We get it, Arc'teryx products are high tech! I've written a bunch of descriptions for Arc'teryx winter products, and I've learned a lot about what is behind their fancy naming system. I also learned that there are loyal Arc'teryx customers who actually care a whole lot about all the details and want to know what all the codes mean.
I’ll share what I learned about decoding Arc'teryx products, including the naming schemes, the name modifiers, different types of GORE-TEX, and Arc'teryx/GORE-TEX material codes. What’s in a name? Quite a bit, it turns out.
Arc’teryx Naming Scheme
A lot of brands just name their clothing after people or by the designer’s inspiration, but not Arc'teryx. Instead, they name their products by the intended use. And while I could go through all the details for you, Arc'teryx has a fancy chart that does a great job of explaining their naming scheme. Below is a simple and clear outline of the names of the different types of Arcteryx products.
Arc'teryx Outer Layers
Alpha products are for climbing and alpinism, are harness and pack compatible, and are designed for easy overhead reaching.
Beta and Zeta products are for general use with room for layers underneath.
Gamma and Sigma products are highly breathable, weather-resistant shells that are abrasion resistant and stretchy.
Fission are waterproof and insulated outer layers that are also windproof
Cerium products are down insulators with high warmth-to-weight ratios.
Atom products are hydrophobic, insulating midlayers that are weather-resistant.
Thorium products are versatile down insulators designed to be worn under some sort of shell.
Gamma items may be utilized as an outer layer, but are also designed to be worn as a midlayer also.
Rho products are thermally efficient, moisture wicking baselayers.
Satoro products are merino wool baselayers; naturally moisture wicking, thermally efficient, and anti-microbial.
Phase products are moisture wicking baselayers, designed for interval activities.
Arc'teryx Product Name Modifiers
Sometimes there will be two letters at the end of an Arc'teryx product name, and you’ll think to yourself, “okay, now what’s this about?” Turns out these modifiers help further distinguish each product's intended use. Here's a quick rundown:
SV is for severe weather. The items are made with durable materials to withstand prolonged periods of exposure.
AR stands for all ‘round, with a focus on versatility. As you might've guessed, these items are great for general outdoor use.
MX is for mixed weather and changing conditions, focusing on breathability, durability, and mobility.
LT is lightweight with minimalist design (such as no pockets), but still highly durable.
SL is even lighter, sacrificing a bit of durability for better packability.
LD is specifically designed for long-distance activities like trail running.
FL stands for fast and light; minimalist garments for high performance in varying weather.
VT pertains specifically to trail running footwear and is geared towards grip and durability on varied terrain.
IS items are simply insulated pieces intended to deliver efficient warmth.
Arc'teryx GORE-TEX materials
It’s all just GORE-TEX, right? Wrong. Arcteryx works with Gore to create a variety of materials of industry-leading quality. There are a bunch of variations of GORE-TEX materials within the Arc’teryx product line. Here’s a mini tutorial to help you become informed.
Plain old GORE-TEX (used in the Sabre, Zeta, and Beta SL jackets) is engineered for continuous activities of low- to medium-intensity activities, such as trekking and hiking. This material features good breathability with complete waterproof protection and durability.
GORE-TEX Paclite (used in the Zeta FL jacket) is engineered for deployable weather protection when hiking or backpacking. It offers superior breathability, next-to-skin comfort, and it’s still fully waterproof.
GORE-TEX Pro (used in the Alpha SV pictured above, Beta AR, and Sidewinder jackets) is for intense activities with frequent breaks, such as climbing and backcountry skiing. It provides excellent breathability, durability, and lightweight waterproof protection. Actually, GORE-TEX Pro is 22% more breathable than last year’s version because of a new multi-layer ePTFE membrane that eliminates the need for the previously used oleophobic (oil-blocking) polyurethane layer. So now the fabric can breathe at a lower pressure (sooner), and it’s still just as durable and waterproof.
GORE-TEX Material Codes
Have you ever read that a shell is made of “N30p-X” and thought of your own code: “WTF?” As it turns out, N30p-X indicates that a fabric is made of 30 denier nylon plain weave with an exceptional durability-to-weight ratio.
Each element of the code describes a property of the fabric that defines the nature of the material. Here are the secrets to decoding Arc’teryx’s GORE-TEX material codes.
The first letter denotes the yarn type; N for nylon, or P for polyester. The number indicates the yarn weight, often called denier. The higher the number, the tougher the material. The lowercase letter reveals the fabric construction; p for plain weave, r for rip-stop, mr for mini-ripstop, f for faille weave (a crossgrain ribbed weave), s for stretch. If there is an X at the end of the code, then that means that the fabric has an eXceptional durability-to-weight ratio.
What does Arc'teryx mean?
And while we’re at it, what does the name “Arc’teryx” actually mean? Arc’teryx is the shortened version of Archaeopteryx Lithographica, which was a creature evolving around 140 million years ago. This pre-historic animal was driven by evolutionary success; it became lean, strong, and excellent at climbing, and eventually it developed the feather. Arcteryx strives to embody this creature’s perseverance. The company is all about radical and groundbreaking developments to advance outdoor performance.
Alright, you educated customers, check out this season’s Arcteryx products at jans.com. Now that you know what all the jargon is about, hopefully you’re better prepared to choose the products that are the best fit for you and that make the most positive difference to your outdoor experiences.
Kendall Fischer, Content Writer
This post was updated on November 7, 2019