Arc’teryx Alpha vs. Beta

Whether you are engaged in highly intensive outdoor activities, such as rock climbing and alpine climbing, or participate in lighter exercises such as running, you’ll want the perfect jacket to accompany you. An excellent hardshell will suit your needs well, be it resistance to severe conditions, versatility, a lightweight option, or something else.

The Arc’teryx Alpha and Beta lines have various jackets you can choose from that cater to different individual needs. In this article, we present different models from both of these lines while also differentiating said lines from each other. At the very end, we give our recommendations for excellent jacket choices.

Comparison Table

The following table gives a summary of the eight Arc’teryx jackets on our list. It includes material composition, product ratings, and specifications, and relative price comparisons.

Arc’teryx ShellMembrane/
Material
Weather ResistanceDurabilityWeightCenter Back LengthPrice Range 
Alpha AR

N80d Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX PROHighHigh15.2 oz31.25 in$$$Men's

Women's
Alpha SV

N100d Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX PROVery HighVery High1 lb 2 oz30.75 in$$$$Men's

Women's
Alpha FL

3L GORE-TEX PRO with N40p-X face fabricHighHigh11.1 oz30.5 in$$Men's

Women's
Alpha SL

Hadron 3L GORE-TEX face fabricHighModerate7.4 oz30 in$Men's

Women's
Beta AR

N40d Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX PRO main body; N80d Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX PRO reinforcement in high wear areasHighHigh16.5 oz30.4 in$$$Men's

Women's
Beta SV

N80d Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX PROVery HighVery High1 lb 1.5 oz31 in$$$$Men's

Women's
Beta LT

3L GORE-TEXHighHigh13.9 oz

30 in$Men's

Women's
Beta SL

N40d 2.5L GORE-TEX fabric with Paclite technologyHighModerate11 oz30 in$Men's

Women's

Product Reviews

Alpha SV

If you are looking for a jacket made for alpine and climbing activities and can withstand harsh weather conditions, then the Alpha SV is the perfect hardshell for you. The ‘SV’ in the Alpha SV stands for Severe Weather, meaning that this jacket was made specifically to hold up to prolonged exposure to severe climate conditions, such as for expeditions.

The Alpha SV comprises N100d Most Rugged 3-layer GORE-TEX PRO material, the sturdiest material offered for any Arc’teryx jackets (within the Beta and Alpha series). Not only does this material have the highest durability, but it is also windproof and waterproof; the jacket has a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating that provides excellent protection from the elements. The fabric is also highly resistant to abrasion.

The Arc’teryx Alpha SV provides mobility in gusseted underarms, articulated patterning, and a generous cut which also helps accommodate extra layers more easily. The Alpha SV also comes with a tall collar and a helmet-compatible hood, which provide weather resistance and give you warmth. For ventilation, the Alpha SV has pit zippers under the arms.

Other features included in the Alpha SV are an adjustable drop-tail hem and several pouches: two cross-over chest pockets, one left bicep pocket, and one internal pocket.

A downside to the Alpha SV is that it is comparatively less breathable because the material is thicker than other jackets. The Alpha SV is also relatively heavy, weighing at 1 lb 2 oz. In addition, the Alpha SV is a bit pricier compared to other Arc’teryx jackets.

Alpha AR

For a jacket that can give you good weather protection and can be used for different outdoor activities, the Alpha AR is an excellent choice for you. The ‘AR’ in the Arc’teryx Alpha AR stands for “All Round,” which means that the jacket is made of high-performance material that provides well-rounded protection from various alpine conditions and emphasizes versatility for multiple activities.

The Alpha AR is made of N80d Most Rugged 3-layer GORE-PRO, which provides high durability to the jacket; high wear areas are also reinforced for increased toughness. The Alpha AR is waterproof, having an Arc’teryx Nu water repellent treatment, and is also windproof.

The Alpha AR has a drop-tail hem that you can adjust with hem locks, an excellent feature for keeping the jacket in place while climbing or doing other activities requiring the frequent raising of your arms. The Alpha AR jacket also provides excellent mobility; the Alpha AR has a trim-cut for increased movement during mountain activities and increased range for leg motion.

The Alpha AR comes with chest pockets placed higher than other Arc’teryx jackets, which is convenient for climbers. They don’t get in the way of accessibility for climbing harnesses, for example. Pit zippers are located under the arms of the Alpha AR for ventilation. The Alpha AR jacket also comes with a directly integrated hood and provides shelter from the elements, along with the jacket’s tall collar.

The only downside to the Alpha AR is its weight which is almost one pound, coming in at 15.2 ounces – relatively heavy compared to other Arc’teryx jackets.

Alpha FL

If you’re looking for a jacket that has a relatively low weight, look no further than the Alpha FL as it weighs 11.1 oz. The ‘FL’ in the Arc’teryx Alpha FL stands for “Fast and Light”; this jacket is made of minimalist garments and lacks pit vents and pouches to conserve weight. This jacket is made for rapid travel in various weather conditions.

This hardshell is made of 3-layer GORE-PRO with N40p-X face fabric, which is durable and very breathable compared to other Arc’teryx jackets; a trim fit also adds to the jacket’s breathability. The jacket material has a DWR finish, making the jacket not only windproof but also waterproof. This jacket is also highly compressible and packable.

Like other hardshells in the Alpha series, this hardshell comes with a hood for shelter from the elements. However, a difference is that the FL’s hood comes with drawcords, so you can further tighten it. The jacket’s drop hem also has an adjustable hem cord and hem locks to prevent slipping out from under a harness.

This jacket comes with a stuff sack, which other shells don’t have – a neat plus. However,, a downside to the jacket is that its minimalism means sacrificing features for ventilation (pit zips) and storage (pockets).

Alpha SL

The Alpha SL is a truly ultra-lightweight jacket, coming in with a weight of just 7.4 ounces. Not only that, but this jacket is also relatively lower-priced compared to other Arc’teryx jackets, which is excellent news for climbers looking for a quality hardshell and are on a budget. The ‘SL’ in the Alpha SL stands for “Superlight,” meaning lightweight materials and design, emphasizing low weight and packability over durability.

The Alpha SL is made of a Hadron 3L GORE-TEX material which is lightweight and durable and gives shelter from the elements. This jacket is not only waterproof and windproof but also breathable and packable. Also, the Hadron fabric provides abrasion resistance. You can use this lightweight jacket for spring skiing, hiking, mountain biking, alongside other alpine activities.

This jacket comes with a helmet-compatible hood, and along with its tall collar, the Alpha SL provides you protection from the wind and rain. A deep front zipper is offered for easy on-off rapid ventilation.

A downside to the Alpha SL is that it lacks the number of pockets it has for storage.

Beta AR

The Arc’teryx Beta series is specially made for use in a variety of outdoor activities and weather conditions. Because the Beta AR jacket is also described as being “All Round,” the Beta AR is truly the most versatile of all products on our list. Unlike the “All Round” Alpha AR, which focuses on alpine and climbing activities, the Beta AR is applicable for a broader range of activities such as hiking, skiing, and even climbing.

The Arc’teryx Beta AR main body comprises N40d Most Rugged 3-layer GORE-PRO material that is relatively light and highly durable. Combined with an even more durable N80d Most Rugged 3-layer GORE-TEX PRO that reinforces high wear areas, the Beta AR is truly efficient as it minimizes weight and maximizes durability. The Beta AR jacket also has high weather resistance, being windproof and waterproof as a DWR finish repels moisture.

A unique feature of the Beta AR jacket lies with its hood; the Beta AR is the only one out of the Beta and Alpha series that has a DropHood, the rest having a StormHood instead. In combination with a shorter collar, this hood protects you from the rain and wind and is more comfortable when off compared to the Alpha AR. Also, the chest pockets of the Beta AR are placed lower for easier access and are more practical for multiple activities.

A downside to the Beta AR jacket is its weight, which is relatively heavy at 16.5 ounces. Also, the Beta AR has long sleeves that might feel a bit baggy for some users.

Beta SV

The Beta SV is the perfect choice for you if you desire a shell that offers protection from harsh climates while still applicable for various outdoor activities. The Beta SV has a “Severe Weather” rating, meaning you won’t have to worry about protection from the elements even for extended periods of exposure.

The Beta SV is made of N80d Most Rugged 3-layer GORE-TEX PRO throughout, making it the second most durable jacket on our list; it only comes behind the Alpha SV, which comprises a more durable N100d material. A DWR treatment makes this jacket water-resistant in addition to its being windproof. 

The Beta SV provides features that provide a broader range of movements, such as articulated elbows, no-lift gusseted underarms, and updated patterning for improved mobility. The Beta SV also comes with a hood that combines with a tall collar for shelter from wind and rain. Multiple pouches are included in the Beta SV for storage: two internal pockets, one chest pocket, and two hand pockets.

A downside to the Beta SV is its cost, which is at a relatively higher price range. Also, the Beta SV is fairly heavy, weighing 1 lb 1.5 oz, making it the weightiest on our list.

Beta LT

If you are searching for a lightweight jacket that you can also use for multiple activities, the Beta LT is just for you. The ‘LT’ of the Arc’teryx Beta LT describes the jacket as “Lightweight” and means it has a minimalist design that is durable for its weight.

The Beta LT is made of a three-layer GORE-TEX construction fabric that protects well from the weather. Weighing in at only 13.9 oz, this ultra-light hardshell designed for versatility is also relatively easy to wear. The material also has a DWR coating for the waterproofness of the jacket. The Beta LT indeed proves you can have both a low-weight and durable jacket.

The Beta LT jacket comes with a helmet-compatible hood, which provides weather resistance in combination with a high collar. It also has a drop-back hem, and, instead of a drawcord, dual hem adjusters are employed to keep your jacket secure during high- and large-movement activities. Pit zippers are included for ventilation purposes.

A great plus to the Beta LT is its relatively lower price than other Arc’teryx models for those on a budget. On the other hand, a downside is that the jacket has only the minimal two hand pockets to further conserve weight.

Beta SL

The Beta SL is similar to the Beta LT in that it is also a lightweight jacket option that you can use for various types of outdoor activities. The “Superlight” Arc’teryx Beta SL weighs only 11 ounces, making this jacket the lightest of the Beta jackets on our list.

The Beta SL is made of N40d 2.5L GORE-TEX material; compared to other Arc’teryx models with three layers of GORE-TEX, this shell only has two and a half layers. But albeit the jacket being slightly thinner to conserve weight, its fabric is ripstop, which adds tear strength and makes the Beta SL still very durable; also, being thinner means that the jacket is more breathable compared to other hardshells.

This model uses Paclite technology, which is made to provide excellent shelter from the elements. Adding to this protection is a DWR coating for full waterproofing and a hood that you can tighten with a drawcord. This Paclite technology is also made to be very breathable; the Beta SL has one of the highest breathability ratings amongst the jackets on our list.

The minimalist design of the Beta SL also means that the jacket has a relatively high packability. But because of its minimalism, the jacket also has fewer storage spaces coming in the form of only two pockets. A significant upside, though, is that the Beta SL is also the lowest-priced jacket on our list – a budget-friendly option for a lightweight quality jacket.

Comparing Arc’teryx Alpha vs. Beta Product Lines

Design/Purpose

Even though the Alpha and Beta lines consist of excellent jackets for use in different activities, each line is made with a specific purpose in mind.

The Alpha line is intended for use in mainly alpine and climbing-focused systems; the material used in the Alpha series is designed for more efficient movement and protection in said mountainous environments.

On the other hand, the Beta line is made to be more versatile, having a broader range of applications. Beta models can be used in various types of activities and conditions compared to the Alpha line.

Adding to the differences in focus between the Alpha vs. Beta series are category modifiers for individual models – integrated into an easily understandable naming scheme – which include the AR, SV, LT, SL, and others. These modifiers give the individual models their unique points, appealing to even more specific focuses. For example, the “Superlight” Alpha SL is a model made to be much lighter and more packable than your average Alpha jacket.

man standing on rock during daytime

Weather Protection

The weather protection offered by your jacket is an essential element for use in any activity held outdoors. The Beta and Alpha series share similarities in how they provide such weather resistance.

The primary material used by Arc’teryx models is the GORE-TEX material. This fabric is made to be durable and acts as a barrier against water, and the more GORE-TEX layers there are, the higher the water and wind resistance provided. Also, a DWR or Nu water repellent treatment on the fabric provides more water protection.

Furthermore, the type of weave of the fabric can slightly affect the waterproofness of the jacket. A plain weave is smoother than a ripstop weave, allowing water to slide off the material more easily. Some models with a plain weave include the Alpha SV, Alpha AR, and Beta SV.

Another prominent feature offered by Arc’teryx jackets is an attached hood. Almost all Alpha and Beta models employ a StormHood, paired with a tall collar, which is more comfortable when on. The only exception is the Beta AR, which uses a DropHood instead, paired with a more standard collar, and is more comfortable when off.

Durability

Durability is another essential factor that you should consider for any jacket if you want it to last for a long time, even after prolonged exposure to different environments and conditions. Arc’teryx jackets make use of the best material out there, which is the GORE-TEX fabric. GORE-TEX is very durable and is made for continuous activities such as hiking and trekking. 

A much more durable version of the GORE-TEX is the GORE-PRO specially made for more intense activities involving a lot of movement and a wide range of motions, including rock climbing, ice climbing, hiking, and skiing. Also, the higher the denier of the fabric, the thicker and sturdier it is. For our list, the most durable material is the N100d Most Rugged 3L GORE-PRO, used by the Alpha SV.

Furthermore, any GORE-TEX material can come in either two, two and a half, or three layers, the three-layer option being the most durable. Almost all of the models on our list use a 3-layer GORE-PRO. The Alpha SL, Beta LT both use regular 3L GORE-TEX, while the Beta SL uses only a 2.5L GORE-TEX.

Venting and Breathability

A jacket that is highly breathable and has venting options is essential for relatively more intensive activities. The GORE-TEX fabric used by Beta and Alpha jackets is not only durable but also very breathable.

Incidentally, thicker and heavier material is also relatively less breathable compared to thinner, lighter fabrics. In this case, the Beta SL is the most breathable jacket on our list, made possible by its N40d 2.5L GORE-TEX material, which incorporates Paclite technology. This fabric has only 2.5 layers and has a relatively low 40-denier rating, making it comparatively thinner. Also, the Paclite technology helps make this jacket much lighter.

For venting options, the main feature provided by the Alpha and Beta lines is pit zips. Pit zips are located under the arms and can be zipped open to keep you from overheating. Other ventilation options offered include mesh pockets and deep front zippers.

Pockets

Storage pockets are convenient to have, especially for keeping items during more prolonged activities or expeditions. Interestingly, the positioning of pouches in the Beta and Alpha series differ; this is because the different focuses of the Beta and Alpha lines mean that there are implications for the pocket-placing.

For example, the Alpha series focuses on climbing and mountain activities that generally use climbing harnesses and backpacking belts. Alpha-model pouches are placed higher than usual and closer to the front than the sides to not get in the way of these harnesses and straps. These chest pockets limit you to cross-over accessibility, which is great for climbing but less useful for other activities.

On the other hand, the Beta series doesn’t have the concerns for climbing that the Alpha series has. Outer hand pockets of the Beta line are also placed a bit higher than usual but are closer to the sides than to the front for more practicality.

Pricing

You will want to consider how you will use your jacket before making a purchase, as the pricing of the jackets generally depend on the material they are made of (which is the case for both the Alpha and Beta lines); the thicker the material, the higher the jacket price. Cheaper models might not be up to standard for harsher weather conditions. On the other hand, more expensive ones might not be very practical for relatively less intensive activities.

Incidentally, Alpha SV is the priciest jacket on our list, while the Beta SL has the lowest cost and is the most budget-friendly. 

FAQs

What’s the difference between the Arc’teryx Alpha vs. Beta?

The main difference between the Beta and Alpha Arc’teryx jackets is what they are made for. The Alpha jacket line is specially made for climbing and alpine-focused systems. On the other hand, the Beta jacket line is more versatile – being usable in much more varied types of activities and conditions.

Also, category modifiers such as SV, AR, LT, and SL – integrated into an intuitive naming scheme – further describe individual models and their specific focus.

What’s the difference between Arc’teryx Alpha AR vs. Beta AR?

Although both the Alpha AR and Beta AR both have the “All Round” modifier, they are still more suited to the purposes made for their respective lines.

The Alpha AR is more suited for climbing and alpine activities but can still be used for daily wear. You can use the Beta AR in more varied activities, including skiing, hiking, cycling, and climbing.

Other differences between the Alpha AR vs. Beta AR are as follows:

Fabric

The Alpha AR is made of N80d Most Rugged 3-layer GORE-TEX PRO throughout, while the Beta AR is made of N40d Most Rugged 3-layer GORE-PRO, with an N80d Most Rugged 3-layer GORE-PRO reinforcement in high wear areas. Therefore, the Alpha AR is more durable than the Beta AR.

The fabric of the Alpha AR also has a plain weave, which is softer and smoother but less durable than the ripstop weave of the Beta AR.

Hood and collar

The Alpha AR features a StormHood paired with a high collar and is more comfortable when on. On the other hand, the Beta AR comes with a DropHood that pairs with a more standard collar and is more comfortable when off.

Pockets

The Alpha AR has pockets that are placed higher and closer to the front than the sides to not get in the way of climbing harnesses and belts. Unlike the Alpha AR, the Beta AR has its pouches placed closer to the sides, which are more practical for daily use.

Hem adjustment

The Alpha AR has hem locks that tightly secure your jacket and prevents it from slipping out. The Beta AR uses a drawcord instead.

Fit

The Alpha AR has a trim cut, which does not hinder movement and performance. On the other hand, the Beta AR has a more regular fit.

What is the difference between Arc’teryx Beta and Zeta?

The Beta line is made for versatility and high performance in various activities and conditions. On the other hand, the Zeta line is designed to be lightweight, emphasizes comfort and efficiency, and is made to be suitable for hiking and trekking.

Conclusion

The best jacket for use in severe weather conditions is the Alpha SV. For this purpose, this jacket is made of the most durable material for Arc’teryx jackets, the N100d Most Rugged 3L GORE-TEX PRO. The jacket also provides excellent mobility, comes with pit zippers for ventilation, and has several pockets for storage.

For the most versatile jacket available, the choice for you is the Beta AR. The Beta AR, being part of the Beta series, is applicable for use in diverse activities and conditions, and its “All Round” modifier adds even more to the model’s versatility. The Beta AR also features a unique DropHood and is ultra-lightweight at 8.6 ounces.

There are plenty of Arc’teryx jackets in the Beta and Alpha series that cater to the various needs of different individuals. Simply take your time in determining what you want in your jacket; more likely than not, you’ll find the most suitable jacket for you from either of these lines.