Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Great fit, versatile hand pockets, near perfect hidden cord adjustments, pit zips one with one hand
Cons: Shallow hand pockets, some say too tight for resort snowsports, heavier and less durable than Arcteryx Alpha SV
Best Uses: Alpine climbing, mountaineering, expeditions of all types.
The Super Alpine is Patagonia's most durable all-purpose hardshell. The Super Alpine is our top rated all-purpose durable hardshell. It performs very well at just about everything while providing the increased reliability and longevity of a more durable material. Although the Super Alpine is an excellent hardshell, our testers prefer the Arc'teryx Alpha SV for applications that require increased durability and storm protection. The Alpha SV is more durable than the Super Alpine, has a more comfortable hood, easier zipper, larger and more reliable velcro wrist closures, and larger crossover chest pockets that open easier. The Alpha SV does not have handwarmer pockets, however, so you'll need to bring gloves when going out on the town.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Super Alpine is a more durable version of the company's Super Pluma. The jackets are identical with the following except the Super Alpine uses a more durable face fabric and has rubber gasket-like wrist closures that seal out the elements.
The Super Alpine is constructed with three-layer Gore-Tex Pro membrane, the most durable and warmest waterproof breathable technology we know of. All Pro jackets utilize the same membrane and micro grid backer, but the specific face fabric (outermost layer) can be customized. Here, the Super Alpine uses a 3.8 oz 40-denier Gore-Tex Pro Shell (green in our test model) with 4.9-oz 150-denier Pro Shell reinforcements (orange). These fabrics, and the jacket's pattern, are excellent. The lighter material is used on the back, underarms, and neck, while the front, shoulders and hood are reinforced. As a result, the Super Alpine is 3.3 oz heavier than the Super Pluma. (Patagonia lists the Super Alpine as being 18.5 oz., but our scale measured it as 17.4 oz.) The Super Alpine increased durability makes it better suited to trips of longer duration and activities that demand a very strong and abrasion resistant jacket.
The Super Alpine's features are identical to the Super Pluma's except the Super Alpine has a gasket-like rubber closure on the wrists, which help to seal out cold air and various forms of frozen precipitation. The Super Alpine is the only shell we tested with this feature. We don't believe they solve a critical problem, but they also don't take away from the jacket.
The Super Alpine is a simple yet fully featured jacket. The Super Alpine has two moderately sized handwarmer pockets that sit high up on the chest, away from a backpack's waistbelt or a climbing harness. Hidden bellows and a flat pleated front look good allow you to see look down and see your feet, and they expand to accommodate medium sized objects or to protect your hands from the elements. The jacket also has one small internal zippered pocket for items like keys and an ID. And, finally, two large watertight pit zips dump heat and moisture vapor when you're working hard.
As for the details, the Super Alpine has excellent hidden cord adjustments at the hood (two on the front and at on the top rear) and bottom hem (one on each side). These are flat, so you can pinch them with gloves on, and are covered with a grey rubbery material that allows you can find them easily (if the jacket is orange or green).
The Super Alpine's cut strikes a happy medium between ultralight trim-fitting shells (Arc'teryx Alpha FL) and bulky expedition mountaineering jackets (Rab Latok). It's small enough to be worn comfortably over a single baselayer, yet is also adequately spacious for covering a midweight down or synthetic insulated jacket.
We found the Super Alpine's feature set to be less than ideal, and inferior to other similarly durable hardshells. Specifically, we prefer the Arc'teryx Alpha SV to the Super Alpine. Here's why: The Alpha SV is constructed entirely from Gore-Tex Pro Shell with a 4.3 oz 80-denier n80p-X face fabric. This material is lighter per area yet, according to Arc'teryx, more durable than the reinforced areas on the Super Alpine. (Arc'teryx used the Super Alpine's current fabric on the previous generation Alpha SV and says that the new fabric uses a higher quality yarn with a higher density plain weave.) Being constructed entirely of n80p-X, the Alpha SV is therefore more durable than the Super Alpine. The Alpha SV has other advantages, too (the Super Alpine): its hood is larger, slightly more comfortable to wear over a helmet, and has four drawcord adjustments instead of three (which provides a more customized fit); its primary zipper is much easier to open with one hand; its pockets are larger and easier to open, its velcro wrist closures are larger and are more reliable; it has two interior zippered pockets instead of the Super Alpine's one (both are larger, too); it has a second drawcord high up on the waist that pulls the jacket in- making it warmer and less bulky; it has more interior volume to accommodate layering; and finally, the Alpha SV does all of that and weighs 0.5 oz less than the Super Alpine.
Best Application and Value
The Super Alpine is excellent for applications where durability is the number one concern. It's great for hardcore mountaineering and backpacking. Being only $25 cheaper than the Alpha SV, however, we believe the Alpha SV is a better value.
The Patagonia Super Alpine - Women's is the women's version - same price, a little lighter and a slightly different cut.
— Chris McNamara and Max Neale
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Most recent review: July 8, 2013
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