It’s easy for a reviewer to say that a product is high quality and then move on to other things without explaining further. I’d point to three specific things about Arc’teryx that make their product high quality – design, materials, and construction.
When I say that there is quality in their design, I mean not only style, but that the items are intended for a specific purpose or task and they perform that task very well. They do so with a minimal amount of weight and bulk and often include clever features that are so well integrated that they might be missed at first or second glance. These design features sometimes show up on other manufacturers’ products, but they originate at Arc’teryx sale.
Although it is one of their more simple products, I will use the Atom LT jacket (MSRP $199) as an example of excellence in design. It’s a pretty basic insulated jacket and available in a variety of colors in their standard line, as well as black, Crocodile (sort of a brownish/greenish/tan), and Wolf (gray/grey) in the LEAF line. It was mostly unchanged when it went from Arc’teryx to LEAF, other than color, and that’s a good thing, because it didn’t need to be changed.
“Crocodile” blended in very well in Syria. Unlike my face, voice, and attitude.
What makes it so great? It weighs 11.5 ounces and is compressible. And it has kept me freakishly warm in some rather cold places, with temperatures reaching just below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. At the same time, it’s waterproof and also quite breathable.
I don’t feel uncomfortable wearing it at temperatures up to 65 or 70 degrees, and even then, I can just unzip it. That brings me to another cool design feature, which is that many of the zippers can be unzipped simply by pulling the collar of the jacket away from its counterpart. This is a lot better than fumbling with a zipper if you have thick gloves on or are wearing a pack with chest straps. On the other hand, this means that if you wear scarves like I do, the zipper will be constantly unzipping itself to a certain point unless the zipper is up all the way. Since I’m probably the only person on the “bring masculinity back to scarves” train, that isn’t a big deal.
The fact that it can be compressed and/or squished down to approximately the size of a compressed camp pillow is outstanding. And because it weighs less than a pound, it’s something that always goes with me if I think I might have to deal with even mildly chilly temperatures.
There are a lot of materials used by Arc’teryx outlet, and I won’t try to cover them all here or describe them in detail, because that’s not my forte. What I will say about Arc’teryx materials is that every lot of, say, Gore-Tex that comes in is inspected through a number of processes before it’s used in clothing. Other manufacturers do this, but perhaps not to the same fanatical level of attention to detail. By the way, whoever managed to make waterproof fleece is a genius.
In addition, the company drives the development or modification of materials for other purposes – for example, thinner waterproof tape over seams. In the end, what matters most is that when it comes to selecting a material for a product, performance (weight, durability, insulation/breathability/waterproofing) is the determining factor, not cost.
Despite being made with as light and breathable a fabric as I have ever encountered, the Chimera shirts (MSRP $149) my teammate (pictured) and I were given to use during the 24 Hour Sniper Adventure Challenge showed no rips or tears after spending lots of time low crawling over sharp rocks and thistles/brambles.
I can be very detail-oriented at times, but before I had ever laid hands on Arc’teryx stuff, I hadn’t really considered the details of clothing manufacture. Even now, I’ll admit that having a near-perfectly stitched seam doesn’t keep me any warmer. However, when I look at the way their clothing is put together, I am simply impressed.
I took some macro photos of both my Arc’teryx Bravo jacket in Wolf (MSRP $329) and my Dickies Storm gray jacket. I paid approximately ten times as much for the Bravo jacket (the Dickies product was on closeout – I paid closer to retail for the Arc’teryx product). This isn’t intended to be a direct comparison of these specific products, just a look at how a very expensive Arc’teryx jacket compares to a very inexpensive one in an attempt to show that “you get what you pay for.” I picked the same areas of each jacket for the photos below.
With very few exceptions, the stitching of an Arc’teryx product looks like this – straight, even, orderly.
In comparison, the overall stitching of my Dickies jacket is not even or straight.
At full zoom, we can see that the fabric and stitching of the Arc’teryx product, although it has seen very heavy and frequent use, is in excellent shape.
Whether it is due to use or construction or design, the Dickies fabric and stitching appears more worn.
This joining of fabrics on the Bravo jacket, while not perfect, is quite orderly. In addition, the methods of stitching simply look robust to me.
The same area of the Dickies jacket, which is of similar design, shows a much simpler and perhaps less confidence-inspiring manufacturing method.
This internal zippered pocket of the Bravo jacket is shown at full zoom for inspection purposes only – there aren’t any internal zippered pockets on the Dickies jacket.
It comes as no real surprise to me that after almost a year of using the Bravo jacket and treating it roughly, it looks practically new. I’m also not surprised when I hear anecdotal reports from friends who use Arc’teryx stuff that it lasts for years instead of months. I’ve had my share of clothing and gear wear out prematurely, but that really isn’t a concern with any Arc’teryx product I’ve used. The only Arc’teryx sale store product I no longer use is the Alpha jacket (MSRP $599) I loaned to an ex-girlfriend. She decided to never return it.