As I stood with water dripping down the inside of my base layer as the driving Lake District rain and 70mph winds simultaneously blinded me, and made me re-evaluate my life choices, I decided it was time to invest in a new Hard Shell jacket. My existing Mountain Equipment Kongur MRT has been a faithful companion for more than 10 years, having served me well in Snowdonia downpours, Icelandic snow storms, and Moroccan blizzards, but over the last 12 months I had noticed a number of problems, meaning I had invariably ended up soaked in various inclement weather around the UK.
Having recently been accepted onto the Arc’teryx Professional Program (https://arcteryx.com/gb/en/shop/pro) I would have been stupid to look anywhere else for the source of my new jacket. Already being the owner of several Arc’teryx products including my waterproof trousers, I have always been impressed with the quality and comfort of Arc’teryx vs other brands. The Arc’teryx Professional Programme provided access to a range of Professional kit otherwise unavailable to me, and immediately the Alpine Guide Jacket caught my eye… (https://arcteryx.com/gb/en/shop/mens/alpine-guide-jacket)
Ultimately I was looking for something hard-wearing and tough, that would work well in summer or winter. I was somewhat weary of buying a jacket over the internet that I hadn’t tried on specifically, however I rationalised this on the basis that A) I couldn’t try this jacket on anywhere anyway, and B) I could return it for free if it wasn’t what I wanted. So I bit the bullet and clicked add to cart, and a short time later I was somewhat poorer than I had been, but owned a new top of the range jacket. One can’t talk about Arc’teryx without speaking about cost, the Alpine Guide jacket is listed at an eye-watering £625, and whilst the Professional Programme pricing (which contractually speaking can’t be discussed!) eased that burden somewhat, it is still very a much a big investment. My personal experience of Arc’teryx is that you get what you pay for; the product quality is simply unrivalled. So whilst my bank balance took a hit, I was very content that I had made the right decision. So I sat back and waited, as it turned out I didn’t have to wait very long at all. The free express delivery (from Germany!) meant that after ordering on a Friday evening at 1900hrs, my new jacket arrived Monday afternoon at 1400hrs.
My first impressions were that the Alpine Guide Jacket was everything I was hoping it would be; the fit was excellent, and allows fantastic range of movement. I don’t feel restricted at all when wearing it. The hood is a perfect addition to the jacket. My helmet is a Petzl Meteor 4 and sits relatively high on the head compared to some, but it fits under the hood easily with no loss of field of view at all. Likewise when wearing the hood up without a helmet. The hood features an excellent adjustment system, so you can get it set up perfectly for whatever situation.
The Gore-tex fabric used is N80p-X 3L GORE-TEX Pro. For those of you unfamiliar with Gore-tex’s schema of labelling it’s materials. The N denotes Nylon being used as the face fabric, the 80 denotes the use of 80 Denier fabric, and p denotes a Plain Weave. 3L states 3 layer. The fabric is exceptionally tough, abrasion resistant, and with a DWR finish. DWR finish means that water landing on the jacket will roll off.
The jacket weighs in at 455g which is pretty good when compared to the top end jackets of other brands (see fig.1). In the graph below I tried to pick out some jackets with similar fabrics, spec, prices, intended use, so it gives you some of idea of where the Alpine Guide Jacket sits in comparison.
The jacket is a great length for wearing with a harness, and doesn’t ride up because of the cut. At this point lockdown has prevented me actually getting out and testing beyond some basic tests in the garden!
I opted for the Blaze colour since I like to stand out on the hill; and it certainly does that. The jacket arrived shortly before lockdown started so I have only tried it during 2 days on Cannock Chase with my second year students. Although not ideal it, did hammer it down on both days, so it was a good first outing. Naturally I stayed bone dry all day, and the bright colour meant students had no problem spotting me, even in the limited visibility. There is a high visibility contrast strip on the hood which helps even further to stand out on the hill.
The ONLY drawback at this point is the super crinkly sound that the jacket makes when you wear it, but this is the case with all modern hard shell jackets it seems…
I need to stress at this point that I haven’t had the chance to test the jacket in a serious mountain environment, however, as soon as we are allowed out, it will be top of my priority list! Overall I am very happy with the Arc’teryx Alpine Guide Jacket, at present I can’t see any flaws! Further testing to follow….