Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Acto PSA!

If you read through the archives of this website you will see a distinct lack of gear reviews or blatant product placement. I don't really roll that way. It's transparent. I reckon the reader picks up on it instantly and is majorly put off. I prefer to fill my blog with good content rather than links to my sponsor's products. As an alpine climber, your attention to detail must extend to your gear. You gotta use the best stuff. Simple.
Consider this a public service announcement: you need to know about the new Arc'teryx Acto jacket!
Arc snuck this beauty onto the new fall '11 website without any fanfare. They should have made a bigger deal, though, it's the best thing to happen to softshell jackets... ever.
I had given up on softshells for my upper layers. The once game-changing Gamma Jacket hadn't received an update in far too long. The material was too heavy to justify using on a serious alpine climb. It didn't breath particularly well, either. I would sweat like a pig while climbing or working hard on the up while ski touring. I switched my systems to a lightweight fleece layer like the Delta LT and a Gore piece on top like the Alpha LT or new FL.
Over two years ago now Arc started working with a new softshell material called Aerius Grid Loft. My good buddy and Arc designer Tony Richardson spun me up a very minimal jacket with the new material to try out. I took it to Patagonia and wore it on some smaller climbs, but I chose a burlier jacket to wear up Fitz Roy. At home, while ski touring one day, I explained to Tony that it just didn't feel like enough jacket for when the going got ugly. 'Keep wearing it. You'll see, it's by far the best material on the market.'
He was right. I wore it everyday while ski touring. That spring I wore it up the Emperor Face. The next year I took it to Patagonia and wore it on Cerro Torre. 'What's this svelte number you've got on?' was the question from all the alpine brethren when they saw it.
Tony's prototype design on the cover of the CAJ!

Finally, two years later, the Arc team has perfected the piece and released it to the world. It's a no frills design, just the essentials. Two pockets, a full-length zip, not much else. The hood is a thing of beauty, perfectly fitting over a helmet with the minimum of elastic cord and toggles. The magic of the jacket is really in the fabric. It is by far the most breathable softshell material I've used, but its super tight knit makes it extremely weather-proof. The fabric relies mostly on mechanics and cut for its stretch, meaning it is far more durable than any of the other softshells with a lycra content. It has the perfect amount of insulation for an active jacket. All this for 500 grams.
This is exactly what makes Arc'teryx the premiere apparel company on the planet. They'll wait years on a fabric, and fully test it out before releasing it. A refreshing approach as it seems most companies want to jump at the chance to release 'the next big thing' before doing enough R&D. If you can only buy one Arc'teryx jacket, this is the one for you.
Tony wears the new Acto Jacket during our epic Waddington rafting/bushwhacking/new routing adventure a week ago.

Tony showing the ground we covered. Up soon is the story behind our adventure, my favourite trip I've been on!


Blake said...

I'm keen to read about the human-powered Waddington trip, that sounds full on. Did you get to do any climbing at Bute?

It's cool to see ger designed with the idea that better=simpler, not more bells and whistles always.

Colby said...

If only Arc T could design uniforms for Canada's Army!

Rafal said...

Thanks for the PSA on this.

I love my Gamma MX but have been looking for something more breathable - I didn't even consider the Acto, as it's listed under "Hardfleece" instead of "Softshell" on the Arc website.

Will be getting one of these to try it out!