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johnsonjj22
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Joined: 09 Dec 2010
Posts: 47 | TRs | Pics
Location: Port Angeles
johnsonjj22
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PostFri Jan 21, 2011 4:29 pm 
Being a climber and a hiker I was looking for the perfect hardshell.  I've been a fan of Arcteryx for over a decade, and eventually came down to getting the Alpha SL for my needs.  I knew it would be a lighter and perhaps less robust hardshell than the Alpha SV, but I was willing to compromise rather than spend the $600 for the SV.

I got the jacket mid-summer, and had little opportunity to really test it's waterproofness. The jacket is made with Gore-Tex PacLite, which is a 2.5 layer material.

It wasn't until an epic hike across the park that I really got to test the jacket. On the third morning at Chicago Camp (Elwha River), I awoke to rain. The planned hike for the day was an easy 4 miles and 2000' gain to Low Divide. I threw on the jacket hoping it would keep me warm and dry and set out.  By the time I reached Low Divide, two hours later, I was completely soaked from head to toe and near shivering (turns out this was a record rainfall for the area at the time). Thankfully, a super-cool ranger let me into the cabin to dry out and warm up next to the fire.

Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed with how wet my upper body got.  I used the pit-zips for venting as well as having the front zipper unzipped 1/4 of the way.

I tested the jacket one more time on a usual casual day and another 4 mile hike, 2000' gain. Again, I was soaked.

Concerned, but willing to accept that perhaps the jacket wasn't breathing as well as I'd hoped (rather than leaking), I contacted the company itself.  What follows is my email correspondence with them:

===============================
Question:
Hello, I live just across the border in Port Angeles, WA. Back in September I was on a multi-day hike with your Alpha SL jacket.  Anyway, on the 3rd day, we awoke to what turned out to be record rainfall.  Our hike was a moderate 4 miles climbing 2k feet (mid-week rest day).  Anyway, I was soaked head to toe after the hike, even while wearing the jacket. So, I guess I'm emailing you to see if this is normal. If my torso was soaked due to sweat, or perhaps the coat wasn't performing as I'd hoped. Any thoughts or advice would be much appreciated. I'm a huge fan of your gear and am  looking at getting the Gamma LT for my soft shell. Thanks.


Response:
Hello Jeremy,

We hear about this quite often when using Paclite as their main shell. Unfortunately our Paclite shells are more designed for emergency or short trips where you would take it as a backup to softshell jacket buy pull it out when you need it. A lot of our information isn't as informative as we would like it to be when describing what Paclite can and can not do. It is mainly because Paclite is thinner than our 3 ply Pro shells. Paclite is a 2.5 ply textile that doesn't have the inner liner but instead is made of a polyurethane backer/liner which isn't as good at wicking as an actual nylon fabric with the extra moisture build up that you would see when working up some heat. It's also a case of the entire Paclite package being quite thin that it feels closer to your skin when the outer fabric wets out.

Gore-tex does need to be cleaned from time to time as well to keep it's original performance which can cause the outer fabric to stop beading off and instead soak into the thin outerface fabric and also trapping the moisture from escaping away from your body.

All in all, Gore-tex Paclite is a lightweight waterproof package but it does have it's limitations just like regular 3 ply Gore-tex but it takes less time than a 3 ply Gore-tex Pro shell jacket to wet out and then stops to perform like it originally did. The only thing to keep it from doing that is too either wash + reproof it more frequently or get a Pro shell jacket for your longer trips.

Question:
So, are you saying I would get better performance out of this jacket while also wearing a softshell?

Hearing that the jacket is for "emergency or short trips" is a far cry from your official description:
"complete weather protection without excess weight and bulk. Appointed with all the essential backcountry features, this compact and lightweight jacket rides along for take anywhere storm security."
The jacket was brand new when I took it on the hike, which was late August, early September.  I had only purchased it a few weeks before, and with a complete lack of rain for weeks, was unable to test it's true performance.  I love the fit and wear of your stuff, but $300 for a waterproof hardshell that is only for short trips and emergencies doesn't really fit my needs.  I know you guys are based in the Pacific Northwest like me, and we both know how much it rains.  I need a jacket that isn't going to give me hypothermia while 12 miles from the nearest camp site.

Would the Alpha LT have been a better choice for my needs? Will you allow me to send my jacket to you and "upgrade" to the Alpha LT assuming it would better fit my needs?  Please make this right.  I've been a huge fan of your gear since 1998 and talked nothing but praise.  I really appreciate your candid response below, but it bothers me how different your description is vs. that on the product description.

Response:
If you can send it in with an RA number which we can assist in giving one to you, our warranty/repair department can test it to see if there is a problem with your jacket. If you can fill out the electronic request below, we will send you an Return Authorization number and shipping address on how to ship it back.

Question:
Thank you.  For day-to-day wear the jacket seems to work great. It's the completely waterlogged experience I had while hiking that made me question how well the jacket was really going to perform when I needed it most. Honestly, I'm reluctant to spend the $20 or $30 (more?) on international shipping thats going to take weeks while it sits in customs both directions for a questionable test that may or may not "prove" something.  If that is clearly the next step, however, then so be it.

Response:
You just have to ship it to Blaine, Washington which may only cost $8.00 from where you live and then we take it from there over the border. The test is real and our warranty department is reasonable so they will work with you to help you get the right jacket if you are not happy with it. If it is deemed to not be waterproof they may even give you credit for another jacket or the very least offer some sort of deal to help you stay an Arc'teryx customer.

We are sorry that you were misinformed since that is the least thing we want to give to our customers.

If you fill out the electronic request form online at http://www.arcteryx.com/Service-Forms.aspx?WAFORM we will get back to you with a return authorization number and information on how to send it back to us.

Response:

We have received your jacket. I have taken a look at the jacket, I see no signs of fabric issue, and in my experience with these jackets I am sure if I send this to our factory for a leak test we wonít find the leaking, so I am not going to waste your time. To you, your jacket is leaking, itís not doing what itís supposed to. Instead of talking about why this is happening and making excuses letís just get you into something thatís going to work.

I think you need a three layer jacket, they are far more durable and you donít get the condensation issues you can sometime get with a two layer piece.  You had said in your letter you were thinking the Alpha SV jacket would be a better fit for you. I agree, I also think the Beta AR jacket would work as well. This is a link to the comparisons on the Alpha SL Vs the Beta AR, they are similar in cut and fithttp://www.arcteryx.com/Compare.aspx?EN/Model1=8123&model2=5783 . I can get you into a Beta AR jacket without an upgrade fee. The Alpha SV is quite a bit more expensive then the Alpha SL so there would be a charge to get you into one I can get you one for an upgrade fee.

Let me know what you think.
==============================

I opted for the Alpha SV with the upgrade fee and received it yesterday.  The whole process took about three weeks. I do realize that my issue has more to do with the performance of Paclite than Arcteryx, though their description originally led me to believe that Paclite would perform well though sacrificed durability.

I'm happy with their response and willingness to stand by their products.

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erik the red
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Joined: 22 Dec 2007
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Location: Everett, WA
erik the red
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PostFri Jan 21, 2011 6:34 pm 
I am baffled. My OR Foray (Pac-lite) has treated me very well thus far. Granted, I haven't tested it in extreme downpours, but for everything up to that it has worked very well. I sweat a lot, and it breathes fairly well.

As for Arc'Teryx, I also will never again purchase their gear. When I contacted them to see about setting up a pro-deal relationship, I was informed that they were only interested in doing Pro Deal business with companies that grossed over X amount per year....needless to say that we did not meet that requirement. While it is completely their prerogative to set that requirement, to me it showed that they are only interested in the almighty dollar, not necessarily forging relationships with people who are attempting to spread the love of the outdoors.  down.gif

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ICLIMB76
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Joined: 08 May 2007
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Location: Tacoma, Wa.
ICLIMB76
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PostFri Jan 21, 2011 7:18 pm 
Good to know that their customer service is good but I to will never spend full price for one of thier shells. There are other brands that are just as good quality for nearly half the price. I do use the Bora 80 for my main big pack and have nothing but praise for it. In any case I know they make good stuff but it is overpriced.

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SeaTacExpat
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PostFri Jan 21, 2011 7:50 pm 
I don't think the issue is PacLite - I own two shells, one from Mountain Hardwear and one from Cabelas; both resist rain just fine, even in downpours.

I don't own any Arcteryx gear, so I can't comment on their DWR, but that might be a factor. Does water actively bead on the jacket?

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Dayhike Mike
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Joined: 02 Mar 2003
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Dayhike Mike
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PostFri Jan 21, 2011 8:19 pm 
Seemed like a decent response from the company. I'm glad when companies don't make excuses when products don't perform as advertised or expected.

That being said, $300 is more than I'd ever pay for a 2.5L jacket.

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