Arc'teryx Alpha AR 35 Review
The Bottom Line
The Alpha AR crushing it on a late May ascent of Mt. Magnificent in the Chugach Range, AK
1-2 day alpine climbs where you need one pack to get everything done
I.e. Fisher Chimneys on Mt. Shuksan, Exum Ridge on the Grand Teton,
Pinnacle gully on Mt. Washington.
Single day technical rock/ice routes where you need a solid pack for the approach but plan to climb sans backpack (shoes/layers on harness)
I.e. Birdland in Red Rocks, Elephants Head Gully in Smugglers Notch, West
Face of NEWS in Washington Pass.
Anything you need a mid sized comfy backpack for. I haven’t found much that I really dislike this pack for, besides steep rock climbing.
I.e. Airline travel (they let me stuff it under my seat), crag back for single pitch
rock climbing, light backpacking, backcountry skiing, ice cragging on AK
Glaciers and anything else you can think to throw at it.
If you’re a fan of the Scarpa Charmoz, the colors match exceptionally well!
Design and Materials
In terms of design and materials, it's really hard to beat Arc’teryx. They think through their features and use only high quality materials. This is especially true with the shoulder strap and hip belt which really go above and beyond to be comfortable and ergonomic, distributing those loads that we all dread carrying in the mountains. The body material, while not the space age Dyneema that we see on many packs now, is durable, light and doesn’t absorb water excessively.
Straps and Attachments
Arc'teryx put quite a bit of thought into the buckles on this pack, maybe too much thought in my opinion. While the waterproof zipper on the brain is great, the brain closure buckles and ice axe loops are a little finicky. Innovative design, but the wheel didn’t need to be reinvented here. The side compression straps are great: burly enough to carry skis, boots, sleeping pads or secure ropes. The brain detaches as most alpine packs do.
All packs wear out eventually (yes, even Cold Cold World packs) and while the Alpha AR is holding its own, the stitching connecting the shoulder straps to the body is starting to pull apart.
Size and Capacity
In an ideal universe, 35 liters would mean 35 liters, but we all know packs vary and as they go, this pack feels exceptionally roomy for 35L pack. It has a way higher capacity than the Cold Cold World Valdez (marketed as a 40) and I even find myself reaching for this pack on days where I would typically use my Black Diamond Speed 50. While this capacity opens up room for big days and overnights, climbing more technical rock terrain (sustained 5.7ish and up) I find myself wishing I was wearing a lower profile backpack.
Arc'teryx has always been known for uncompromising quality and design, not budget prices. While there are less expensive options, this pack scores value in being comfortable and easy to use in a latitude of situations that many packs would struggle to match.
If you’re looking for a pack for 1-2 day alpine missions this pack is hard to beat. It is specialized enough to have features that dedicated climbers need but general enough for seamless use for a variety of activities.
Reviewed by Adam Gellman, AAI Guide