Arc’teryx has been well known as a brand of high-quality, well-constructed products for consumers who enjoy the outdoors. Their backpacks are no exception to this, as we explore the features and functionality of their new line, the Alpha SL 23. I got a chance to try it out and below is my Arc’teryx Alpha SL 23 backpack review.
The SL 23 is the latest addition to Arc’teryx’s Alpha series of daypack offerings. Like the rest of the Alpha series, the SL 23 is designed for lightweight, easy-to-carry daypacks that are good for day hikes or short overnights. This backpack is a great addition to their day pack collection that does extremely well in both mild to extreme environments.
I was able to use and test the SL 23 backpack while backpacking Mt. San Jacinto, with elevations between 8,000 at the base and 10,834 at the summit. At lower elevations, the air was brisk and patches of snow-covered most of the ground. Temperatures were in the high 40’s to low 50’s during the day with freezing temperatures at night averaging low 30’s.
While hiking to the planned mini base camp about a mile from the peak, I used my larger pack for my backpacking tent, winter sleeping bag, backpacking meals, and most of my gear. I then switched to the Alpha SL 23 for storage of some food, cell phone, warm clothing layers, emergency blanket, first-aid kit, and other miscellaneous survival necessities to make my final ascent.
With the super lightweight fabric and compressibility of the Alpha SL 23, I was able to store it inside my main pack for most of the trip.
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what you get when you buy the Arc’teryx Alpha SL 23 daypack. Check it out.
Climbing Pack Considerations and Features
Carrying Comfort and Suspension
Overall, the Alpha SL 23 is a very comfortable backpack, even with a heavy load. The inward curvature of the straps allows them to hug you in all the right places. This was a nice difference from most straps that are typically straight on an average backpack.
Although the straps are thin and flexible, they have a decent amount of padding that cushions your shoulders and chest.
The back of the Alpha SL 23 is semi-rigid by means of a removable foam plastic board that is inserted into the inside of the pack. This allows the backpack to retain some structure when storing more bulky items, such as climbing rope or a large jacket.
Fit and Sizing
Overall, the SL 23 fit me well (I am 6’1” and 198 lbs) with the bottom of the pack sitting right at the top of my lumbar area. As a result of the sl design with most straps in the right places, it made the backpack super adaptable, which allowed me to make all the adjustments to fit my torso and waist perfectly.
The integrated system with its shape and support remains surprisingly intact when almost empty. Conversely, the flexible materials hold large loads without any issues. Additionally, the removable back panel and framesheet allow the bag to be compressed and packed very well.
Alpha SL 23 backpack has a removable back panel and frame sheet, which allowed the light pack to be compressed and packed down. Without a doubt, this increased the versatility of the backpack and allowed me to store it inside my larger backpack until I needed it.
Certainly, this was a definite plus as I had no desire to carry my full-sized backpack the entire way up.
The SL 23 backpack had a hip belt that is typical for this class of backpacks. The strap was made of a traditional webbing clip design that features a classic quick-release buckle fastener.
Any type of padding would be more comfortable, which is a point often overlooked by brands. Although I hadn’t really expected this type and expected use of this Alpha SL 23 backpack.
The Alpha SL 23 has a bungee cord system that uses a plastic hook to attach the two shoulder straps. This innovative design allows for comfortability and durability, but attaching and detaching can be a bit more difficult than a traditional webbing and buckle system.
There are several adjustment points on the backpack.
- The waist belt is made of webbing and allow you to tighten the fit.
- A chest bungee loop connects the shoulder strap for a secure fit. This ensures that the bag will stay securely in place, no matter what you’re doing.
- Shoulder straps- more form-fitting due to the design detail. It hugged my body so it helps distribute the weight more evenly across my shoulders. There is a bony area of your shoulders and these shoulder straps sit closer to the center of your body and neck, vs sitting outside that bony area.
- The top flap adjusts if you overstuff the bag due to the adjustable strap that closes the bag.
- It has dual dog bones to secure your ice tools and climbing gear to the pack.
The capacity of the Arc’teryx Alpha SL 23 Backpack is 23L with a fixed top lid.
It’s storage space was surprisingly plenty, for a short day hike or in my case, the final leg of the ascent to the summit.
To clarify, the pack carries:
- a 650 fill down jacket
- a liter of water
- an MSR backpacking stove with isopropane fuel and lighter
- a bag of dehydrated food
- an emergency blanket
- first-aid kit
- Black Diamond headlamp
- personal locator beacon
With all that I carried, I still had enough space for a climbing helmet, or climbing gear, or pair of approach shoes like the Konseal LT. All the essentials for a day’s climbing.
The Alpha SL 23 was a nice balance between function and form, allowing for plenty of storage of items while being comfortable and easy to use. Although the cost of the backpack may set you back a few weeks worth of lattes, this amazing little backpack will be worth the sacrifice.
The Arc’teryx Alpha SL 23 is well made, with high-quality proprietary material and reinforced stitching in areas where extra force might be used, such as loops for straps and shoulder straps.
Overall, this backpack is constructed to withstand the extremes of elements or a days mountaineering.
Despite the careful attention to detail in the quality of materials and clever design of the backpack, the Alpha sl 23 backpack lacks any type of ventilation system for any areas of contact with the body.
This is the only issue I had with this climbing pack. As a result, I had a sweaty back after some strenuous hiking.
The water-resistant material makes it easy to clean with a quick surface wipe.
The pack is made of a proprietary material Hadron™ Liquid Crystal Polymer grid fabric material and was very lightweight but durable. What’s more, it was able to withstand rubbing and grinding against dirt and rock surfaces during my climb. Spot cleaning was a breeze and left no stains.
Being of weather-resistant material, the contents of my pack stayed dry despite laying it on snow and having off and on drizzling during my hike. Its lightweight durability is great for day hikes like my trip.
As mentioned in other areas of this review, the Alpha is a very lightweight backpack and is a huge perk when considering items to pack. Being only 590 grams, or 21 oz, it is one of the lightest bags in its class.
The Alpha SL 23 backpack has a useful bungee-type cord system that allows for a secure attachment of rope, small tent, or light sleeping bag.
Also, the large top-loading main compartment which allows for quick access to all your gear and items. Basically, this weather-resistant flap keeps everything covered. The flap has a zippered compartment to hold smaller items, smaller items, such as sunglasses, beanie, trail mix, headlamps or cell phone. This allows for easy access without opening the flap.
Inside the main compartment is a small internal security pocket to hold small items such as keys, a cell phone or wallet.
Dual dog bones are perfect for securing tools and other accessories and an integrated cord system carries rope tight and secure.
It doesn’t have:
- Water bottle pocket
- Hydration bladder
What We Do Like:
- The Alpha SL 23 backpack is a lightweight, durable, high-quality pack perfect for short day hikes or mixed climbing.
- Dual dog bones secure tools
- Incredibly light
- Size is absolutely perfect for essentials
- Packs easily into other backpacking packs by removing the backpanel
- Incredibly durable
What We Don’t Like:
- Lacks ventilation
- The chest straps took some getting use to from the traditional webbing-buckle systems.
So, is the Arc’Teryx Alpha SL23 the right backpack for you? If you’re looking for an ultralight pack with great integrated system and features, that will last many years of hard use, then this could be a perfect choice. This is an impressive little bag.
It fits well, is comfortable to wear, and has plenty of storage pockets to hold small essentials.
However, it does come at a price premium when compared to some other similar packs on the market. Ultimately, it comes down to what your specific needs are and how much you’re willing to pay for them – but we can confidently say that the Arc’teryx Alpha SL 23 backpack is one of the best backpacks out there.
See on: Arc’Teryx Alpha SL23
About the Author
Joey Dang is the Director of the Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Western University of Health Sciences. He also works as a Family Nurse Practitioner at Central Medical Group.
Joey’s love for the outdoors was introduced to him when he was a Boy Scout. When he isn’t busy working, his favorite way to spend his free time are various ways to make great espresso drinks, photography and out backpacking, camping, bouldering and hiking.
The Arc’teryx Alpha SL 23 backpack was provided to us for free in order to test out the gear. The author’s review and opinions are his own.
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