Best Ice Climbing Belay Jackets

Basics

The Alpha Parka is a light-weight (805 grams, men’s M), resilient, and exceptionally heat jacket created for ice climbers, alpinists, and any person in require of a winter-pounds belay parka. It is stuffed with 850-fill down and mapped synthetic insulation in substantial-use spots, coated in a Gore-Tex Infinium shell, and has a sturdy Hadron experience fabric for weather defense.


Execs

Quite heat // Durable // Wind and water resistant // Offered in women’s and men’s cuts // Much more multipurpose than classic down-only or synthetic-only belay parkas

Drawbacks

High priced // Elasticized cuffs have a modest array of motion // Things sack does not remain closed when clipped to a harness&#13


Our Feelings

The Alpha Parka is a a single-quit-shop for all those needing a large-finish belay jacket to match a wide variety of winter problems: It’s lofty and warm for chilly belays and bivies it is thoughtfully insulated with both of those down and artificial elements to keep your coat from collapsing into a soggy mess on hotter, snowy days if the wind and snow blow sideways, the Gore-Tex Infinium layer keeps out the factors and the tough outer material, Hadron, keeps the complete matter from falling apart just after rigorous use. (This last place was analyzed extensively even though seconding limestone chimneys in the Canadian Rockies—no rips!)


Measurement Reviewed

Medium

Pounds

800g/1 lb, 12.4 oz

Value

$900

Brand

Arc’teryx


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The initial time I applied the Alpha Parka, I was relieved I’d packed it. The day was forecasted to start out heat ample, close to 0° F, and I debated likely hefty or light-weight on belay jackets for the 1,000-foot ice and blended route along Alberta’s Icefields Parkway. There may possibly be a ton of trail-breaking, and it is meant to dump snow, I mused. If the day did heat up and I was functioning difficult, I know my sweaty self well plenty of to comprehend I’d want a synthetic jacket. But the wind is meant to choose up, also. And the climbing won’t be easy—probably extensive belays… possibly I’m much better off in a more substantial, lighter down parka.

Prolonged belays and rough limestone chimneys had been no match for the Alpha Parka. Picture not from Blended Grasp, for individuals curious. (Picture: Emilie Grenier)

I split the variation, stuffed the Alpha Parka in my pack, and began the lengthy push. Above the class of the day with the Alpha Parka on, I broke trail by way of snow up to my chest I stood inventory-still for above two several hours at an awkward, roof-capped belay whilst my husband or wife led the 190-foot crux pitch on Blended Master (WI 4+ M5) seconded reported pitch whilst sporting the Alpha tucked into my harness and obtained spat on by various heavy, wet spindrift avalanches. And that zero-diploma forecast? Whole fucking sandbag—it was thoroughly cold. 

Regardless of the, erm, selection of that working day (and lots of many others like it in my subsequent two months of tests), the Alpha Parka worked like a puppy to retain me warm and dry irrespective of the alpine natural environment.

Materials

I’ll confess, at just one issue I was a belay-jacket luddite. Cold up in the hills? Down baffles, draft tube, and hand-warming pockets, thank you quite a lot. Stormy and humid up there? Similar point, but I’d seize a synthetic-fill puffy. It was an quick, purposeful procedure that didn’t need to be “fixed.” The problem with just about every setup, however, was that it was binary—I’d either make the “right” or the “wrong” preference. And for multi-day journeys, or big routes the place various weather was expected,  choosing improperly meant getting utterly soaked or frozen.

Fortunately, the Alpha Parka alleviates some of this worry. It’s a down jacket, to be sure—the large bulk of it is stuffed with RDS-certified 850-fill goose down. But the most humid and superior-don components of our torso—the cuffs, armpits, elbows, and shoulders—utilize artificial insulation to reduce the loft from collapsing when those parts inevitably get wet. This was substantially appreciated on Combined Learn in which I soaked my cuffs path-breaking between pitches, and, sadly, started to sweat by the end of the rope-stretching crux pitch. Worried how I would good the rest of the day, I inspected the sleeves and armpits at the future belay but observed no proof of collapsed insulation.

Warm ice climbing jacket.
The clear, white artificial insulation is obvious on the cuffs, elbows, shoulders, and hood. (Image: Arc’teryx)

A two-layer Gore-Tex Infinium shell (h2o-resistant, but not a burly hardshell content) caps the lofty insulation and gives required protection in variable weather conditions. Even when it is adequately cold (-20° F and underneath, in my books) and when the sensible decision ought to be to pack the puffiest down parka you have, superior-move and south-experiencing ice climbs can continue to be a wet, drippy mess, as I identified although climbing Gibraltar Wall (WI 4 4 pitches) all through a specially vicious cold snap. The sunny, southern exposure was appreciated though flaking the ropes, but even with the -22° F temps I struggled to uncover a dry, shielded stance to belay my spouse up. I oh so cautiously permitted the Alpha to be dripped on, and was relieved to see it carry out.

On best of all the insulation and Gore-Tex sits the Alpha Parka’s closing layer: a wind-proof facial area material called Hadron, which Arc’teryx states presents the warmth equal of 100 grams of down. Though I just can’t comment on the specific 100-gram determine, I will say the jacket has noticeably significantly less loft than my other down parkas, yet, to me in any case, the Alpha feels just as heat. Hadron also has the profit of a “liquid crystal polymer ripstop grid”: an extremely-light-weight outer that is incredibly challenging to tear. I have intentionally worn the jacket through inappropriate moments—matching ice tools on my shoulder, jumping jacks that scrape my back again towards rough rock, climbing chimneys and quick offwidths—and, incredibly, have not nevertheless managed to induce a scuff or rip. 

Gripes and Considerations

No belay jacket is great, and the Alpha Parka undoubtedly has its flaws. Namely, and this seems minimal until finally it is not, the elasticized cuffs are significantly too tight. I’ll give Arc’teryx a point for deciding on elastic above Velcro (do any parkas use Velcro anymore?), but these cuffs are so restricted it is virtually unattainable to wrap the cuff about a large belay mitten with no the target of a surgeon. The elastic matches easily about smaller sized guide gloves, but that is not really the stage with a belay jacket: You want a cuff that will in good shape quickly in excess of all gloves and mittens. Also, the presented stuff sack refuses to remain closed when clipped to a harness (the plastic twine lock does not appear to be to have the energy to resist the jacket’s excess weight). This is not a enormous bummer for me as I usually climb with a tiny backpack, but for tricky prospects, limited squeezes, or shorter routes I would advise getting a 3rd-social gathering stuff sack. 

Match

Ultimately, let’s converse healthy. I have often taken outerwear sizing for granted as a center-of-the-street body style (I’m 5’10”, 160 lbs). I rely on that I am (and for good will be) a “medium.” But for those with smaller sized shoulders, shorter arms, or broader hips, the Alpha Parka is obtainable in females-unique sizes. Climbing experienced a women’s medium out with a second tester (5’4”, 125 lbs .), who was extensively amazed. Until eventually then, she’d resigned herself to only sizing down in “unisex” parkas, which, let us confront it, almost generally indicates it’s designed for a man. Alternatively, the women’s model accommodated her hips though stopping unwelcome house around her torso and neck—she stated it was the very first time a belay parka hadn’t acted like a drafty wind tunnel at hanging belays. 

If you’ve got the money set aside and are eyeing up a burly, silly-warm belay jacket, the Alpha Parka will not disappoint.

Kenneth Proto

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