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Arcteryx Alpha FL vs AR

Original Post
Eric Magnuson · · Lancaster, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

I am a backcountry skier and occasional ice and alpine climber looking to upgrade my hardshell jacket. So far I've just been using my resort skiing jacket or a patagonia torrent shell light rain jacket. I'm sick of the former taking up most of the space in my day mission pack, and the latter is way too light for the intended uses.

I've narrowed my search down to the Alpha FL and AR and am wondering which you all thought would be best for my uses.

The tradeoffs seem to be weight and packability vs. Features and durability.

While I tried looking for an old thread on this topic, I couldn't seem to find one that addressed my particular concerns.

  1. Thanks!
bearded sam · · Crested Butte, CO · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 145

Hey Eric, where do you ski tour mostly? 

greggrylls · · Salt Lake City · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 237

FL unless you're planning on some serious abuse (lots of mixed climbing in it etc.)

Paul Morrison · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 10

It depends on what you mean by "ice climbing." For leading long routes in harsh weather, the FL sucks. There aren't enough pockets to keep your spare gloves warm, to say nothing of water bottles or anything else that you can't stow in a pack because you can't let it freeze.

Eric Magnuson · · Lancaster, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0
  1. Right now I'm located near the east sierras. Ski season runs from December to may with some shoulder season alpine stuff possibly. Mostly day missions with one or two overnights. 
Zacks · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 65

I have an older alpha AR don't know how it differs from the current stuff and while it's a great jacket I wish it had a collar that was better for skiing.  I mostly ski with my hood down (with a hat or helmet) and it's a little awkward when the zipper is zipped all the way up since the hot comes strait up off the collar.

First any activity besides skiing you would likely not have it zipped up si far with the hood down and it would be fine.

I wish I got the tiny bit heavier model where the collar wasn't integrated to the hood.

I know nothing about the FL but my AR has been very durable for how light it still is.

bearded sam · · Crested Butte, CO · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 145

In my experience (500+ days) backcountry skiing, I have almost never wanted goretex. I own the Alpha FL for the days when the weather is going to be total $hit but I tour in a wind shirt of some variety most of the time. If you are going to actually in this piece, then vents are a must. 

Luc-514 · · Montreal, QC · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 10,117

FL is a no go unless you only wear it on the way down since it doesn't have any pit zips.

Ryan Williams · · London (sort of) · Joined May 2009 · Points: 1,265

The main differences:

- the AR has two exterior chest pockets while the FL has one. Both have a single interior chest pocket. The exterior pockets are large enough for map, phone, etc in each one.
- the AR has venting, the FL does not.
- the AR has 80 denier face fabric on the shoulders, top of the hood, and the forearms and 40d everywhere else. The FL is 40d throughout.
- the FL is 3 oz lighter and packs much smaller.
- the AR is way more expensive. Or should I say the FL is way cheaper.

I don't think any of the current Alpha models have that interior collar like the Beta AR has. I imagine that would be nice for skiing if you don't like to ski w/ a hood up, but you can't climb in a Beta.

I have the FL. I rarely do any ice or snow... just rock climbing. I bought the FL because it packs down small enough to fit into an approach shoe and because it's cheaper. I've got a lighter waterproof that I carry on shorter routes, but for anything over 8-900 feet and/or anything at elevation, I like having Gore-Tex Pro in my backpack. Because I rarely climb or walk in it, I didn't need the 80d shoulder patches or the pit-zips, and I don't care about the lack of pockets. If I'm wearing the FL, I'm probably moving very fast toward shelter.

I do a 16 mile round trip on my bike every day for work. 90% of the time I just have that light waterproof in my backpack but if it's pouring when I set off, I put the FL on. That's only a dozen times a year though. It doesn't rain as much in London as people think and never very hard or for very long.

I'll resort ski and/or snowboard in the FL once a year but I'm not really into it as much as I was BITD. I just go so my kids can learn, so I would never buy a dedicated ski jacket. For easy recreational skiing/snowboarding, I don't mind having the FL. But the extra chest pocket in the AR would be nice if I skied a lot and the pit-zips if I was touring. If my kids really get into it, I'll probably end up buying a dedicated ski/snowboard shell like the Rush or a Norrona shell. The Alpha isn't really built for skiing although it works well.

This will be my first winter doing a lot of paddle boarding (SUP) on the Thames. It doesn't get that cold in London but it can be really windy on the river and even if just drizzling, I'll be happier with a proper waterproof on. I only have a few waterproofs and the FL is the only one that has really well articulated shoulders. I haven't ever worn my Paclite while paddling but my guess is the FL will move with me much better if I ever need to paddle in it. It also comes with a stuff-sack with a clip loop, which will help on a paddle board since I won't have a backpack w/ me.

Hope that helps.

Eric Magnuson · · Lancaster, CA · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

That is quite a detailed response!

I'm not sure about the need of pit zips as I too rarely wear a shell on the way up. It has to be pretty awful. I do almost always like to wear my shell on the way down though.

The general consensus seems to be if that it's usually in my pack when I'm doing the hard work, then I should just get the FL

Ryan Williams · · London (sort of) · Joined May 2009 · Points: 1,265
Eric Magnuson wrote: That is quite a detailed response!

I'm not sure about the need of pit zips as I too rarely wear a shell on the way up. It has to be pretty awful. I do almost always like to wear my shell on the way down though.

The general consensus seems to be if that it's usually in my pack when I'm doing the hard work, then I should just get the FL

Haha, yea sorry, I get asked that question a lot so I kind of have the answer memorised! 

You are right, if the jacket is going to spend a lot of time in your pack, you should probably get the FL. 
AlpineIce · · Upstate, NY · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 255

I've owned an Alpha FL for the better part of 6 years now and I've used it for everything from resort skiing, touring, ice cragging, multi-pitch ice and alpine climbing and it's a great jacket.  I've never worn it on the way into or up anything that's not vertical ice, just because anything Gore-tex obviously doesn't breath and expel heat well enough.

I, too, pondered this same question and utilized Arc'teryx's free shipping/returns just to get my hands on an AR to settle my curiosity.  For resort skiing, just because I tend to wear more insulation, I liked the fit of the AR better as it's cut a little less "trim" than the FL.  While wearing a light down jacket (Rab Microlight) underneath the AR for resort skiing, the AR didn't feel as restricted as the FL, however, my medium FL still accommodates the Microlight decently. I'm 5'10" 161 lbs.

Having used both jackets, owning an FL and if forced to choose one specifically for backcountry skiing, I'd go FL all day. If I were going to use the shell more at a resort, combined with some ice cragging and short multi-pitch ice, the AR is a great jacket.

Keep in mind, the FL is a more trim where the AR has a "regular" cut, which isn't as restricting and allows for better layering.  The AR's front and rear hem is cut longer, which offers a bit more protection.

Ryan Williams · · London (sort of) · Joined May 2009 · Points: 1,265

Yea that is a good point that I forgot to mention.

I can fit a heavy base layer and an older Ventrix hoody under a Medium FL. I’m 6ft, 155-165lbs. Most synthetic puffies would fit under the FL for me but I’m pretty slim.

Loco Raindrops · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

I love my SV. Bought the 1st one in 2004, and just snagged an updated model in 2018.

The 2004 model is still fully waterproof.

...you know, since the SV was the topic of discussion.

I should be a posterchild for deadbird stuff. 

(Eats handful of crayons ;)

Lucas deHart · · WNC -> Denver · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 40

I absolutely adore my Alpha AR. The two chest pockets are nice and large, easily accepting a map, compass, bars, and a light pair of gloves in one and a medium pair of gloves in the other. The rear coverage is really good (almost full butt!) and I think the cut/fit is, as others have mentioned, really good for layering. I tend to run warm, but I was able to wear my AR over a Rab Alpha Flux on my snowshoe in to some climbing objectives last year with no issue. With the vents opened and not zipped up all the way, I felt like I could really control my climate with a few micro-adjustments. I also did most of my climbing with the vents wide open, only really closing them up if it was really windy or I was standing still for a while.

For me, the extra weight of the zips, bigger fit, and extra coverage is absolutely worth it, especially if I'll be wearing it all day anyway. I don't ski uphill, though, so I don't know how that heat output compares to slow-shoeing. I guess if you're going to be leaving it in the pack 70-80% of the day, the FL might be the better pick? I just feel like the AR is more adaptable (All-Round, after all) and I don't mind the weight/packed size penalty even when it just rides along. It's still a fully featured Gore Pro jacket that weighs less than a pound! 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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