Field Trip | Arc'teryx Factory Tour | A Continuous Lean.

Field Trip | Arc'teryx Factory Tour

Jun 15th, 2009 | Categories: Canada, Factory Tour | by Michael Williams

Not the typical “American made” type of factory tour, but the good folks at Arc’teryx invited me up to Vancouver to poke around one of their Canadian manufacturing facilities, take some photos for everyone in ACL land and ask some stupid questions about mountaineering and whatnot. It was amazing to see how the products from one of my favorite outdoors brands are made. The skill and time that goes into assembling the company’s GORE -TEX shells, packs and harnesses is astonishing.

Arcteryx_factory_20

It was remarkable to see the amount of research and development that goes into the manufacture of the Arc’teryx goods. Not only does the company develop many of its own materials and components, it also engineers the tools and machines that physically make the gear. It was also interesting to see how highly involved GORE-TEX is in every step of the way. In addition to the main line merchandise, Arc’teryx has a few other interesting projects going on. More to come on that later.

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Comments: 22

22 Comments to “Field Trip | Arc'teryx Factory Tour”

  1. allplaidout
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 10:37 AM

    MW-

    Did they spend any time w you speaking to the breathability of GORE-TEX, vs. other more recent developments in waterproofing? And, must say the photo of zipper pulls are as exciting as any photo you’ve posted.

  2. Mark Frazer
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 10:49 AM

    Hey Michael.

    Love your field trips. Very inspirational. Have you found that your influence on men’s fashion has earned you more invites by manufacturers like Arc’teryx, or do you have to go knocking on doors to get in?

  3. Jeff
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 11:59 AM

    very cool

  4. robbo
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 1:06 PM

    in that gore-tex isn’t breathable

  5. Randall
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 1:18 PM

    Good stuff! I absolutely love looking into the R&D and production of technical gear.

  6. Thom
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 1:49 PM

    There was a time when as a Vancouverite all I wanted was an Arc’teryx shell. Sadly my outdoor adventures have tapered off, but the company remains a point of pride for people in the city.

  7. akatsuki
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 3:06 PM

    I thought they were suing Gore because Gore won’t let you use another company’s materials (such as the superior eVent fabrics)?

  8. Doog
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 6:22 PM

    Michael
    It was really cool to meet you here at Arc’teryx a few weeks ago! Michael got to know one of our Managers here through a friend-of-a-friend, and we ended up inviting him out to see what we are all about.

    As an Arc’employee, I thought I’d chime in and answer a couple of questions that have come up here.

    GORE-TEX: why do we use it?
    We’ve done a huge amount of testing, and yes, it does breath! I’ll admit it doesn’t breath as much as some other fabrics, but then those fabrics wouldn’t be waterproof. That’s why we were a big part of bringing in the Softshell revolution 10 years ago, (we helped develop Power Shield with Polartec). As for GORE-TEX—it and a banner bluebird day don’t really mix. However, if the weather is Scottish, GORE-TEX does what it says – it keeps you dry, is windproof, and it does breath enough to keep the transport of moisture happening, so you stay comfortable.
    Also, keep in mind that different GORE-TEX systems breath at different levels. GORE-TEX Pro Shell is the best, but also the costliest (isn’t that always the way?), and GORE-TEX Performance Shell is down the scale in cost and not as good in overall performance (BTW – we don’t use Performance Shell. Not that it isn’t good – just not good enough for us! Yes, we are gear snobs…).

    How does GORE-TEX compare to other windproof, breathable, waterproof fabrics?
    GORE-TEX Pro Shell is at the top of the heap in initial performance (it works really well right out of the box), as do two other fabric systems. But after 200 hard days of use with 20 washings in between, GORE-TEX Pro Shell is the only one that still performs very closely to it’s first day performance. None of the other fabric systems have this level of durability. And that’s the reason we keep using it: it’s durability is far above the competition. By a long shot.

    That sort of answers the next question: no law suits are going down between us and Gore. Fact is, it is about as healthy a professional relationship as exists. Our VP of R&D just got back from Alaska, trying to climb some new alpine routes, with our GORE-TEX sales rep. And this was their second time. So we are pretty close. We do share a load of our R&D with Gore, which goes a long way in helping them develop new fabrics and systems.
    We have explored and tested a number of different waterproof systems, and continue testing them. When we find one that performs and lasts as long as we think it should, we’ll use it. And yes, we’ll let Gore know, too…

    Michael – thanks for coming to see what we are all about. It’s a fun company to work with, and as you saw we’re a little nuts about making really good shit.
    I hope this doesn’t come across as too commercial – I am biased, but all this stuff is true…

  9. Patrick
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 9:22 PM

    Love the stuff that Arc’teryx makes. A lot of thoughtful innovation goes into their shells from the efficient origami-esque construction down to how the drawstrings make an effective hood that moves with your rotating neck (as opposed to staying in place and blocking your eyes when you turn your head right/left). Sadly their gear doesn’t fit quite right on me (being on the compact proportions side) but that’s not a knock on them.

    Love the manufacturing photo tours, Michael!

  10. wade word
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 9:48 PM

    A lot of the stoners I knew in Kansas used to rock this gear and climb walls.
    It is good stuff, to be sure, but it costs a grip.
    I mean, a gripp.

  11. Martin
    on Jun 15th, 2009
    @ 11:40 PM

    So, are you now a PR agent for Arc’teryx? Have you become Partisan?

  12. Michael Williams
    on Jun 16th, 2009
    @ 12:44 AM

    No Martin, I don’t rep Arc’teryx.

    ACL

  13. Oscar
    on Jun 16th, 2009
    @ 10:08 AM

    Good stuff, my Theta AR jacket is on its fifth year now.

  14. Lou from Louisville
    on Jun 16th, 2009
    @ 11:22 AM

    I have the Theta AR, too. Amazing jacket. Goes with any style. I love walking around in the rain with it, while everyone else has an umbrella.

  15. plaidout
    on Jun 16th, 2009
    @ 6:09 PM

    Doog, thanks for the follow-up. I’m planning a mini-test this winter comparing Polartec’s Power Shield, GORE’s Pro Shell, Patagonia’s H2No, and LL Bean’s new Tek material. Like you, I’m a tech snob, and I want nothing but the best. ACL – another killer post. Many thanks.

  16. dan
    on Jun 17th, 2009
    @ 11:36 AM

    Lou, nothing like a $500 umbrella, eh?

  17. The Descriptionist
    on Jun 17th, 2009
    @ 2:59 PM

    I was working for Moonstone a while back (before they went belly-up) and Arc’teryx was one of the brands we always looked at across the aisle at OR every season.

    Great product. Great focus, and from what we knew, a lot of good people as well. I still check out their stuff when I can.

    Thanks for highlighting this little known world of technical outdoor gear.

  18. tien
    on Jun 19th, 2009
    @ 1:41 PM

    Interesting to see that 95% of their staff is Asian. It’s too bad their stuff is so expensive otherwise I would buy so much more.

  19. Sarno
    on Jun 19th, 2009
    @ 3:21 PM

    A lot of their stuff is now made overseas. Worse than patagonia.

  20. dan
    on Jun 21st, 2009
    @ 4:28 PM

    The best Gore product was Activent; I have a “vintage” Patagonia activent windbreaker of the stuff and it is so much better than Windstopper. Thanks to the Arcteryx pr speech above but eVent is truly a superior product aside from it not being quite as durable in the field.

    Arcteryx from Canada is a better product than Arcteryx from China; I have several of each and when I’m crammed for space I always choose the non-China stuff from the A company. Other companys’ Chinese/Vietnam/Bangladesh/Mars stuff is still good, too; my favorite is Wyoming’s (okay, China’s) Cloudveil. Found a local sale which was a lot more convenient than waiting for steepandcheap.com

    Good post, Michael.

  21. dan
    on Jun 21st, 2009
    @ 4:29 PM

    PS: I worked for a Seattle outdoor clothing company, and as some else posted, we would eagerly walk through Arcteryx’s great booth at OR, too.

    Patagucci has the mainstream market but A is closing in.

  22. Doog
    on Jul 16th, 2009
    @ 10:20 AM

    Just a quick comment to Tien on Arc’teryx’s predominantly Asian employee base: Welcome to Vancouver, melting pot of the Pacific. In Vancouver, English is now NOT the first language of more than 50% of the population. Chinese, Indians, Iranians, Koreans, Philipino, Vietnamese… and somewhere in there are a few white guys!