For quite some time now I have been on a hunt for a hard shell jacket that I could use for the various activities that I am involved in, namely hiking, camping, backpacking, and a variety of shooting sports. Because this was going to be my only jacket it had to be practical yet versatile. As I would be using it for tactical applications I could not have anything that was brightly colored. Previously I had been using the foliage green GORTEX rain gear we had been issued while I was in the army, which was not only God-awfully ugly but also not breathable at all. After months of browsing various outdoor gear supplier catalogs I managed to narrow it down to a handful of manufacturers. After further process of elimination I had it narrowed down to two gear makers; Triple Aught Design (aka. TAD Gear, a California based company) and Arc’teryx, a company based out of Vancouver, BC Canada.
I knew Arc’teryx had been a well known name in the outdoor clothing industry for a great many years but always associated them to their more commonly seen brightly colored civilian wear. One day while in garrison, our CO announced that we would be receiving some new knee pads to replace our previously issued ALTA ones. A while later, sure enough we received these baggies containing these knee pads that somewhat resembled roofers kneepads, upon closer inspection I quickly realized they were made by a company I would never have associated to anything even remotely tactical. It was then I learned of the Arc’teryx LEAF program. As asinine as it was to us, and to many of those in the military, it was common knowledge that military issued kit was almost always ‘outdated’ by comparison to equivalent items available civi-side. So it stood to reason that a renowned gear manufacturer like Arc’teryx would develop a line of products specifically with the military and law enforcement professional in mind.
As TAD Gear had discontinued their line of hardshells (The Predator, The Raptor Pro-lite, and the Bug-Out Anorak) I decided to give Arc’teryx a try. I needed a hardshell that was water proof, light weight, and compactable, and preferably in a subdued color, such as Tan, Coyote Brownor Olive Drab. I wanted to steer away from anything ‘Camo’ as I wanted to be able to wear it for day-to day activities as well. It was not long after that I settled on the LEAF Alpha Lt, a feature laden hardshell jacket that seemed to have all I had been looking for even down to the tan-ish/olive color, a proprietary color which Arc’teryx calls ‘crocodile’.
The Alpha LT is available in 3 colors: Black II (black), Wolf ( a sort of dark gray) and Crocodile (a color somewhere between Olive Drab and Coyote Brown – see color comparison photo) and retails for $550.
I loved the color! It was a sort of a multi-environment color capable of blending into a variety of different naturally occurring backdrops.
Weight and feel:
The first time picked up the jacket I was impressed by its weight; at a meager 365 grams it is less than a pound in weight. It was hard to comprehend that a garment so thin and light could withstand anything more than a slight gale. Yet upon closer inspection of the material it was apparent that this was not your grandmother’s rain coat, this was a whole other animal all together! The Alpha LT is an extremely packable hard-shell that can be rolled up to about the size of a 32oz Nalgene bottle. As with most nylon-based garments it is not the ‘quietest’ outer garment out there and while it is quieter than some it does still make that ‘swishing’ sound when moving about which would be somewhat detrimental to your next late-night recon missions to the fridge.
Size and Fit:
I am 5.7”, I have a 36” chest and 16” arms and am size 170/short via the NATO sizing chart. The jacket I acquired was a size medium, and I had initially thought that I would better fit a size small as I had read that the Alpha LT was built roomier than most of their garments to allow ample room for layering or for times when required to be worn over the top of body armor and gear (see photo). The Jacket is slightly longer at the back allowing it to hang over the wearers buttocks minimizing wetness from rain coming off the tail to leave the wearer with a ‘wet butt’ and avoid some possible unnecessary explaining. The arms were quite roomy…more than I am used to but in testing my mobility and range of motion I quickly found out why. Even in occasions that require the wearer to lift their arms straight up, (such as when shooting from the prone position) the bottom of the jacket does not expose the belly or the wrists nor is there any restriction of movement whatsoever. When worn with a light fleece or inner second layer the Alpha LT fits perfectly! The Alpha LT features a storm hood that is generously sized but can be adjusted for a proper fit via 4 cinch chords, 2 on the back of the hood, and two on the side of the opening. The hood is designed to allow the shell to be worn over the top of a helmet (as shown in the included photo). Would have been impressed if Arc’teryx thought to slap a couple of small Velcro squares on to the back of the hood for some ‘Ranger Eyes’ for easier IFF when traveling at night especially since the Ranger/Cats eyes on the back of your helmet would be covered if you chose to deploy the hood.
– The LT features two large chest pockets that can be accessed via two water tight zips. All the zipper pulls have a rubber molded tab allowing them to be easily manipulated even under wet conditions or while wearing gloves. The pockets themselves are large enough to hold quite a few things and are designed in such a way that the contents would not easily fall out when opened. They are positioned high enough on the chest to not be impeded by shoulder straps of a pack or climbing harness. The only thing I did not like about the pockets where how they are accessed. The pockets are crossover pockets meaning that they are accessed from the main zipper out. One would reach into the left pocket with the right hand and the right pocket with the left hand. Which is fine so long as the wearer only wore the garment over the top of their body armor but would prove cumbersome should the body armor or vest be worn on top. And since the LT does not have any hand pockets simply modifying this design would have provided the wearer with a place to keep their hands warm. I realize that Arc’teryx was after a stream lined design when they created the LT, but I do feel that a few more pockets would have been greatly beneficial. Having to dig through the two pocket to find various items both frequently used and more seldom used, all the while increasing the risking small items falling out in the process, in my opinion would have been easily averted. I would have loved it if Arc’teryx had added at the very least, two large shoulder pockets (one on each arm) under the IFF Velcro squares and one smaller one above one of the cuffs for things like; keys, chapstick etc. There is the small internal pocket, perfect for credit cards, ID etc. However. Please note that the Alpha LT, unlike the Alpha Jacket does not normally come standard with IFF Velcro loop patches on the shoulders but is available as an option upon request.
– I did however really like the two very large pitzips that can be opened via two-way zippers. Anyone who has done any amount of trekking knows how quickly it can get hot while wearing an outer layer and while one would not want to remove the shell completely (as doing so could quickly turn an uncomfortable situation into a potentially life threatening predicament especially in alpine conditions) this feature provides the perfect solution.
(for a comprehensive feature list please visit the Arc’teryx website)
• Compressible and packable
• Tiny GORE® seam tape (13 mm)
• Micro-seam allowance (1.6 mm) reduces bulk and weight
• Fully seam-sealed for waterproofness
• DWR finish (Durable Water Repellent) helps bead water from fabric surface
• Laminated high-strength hanger loop
• GORE-TEX® three-layer construction
• Generous cut for easy layering
• One-hand adjustable drawcords
• Anatomical shaping for fit and comfort
• Gender specific patterning
• Articulated patterning for unrestricted mobility
• Articulated elbows
• No-lift gusseted underarms
• Glove-friendly hood adjusters
• Laminated brim
• Adjustable hood drawcords
• Helmet compatible Storm Hood™
• Laminated chin guard
Zippers & Fly Configuration
• WaterTight™ external zippers
• Molded zipper garages
• Pit zippers for easy venting
• Corded zipper-pulls reduce noise and are easy to grab
• WaterTight™ Vislon front zip
Cuff & Sleeves Configuration
• Laminated die-cut Velcro® cuff adjusters reduce bulk, and won’t catch or tear off
Waist & Belt Configuration
• Adjustable elastic waist drawcord
• Adjustable hem drawcord
• Drop back hem
• Laminated hem
• Harness HemLock™ inserts keep jacket in position under harness
In Conclusion, the Arc’teryx LEAF Alpha LT is a durable, highly versatile, well designed hardshell that is perfect for times when weight and pack-ability are of utmost importance. It is a garment designed with the minimalist’s needs at heart with everything one would need and nothing of what you don’t. The Alpha LT can be useful year round for any number of activities and when layered accordingly, in almost every kind of weather mother nature decides to throw at you. Price-wise the LEAF Alpha LT is quite comparable to equivalent products of its class on the civilian market. Aesthetically speaking the Alpha LT is tactically engineered enough for even the most BAMF, bacon devouring, turpentine drinking, Taliban eaters out there, tacti-cool enough for the Tier 1 armchair operators yet subtle enough for the urban dads.
Well…what are you waiting for go buy one already!
Hope you enjoyed reading this gear review. I have attached the link to Arc’teryx’s website and contact information below. Thank you for reading!
**Please note that this review is written from a purely personal perspective of my own experience with the product herein. Your individual experiences may vary. We are not sponsored by Arc’teryx (or any other company mention herein) nor did we receive and monetary compensation in relation to this review.**
This write-up and all attached images are the property of SPEAR Tactical Development Group, and may not be used without explicit permission from the author.
Toll Free: 1.855.201.5307
(Toll-Free in North America)
LEAF Customer Service
Toll free: 1 855 201 5307 (Toll-Free in North America)
International: 604 960 3001 (International)
For the full image gallery visit us at:
Worn Open with an LBT 6094A SLICK PC underneath