Arc’Teryx Ascent Product Line: An Impenetrable Fortress against the Elements – Part II

Editor’s Note: This was going to be one, all-encompassing post of the entire line, but after I got done writing Part I about the Alpha SV and Atom SV, I was already over 900 words. So, I will be spreading this out over as many posts as needed so as not to give you an Arc’Teryx imposed lobotomy. You’re welcome.

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As with all the products I’ve received from Arc’Teryx, I am exceptionally grateful to have been able to try out all the majorly important elements of their “Ascent” product line. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive them until later in the winter season so I haven’t yet been able to test them in a truly extreme environment. But there’s some good news to that: I’ll get to test them out this summer and next winter, when I have a better grasp on some of the more “extreme” hobbies Colorado has to offer. I’ll update this post and add others as needed.

For now, here are my initial impressions of the Ascent line based on a couple of days at the resort, honing my skill as a noob snowboarder in whiteout and bluebird conditions.

The items I tried:

Beta AR Pants and Stryka Hoodie

These two are a bit odd to pair together, but that’s because

  1. The first two made sense
  2. I’ve used them the same amount of times under varying conditions together
  3. Spoiler alert: I’m saving my favorite for last, all by itself

Stryka Hoodie

Beta and StrykaWhat can I say? It’s a base layer. The things that really stand out to me is how soft and comfortable the Torrent™ material is, its ability to dry quickly, the hood, and the length.

I’ll let you read the full specifications on the Arc’Teryx website about the Torrent™ material, but part of that is about the quick drying ability. Before I had the Alpha SV jacket, I was using my Marmot Fulcrum. It too is a wonderful jacket, but even with the cinch chords…cinched…and the powder skirt buttoned, I still got snow up my jacket when I fell. The two times I wore the Stryka/Fulcrum combination was also the 2nd and 3rd time I’d ever gone riding. I fell a lot. The Stryka would get soaked around my waist, but on the rare occasion I went in for lunch or put together a couple of runs without falling, the Stryka would be nearly dry in that short amount of time. I can only imagine the same would be true if I were using it on a sweaty alpine climb.

The downside of the Fulcrum allowed me to appreciate the long length of the Stryka. It has the ability to fall below my butt when tucked into my Beta AR pants and that at least prevents the snow from getting against my skin.

I like the hood because it’s balaclava style and fits tight against my head. Perfect for wearing a helmet or a warmer hat over the top. And when I don’t wear the hood, it works quite well as a neck gaiter. As I mentioned in Part I, I had two or three different things around my neck so I didn’t really need it, but someday I may. That’s important to me because the back of my neck is my hot/cold zone. In cold temps, my neck better be warm, or the rest of me is screwed. In hot temps, my neck better be cool, or I turn into a bitching and moaning little baby.

Marmot Fulcrum and Arc'Teryx Stryka
This is a powder day at Loveland Ski Area with the Marmot Fulcrum and Arc’Teryx Stryka. Notice the balaclava style hood that fits nicely under the helmet and still keeps my face warm.

Beta AR Pants

Once again, there’s not much to say about these pants. They are waterproof and windproof, and I tend to like that a lot. Once again, I need to turn to my amazing skills as a snowboarder and point out that I was still falling a decent amount when I first got these pants.

Side Note: 1) This is my 1st season snowboarding. I’ve gone a total of 8 times, and I can now do any ‘ol run without falling and have some semblance of style and grace. I fall now, when attempting tree runs, moguls, and jumps and drops. 2) I once heard if you’re not falling, you’re not trying. :-p

Even when a company claims to have “waterproof, breathable” material, I’m still hesitant to sit directly in the snow or water. The material is breathable because there are microscopic holes in the teflon that allow water vapor molecules out, but do not let liquid molecules in. Supposed you’re sitting on a snow/ice covered lift chair for 10 minutes, and the potential to turn some of that frozen liquid to unfrozen vapor becomes something real. So, I’m very hesitant to do something like that on my own free will. Luckily, I didn’t have free will. I either had to sit on the snowy, icy lift or call it a day. Luckily, the Beta AR pants held up, and no soggy bottom for me!

Another thing that stood out to me is the abrasion resistance. One of my favorite falls came on one of my first ever black diamond runs. It was a sunny, bluebird day and there was no fresh powder to be found. The run was steep and icy. I caught an edge turning from toe side to heel side and ended up sliding on my butt for a good 35 yards down the hill, backwards. I was smart enough to keep my head and board up and just enjoy the ride. I was somewhat expecting to feel a rip or tear in the material. None. I was somewhat expecting to feel a wet butt. Dry. This made me happy.

Arc'Teryx Beta AR PantsTwo other features that I really think I’ll get a lot of use out of are the reinforced Keprotec™ ankle insteps and lace hooks to attach to your boots. The powder skirts worked amazingly well, but these are 4-season pants, and I wonder how I will like powder skirts in the summer when I wear these pants in the rain.

Another nice thing, though common in other waterproof pants as well, is the near full length leg zipper, allowing for easy in’s and out’s when you don’t feel like taking your boots or shoes off.

Koniec

As with everything else I own Arc’Teryx, I don’t have much constructive criticism. It feels like they hit the nail on the head once again. The only time I think something could be better is when they update it on their own, and I say to myself, “oh yeah, this is better.”

If I had to nitpick anything, it would be the lack of pockets on the pants once again. With the Alpha SV, there are at least five pockets. How useful they are is up for debate, but on the pants, there is only one. I know, I know, pockets may not be useful at 13,000 ft. on the side of a cliff, but there are times I’m not at 13,000 ft. on the side of a cliff.

For the Stryka, I’d like to see the little thumb holes that hold your sleeves down. I never had any issues with the sleeves coming up, but there is potential, especially if you’re actively doing something with your hands other than just pushing yourself off the ground after you fall. 😉