Now's the time of year when most urban commuters search for gear answers. Excited about the summer weather, but terrified of the rain swells and oppressive humidity that typifies Mid-Atlantic weather, I count myself among them. I’ve spent far too much time staring at my jacket closet with a bike ride to work on the horizon. Do I go with the too-warm hardshell, pit zips asunder for much needed ventilation, or skip the jacket all together and carry the dreaded umbrella?
The Arc’teryx Alpha SL Pullover ($250) is the answer to my quandary. This jacket does two things really well. Unlike the typical hardshells that a lot of savvy commuters—not total gearheads, but we’ve got an idea of what we’re doing—end up wearing year-round, the Alpha SL is light and breathable while also being completely waterproof. With such light-weight material, on most rides in there’s no need to unzip the pits and risk letting the rain in. And in terms of style, the Alpha SL Pullover is the only one on the market that I found aesthetically appealing. I'm sure other jackets could get the job done, but I couldn't help but think that I would have to quickly take it off before entering the office where someone could see me. It really plays on the parka/anorak style that’s so hip these days, but without trying too hard. No one’s going to accuse you of trying to look like you just climbed K2. Though there are men's and women's colors, I ended up settling on the men's deep dusk in size small (shown above) rather than a women's color, based entirely on my own personal style preference, not performance.
The Alpha just fits. From hiking the trails on weekends to biking into the office, or grabbing it for light-weight protection when just hanging out, you’ll get compliments. At $250 it seems a little steep for a spring/summer technical shell, but don’t let the lightness of the jacket fool you. The two-layer GORE-TEX construction ensures the Alpha SL Pullover will resist rips and tears while keeping you from arriving soaking wet to the office—from rain or sweat.
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