Eighteen years ago, Arc’teryx debuted their Alpha SV shell. It was a shell intended for the most extreme alpine pursuits where human limits are tested and gear failure can mean failing to meet the objective. There is a load of history and hype behind the Alpha SV. For example, Arc’teryx pushed their partners at Gore towards lighter but still bomber seam tape; the redesigned SV (for ‘Severe’ conditions) continues along that path, ruthlessly cutting out anything beyond the essentials. The result is that the 2016 Alpha SV’s N100p-x fabric doubles up on durability while only increasing weight by 3g/m. A further addition is the novel self-sealing zippers which eliminate the need for a zipper garage. The jacket on the whole is perhaps the lightest, strongest alpine shell available.
A full review will come down the pipeline in a few months, after the ice firms up in Hyalite and Banff. This post is intended to give interested climbers a comparative visual look at the old Alpha SV (which I own) and the new 2016 redesign. In all of these images, the redesigned jacket comes first and is followed by the old version.
Comparison in pictures:
The redesigned Alpha SV (top) presents a cleaner face than the old model. The lack of zipper garages is evident, thanks to the new self-sealing RS Zipper Sliders technology. The embroidered Arc’teryx logo is certainly more durable than a screen printed option, but it seems a strange choice since it necessitates an additional taped backpacking to remain waterproof.
Note the (necessary) zipper garages on the old model. Otherwise, the profile is almost identical.
Seam tape is a substantial contributor to the weight of an otherwise minimalist jacket. This image demonstrates that point. The top image is the redesigned Alpha SV; contrast this with the bottom image, which has more pieces of tape overall. The new jacket has just one piece to shave off grams and simplify construction.
Note the myriad of oddly-shaped pieces of backpacking on the old version. This has been streamlined on the new. A further advantage to the slim seam tape is an increase to the garment’s breathability.
The elastic toggles across the jacket are a substantial component of how climbers interface with the Alpha. The new model has an integrated one-piece pull tab that releases at the push of a button. Arc’teryx partnered with Cohaesive for these components.
The previous model (bottom) had a small link of foam in the hem, as well as the external grommet and sewn webbing as shown. Mine has a ripped section which was a common failure recognized and often repaired by Arc’teryx.
The hood adjustment has a similar push-button design. Note also the ‘Made in Canada’ printing: the Alpha SV is Arc’teryx’s only remaining jacket to be made in their Vancouver facility, where their life-critical gear (think harnesses) are still produced. The foam link is gone, but the new design retains the foam’s ability to disperse the force of the elastic. All that to say, the new design is equally comfortable.
The 2016 update brings just one single breach onto the surface of the jacket, which is this toggle for the Alpha’s hood.
Those push-button elastic adjustments further streamline the jacket’s face. The grommets are gone, and the entire mechanism is now internal. All that peaks out is the elastic cord itself.
Even the cuffs have been tweaked. The old model, on the left, had an elastic section. The new model, on the right, has no elastic but a sleek laser cut profile.
There are two changes that are harder to show. One is the lack of an elastic drawcord along the back of the jacket it to cinch it around your torso; there was a toggle for this in the pocket of the old version but it’s absent in the new, presumably to save weight. Additionaly, the fit of the new version is really quite different. It’s longer in the sleeves and torso, providing more coverage overall. That said, I’d say it runs on on the Large end of the true-to-size scale, but I’ll have fuller comments soon.
For more information visit the Alpha SV’s page on Arc’teryx.com. Stay tuned for a full review after our testing is complete.