Last Updated on 05/03/2022
Reviewing the Arcteryx Alpha SV Jacket
We started this Arcteryx Alpha SV Jacket Review because staying warm and dry in the mountains is no easy feat. With rapidly changing weather conditions and heinous storms that can roll in without notice, you need to be prepared for any eventuality when you venture into the alpine. To stay warm you need an insulated jacket like the Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody we reviewed and to keep that dry you need a waterproof shell.
The answer? A high-quality hardshell jacket, which can protect you from the elements, wherever your adventures might take you. But, with so many different hard shells out there just waiting to head out into the mountains, how do you know which one is right for your needs?
Enter: the Arcteryx Alpha SV Jacket, a burly, stormproof hardshell that’s been time tested in some of the harshest environments on earth. Although it’s known to be one of the best hardshell jackets ever made, we needed to see for ourselves. So, we took the time to test the Alpha SV in the mountains to see what the hubbub was all about.
Featured on our list of the 33 Best Waterproof Jackets ever made.
Coming up, we’ll walk you through the finer points of the Arc’teryx Alpha SV and talk about how it performed under the stresses of a true mountain environment so you can decide if this jacket is worth your hard-earned money. Let’s get to it!
Arc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket Review: The Basics
The Arc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket review is for a top-of-the-line hardshell jacket for use in extreme mountain environments. A veritable piece of body armor, the Alpha SV has long been lauded as a leader in its class, thanks to its impeccable construction and quality materials.
Specifically designed to protect you in severe weather in the alpine, the Alpha SV is made for climbers who don’t stay home just because there’s rain in the forecast. Here are some of the Arc’teryx Alpha SV’s most important specs:
- Weight: 17.3 oz (490 g)
- Fit: Regular hip length with a center back length of 30.75 in (78 cm)
- Shell Fabric N100p-X 3L Gore-Tex Pro
- Helmet-compatible hood?: Yes
As soon as you try on the Arc’teryx Alpha SV for the first time, you know you’re dealing with a quality piece of technical gear. Born from a passion for the mountains, Canadian gear manufacturer, Arc’teryx, is no slouch when it comes to consistently producing amazing hardshell raincoats. The Alpha SV is no exception.
Right off the bat, we were impressed with the Alpha SV’s quality construction, which clearly helps it stand out in an already crowded field of hardshell jackets. The Alpha SV is comfortable to wear, but incredibly protective against the elements, which is why it’s been a fan favorite among elite climbers for decades.
When it comes to performance, there’s not much that beats out the Arc’teryx Alpha SV. Here’s how it fared in our most important categories:
The SV in Alpha SV stands for severe weather. That’s no coincidence. In the world of hardshell jackets, you’d be hard-pressed to find something that keeps you drier in the rain than the Arc’teryx Alpha SV.
This jacket is made from a stellar N100p-X 3L Gore-Tex Pro waterproof breathable membrane, which is the true gold standard of the outdoor industry. The Alpha SV uses durable 80 denier fabrics in its construction, which feel invincible when you put it on for the first time in the rain.
Plus, the Alpha SV’s storm hood design is second to none. The hood itself fits easily over a helmet, without feeling constraining and the large chin guard provides exceptional protection from the elements. If that wasn’t good enough, you can quickly and easily adjust the hood to perfectly fit your head or your helmet, even with gloves on, thanks to the Alpha SV’s four Cohaesive hood adjustment locks.
No one likes to be sweaty, even in a rainstorm. With the Alpha SV, you don’t need to worry about staying cool during a high octane pursuit, like climbing. As you charge up that final hill to the summit, the Alpha SV’s Gore-tex Pro membrane breathes easily to help keep you cool and comfortable, despite the jacket’s thick fabric.
Or, if you’ still need a bit more cooling prowess as you hike, the Alpha SV has an awesome dual-zippered pit zip under each arm. We found that these vents were really critical in helping us stay comfortable when we were really moving while also being super easy to open and close, even with gloves on.
Feeling constrained by your hardshell jacket is uncomfortable, to say the least. While many rain jackets suffer from the sensation of feeling like wearing a garbage bag, we found that the Alpha SV’s generous cut and anatomical shaping left plenty of room for us to move around, even when fully layered up.
Plus, the Alpha SV’s articulated pattern allows for natural movement in the mountains, while the no-lift gusseted underarms and harness HemLock foam inserts stop the jacket from riding up and exposing your stomach when you lift your hands above your head. All in all, we couldn’t say that we felt constrained by the Alpha SV.
At just over one pound in weight, the Alpha SV certainly isn’t the lightest rain jacket out there, but it’s far from the heaviest. When you consider the thickness of the shell fabric (80 denier) as well as the size of the Alpha SV’s storm hood, it’s actually quite remarkable that Arc’teryx managed to pack that much awesome into such a relatively lightweight jacket.
Although it doesn’t come with a stuff sack, nor does it stuff into its own pocket, the when you roll it up tightly, the Alpha SV is no larger than the size of a standard 1 liter Nalgene bottle. As a jacket designed for alpinism, the Alpha SV doesn’t really have a lot of fluff to it, which makes it all the more packable.
During field testing, we found it was incredibly easy to stuff the jacket into our pack when we weren’t using it and we were impressed with how little space it took up, especially when compared to other similar hard shells.
Thanks to its 80 denier fabric, the Alpha SV is one of the most durable hardshell jackets around. The jacket is made specifically with alpinists in mind, who frequently find themselves brushing up against ice and rough rock. After months of use, we found no obvious signs of excessive wear. Based on the Alpha SV’s burly construction, we expect to be wearing it for a long time to come.
At this point, you probably understand that we’re big fans of the Alpha SV. But, if there’s one thing we need to ding this jacket on, it’s the price. With a suggested retail price of close to $800, we’d be lying if we said this jacket is affordable.
However, if you consider that this jacket has 25 years of research behind it and the fact that each one is hand made in Canada and strictly inspected for signs of defects before ever getting into your hands, the price does make a little more sense. Thankfully, you can sometimes get it on sale, which helps lessen the sticker shock just a bit.
As a jacket designed for alpinism, the Alpha SV isn’t loaded up with excessive features. Instead, the jacket has a selection of carefully placed pockets, including two harness-compatible crossover chest hand pockets with WaterTight zips and a two internal pockets for storage. Beyond that, there’s not much else going on features-wise with the Alpha SV, but, to be fair, what else would you need?
Arc’teryx Alpha SV Review: Verdict
At the end of the day, you’d struggle to find a hardshell jacket that performs better in harsh weather than the Arc’teryx Alpha SV. However, due to the jacket’s high price point, as well as its alpinism-focused design, we’d actually have to agree with many of the Alpha SV’s critics and say that it’s a bit overkill for the everyday adventurer.
But, if you are willing to invest the funds into the Alpha SV, you won’t be disappointed. The jacket is exceptionally stormproof and superbly comfortable. We certainly can’t fault it for that! Happy climbing!
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The Arc’teryx Alpha SV Jacket is 100% waterproof and designed to be your first layer barrier against anything and everything.