Among the Arc’teryx backpacks, the Alpha AR 35 and AR 55 are built to accompany your mountain activities. So if you’re looking for a pack that could double for town use, neither are for you.
In summary, the Alpha AR 35 is not only 5 ounces lighter than the Alpha AR 55; it’s also more versatile. From tour skiing to day trekking, the Alpha AR 35 will hold all your essentials without feeling bulky like the Alpha AR 55.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two backpacks.
What are you looking to do with your pack? How versatile you need your pack to be is the first metric to consider when figuring out which option is right for you.
Arc’teryx claims the Alpha AR 35 and Alpha AR 55 are versatile packs designed for all-around use. In fact, that’s what the AR stands for, “all-around.” While this sounds good in theory, the delivery doesn’t fully live up to the name.
For starters, the Alpha AR 35 and AR 55 are not good for trail running. Even if you’re swiftly moving in alpine terrain, these packs are just too big and too husky.
The Alpha AR 55 is specifically too large to hit the slopes. The bulky fit is also not ideal for super technical icey climbs. What the Alpha AR 55 is good for are multi-day overnighters and general mountaineering.
The Alpha AR 35, on the other hand, offers a touch more in the way of versatility. This pack is big enough to do an overnighter if you pack smart. The size is also better if you plan on taking it tour skiing.
Meanwhile, the lighter weight is better for agility. That means you can scramble more comfortably. Ideally, I would use this pack on a long alpine day trek. It will hold all the essentials and possibly some gear for a hiking buddy.
Considering the “all-around” aspect, I’d go with the Alpha AR 35. I find it to be more practical for my needs.
The biggest difference you’ll notice between the Alpha AR 35 and AR 55 is their pack capacity. The smaller Alpha AR 35 can house 35 liters of gear. Meanwhile, the larger Alpha AR 55 allows you to pack up to 55 liters of gear.
With a load like that, the Alpha AR 55 is the winner. The extra 20 liters means you can stuff in more food, emergency layers, and mountaineering gear. That way, you can tackle the expected and the unexpected like those luminous clouds that suddenly rolled in.
Despite the large load, the Alpha AR 55 has a surprising space-to-weight ratio. The total empty weight is 46 ounces. This is on the lighter side, considering the capacity of this beast.
Yet despite the good ratio, the Alpha AR 35 is still lighter. This pack weighs in at 41 ounces when empty.
At first, the drop in 5 ounces may not sound like that big of a deal. That is until you fill the Alpha AR 35 and AR 55 to the brim with all your gear.
To put things into perspective, the Alpha AR 35 will leave your legs more nimble and put less strain on your back.
However, Arc’teryx offers a range of daypacks of varying weights. Their Arc’teryx pack finder can help you find the right one.
Both the Alpha AR 35 and AR 55 feature the same style harness. The comfort level, however, is different when fully loaded. This is to be expected as more weight puts more strain on your body.
That said, the Alpha AR 55 didn’t shine in this category. The weight of the load is rather uncomfortable when attempting technical climbs. This harness style better transfers the load with the Alpha AR 35.
Regardless, the back panel could use some improvement for both backs. The design doesn’t rest well on the lower back. This could lead to some irritation or pain when putting in the miles.
The Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35 or AR 55 could be right for you, depending upon your use. If you want the more versatile option of the two, the Alpha AR 35 is the better choice. Meanwhile, the Alpha AR 55 is better for multi-day hikes and mountaineering adventures that require more gear.