Top Gears

Arct'ryx Alpha SV jacket. £350. 595gms

My wife and I recently bought a 2nd hand Peugeot 206. At the garage she was mooching around the GTi 16v soft tops with images of her hair blowing in the breeze on a beautiful summer’s day. I, however, knew how much we had in the bank (and remembered that there aren’t that many soft top days in The Lakes) and concentrated on the one and only 1.1 on the forecourt that we could afford. It’s a nice little car but nothing particularly special.

Why am I telling you this? Well to me a car is a way of getting from A to B whilst listening to music. And the difference in price between a bog standard car and a performance jazzy motor is £000s.

In the mountains, however, I want the best that there is. My life (and possibly the lives and well being of those I am with) depends on it. If you want to know what gear is good out there then see what the guides and instructors are wearing in Scotland this winter. These are the chaps and chapesses who climb, day in day out, in one of the most demanding environments that most people are ever going to experience. To a certain extent you could say the same about the top Alpinists and performance winter climbers who are pushing the boat out – except that they are possibly sponsored, which skews the results a tad.

So if you are wanting the best then look no further. Anything by Arct’ryx has got to be seen as an investment – but they are worthwhile and functional investments. These guys were the first to start laminating their materials which means there is less fabric which makes for a lighter and less bulky garment. They also use a higher stitch count which means tougher seams.

The cut on this jacket is terrific and it is a really well tailored piece of kit. The jacket stays put in pretty much every position that you are ever likely to find yourself in. The waist doesn’t ride up when reaching for that perfect placement that is going to get you out of the kaka. Conversly the hood does move with your head when you are looking around and I didn’t find myself inspecting my hairy chest when trying to see where my ice screws were.

But no matter how good the car is the company will always be able to modify and upgrade it. And the same can be said of this jacket. The first modification / upgrade for me would be the cuff area. Why oh why do these Canadian / American / European companies not do jackets with wide cuffs? Because they don’t go out when the weather is that bad. But for those who venture out in Scottish winter conditions you need the facility to put the cuff OVER your gloves for the walk in and then later on you’ll be wanting to put your gloves over the jacket when in the vertical environment. There are no major drawbacks (that I can think of) of having a wide, large volume cuff apart from having slightly more material.

The next thing about the cuff is that the velcro tab flaps around if you have it completely undone (I use the cuffs quite a bit to vent off as well as using pit zips, front zipper etc). Another blob of fluffy velcro or a longer piece of the fluffy stuff would solve this (small) issue. But if you want perfection then you have to be picky.

Now I don’t know about you but I occassionally want to walk along with my hands in my chest pockets. Well with this jacket you can’t unless you are going for a double Napolean look. Both of the chest pockets are in the ‘map pocket’ position rather than the ‘I’m holding my ribs in place’ position. The perfect solution would be 2 outer pockets and 1 map pocket – but I’m sure that the design team would suck their teeth over that one and mention the cost increase.

So three fifty notes for an anorak? If you think of it like that then yes it is a LOT of money and unjustifiable.

But if you think of it as fifty to seventy five pounds more than most of the other top performance jackets then you’ll realise that it’s not THAT catastrophic and you don’t need to answer all those e mails offering immediate loans and debt consolidation.

So in a nutshell it’s only a rich man that buys a cheap suit (as they say in Yorkshire). But rest assured that once you try Arc’teryx you’ll be converted – you just need to swallow hard when putting that PIN number in. All major credit cards are accepted.