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Arc'teryx Alpha SV Review

Excessive weather protection with a price to match
Arc'teryx Alpha SV
Photo: Arc'teryx
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Price:  $799 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Extremely durable, superior weather protection, great hood, easy to manipulate zippers
Cons:  Heavy, bulky, overkill for many, no handwarmer pockets, expensive
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 8, 2020
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 10
  • Weather Protection - 30% 10
  • Weight - 20% 4
  • Mobility and Fit - 20% 6
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 7
  • Features and Design - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Alpha SV is tried and true body armor for mountain climbers, which is why it's been sold for the better part of two decades. It has a near perfect blend of features, including two cross-over chest pockets, which provide quick access to abundant storage, ergonomic patterning that supplies a spacious and unrestricted fit, and quick and easy zippers that enable on-the-go ventilation adjustments. That said, unless you work as a climbing guide or are going on a super epic multi-month expedition, this jacket might be overkill. It weighs 18.4 ounces for a size large, which is a hefty amount that is burdensome to carry in a backpack. However, if you want the peace of mind that comes with one of the toughest jackets available, and have the cash to push the performance envelope, it could be worth considering.

Color Updates

The Alpha SV is now available in new colors for this upcoming season.

November 2020

Compare to Similar Products

 
Arc'teryx Alpha SV
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Arc'teryx Alpha SV
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
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$625 List
$625.00 at Backcountry
$500 List$249 List
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Pros Extremely durable, superior weather protection, great hood, easy to manipulate zippersUnrivaled weather protection, decent venting options, perfect fitAwesome weather protection, fits great, very mobileCheap, ultralight, solid weather protection, impressive breathabilityLightweight, inexpensive, easy to tighten drawcords
Cons Heavy, bulky, overkill for many, no handwarmer pockets, expensiveExpensive, not ultralight, mediocre breathabilitySkin pockets a bit too narrow, small ventilation zips, unreliable wrist cuffsNo internal pockets, poor ventilation, unreliable hood drawcordsGlossy internal fabric, poor mobility, hand pocket zippers not waterproof
Bottom Line Excessive weather protection with a price to matchA serious hardshell for serious adventuresA solid hardshell that thrives in bad weatherAn affordable hardshell that can get the job doneCloser to a rain jacket than a hardshell
Rating Categories Arc'teryx Alpha SV Mammut Nordwand Adv... Dynafit Radical REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Mountain Hardwear E...
Weather Protection (30%)
10.0
10.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Weight (20%)
4.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
Mobility And Fit (20%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Venting And Breathability (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Features And Design (10%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Arc'teryx Alpha SV Mammut Nordwand Adv... Dynafit Radical REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Mountain Hardwear E...
Pit Zips Yes Yes Yes No No
Measured Weight (size large) 18.4 oz 16.0 oz 15.4 oz 11.0 oz 11.4 oz
Material 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro N100p-X 3-layer 100% nylon Gore-Tex Pro Gore-Tex Pro with C-Knit backer Gore-Tex Active 3L Gore-Tex Paclite 2.5L 100% nylon w/ DWR coating
Pockets 2 external chest, 1 internal chest, 1 sleeve, 1 internal mesh stash 2 front, 1 internal 2 side handwarmer, 1 sleeve, 2 internal stash 2 hand 2 hand, 1 chest
Helmet Compatible Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hood Draw Cords 3 3 1 3 1
Adjustable Cuffs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Two-Way Front Zipper No Yes Yes No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Although we believe that lighter weight jackets are the ideal choice for the vast majority of outdoor activities, there are still some circumstances when you might want something a truly tough, such as long expeditions to remote places with severe weather. Enter the Arc'teryx Alpha SV, which is a durable heavy-duty hardshell with an outstanding track record.

Performance Comparison


The Arc'Teryx lineup of Alpha clothing is designed for "minimalist...
The Arc'Teryx lineup of Alpha clothing is designed for "minimalist climbing and alpinism" and those are the situations where our testers were most happy wearing the Alpha SV jacket.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Weather Protection


The SV in Alpha SV stands for severe and that's exactly the type of weather this jacket is good for. It's 100-denier Gore-Tex Pro fabric is exceptionally waterproof and the durable water repellent treatment continued to consistently bead water three months into our tests. At first, the hood may feel a little baggy without a helmet on, but tighten the rear drawcord, and it snugs right up.

Water continued to bead on the 100-denier Gore-Tex Pro fabric...
Water continued to bead on the 100-denier Gore-Tex Pro fabric throughout our entire three months of testing.
Photo: Jack Cramer

In our shower test, the hood proved effective at directing water away from the tester's face in part thanks to the sturdy reinforced three inch brim. The hook-and-loop wrist cuffs also provide a reliable closure that kept the sleeves in place during a variety of movements.

The Alpha SV weighed in at 18.4 oz for a size large, making it one...
The Alpha SV weighed in at 18.4 oz for a size large, making it one of the heaviest jackets in the hardshell review.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Weight


One of the drawbacks to the Alpha SV's considerable weather protection is some added weight and bulk. At 18.4 ounces for a size large, it's one of the heaviest jackets in our hardshell review. This is obviously a problem for long-distance adventures or drier climates where you end up carrying a hardshell more often than wearing one. The added weight shouldn't be a problem, however, for this jacket's intended use: full-on wintry expeditions.

The Alpha SV offers great wind and snow protection on the downhill...
The Alpha SV offers great wind and snow protection on the downhill, but you'll probably want to take it off for the uphill because it's not especially breathable.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Mobility and Fit


The Alpha SV has a noticeably more baggy cut than most other hardshells and its Arc'teryx relative, the Alpha FL. This can make it look less than stylish on skinny folks or anyone only wearing thin baselayers underneath. Our distaste for this billowy fit disappears, however, when we add extra mid layers or tuck it into a climbing harness. In these cases, the fit of the Alpha SV feels a lot better and our climbing testers praised the freedom of movement it offered while remaining tucked in.

The Alpha SV has a pair of underarm vents for shedding excess heat...
The Alpha SV has a pair of underarm vents for shedding excess heat. These are a nice feature for moderate levels of exertion, but inadequate for sustained uphill charging.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Venting and Breathability


At 100-denier, the Gore-Tex Pro fabric on the Alpha SV feels thicker than lower denier Gore-Tex Pro fabrics found on many other hardshells. In our stationary bike test, this thicker fabric also seemed to be slightly less breathable. This jacket manages to negate this drawback to some degree with the inclusion of underarm vents for shedding excess heat. These help a bit, but for sustained high-intensity activities, choose a different shell or plan to get sweaty.

A small piece of felt on the inside of the zipper protects your chin...
A small piece of felt on the inside of the zipper protects your chin and lips if you need to keep the Alpha SV fully zipped up for anything length of time.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Features and Design


Without the restrictions of ultralight weight targets, the designers of the Alpha SV had the freedom to add a few nice features. The most useful is probably the pit zips that boost your venting options. Another design feature we appreciated is all the storage space — the Alpha SV has no less than five pockets: two external chest, one internal chest, one on the left sleeve, and an internal mesh stash pocket. What it doesn't have is hand pockets, but that's okay because it leaves the jacket smooth across the waist where a backpack belt or climbing harness rubs.

Without a belt or harness to tuck it into, the Alpha SV can feel a...
Without a belt or harness to tuck it into, the Alpha SV can feel a little billowy in the front.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Value


This jacket's astronomical price tag is sure to raise eyebrows, especially when you pick one up and realize it's just a thin, uninsulated shell. The cost could be justified, however, if you can appreciate the sophistication of its design and the 217-step process that is needed to manufacture one. We believe that most shoppers don't need a jacket this serious, but for those that do, its high cost probably still represents a decent value considering the substantial performance it provides.

A hardshell jacket is an important piece of clothing, but without...
A hardshell jacket is an important piece of clothing, but without good insulating layers you'll end up like these icy stalagmites: frozen.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Conclusion


The Alpha SV has been a cornerstone of the Arc'teryx technical clothing lineup for more than twenty years, and it's easy to understand why. This jacket is extraordinarily high-quality and offers weather protection that few other models can match. The 100-denier Gore-Tex Pro fabric is also sturdy enough to hold up to extended abuse. If your ambitions demand clothing for the harshest conditions on planet earth, the Alpha SV remains a worthy choice.

Jack Cramer

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