Looking to up your gear game this winter? Has your trusty jacket or backpack that’s served you well on many an adventure finally kicked the bucket? It happens to us too, and so we’ve been busy with a little gear testing lately to find what could make a good replacement for a piece of gear with so many memories that it feels irreplaceable.
Sounds like a tough benchmark to hit? That’s because it is!
However, suddenly this search for that “perfect piece” just got a whole lot easier. Arc’teryx, always the innovator, opened up a #gearlibrary for just last month.
Logically, as soon as we heard about this mythical library of awesomeness we checked a few things out. Word on the street they are going to open up the gear library again in the future. So keep your eyes pealed, follow Arc’Teryx on Instagram and in the mean time, get out there!
Thorium AR Hoody
I’d like to first state that I’m a very unbiased reviewer (you’ll see this later) however, the Thorium AR Hoody is hands down my all time favorite town/hut/road trip puffy ever. Try this on at a store and tell me you disagree.
I wouldn’t recommend it as a jacket you’d use while ski touring or ice climbing (could be used for super cold days). It’s a bit too warm for any activity that is too physical. It also is under performed by the larger heat factories like a belay jacket. However, it’s that perfect jacket for when your thin puffy is too cold but you don’t want a massive puffy. I find I’m wearing it every single day around town and on road trips.
The zipper is not one of those ultra light fancy things that only last a year. This thing’s got a big beefy zipper that will keep you away from the seamstress and out on trips.
Hood draw cord
The draw cord inside the hood is the best I’ve ever experienced. It turns the hood into a custom fit oven of warmth. Somehow this draw cord seals all air inside while also hugging your dome in a gentle fit. A full blown cranial pleasure.
Arc’teryx’s trademark hand cuffs let the softer inside fabric overflow a little onto the wrists. This locks in the warm air without a firm elastic band like other puffys.
Uhhh…. This is embarrassing, but I couldn’t find any. (And I love finding issues with gear, darn it)
Alpha SK 32 pack
One look at this fancy smancy backpack and you get an itch to ski tour, fast. The backpack seems to be designed for speed demons in mind. Everything is slimmed down to the bare essentials with nothing extra for someone to mess with or be slowed down by. My main issue is that this process got a little too extreme. “Less is more” has it’s limits, at some point you just end up with.. less.
However after using the pack on many trips I found some of my initial gut reactions were a bit off and the pack is actually quite delightful to use. I’ll hit the specific pro/cons below, but overall I would purchase this pack as it’s comfortable, functional, and should last for a very long time.
Easy to nail, easy to botch. Some packs are a little too small and others are awkwardly large. The Alpha SK 32 definitely nails the volume challenge on the dot.
One of my favorite and most useful parts of the pack. When designing a low volume day pack things get tight sometimes and the side zipper alleviates the dredded rest stop yardsale where everything must come out to grab those large gloves at the bottom. In my view a side zipper is a better and lighter version than having the whole back panel zip out as some other packs do.
Great fit, everybody is different though, so go check one out for yourself!
Very effective, very light system for loading your skis. On numerous missions when we transitioned to boot packing I was always first to have their skis strapped to the pack and had a rock solid mount without things shaking around while boot packing. Very pumped on this set up.
Closure of top
When you don’t have much stuff filling up the pack this isn’t an issue. However if you have a full bag (with 32 liters you likely will at times) the top can’t close fully. What’s happening is the draw string can’t fully close the opening and the top flap has been designed too minimally and doesn’t cover the gap that’s left. Not a problem unless it’s puking snow or raining and then things start to get wet sooner then they should.
Metal buckles of top flap
You get faster after a while but this system felt slower than your classic buckle. Sure it looks awesome and probably more durable in the long run, but getting in and out is slower. I found I only every used one to speed things up.
Limited space for helmet
If you don’t ski with a helmet in the backcountry ignore this. For the other 90%, it’s going to be a tight fite to easily bring a helmet. Your options are let it dangle on the outside (filling up with snow if it’s dumping) or stuffing it under the top flap. Stuffing it in the top works well if you take a small climbing helmet and don’t have much inside. However if your pack is full and you have a regular ski helmet, the small top flap leaves something to be desired.
Sabre LT Jacket
Years ago Arc’teryx dialed the Gore Shell Jacket category. Overall there is very little to critique about the Sabre. It’s like dissecting a thoroughbred race horse. You can pick it apart but at the end of the day it’s bred from the best genetics available.
All around the jacket has a great fit with just enough features to make it comfortable and functional yet not heavy, complex or over engineered. All hallmarks of the Arc’teryx jacket design.
Slim yet a big larger than the usual Arc’teryx fit to accomadate extra layers for resort skiing or riding. Definitely designed for all day skiing or riding at a resort with a longer waist length and nice powder skirt.
Small Chest pocket
Love it or hate it cell phones are a standard item on any backcountry or resort day. The chest pocket is a usual go to spot for them and the Sabre’s could be just slightly larger to accommodate the larger cell phones and cases out there these days.
So there it is, a little gear review for your online shopping needs. However with Arc’teryx’s #gearlibrary they are taking some first steps in democratizing the online shopping experience. Use this gear review to help with that next purchase, or don’t, and go review the gear for yourself!