One piece of apparel that seems to require replacement more than any other by skiers and snowboarders is gloves. Sharp ski edges, rubber pole grips and even the users own sweat can ruin a pair gloves, sometimes in a matter of months. But when Arcteryx build a product with the Alpha SV (Severe Weather) name on it, you can rest assured that the product will last through many winters of of daily use. The proof of that long life is in the pudding this long term test of the classic Alpha SV glove.
Some background on this particular pair of gloves:
- Purchased in the Fall of 2011
- Used as primary glove for every season since, two of those as a full-time mountain worker
- Most of the gloves' life was spent on the West Coast in Whistler, B.C.
- Leather was never treated on advice from Arcteryx product reps that oil-based balms can clog the Gore-Tex
- The Alpha SV model of glove has since been superseded by the Lithic glove, which iterates on the Alpha's design.
The bleached finger was a result of accidental exposure to flame from a gas stove
The chief complaint among consumers for the Alpha SV glove was its warmth, or lack thereof. Many people believe the price of a glove should correlate directly with its insulation value, but this was not how the Alpha SV glove was designed. A Polartec Wind Pro removable liner sat snugly within a Gore-Tex nylon shell with a leather covering the palm and fingers. This shell made for the ultimate coastal storm glove. You could spend every hour of daylight in pouring rain with your hands remaining 100 per cent dry. No other glove I've tried can make that claim. The downside was always getting through the cold days. Anything below -15C and my poor extremity circulation was begging for a bit more insulation. On the flip side, the exceptional breathability made touring through a range of temperatures a non-issue. I still had a second pair of thin softshell gloves for big touring days, but the Alpha SV glove was always on my hands during the cold start from the car and when topping out on windy summits.
As stated, my Alpha SV gloves are now in their fifth season as my primary glove. During that time they have been scuffed by sharp ski edges, accidentally roasted on a gas stove, have clung onto tree branches for dear life and drowned in more than several Pineapple Express weather systems. Having worn through a small mountain of gloves over the years, I had previously thought of gloves as having a maximum life of two seasons before stitching began to burst and holes appeared. Not so with the Alpha SV glove, after almost five seasons of heavy use I've finally worn a couple of holes in the leather on my left glove, which will eventually expose the Gore-Tex and compromise the waterproofness. The other factor in this exceptional lifetime for a glove was the removable ( and machine washable) Polartec liners. So many gloves end up becoming sweat-soaked and crusty after a few months, but laundering the liner kept the Alpha SV gloves soft and supple for years.
After five seasons the leather has finally succumbed to abrasion. The Gore-Tex will soon become exposed and the glove will lose its waterproofness. This typically happens to other gloves after one to two seasons.
Dexterity for Dayz
This was Arcteryx's first use of the Tri-Dex pattern technology to map each individual finger and thumb to map the hand's natural grasping motion. The advantages of this design has been well documented, but it was always a comfort knowing I could trust this glove when placing an ice screw or hanging off a hand-jam when scrambling for the summit.
Was it worth the $300 price tag?
When the Alpha SV glove was released it turned the most heads with its price. Three hundred dollars - more than double many respected brand name gloves on the market - at the time seemed far too excessive for a glove that didn't keep you warm in -15 C. But while warmth was not its defining quality of this glove, it did lived up to the Alpha SV flagship line of products with its lifespan alone. How much of your hard earned money have you spent on gloves in the last five years? Probably more than $300.
Can the Lithic live up to its predecessor?
The child of the the Alpha SV glove - the Lithic - now sits atop the Arcteryx Throne of Gloves. While the original Alpha SV chassis is there, Arcteryx believe they have improved several design features with the Lithic. The gloves are one piece (no removable liner), which improves insulation but makes the gloves harder to care for and wash. The Polartec liner is gone in favour of three different types of Primaloft insulation. Leather has been replaced with patches of synthetic TPU on grip/abrasion zones to increase breathability and durability. I haven't tested the Lithic yet, but with my Alpha SVs in their final season the Lithic might be worth a look as a glove option for the next five years.