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We review the Arc'teryx Alpha SV hard shell jacket, a top-of-the-range mountaineering garment that offers bomb-proof weather protection, but comes at considerable cost.

arcteryx alpha sv jacket
Overall Score
As protective and well-designed as hard shell jackets get
Extremely expensive

Arc'teryx is aiming the Alpha SV jacket at climbers and mountaineers exploring 'severe alpine environments'. It's the most durable Gore-Tex Pro garment they've ever made, weighs 495g and - given its considerable price tag - can rightly be considered the Rolls-Royce of hard shells. The questions is: is it right for you?

The cut of the Alpha SV is comprehensive. Slip it on and you're immediately aware that you're wearing a jacket that justifies its 'severe weather' marketing claims. The hem extends to well below the groin while the arms and chest have a spacious feel - allowing for extensive layering and complete freedom of movement - without in any way appearing baggy. The adjustments are superb, from the thick hook and loop patches at the wrist to the meaty drawcords at the hem. The helmet-compatible (naturally) hood is utterly comprehensive with a perfectly-judged semi-rigid peak and three-point adjustment at the rear and chin. The cord tidies are particularly well done, and the high cut of the chin guard makes this a jacket to shelter from the very worst of weather in.

Storage is excellent too, with two very sizeable Napoleon pockets (never obscured by pack or harness in our testing), an inner stretch pocket and a pouch on the left upper arm for quick access items or ski passes. The zips are a treat too, with a very neat and water resistant design making them the best we've seen at keeping moisture out. Pit-zips provide extra ventilation options.

The Gore-Tex Pro (the most expensive and durable of the family) material works supremely well in consistently wet and windy conditions (and we mean expedition-grade stuff here), while the N80p-X (yes, it's an odd name) face fabric is as tough as any we've seen. It's also quieter and more supple than you might expect from something so durable and (relatively) rigid on first use.

In terms of general design, the Alpha SV oozes quality all round, from the supple material on the inside of the neck guard, to the miniscule stitching, to the water resistance of the zips.

In conclusion: we cannot fault the Alpha SV. As of 2016 it may just be humanity's best hard shell jacket. The only barrier is that mighty price tag. However, its proven durability of design (as a product it's been going and going since 1998) will justify the purchase for many.

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