[climbers ’ choice]
Why we like it Light, sleek, and minimalist, this shell transitions smoothly from backpacking to climbing.
Fit The slim and long cut slides easily under a harness or hipbelt. “It’s close-fitting, but still works with two or three thin layers thanks to the stretchy nylon fabric,” reports a tester. “There was no excess fabric to flap in the gales I experienced on Wyoming’s Reese Mountain.”
Packability “The included stuffsack wouldn’t hold a large kielbasa, but it holds this shell,” says one tester. “I loved that I could hang the tiny sack from my harness for long routes and barely notice it.” That said, lighter and even more packable shells exist, but with the Alpha SL you get a good balance between minimalism and durability.
Protection Testers endured hours of storm-driven rain in Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness, punishing winds in Wyoming, and disaster-relief work during Colorado’s historic floods last fall without a drop penetrating the Alpha, thanks to snug-sealing cuffs and a waterproof zipper. And the three-way adjustable hood fit over bare heads as precisely as it did helmets.
Breathability During hard aerobic activity, testers reported the Gore-Tex Paclite fabric was moderately breathable, but the lack of lacks pit zips and venting chest pockets left some testers steamy. Climbers said the sleek design and low weight were worth the trade, especially on wet, cold, windy routes.
$275; 10.8 oz.; m’s XS-XXL, w’s XS-XL; arcteryx.com