The Alpha FL is the official uniform jacket of the British Mountain Guides, you can read their comments below.
The Arcteryx Alpha FL Jacket has been designed for fast and light alpine ascents, though it will work equally as well as a lightweight trekking piece. This jacket truly has been designed to keep the weight right down without compromising protection from the most adverse weather the mountains may throw at you. The fit is with a regular cut with e3D - ergonomic three-Dimensional patterning that is designed to enhance a greater freedom of movement for sport-specific activities.
Made from highly breathable and waterproof Three Layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric and to reduce the weight, the 40 denier face fabric is combined with minimal features. There is just one external chest pocket and one internal pocket. The external pocket has a water resistant zip, ideal for stashing a guide book or map and valuables can be kept safe in the internal laminated security pocket. The excellent StormHood can be adjusted with a single hand and can be fitted over a helmet, once up and cinched you can rotate your head without obscuring vision, essential when climbing. When the jacket is worn with a harness the Custom Cohaesive hem adjustments also function as a Hemlock which prevents the jacket from riding up and out of the harness.
For more information please read Gore-Tex Explained.
Early in 2014, the British Mountain Guides decided to add a shell jacket to complement the Arc'teryx Gamma soft shells we've been using since 2012. It's not as easy as it sounds, as a shell piece has got to stand up to the worst of the Scottish winter and yet still be light and breathable enough to carry in an alpine summer pack or take ski touring where light weight is an important factor. The 2014 summer in the Alps the weather was absolutely shocking. Week after week of unstable weather with heavy rain and strong winds at altitude. So it was ideal to test our chosen jacket, the Arc'teryx Alpha FL. What attracted us initially is that it's a really simple design, but that's not to say it's basic. It's been carefully thought out so that it has all the features a technical jacket needs and nothing superfluous. Packed away in the sack, it's light and compact and even comes with its own stuff bag that has a clip-in loop so you can carry it up multi pitch routes on your harness. The fit is the usual perfection from Arc'teryx with plenty of freedom of movement to climb or ski. But where this jacket really stands out is the combination of waterproofness and breathability. It stood up to the worst of the downpours this summer and yet remains comfortable during hut approach walks. It's almost as if the jacket knows what temperature you want to be at - too cold and you'll warm up swiftly as soon as you put it on without getting sweaty. This comes from the new Gore-tex Pro Shell combined with clever design to minimise seam taping and pockets in the jacket. The material is really durable too - along with several BMG colleagues, we were involved in the field-testing of the new laminate and over 12 months of guide use (which is perhaps 5 to 10 years of "normal" use) we had no issues at all. So the British Mountain Guides are using the Alpha FL as their team jacket, and I'm very confident that it performs superbly as a technical mountain jacket for the wide variety of work we undertake in the mountains.
Andy Perkins is the Equipment and Partnerships Officer for the British Mountain Guides and is based in Chamonix. His work ranges from classic summer alpinism through to ski touring in Arctic Norway. He's been a guide for 12 years and before that spent another 12 years in the UK outdoor trade working for Troll with a PH.D. in textiles. So he knows his kit as well as his mountains. You can find out more about him at www.andypmountainguide.com.
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