Jacket reviews are a helpful way of learning more about a particular design and understanding how the jacket you are interested in will perform.
In our opinion, jacket comparisons are an even better way of judging a jacket, especially when you are unsure about which design to choose.
In a previous similar comparison, we looked at two Arc’teryx jackets, Thorium vs. Cerium, in which we got to look at the specifics of both designs, as well as the similarities and differences between the two.
Today we will do the same for two other popular jackets by Arc’teryx, the Alpha and Beta designs.
- 1. Arc’teryx: The Brand
- 2. The Arc’teryx Alpha Jacket
- 3. The Arc’teryx Beta Jacket
- 4. Arc’teryx Alpha AR vs. Beta AR Jacket
- 5. Which One is Better?
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1. Arc’teryx: The Brand
This harness was made by using the thermolamination technology, which was also used in another popular product by the brand, the Bora backpack.
As a brand that places great importance in the quality and performance of their products, Arc’teryx took their time in developing technical sports clothing, in order to guarantee that their new venture into the outdoor clothing market would be a success.
After receiving the Gore-Tex fabric licence, Arc’teryx began developing the high quality products that are now beloved by many.
Being the best performing fabric technology on the market at the time, Gore-Tex fabrics ensured the durability, weather-resistance and breathability of garments made for challenging sports and weather conditions.
Aside from the great quality of their products, the ethics of production and work that Arc’teryx adheres to, are some of the other reasons why the brand is so renowned and favored by those who enjoy spending time in nature challenging themselves.
If you are interested in learning more about the brand, we have written an article on the topic, in which we explore the many reasons why Arc’teryx is so popular.
You might also like: 11 Arc’teryx Jackets for your Favorite Winter Sport
2. The Arc’teryx Alpha Jacket
Design Features and Style
A jacket designed for alpine activities, the Alpha jacket is one of the best choices for those who are looking to buy a jacket that will stay dry as you are enjoying yourself up in the mountains.
Being a jacket that is designed for both practicality and protection, the Alpha design comes with a hooded, high collar.
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The attached StormHood™ comes in handy because it is always there when needed, that way there is no concern of having it come off or detach from collar, having to stow it away under the collar and then taking it back out, or just plain forgetting to have it on the jacket at all.
Considering that this is a jacket to be worn in an alpine setting, where the weather can change abruptly and the temperatures are generally lower, a hood is a great way of adding extra warmth by covering the head, while at the same time it also prevents cold drafts from getting inside the jacket.
The hood is helmet compatible, too, so you will not have to worry about your safety.
The high collar is further help in this regard, as it prevents both the cold and the rain from getting inside the jacket from the top, as well as it helps prevent excessive heat loss.
Its athletic fit makes this design not just comfortable to wear, but it also helps you move with ease while you are climbing.
The reduced bulk is another smart design choice as it goes very well with the ergonomic cut of the jacket, which makes it move along with you by not hindering your performance or getting in the way.
Alpha comes with adjustable sleeve cuffs that can be fastened or loosened with Velcro tabs.
Adjustable sleeve cuffs are quite useful as they can be a great way of reducing heat loss and closing the jacket off from the elements. On the other hand, when you need more ventilation, loose sleeve cuffs can help once again.
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Speaking of ventilation and reducing the risk of overheating while wearing this jacket, there are pit vents present under the arms. Pit vents are the easiest and fastest way of lowering the heat that builds up as you move.
The fabric also helps with the breathability, which we will discuss in the next part.
This is a hip-length jacket, which has a drop tail hem that helps cover the back better as you move. The drop tail hem is a very common detail of Arc’teryx jackets, which goes to show the brand’s attention to performance and protection.
The hem is also adjustable with drawstrings placed on the inside of the jacket.
Alpha has two outer hand pockets, which are placed higher than in most jackets. They are positioned to the front rather than the sides and the reason for that is to prevent them from getting in the way of the harness or the backpack’s belt.
Lastly, there is an inside pocket as well, which can be used for storing your phone or any other small belongings.
Materials and Other Details
Alpha is a jacket made of N40p-X 3L Gore-Tex fabric. Gore-Tex fabrics are renowned for their weather-resistance, breathability and durability, which are qualities also present in the Alpha design.
To get a bit technical, the “p” in the material name is in referral to the fabric’s finish, which is plain weave. This type of fabric helps provide a degree of water resistance and it is smooth to the touch.
The areas that are prone to more contact with the elements are reinforced with N80p-X Gore-Tex Pro fabric or other similar thinner or thicker Gore-Tex fabric depending on the modifier and purpose of the jacket.
Regarding weather-resistance, Alpha is a waterproof and windproof jacket with taped seams and DWR finish, which provides well rounded protection up in the mountains.
3. The Arc’teryx Beta Jacket
Design Features and Style
A jacket designed with versatility in mind, Beta is a high performance jacket made for a variety of activities and weather conditions.
With its materials and design, it is a jacket that wears beautifully and provides protection against the elements, leaving you to solely focus on enjoying yourself, not having to worry about the weather.
Launched in 2000, Beta is Arc’teryx’ most versatile design that is great for outdoor activities, especially those in mountainous areas.
Style-wise, like most of the brand’s designs, Beta is minimalistic in style, without flashy logos or patterns.
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It comes with a DropHood™, which provides great coverage against the rain. Its design is made so that the hood will not move or come off of the head on its own, which is very useful when you are dealing with cold and windy weather.
It is a helmet-compatible hood, as well as adjustable and attached to the internal collar, which is medium-height and provides good coverage of the neck, thus preventing rain and wind from getting through from the top.
The sleeve cuffs are adjustable with fastening tabs, which, as we said previously about the Alpha jacket, are there to ensure proper fitting and to help close the jacket off from the elements and the cold.
Hip-length and in an athletic fit, this jacket comes with a drop tail hem that is longer in the back. With this type of hem, the jacket provides a better coverage of the back when you are moving, bending or sitting down.
When looking at the technical aspect of the design, Beta, being a versatile jacket, is made to move with you.
This is evident by the articulated patterning in the elbows and the no-lift gusseted underarms, which prevent the jacket from being stiff like Gore-Tex products are prone to be, instead allowing it to move as you move and making movement comfortable and unrestricted.
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Lastly, there are two hand pockets on this jacket, which are placed to the sides but higher than what we are used to in other jackets. These are quite spacious pockets, too, leaving room for carrying several belongings.
These are zippered pockets, which have WaterTight™ zippers that ensure that the pockets and the items in them remain dry. Items that can be damaged by moisture, however, are best kept in the internal pocket, as the zippers are highly water resistant, but not completely waterproof.
As we mentioned in the Alpha jacket’s part, the pockets are placed differently in the Beta design too, in order to make the jacket compatible with harnesses and backpack belts for those who will wear it for climbing, hiking and any other mountaineering activities.
Materials and Other Details
Beta is made of N40r-X 3L Gore-Tex Pro ripstop fabric, as the “r” in the name of the fabric indicates.
Ripstop fabric, which looks like a grid of little squares and feels rougher than plain weave, helps prevent damage to the jacket by not only making it more durable, but it also stops tearing from getting bigger as it tends to keep it localized within the little square in which it happened.
In the areas that need additional protection, N80p-X Gore-Tex Pro fabric is used to ensure better weather resistance and added durability.
Beta is a waterproof and windproof jacket, with considerable breathability, taped seams and which has been treated with DWR coating to further protect it from moisture.
4. Arc’teryx Alpha AR vs. Beta AR Jacket
The Modifier (Arc’teryx Terminology)
So far, we have only used the Alpha and Beta names of the jackets, so what does AR stand for?
Arc’teryx’s jackets and products are arranged into different families, which are made for specific purposes. The Alpha and Beta part of the jackets’ name are indicators of what they are designed for.
In this case, Alpha is a range of products made for alpinism and climbing products, whereas Beta is a more versatile range made for different mountain activities such as climbing, skiing, hiking, mountaineering, etc.
Aside from that, Arc’teryx uses modifiers, too, which define the intended use and the features of a product. There are 9 different modifiers used, which you can find here, on the Arc’teryx website.
The modifier that interests us today, which is AR stands for “All Round”, meaning that the product is made for high performance and versatility, while at the same time it provides well rounded protection from the elements.
With nomenclature out of the way, let’s now start the comparison of features for these two jackets.
Design and Wear
These jackets are similar in that they are both minimalistic in style and made for movement.
They wear similarly in regards to comfort, but Beta AR is better for activities that require a lot of movement. This is understandable knowing that the product is made for versatility as opposed to specific activities, such as the Alpha AR design.
The feel of the fabric is different, too. Alpha AR’s plain weave shell is softer and smoother to the touch as opposed to the ripstop shell of Beta AR.
They are both hooded designs, with differences in the collar position, which also affects the comfort of wearing the hood on and off. What we mean by that is that Beta Ar’s Drop Hood is more comfortable when off, whereas Alpha AR’s tall collar and hood are more comfortable when the hood is on.
The pockets of Alpha AR are better suited for wearing a harness and fastening backpack belts because their position does not get in the way. This is very handy for climbing, but not really practical for other activities. Therefore, in this regard Beta AR is more practical.
Both jackets have a drop tail hem, but the hem of Alpha AR can be adjusted with hem locks, whereas Beta AR comes with waist drawstrings for adjustment.
Weather Resistance and Durability
Regarding weather resistance, these jackets are nearly evenly matched as they are made of very similar materials and both have DWR coating to repel water.
They are both waterproof and windproof, while also allowing for quite a good deal of breathability. While the Gore-Tex Pro fabric itself does help with breathability, it is the pit vents which do the most in this area.
Beta AR has laminated pit zips, which, when compared to those of Alpha AR, perform better and allow for faster cooling down and ventilation.
Once again, because they are both made of Gore-Tex Pro fabric, they are quite resilient and durable as jackets. But, due to the difference of their shells, Beta AR’s ripstop is much more durable and less prone to damaging or tearing.
Those of you familiar with Arc’teryx know that this brand is not the most affordable one. The prices are quite high for most of the products and that is the case for the designs we have picked today as well.
Alpha AR retails for around 400 USD depending on where you are looking and it can go around $600 for certain sizes and color options.
On the other hand, Beta AR’s price is slightly higher, again depending on where you are looking, and it starts at around $500 and can go much higher in some instances.
5. Which One is Better?
While both of these jackets are some of the best ones you will find when it comes to design and weather protection, their differences do help in determining which one would be the better choice for you.
Depending on what activity you will partake with your jacket, the answer will vary.
If you are an avid alpinist or climber, then definitely the Alpha AR design would be the best choice. It comes with many climbing-specific features that will keep you safe and comfortable up in the mountains.
However, if you want a more versatile design, which you can wear in a variety of outdoor activities not solely limited to climbing or alpinism, then Beta AR provides well rounded protection against the elements and its ergonomic design helps you move with ease.