The Arc'teryx Sphene is a quality garment aimed squarely at backcountry skiers and snowboarders looking for a lightweight, high performance jacket.
The cut is unapologetically athletic, designed to accommodate a technical mid-layer but not much else underneath the Gore-Tex Pro outer. This might alarm those more used to a voluminous ski jacket but in use, when combined with a decent baselayer this should be all you need for most extremes of weather. The e3D Ergonomic patterning could easily be dismissed as technical jargon but try this jacket out and you'll appreciate the effort that's gone into this particular element of its design - it's so good it almost feels like you're not wearing it.
The hem drops and tapers perfectly to provide a snug but not restrictive fit, keeping the jacket covering your lower back even under heavy backcountry use.
The storm hood has also been designed superbly well, allowing enough space for a helmet but also working perfectly well without, giving great protection but not restricting movement or peripheral vision.
The Gore-Tex Pro fabric has been proven time and again to work fantastically well and aside from being a little rustly in use it lives up to expectations, keeping you dry and the wind at bay, while still being highly breathable.
Pockets and other features are kept to a minimum but then so is the weight at 435g, which compares very favourably against other top-end backcountry specific jackets.
Our only real gripe with the Sphene is that the zips are only water resistant rather than waterproof, which might put some people off. However, in use the pockets did stay dry in all but the worst of conditions.
Overall, an incredibly well made and thought out jacket that has the serious backcountry user squarely in its sights, if you're looking for a no-compromise technical jacket and can look past the £500 price tag then give the Sphene a try - you'll be glad you did.