc'teryx has continued the long legacy of Alpha SV hardshells with substantial updates and a price increase to the lofty $749, up $60 from the previous version. We haven't put this jacket to the test yet to see if it's worth the bucks, but we did get the full run-down from Arc'teryx about their hopes for this new version.

Check out the side-by-side comparison here, featuring the new SV on the left and the older version we reviewed on the right. But don't stop there! Keep reading for a comprehensive summary of updates to this award-winning hardshell.
Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket - Women's
The Arc'teryx Alpha SV
 

Here's a summary of the updates:
  • Fabric — Arc'teryx is using a new N100p-X face fabric, an update to the N80p-X fabric of the previous version. This fabric was chosen for its durability, and, though heavier, the manufacturer decided to cut weight in other areas.
  • Seams — One of the ways Arc'teryx hoped to cut weight in this jacket was by reducing the seams with 8mm seam tape.
  • Zippers — The other major area of weight reduction occurred in the zipper sliders. With a sleek look and a minimalist design, these new zippers aimed to reduce weight wherever possible.

While we haven't gotten our hands on the new jacket yet and therefore cannot confirm the manufacturer's claims, our strong feelings about the original Alpha SV certainly makes us excited to try the new version out!

Hands-On Review of the 2014 Alpha SV


The Arc'teryx Alpha SV Jacket - Women's won our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions for its impeccable weather protection, ultra-durable face fabrics, and climber-focused features. The men's version of this shell, the Arc'teryx Alpha SV - Men's won our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions in the men's hardshell jacket review.

Performance Comparison


Long hikes on windy ridges are a perfect function for the ultra-weather protective Alpha SV. This jacket won our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions due to its long list of features and great protection.
Long hikes on windy ridges are a perfect function for the ultra-weather protective Alpha SV. This jacket won our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions due to its long list of features and great protection.

Weather Protection


With three-layer Gore-tex Pro material and the N80pX face fabric, this model has its finger on the Weather Protection metric. The Theta AR performed similarly in our shower tests, but the Alpha SV looks and feels a tiny bit more bomber. This coat is severe weather rated, which is one of the top reasons it won a Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions.

The water continued to bead after ten minutes of putting this shell through the shower test. The three-layer Gore-Tex Pro in combination with the rough n' tough face fabric makes this an ultra durable and weatherproof shell.
The water continued to bead after ten minutes of putting this shell through the shower test. The three-layer Gore-Tex Pro in combination with the rough n' tough face fabric makes this an ultra durable and weatherproof shell.

The watertight zippers are water resistant, and the DWR finish repelled water in our shower tests for upwards of ten minutes. Unlike other fabrics, it did not wet out after a couple of minutes but resisted saturation. The seams are fully sealed with heat tape (for additional coverage). Furthermore, the hood is attached to the collar, opening up for more facial coverage than the Theta AR and Beta AR. We would recommend bringing this shell with you through the nastiest weather that you can dream up.

Feeling invincible! The awesome storm hood is one of the biggest that we tested  and doesn't let any moisture in.
Feeling invincible! The awesome storm hood is one of the biggest that we tested, and doesn't let any moisture in.

Mobility & Fit


With amazing waterproofing comes a trade-off for fabric mobility. The N80pX face fabric causes the SV to score the lowest of points for mobility; it's the most rigid shell tested. It still moved with us on adventures, but the fabrics of the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant and Patagonia Piolet - Women's performed much better in this metric. Where the Arc'teryx Alpha SV did score points, among the other Arc'teryx shells, was for its roomy arms and torso that could accommodate many layers - a perfect addition for anybody sitting out a disgusting storm. Arc'teryx claims the jacket has a "no-lift gusseted underarm," but we beg to differ. When we put our hands up, the jacket tended to move up to. It also had a fit and cut that was athletic but shorter than the Theta.

Breathability & Ventilation


The fabric breathability of this three-layer Gore-Tex Pro shell was not very good. The N80pX face fabric was burlier than the other Arc'teryx jackets (they had N70p), which made this jacket even less breathable. Though, thank goodness for pit zips! The chest pockets, when opened, acted as a ventilation system, and the shortcut allowed more breathability as well.

Weight & Packed Size


Of all the Arc'teryx jackets, this was the heaviest - weighing in at 15.25 ounces. That said, it's still a fairly light jacket, and we wouldn't be afraid to bring it if the conditions demanded. For packing size, it was the largest when rolled and compressed due to the rigidity of the fabric. However, one point to consider is that a shell like this will most likely stay on your body instead of hanging out in your backpack.

With a weight of 15.25 oz  our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions is still a fairly lightweight shell. Though  of all the jackets tested  it was one of the largest for packable size. Here we see the SV packed into its hood.
With a weight of 15.25 oz, our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions is still a fairly lightweight shell. Though, of all the jackets tested, it was one of the largest for packable size. Here we see the SV packed into its hood.

Features


The Arc'teryx Alpha SV won a Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions largely because of its ascent-oriented features. That means the jacket is designed with alpinists and those moving uphill or up-mountain in mind. The two main ascent-oriented features include its removable harness hemlock system, which is a foam bumper in the hemline. This is meant to prevent your jacket from riding up while you are belaying or climbing, and we think it does a great job! The second feature is the chest pockets. Unlike the other Arc'teryx jackets that access the chest pockets from the outside, and towards the zipper, the Alpha has cross-chest access. That is, the volume of the pocket lies to the outside of the zipper, instead of the inside. As a result, if you're clinging to a rock, and decide you need the sunglasses you've stashed in your chest pocket, you can reach across, maintain balance and get those sunglasses. Good thinking Arc'teryx!

A laundry list of features includes 2 chest pockets with across the jacket access  glove compatible zipper pulls  an interior and arm pocket for extra safe storage  microsuede chin warmers and three point hood adjustments. Did we mention the minimalist wrist closures that stay in place throughout the day?
A laundry list of features includes 2 chest pockets with across the jacket access, glove compatible zipper pulls, an interior and arm pocket for extra safe storage, microsuede chin warmers and three point hood adjustments. Did we mention the minimalist wrist closures that stay in place throughout the day?

Aside from these features that are specific to this shell, it also has all the features contained in the Theta AR and Beta AR. It has an incredible three-point adjustable storm hood (that doesn't detach from the collar). It's glove friendly with one-pull tighteners and release cords and features a microsuede chin guard that keeps your face a little warmer when it's cold outside. Finally, although the wrist adjusters are a bit more bare bones than the Theta and Beta, they do the trick to accommodate glove wear. Overall, our Top Pick jacket is loaded with features and designed with the climber in mind. We weren't all that psyched on the shorter cut, but that's just personal preference.

A look at the SV's short  at the hip cut. The storm hood is monstrous  and the wrist closures are glove compatible. If you're looking for a longer cut jacket  check out the Theta AR.
A look at the SV's short, at the hip cut. The storm hood is monstrous, and the wrist closures are glove compatible. If you're looking for a longer cut jacket, check out the Theta AR.

Durability


With bomber face fabrics, and a Gore-Tex Pro membrane integrated into the system, this women's hardshell scored top points for durability. The stitching on the seams was tight and well done, with no fly aways or observed wear and tear after three months. Everything is fully reinforced. The zippers had great big teeth and made of a hard plastic that is bound to last for years. Still wondering if our Top Pick winner will be durable enough to last you a long time? Well, our research shows that Arc'teryx garments are renowned for their durability. Not only that, but if anything breaks, they have a wonderful customer service team that will look at your article and evaluate it to see if they will fix it for free, or for a small fee. This warranty comes with the jacket and lasts a lifetime. So if you break a zipper 15 years from now, you can still look forward to them fixing it for free.

The bomber zipper has BIG teeth  and the seams have tight stitches. The face fabric is also really tough  making this an exceptionally durable shell.
The bomber zipper has BIG teeth, and the seams have tight stitches. The face fabric is also really tough, making this an exceptionally durable shell.

Versatility


Since the Arc'teryx Alpha SV is such a wonderfully bomber jacket, it can be used for most activities outside. It's geared for climbing, but it can still function as a wind shell, a rain jacket, or as a ski shell. Pretty much any mountain sport - it's ready for it. The only area that we wouldn't recommend using it is for highly aerobic sports like skate skiing or winter mountain running. Aside from that, the world is your oyster as long as you don't mind a little extra weight and rigidity!

Best Applications


An amazingly durable and weatherproof shell like this has its place on any expedition or mission that will involve long exposure to terrible weather. This is why we gave this jacket a Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions. We trust it to perform on both a bluebird day and when you can't see two feet in front of you.

Hiking up Mt. Ridgway  we came across a storm that blew some snow through on this early fall day. Thank goodness for the Alpha SV. We didn't feel a thing with our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions. This is where this mountain armor is most at home.
Hiking up Mt. Ridgway, we came across a storm that blew some snow through on this early fall day. Thank goodness for the Alpha SV. We didn't feel a thing with our Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions. This is where this mountain armor is most at home.

Value


The ticket price on this jacket is REALLY high at $679. Sure it has great ascent-oriented features, but we felt the price was too much for what it offered. The Arc'teryx Theta AR performed similarly in our tests, was longer (providing more coverage), and was $100 less expensive. So unless you are looking for an ultra-specialized shell for climbing, take a look at the Arc'teryx Theta and Arc'teryx Beta before blowing your next paycheck.

Conclusion


This is a fantastically weather-protective garment that was constructed with the climber in mind. We gave this a Top Pick for Mountain Expeditions because of its climber-based features and its great weatherproofing. We didn't like the ticket price of almost $700 and thought the Arc'teryx Theta AR jacket provided similar performance for more than $100 less.
Amber King

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: February 22, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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