If you’re a gear addict, January is better than Christmas. Between Outdoor Retailer and SHOT Show, there are hundreds of new products to drool over – albeit, most of them won’t hit shelves for a few months. January is not just time to drool over the future though. Whether you’re into the latest tacticool tech gear, or simply looking for a new pair of range pants, this month is when major brands start dropping their major Spring 2016 products. Chief among them? Arc’teryx LEAF. We’ve been impatiently waiting to share our impressions of the re-designed cold weather line, and with the greenlight finally given by our dead bird overlords, we’re happy to break down the best of LEAF for you.
1. Cold Weather
The big story of the season for LEAF is the Cold WX line up. Featuring the same venerated Coreloft as your favorite Atom LT jacket, and serious softshell shell fabrics, these aren’t just typical incremental product roll outs. These pieces mean serious warmth and durability for cold weather adventures, and signal a larger commitment to providing both military customers and consumers alike some serious options when moving in alpine terrain. Here are a few of our favorites.
Cold WX Hoody SV ($TBD)
More than just a step up from the Atom, this hoody looks to be an excellent standalone for winter days. The Climashield insulation is built to withstand abuse, and is moisture wicking as well. The big news though, is an upgrade in the face fabric to a 2-layer GORE Windstopper. This softshell material will shed light rain and snow easily, handle abrasion better than the Atom series’ lighter face fabric, and is incredibly breathable. If you’re looking for a jacket that can layer under a shell for extreme weather, handle days on the trail, and be worn alone around town, this may be your best option. This jacket is squarely targeted and military customers working at high altitude and consumers who spend the winter in places like Montana and Alaska. If you’re looking for a more urban or range day friendly version, the LT jacket and hoody provide 100g of Coreloft rather than Climashield, and keep the excellent Windstopper outer shell. Stay tuned for more hands on impressions. The LT is live on the LEAF site now, we are waiting to see the SV line up drop as well.
Cold WX Glove AR ($199)
On the glove side, it looks like we’re getting much more crossover from the Arc’teryx’s commercial Ascent and Whiteline products – and I’m stoked. The AR Glove stood out to me due to the combination of Primaloft insulation and durable goat leather palm. This LEAF version features Burly Double-weave shell fabric on the wrist which I’ve found to be much more durable than the N40p fabric on the comparable commercial glove, the Rush. A full GORE liner is an added bonus, but may be overkill unless you’re going to be out serious harsh weather this year. For a lighter option, the LT version forgoes the GORE liner and lightens up the insulation. A full gauntlet version, the SV Glove, is also available
Cold WX Baselayers ($159)
Featuring Polartech PowerStretch fleece, the new Cold WX baselayers fit in as a warmer option to the tried and true Rho line. PowerStretch is a solid fabric rather than grid fleece, aiding in extreme cold performance. Flat locked seams will ensure a good next to skin fit without any irritation. Again, the quarter zip top and bottoms are definitely targeted to the high alpine and extreme cold environments. If you’re looking for a more all around, fall through spring piece, the Rho baselayer may be a better option.
2. Cross-Functional Performance
We’re excited to see LEAF move into more urban and every day categories as well. Whether you’re a ski-mountaineering hippy like me, range gear aficionado, or world traveler looking for low-key (read: not neon everything) apparel, this is built for function and to blend in.
XFunctional Pant AR ($129)
Built from a 50/50 NYCO fabric, the XFunctional eschews typical military uniform styling for a more casual work pant (think classic Carhartt). That’s not to say that it is just an overpriced pair of non-functional pants for geardos. Belt loops are sized to accommodate the LEAF Riggers’ Belt or a heavier duty belt. Hand pockets have internal routing for media cables, and feature extra organization for everything you need to have on your person. For casual use, be it around town, in the office or on the range, they definitely hit a sweet spot in price point too ($129). Check out the overview video Arc’teryx just published on the new pant:
Naga Hoody Full Zip ($299)
While not explicitly called out in their XFunctional line, I think the Naga Full Zip is the most versatile mid layer piece in the entire LEAF catalog. Built with the same PowerStretch as the Cold WX baselayers, it gets a hard face treatment like the pull-over Naga. The silhouette lends itself to easy layering. The waist hemline is a little more generous than the very athletic fit of the pull-over, lending itself to concealed carry (and general comfort if you’re not into wearing super tight fleece) nicely. No visible logos and subdued colors initially had me comparing it to my Arenite Hoody. WIth the lack of reflective hits and colorful zippers, the new Naga should play at the range or at Starbucks equally well.
On the “aspirational gear” side of things, there’s really just one story: the Drypack 40. I hauled the 70L version through red rock mesas and flash floods on a media trip with the LEAF team back in 2013, and have been hoping for a smaller version ever since. At a $900 price point, it is not going to a huge volume mover, and is definitely a product for a specialized consumer. AC2 construction ensures a completely watertight vessel, and the alpine harness and waist belt are removable. Outside of Maritime Operators, this one won’t see much use, but I’d definitely like to see how it performs on some cold water canyoneering routes in the Pacific Northwest.