Arc’teryx Sabre AR
Weight: 1 lb. 8.8 oz. (size medium)
Waterproofing: 3-layer Gore-Tex
What we like: Great fit and mobility, fantastic protection, and premium look and feel.
What we don’t: Fairly heavy and bulky for true backcountry use.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Sabre AR See the Women's Arc'teryx Sentinel AR
Arc’teryx offers an extensive lineup of quality ski jackets, from technical hardshells to insulated resort options. The Sabre AR (for “all round”) slots in right in the middle, with a premium Gore-Tex build, light flannel backer, and smartly designed feature set. After putting the Sabre through a full season of skiing in a wide range of Pacific Northwest conditions, we consider it the benchmark do-it-all ski and snowboard jacket. You do pay a sizable premium at over $600, but it’s one of the most well-rounded options for serious inbounds and occasional backcountry use. Below we break down the Sabre AR’s weather protection, comfort, breathability, build quality and durability, weight, fit and sizing, and more. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our article on the best ski jackets.
Sporting 3-layer Gore-Tex protection, a premium face fabric, and a standout hood design, the Arc’teryx Sabre AR is a fantastic performer in a wide range of harsh conditions. It’s provided flawless protection in everything from heavy mixed rain and wet snow to sleet. The most telling outing was on a particularly rough and windy day: despite the front of the jacket growing fully coated in a layer of sleet and ice, I remained completely dry inside.
When it comes time to batten down the hatches, the Sabre AR comes well-equipped. The large and highly adjustable StormHood is one of our favorites on the market: it’s plenty big to fit over a wide range of ski helmets but cinches effectively and stays fully locked in place even in strong gusts or when bombing downhill. In addition, the collar is tall—fully zipped, it covers my lips completely—and the opening is wide enough to duck into when the weather turns particularly nasty (a plus for those that don’t like riding with a mask). It’s easy to seal out the cold and wet (and keep you dry should you fall) with a powder skirt and glove-friendly hem cinches at each side, and the wrists adjust easily and securely with Velcro. In addition, Arc’teryx uses a high-quality DWR coating (washing has helped keep it fresh) and water-resistant zippers that haven’t failed or leaked despite plenty of days in wet snow.
A final piece of the waterproofing equation is the Sabre AR’s moderately long cut. Measuring 31 inches (79 cm) down the back, it hits a great balance of coverage without being overly bulky or inhibiting movement. Our two testers (5’9” and 6’0” with the medium jacket) found it provided plenty of coverage for deep powder days, when sitting on a lift, or when bending over to adjust boots or to reach into a pack. Arc’teryx makes an even longer variation in the Sabre LT (31.5 in./80 cm), but both testers felt the Sabre AR’s length was spot-on for nearly all conditions.
There are plenty of sturdy and weather-worthy ski shells on the market, but what makes the Sabre AR particularly impressive is how unnoticeable it is while you’re wearing it. Overall, the fit is great, balancing range of motion with ample space for layering. In addition, Arc’teryx included a brushed flannel backer along the interior, which helps limit the crinkly and stiff feel common among traditional 3-layer hardshells. It’s not up to softshell levels of flexibility and mobility, but it’s not too far off. And that soft backer also has a fairly plush hand feel that isn’t prone to feeling cold and clammy (although not many will opt to wear short sleeves underneath). Arc’teryx claims the backer gives the jacket light insulation, although that’s hard to quantify as it’s not particularly thick (it likely plays a role in the jacket feeling so impervious to weather, however). Finally, nice touches like small patches of fleece along the top of the collar and along the back of the neck enhance next-to-skin feel in the cold.
Based on my experiences with the prior-generation Sabre (the “AR” tested here replaced that model for 2019-2020), I didn’t set very high expectations in terms of breathability. The shell is a primarily intended as a resort/big mountain jacket, and its standard 3-layer Gore-Tex (as opposed to the more breathable Pro and Active membranes) and extra flannel backer prioritize protection and comfort over all-out ventilation. That said, I found it to be moderately breathable for short uphills while touring, and it was sufficient on steep sidecountry hikes of 30 minutes or less. The large pit zips make it easy to dump heat, and as long as I wasn’t overdressed, the jacket did a decent job at keeping me from overheating. Dedicated backcountry skiers will be better off with a Gore-Tex Pro jacket like Arc’teryx’s own Sidewinder or Alpha SV, but the Sabre is plenty capable for resort days and the occasional short tour (especially in frigid conditions).
Just about all Arc’teryx products exude quality, and the Sabre AR is no exception. The face fabric has a clean look and has been flawlessly built, and the same goes for the seam taping along the interior (Arc’teryx even covered the taping with the brushed backer to enhance comfort). Additionally, every touch point is sturdy and has a quality feel: the zipper pulls are strong and reliable, the drawcord is robust and still functions like new, and the button-style Cohaesive adjustments along the side of the hood are easy to use.
Importantly, the Arc'teryx Sabre AR has also proven to be quite durable. The face fabric is a premium 70-denier (D) material, which is fairly burly considering its lightweight feel. In addition, the thicker-than-average lining provides a boost in tear resistance. After getting over the concern of skiing through trees in a $600+ jacket, the durability proved to be fantastic. In fact, I’ve caught more than a couple branches and have yet to put a mark on it. And after a few wash cycles, the jacket is still holding up fantastically. Based on my experience with the prior-generation Sabre and the latest AR, if you take proper care and wash it, I expect the jacket to have a very long lifespan.
Weight and Packability
Listed at 1 pound 8.7 ounces, our medium-size Arc’teryx Sabre AR weighed in a hair more at 1 pound 8.8 ounces. This puts it at about average among hardshells designed for mixed resort and backcountry use. For reference, it falls between fully uninsulated shells including the OR Hemispheres (1 lb. 4.7 oz.) and Sabre LT (1 lb. 6.2 ounces) and similar resort/big-mountain models with thin backers like the Patagonia Untracked (1 lb. 10.2 oz.) and Black Diamond Mission (1 lb. 12 oz.). Those that spend more time in the backcountry will likely want to go lighter with options like the Patagonia PowSlayer (1 lb. 3.3 oz.) or Arc’teryx’s own Sidewinder (1 lb. 4.8 oz.) or Alpha SV (1 lb. 1.3 oz.). But as mentioned above, the extra weight is imperceptible on the slopes.
As far as packability goes, the Sabre AR’s substantial fabrics don’t stuff down all the small. But compressed into its own hood and with the drawcords cinched, it’s reasonably sized at 11 inches long with a diameter of about 21 inches. All in all, it certainly takes up a fair amount of space in a pack and won’t appeal to the fast and light crowd, but it’s perfectly suitable for shorter touring days when carrying a larger ski backpack.
For the Sabre AR, Arc’teryx chose their StormHood design, which we’ve found to be among the most functional on the market. Overall, it hits a great balance of coverage and peripheral vision (one tester did note that vision along the side was slightly impacted when cinched tightly, but it wasn’t a major issue) and stays locked in place even in very strong winds. Moreover, the stiff brim along the top effectively keeps moisture from falling onto the top of the helmet or ski goggles.
In terms of size and adjustability, the hood is very large and should fit just about any helmet underneath (our testers used a range of bulky and low-profile, medium-sized lids without issue), and it cinches snugly and evenly. A large drawcord at the back adjusts around the sides and top of the forehead, while two cords secure the front. I’ve found it fairly easy to tweak the fit even with three-finger-style mitts on, although the buttons at the side of the helmet can be a little finicky to pinch with bulky ski gloves. And one final note: our snowboard tester reported that there wasn’t any noticeably drag or flapping from the hood while riding with it down, which can be a big distraction when descending at speed.
As far as storage is concerned, you get a total of five pockets including three exterior and two interior. Along the outside, there’s a sleeve pocket on the left arm that’s plenty large to accommodate a ski pass or small items like a credit card. Arc’teryx also cleverly stored a RECCO reflector into the lining of this space, which makes it undetectable when wearing and doesn’t detract from the jacket’s clean look. Two large hand pockets flank the front of the jacket and are protected by small zipper garages at the top to keep moisture from seeping through. We were a little surprised Arc’teryx didn’t use their RS Sliders here, which ditch the garages and self-seal, but it could’ve been an aesthetic choice or simply the fact that the jacket doesn’t prioritize shaving weight (these are more commonly found on the brand’s lightweight hardshells).
Another nitpick is the long zippers on the hand pockets mean you need to be mindful that items stored here don’t spill out when they’re opened up. The sizing is great, and they’re suitable for bulky gear like climbing skins, but they’re not particularly deep (opening the zippers partway will alleviate potential problems). For the interior, you get a zippered pocket that’s nicely sized for smaller items like a phone. That said, I found it to be a fairly compact and just barely able to swallow my large iPhone 11. It does have some stretch, so it was able to accommodate the phone, but it wasn’t easy to slip in or remove. In addition, there’s no insulation inside the pocket, which means it can get cold and drain your battery (I used my midlayer for phone storage on exceptionally cold days). Finally, the other interior pocket is a stretchy mesh design intended for stowing goggles or gloves.
As with most dedicated ski shells, the Arc’teryx Sabre AR includes a powder skirt to seal out snow. The design secures along the front and includes two sets of buttons so you can tailor the snugness and overall fit. There’s a fair amount of stretch in the skirt, but I found it stays locked in place on the slopes thanks to its silicone-like band. And for those that don’t like using a powder skirt or don’t want to utilize it on hardpack days, the low-profile design is practically unnoticeable and never bunched up or felt uncomfortable when unsecured.
The powder skirt also features Arc’teryx’s Slide ‘n Loc system, which allows you to connect the jacket to compatible Arc’teryx pants (including the Sabre AR and LT models). There are two connection points along the sides, and I’ve found them to be fairly easy to integrate—doing so at the start of the day without gloves on is simplest—and they’ve never come undone even in a crash. The feature is far from necessary, but it’s effective and gives the kit a one-piece, integrated feel.
Arc’teryx lists the Sabre as a “regular” fit, and compared to some of the trim-fitting shells I’ve worn from the brand (like the Beta LT), I agree with this designation. For reference, I’m 5’9” and 155 pounds and opted for my standard size medium, which very fit well overall. Our snowboard tester is taller at 6’ and heavier at 165 pounds, but he was equally happy with the fit and coverage of the medium. Further, the jacket is built for layering, and I’ve found it has plenty of space for accommodating anything from a midweight down puffy to a thin synthetic (Arc’teryx’s Atom SL). No matter which midlayer I chose, I never felt it was overly restrictive or bulky. Without a layer underneath, the jacket does feel surprisingly large and unshapely, but that shouldn’t be an issue for most skiers. I would prefer a more athletic cut for dedicated touring, but for lift-assisted days and sidecountry hikes, the Sabre AR is just about perfect.
Other Versions of the Arc’teryx Sabre
We put the men’s Sabre AR Jacket to the test, and Arc’teryx makes a number of other variations in the lineup. The Sabre LT (“lightweight”) forgoes the flannel backer of the AR and weighs 2.5 ounces less but costs an additional $24 (more on this below). As we touched on above, Arc’teryx also sells Sabre AR ($499) and LT ($449) pants that connect to the jackets via the proprietary Slide ‘n Loc system on the powder skirt. Both pants use the same constructions as the jackets, including 3-layer Gore-Tex builds. Finally, Arc’teryx offers Sabre Gloves for $179, which feature Gore-Tex Active waterproofing and use a mix of PrimaLoft insulations for warmth.
Women’s Arc’teryx Sentinel
The Sabre is a men’s-specific design, but Arc’teryx offers a nearly identical women’s-specific model called the Sentinel. Like the men’s jacket, the women’s Sentinel is available in both AR and LT versions. Stacked up against the Sabre AR we tested, the women’s Sentinel AR costs the same at $625 and sports the same overall construction and feature set but comes in different colorways (five at the time of publishing) and weighs less at 1 pound 4.8 ounces. Like the men’s variations, the Sentinel is also available in AR and LT pants for those that like matching their ski kit.
What We Like
- Fantastic weather protection thanks to a 3-layer Gore-Tex build, premium face fabric, and highly protective StormHood.
- Standout levels of comfort and mobility.
- Excellent overall fit for resort use with no areas of looseness or snugness.
- Full feature set including ample storage, a functional powder skirt, large pit zips, and the aforementioned StormHood.
What We Don’t
- At 1 pound 8.7 ounces, the Sabre AR is fairly heavy for extended backcountry use.
- Standard Gore-Tex construction and flannel backer prioritize protection and comfort over breathability. Dedicated backcountry-goers should look elsewhere.
- "Regular” fit is great for the resort, but we prefer a more athletic cut for touring.
|Arc'teryx Sabre AR||$625||Resort/backcountry||No (flannel backer)||Hardshell||1 lb. 8.7 oz.||Yes|
|Arc'teryx Sabre LT||$649||Resort/backcountry||No||Hardshell||1 lb. 6.2 oz.||Yes|
|OR Hemispheres||$599||Backcountry/resort||No||Hardshell||1 lb. 4.7 oz.||No|
|Black Diamond Mission||$599||Resort/backcountry||No (brushed backer)||Hardshell||1 lb. 12 oz.||No|
|Patagonia PowSlayer||$699||Backcountry||No||Hardshell||1 lb. 1.3 oz.||No|
|Marmot Spire||$400||Resort/backcountry||No||Hardshell||1 lb. 9 oz.||No|
Arc’teryx’s Sabre AR is our favorite all-around ski jacket this year for its premium build quality, great fit, and all-around performance. As we mentioned above, Arc’teryx’s Sabre lineup also includes an LT model. In parsing out the differences, the Sabre LT also crosses over nicely between resort and backcountry use but uses Gore’s C-Knit backer instead of the thin flannel liner on the AR, which provides less warmth but shaves some weight (the LT weighs 1 lb. 6.2 oz.) and improves breathability. The LT also has a longer center back length at 80 centimeters (the AR is 79 cm down the back), as well as one more pocket. Both are top-notch jackets for mixed on- and off-piste use, but we give the nod to the AR for its cheaper price tag and slight boost in comfort and warmth.
Like the Sabre AR, Outdoor Research’s Hemispheres Jacket is a nice option for both in- and out-of-bounds skiing. The most notable feature on the Hemispheres is the use of 2-layer Gore-Tex with Stretch panels at the back, hood, and under the arms. This gives the jacket a major bump in mobility without sacrificing overall weather protection (the rest of the jacket uses the same 3-layer Gore-Tex as the Sabre AR). The Hemispheres also uses Gore’s soft C-Knit backer along the interior, which is a step down in warmth from the Sabre’s flannel liner but provides a nice dose of comfort. Further, the OR has larger pit zips that extend from the hem to the armpit, is lighter at 1 pound 4.7 ounces, has a couple more pockets, and is longer at 83 centimeters down the back. That said, the OR forgoes a powder skirt, has a less accommodating fit that’s a bit narrow in the shoulders and waist, and the hood barely squeezes over a ski helmet. Given these gripes, we give the slight nod to the Sabre AR.
Black Diamond’s Mission is another direct competitor to the Sabre AR. The two share a lot in common, including 3-layer Gore-Tex constructions, 70-denier shell fabrics, soft backers for improved comfort and mobility, and ample features for mixed resort and occasional backcountry use. But the devil is in the details, and Arc’teryx wins out in a number of key areas: it’s lighter by 3.3 ounces, doesn’t feel as bulky as the Mission, the hood is easier to adjust and get a secure fit, and the powder skirt stays in place much better. For $26 more, we think the Sabre AR is the slightly better-executed design.
For dedicated backcountry enthusiasts, there are a number of lighter and more breathable options on the market, including Patagonia’s popular PowSlayer. Rather than standard Gore-Tex, the Patagonia uses more breathable Gore-Tex Pro (also in a 3-layer construction), a thinner 40-denier build, and comes in at 1 pound 3.3 ounces (5.4 oz. less than the Sabre AR). The PowSlayer also features more storage with a total of eight pockets (three more than the Arc’teryx), but it’s less versatile and durable for inbounds use. Plus, we’ve found the Gore-Tex Pro build to be far crinklier and less comfortable than the Sabre AR. For mixed resort and backcountry use, we consider the Sabre to be the superior all-rounder.
Last but not least is Marmot’s Spire, which is a step down in price and overall performance from the Sabre. Like the AR, the Spire features a 3-layer Gore-Tex construction for sealing out weather, pit zips, a powder skirt, an adjustable and helmet-compatible hood, and ample storage for stowing the essentials (it has one fewer pocket than the Arc’teryx). What do you sacrifice by saving $225 with the Spire? For starters, the Spire weighs around the same as the Sabre AR at 1 pound 9 ounces but forgoes the flannel backer, water-resistant main zip, and extended coverage (it’s about 2 in. shorter). Overall, the Sabre AR gets the clear advantage in quality and all-around performance, but the Marmot is an undeniably good value, and especially for those who spend the majority of their time on-piste.
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