Arc'teryx Alpha AR

Review: Arc’teryx Alpha AR 20 Pack

Arc'teryx Alpha ARArc’teryx added to their Alpha line of alpine & rock climbing packs with the Alpha AR. This new pack comes in 20L and 35L versions with a larger, 55L version in the works. This article will focus on the smaller of the two sizes, the 20L multi-pitch pack. We will be working on a review of the 35L pack this summer though so stay tuned.



  • Fabric: N315r LCP fabric
  • Weight: 540g
  • Volume: 20L
  • MSRP: $200 CAD
  • Pockets: 2
  • Color Options: Beacon (orange) & Robotica (grey).

Cool New Fabric:

Arc'teryx Alpha AROne of the big stories with the new Alpha AR packs is the liquid crystal polymer (LCP) fabric they’re made of. Now the idea of LCP fabrics have been around for a while but it’s taken time for the technology to develop to the point where it could be economically used to create a fabric. It was only recently that Arc’teryx and their textile partners were able to fine tune the weaving process to combine the LCP with nylon 66. The resultant material (N315r fabric) utilizes the LCP in a ropstop grid giving it amazing tear and abrasion resistance. It also has a higher heat tolerance than materials like Dyneema allowing it to withstand the application process for high performance coatings. I’ve been playing with the 20L version and have been very impressed with just how tough it is. After dragging the pack up a number of chimneys and tagging it up a few walls it’s the buckles that are showing the most wear!

Major Features:

As mentioned in the introduction the Alpha AR 20 is a multi-pitch type climbing type pack but that doesn’t mean it’s not well featured.

Drawstring Top:  A drawstring top closure is found under a slick flap that acts as a seal against rain while creating a snag-less top. Simple, clean and functional.

Vertical Daisy Chains & Shock Cord: The pack features vertical daisy chains with shock cord along the back for lashing crampons, trekking poles, etc.

Arc'teryx Alpha ARIce Axe/Tool Attachments:  Below the daisy chains are dual ice tool / mountaineering axe attachment points.

Interior Pocket: A zippered interior pocket positioned at the top of the pack against the back is ideal for smaller items that you want to keep secure such as keys (it has a key clip), headlamp, etc.

Exterior Pocket: A surprising large exterior pocket extends under the shock cord and is great for storing larger pieces of kit and items that you want easy access to such as bars, sunscreen, etc.

Arc'teryx Alpha ARHook System: Instead of using buckles on these climbing specific packs Arc’teryx has opted for a cool new hook system. They’re lightweight, more durable then buckles and very versatile.

Removable Frame: The small foam frame sheet sits in a thin pocket in the pack and can easily be removed making the pack incredibly compressible. It also makes for a nice warm seat.

Dual Top (and side) Loops: Two stitched loops at the top of the pack allow a rope to be secured in place across the top or hanging the pack at a belay. An additional side loop is also provided on each side that can also be used in conjunction with the daisy chains to secure a rope in place. No straps are provided for this purpose though.

Hydration Pack Compatible: The foam frame sheet pocket doubles as a holder for a hydration bag and even has a clip at the top to secure a bladder along with a hole in the lid for a hose.


The 20 liter advertised capacity of the Alpha AR 20 feels bang on! Where the Alpha FL series has always been somewhat compact for the stated capacity, albeit with the ability to expand, the Alpha AR is true to size.

Arc'teryx Alpha AR
The new Alpha AR 20 next to an Alpha FL 30 for a size comparison. The 30 is of course bigger but not all that much bigger, it is more expandable though.

What’s missing?

Well the Alpha AR 20 (and the 35 for that matter) doesn’t have a helmet attachment system. I’m a big fan of such systems as I find helmets don’t fit all that well in small packs as they take up lots of room and are easy to break. Helmets also tend to bounce around a bit when just clipped to the outside. Of course this isn’t a a big deal as the daisy chains make it easy to add an after-market helmet bra if you want one.


Pros: Light, durable, versatile, very useful pockets, comfortable

Cons: No helmet attachment, helmets take up too much room in a pack so a mechanism of attaching a climbing helmet would have been a nice touch.

Overall: A very durable and versatile multi-pitch climbing pack in a comfortable, lightweight package. What’s not to like!


Black Sheep Adventure Sports was provided with test samples but of course this did not influence the review in any way.