Arc’teryx – Pioneers and leaders in outdoor clothing and equipment for over two decades
Who are Arc’teryx?
Arc’teryx is an outdoor clothing and sporting goods company founded in North Vancouver, Canada, in 1989. They produce technical, high-performance outerwear and equipment.
“Our driving purpose is to create apparel and gear that gives users the confidence to perform at the point of extreme need. Named for ARCHAEOPTERYX LITHOGRAPHICA, the first reptile to take a bold evolutionary leap by developing feathers for flight. Arc’teryx is evolution in action.” (http://arcteryx.com/OurStory.aspx?language=EN)
Arc’teryx are in the ‘pursuit of perfection’ seeking to design the best products possible. They have a relentless commitment to design, craftsmanship and performance, which all adds together to give you the products they make today.
“The Arc’teryx advantage is achieved by merging unrivalled designs with the best quality, highest performing materials and assembling them in the most innovative and most durable manner for the intended use.”
Originally named ‘Rock Solid’ by founders Dave Lane and Jeremy Guard, the company’s first line of products was climbing gear. Using a heat laminate (thermolamination) technology, the partners designed and marketed the ‘Vapour™ harness’, which would become the company’s most popular item.
In the second year of operations, after a series of relocations and staff additions, Arc’teryx released the Bora backpack using the same Vapour™ technology. In 1996, after obtaining a licence from W. L. Gore & Associates for use of the GORE-TEX® fabric (see more information about GORE-TEX® here), the company adapted it for its new line of outdoor technical apparel. Over the years Arc’teryx’ designs have won a number of awards from Backpacker, Outside, Climbing, Men’s Journal, and Powder magazines.
By 1999 Arc’teryx needed a larger manufacturing space the company subsequently moved its headquarters to Burnaby, British Columbia. However, in 2005, the Arc’teryx head office moved back across to North Vancouver.
Their products are usually associated with climbing, skiing, snowboarding, backpacking, and hiking-related activities. The Arc’teryx LEAF (Law Enforcement and Armed Forces) product line is composed of equipment targeted to the military and law enforcement markets. Although some items are simply counterparts in design to their civilian models, other items, such as Arc’teryx’s Tango and Charlie packs, are made in camouflage patterns and constructed to military specification, including numerous PALS-type attachment loops for accessorising the bag to meet the user’s needs.
Who owns Arc’teryx?
In January 2001, Arc’teryx was purchased by the Adidas-owned Salomon Group. In May 2005, Amer Sports purchased the Salomon Group from Adidas, which obviously includes Arc’teryx and another of our favourite brands Suunto.
Arc’teryx has been a world leader in its field for decades now. It strives to constantly push the boundaries of what’s possible (as we’ve already talked about). That being said it’s one thing to claim to be a leader and a big player in the market, it’s something else to prove it. This can be solved with one simple question:
What has Arc’teryx brought to the market?
Thermoformed 3D designs
Pre-nineties, climbing harnesses were traditionally cut flat and sewn. There was no dimension to patterns or how they fit against the body. Inspired by an experimental curved cargo strap for shouldering a bicycle, a 360° harness solution was conceived.
Using a high tech pizza oven and a butchered Ikea wastebasket as a mould, temperatures, processes, materials and pressures went through an intense series of combinations and experimentation. Several creative minds were drawn in, fuelled by passion, intensity and collaboration and from that Vapour™ Technology was born—the first three dimensional outdoor equipment designs that used multi-dimensional foam, high temperatures and rapid cooling to emulate the human form.
Translation of the new design into reliable reproduction required more brainstorming. Trial and error and the invention of specialized equipment eventually lead to success and ideas for other applications of thermoformed technology. The first test was suspension systems on backpacks, with the idea to soften load-bearing frames. Baking various thicknesses of foam into true form fitting shapes introduced curvature into exceptionally comfortable hip belts that were also lighter in weight. Shoulder straps followed and with them, the possibility of incremental tapering, sophisticated shaping and silhouette that distinguished the Bora series of backpacks.
Thermoformed 3D design was the original Arc’teryx breakthrough, made possible by stepping aside from horizontal thinking and challenging assumptions – the roots and heart of all things Arc’teryx.
Lamination is the technique of manufacturing a material in multiple layers, so that the composite material achieves improved strength, stability, appearance or other properties from the use of differing materials. A laminate is usually permanently assembled by heat, pressure, welding, or adhesives.
Lamination in outdoor apparel allows for seamless construction: reduced bulk, increased durability, lighter weights, clean finishes and streamlined process. Products weigh less, last longer and are more user-friendly.
Adopting lamination into hard goods construction, unique Arc’teryx AC2 technology takes packs into another dimension, using very lightweight, durable ACT Fabric™ to create weather-tight bags. Air-and-water impermeable and coated on both sides, ACT Fabric™ permits the lamination of attachment points directly onto the bag, placed as needed rather than dictated by seams.
In the beginning of hard-shell designs, zippers were seen as weak points that needed a huge amount of reinforcement to achieve both weatherproof and structural integrity. Bulky zipper flaps -unsightly and excessive tabs of heavy, stitched fabric-were used as gutters to channel moisture away from these points of entry, overweight with stitching and reinforcement.
After ten years of thought, the Arc’teryx R&D team proposed the urethane coated, long-lasting and smooth sliding WaterTight™ zipper as a solution. Months of testing, affixing and evaluating different options were spent before installation was perfected, but eventually a solution was found and the zipper was successfully introduced into Arc’teryx apparel.
Sleek, quiet, understated yet highly technical, the new zipper presented as a simple line. No flaps. No bulk. A clean construction that matched the look of the rest of the garment and was structurally sound.
Never seen before, the WaterTight™ zipper was a big departure from convention that has become the industry standard—invented by Arc’teryx.
Arc’teryx has worked closely with W.L. Gore to create progressive technologies that meet uncompromising user needs.
Any product is only as good as the strength of its components. The enduring Arc’teryx mandate is to build the lightest, most durable, highest performing equipment possible. To accomplish this, early in its history the brand formed partnerships with textile manufacturers. Twenty odd years later, these partnerships help maintain the integrity of Arc’teryx products.
One value of long-standing industry relationships is the opportunity to be involved in the research and development of very specialized textiles, plus to be able to set the standards for the quality expected by Arc’teryx. For its waterproof/breathable apparel, Arc’teryx has worked closely with W.L. Gore to create progressive technologies that meet uncompromising user needs. Feedback from athletes and staff provides situational examples that lead to refinements or even new directions for face fabrics, membrane technology, and construction methods. N80p-X, for example, is a face fabric developed in response to the Arc’teryx need for an exceptionally abrasion resistant surface that can withstand daily use by outdoor professionals.
In partnership with Polartec®, the development of softshells (ie Gamma series) came about through Arc’teryx exploring the possibility of laminating complimentary woven fabrics together to create a textile that was highly breathable, wind resistant and tough. What the team came up with was a fusion of stretch woven exterior with a soft wicking interior: incredibly mobile, weather resistant and breathable, a radical injection into contemporary layering. The revolutionary new fabric: Polartec® Power Shield®. The entirely new product category: Softshells.
Arc’teryx designs are functional, disciplined answers to unforgiving environments. Research and development of premium textiles is a hands-on process, at times lengthy, but one with great and lasting rewards.
Arc’teryx Factory Fact
The production of a single Alpha SV Jacket at the Manor Street factory, Vancouver:
- Number of operations: 211
- Number of minutes spent cutting: 24.149
- Number of minutes spent sewing: 222.157
- Number of minutes spent finishing: 32.376
- Total number of operators who touch the jacket: 65
Total time to assemble an Alpha SV Jacket: 4 hours 38 minutes
Over 20 years since it started, Arc’teryx are still driven by an innate desire to evolve and revolutionise the way we think about outdoor clothing and equipment. They don’t focus on incremental advancements, but on radically improving the status quo. Which is evidenced by the above innovations.
Arc’teryx have created ground breaking construction techniques, developed paradigm-shifting designs and introduced major fabric technologies including spearheading the development and creation of the GORE-TEX Pro Shell fabric. They are a company that attracts copy-cats but realistically they are no where near matching the quality of kit and gear that’s coming out from Arc’teryx. They remain at the very pinnacle of outdoor clothing and equipment performance, driven by real-world feedback, state of the art development and the continual desire to question the established rules and conventions of real mountain clothing.