I have already reviewed the particularly well designed and built Arc’teryx Rush Jacket and therefore become an Arc’teryx brand convert, so I was super excited when the opportunity arose to review two classic products from Arc’teryx. I got to test one of their best down insulated jackets and one of their daypacks aimed at skiing and snowboarding. As previously discovered, Arc’teryx are famous for their minimalist designs based around function and activity with their products being constantly tested on athletes and professionals who work in the field. I found that the ‘devil is in the details’ when it came to the Rush jacket, from its enhanced range-of-motion to the brushed micro-suede chin guard to prevent my beard/stubble catching, so I could not wait to see if this carried through to more of the Arc’teryx product range.
The Thorium AR Hoody, a generalist down hoody jacket made from durable fabrics and 2 types of insulation was to be the choice of insulated jacket. The Jacket uses ‘Down Composite Mapping™’ which effectively places down and synthetic insulation where they deliver the most benefit; so ‘Coreloft™’ synthetic insulation in areas where moisture may build up like the hood, cuffs and armpits whilst European 750 grey goose down fills the rest to deliver maximum warmth. The outer shell is constructed from durable ‘Arato™’ 30 nylon, a lightweight material that can withstand abrasion, packs compactly and has a durable water repellent finish to repel moisture and wind and keep your down dry, whilst retaining breathability.
There is something about down that I love, as you may know I am a huge advocate for using natural fabrics where possible in the great outdoors; and goose down is certainly one of my favourites. The 750 is the measure of cubic inches of down fill per ounce, often called Lofting Power, this shows that the 750 measure is a very good rating, which means that it will keep one warm but will not be so bulky as to not be pack-able. Once wrapped up in the Thorium AR Hoody and out on the mountain, it is like having one’s own little warm cocoon guarding against all that the elements can throw in one’s direction. They seem to have the fitting correct as well, enough space to wear various wool layers underneath but not too bulky so I could even wear the Rush Jacket outer layer over the top if the mountain decided to get really ugly. All round this is one of my favourite warm jackets, just because the weather may turn extreme I do not like to go in and the Thorium AR Hoody enables me to stay out and play.
Next up to pair alongside the Jacket is the Alpha SK 32 Backpack, an extremely lightweight yet durable 32 litre Alpinist day bag, perfect for Ski touring and Split board touring. The design is super minimalist in appearance, made from N400r-AC² nylon 6 Ripstop the bag is designed to be highly weather resistant and tough as old boots all whilst only weighing 1.0 kg / 35 oz. The design evolved from the Alpha FL Alpinist pack, becoming a kind of stripped back version built to carry the tools required for fast backcountry exploration. The backpack has a padded back panel and internally laminated HD80 foam frame sheet that delivers a lightweight, comfortable carry and the forward pull waist belt adjustment has been designed for easy use with gloves; though careful if you wear the bag without the waistband being closed, the free hanging straps can fall off . Unlike many backpacks on the market, Arc’teryx have eliminated many of the excess straps, yet have provided stretchy rubber Alpha SK 50cm straps so one can customise the pack to carry skis or snowboards in various setups. I like this as I find many bags a little over the top, looking like some kind of bag of overflowing spaghetti. Along with the hidden seams this makes for a very sleek looking backpack, something that many fellow skiers and snowboarders have commented on.
Included in the design are the various pockets and entry point to the bag, my favourite being the full length WaterTight™ side zip. This is so simple but an outstanding feature, In the essence of speed it is so quick and easy to access anything in the bag; no more pulling everything out of the top just to find your banana squished at the bottom! The bag also has a very neat front chamber that does not affect the profile of the bag, with various pockets to hold the essential avalanche and general snow equipment such as shovel, probe, saw, skins, wet gear. The top lid above the drawstring closure also provides a fairly large cavity and very fast access for helmets or if you just need to stash something for a brief period like skins or rope. To me this is how backpacks should be designed- sleek, simple, customisable, with easy access that keeps you moving in the mountains. My rather large camera fits perfectly to the shoulders strap so I am sure that my very hard wearing Alpha SK 32 Backpack will be adventuring with me for many years to come.