This or that
Recently somebody asked me what the difference was between the regular Arc'Teryx line and the higher end Arc'Teryx Veilance line. It's a great question and one that to which the answer isn't always obvious. If I had to pin it down to one point, I'd say it's the masterful application of detail into design.
To explain my answer, I am writing this blog to compare two offers from Arc'Teryx. I will compare essentially the same jacket but from their opposing lines and my experiences with each of them. Specifically for this review, I'll compare the Arc'Teryx Parsec Coat from the 24 collection and the Arc'Teryx Monitor coat from their Veilance line (which is no longer in production, since been replaced with the Patrol IS coat). They are for all intents and purposes, iterations of the same concept. Both jackets are a hooded 3/4 length Gore-Tex shell designed for urban lifestyles.
The purpose of this review is more to show some of the general differences between the two lines and what may be seen as advantages of one to the other.
A clear point of difference between these two coats which is true to the nature of the Veilance line, the Monitor coat uses a higher grade material from Gore-Tex. The material is a 3 layer, where the Parsec is a 2 layer construction (N70p product to be specific.) Since the Monitor is no longer in production, I can't find a reference to it's specific Gore-Tex product model. If I do, I'll update the review.
The Monitor's material is thicker and more rigid, which I prefer in a shell. The Parsec being thinner and more pliable does have it's advantages however. It folds better and does seem to hang off the body frame nicely.
Over time, the Monitor has maintained it's waterproof qualities very well. To date after 4 seasons I have not had to reapply a new coating. I appreciate that. It has also been very resistant to wear and any staining. Being black it may be harder to tell if anything has gotten into the textile but if it has I can't see it. The Parsec however, has seem to be prone to showing more dirt. The Parsec also does not seem to bead water nearly as well as the Monitor. The N70p fabric absorbs water but it has not penetrated through. My choice is more to bead right off the surface rather than absorb. For this reason, on a rainy day I'll turn right to the Monitor coat.
From the quick observation you'd be able to spot a few differences to the overall design. The Parsec has a separated hood and collar where the Monitor has a hood integrated to the collar as one piece. Pics of this are side by side below. The preference for which style is better would be personal. I find each have a different benefit. The integrated hood is simpler and the collar tends to stand more upright which I like. The integrated collar also works better if you are wearing a down insulator underneath like the Arc'Teryx Cerium LT hooded. However my insulator is the unhooded version called the Cerium LT.
On the back side of the hood, the two jackets use similar techniques for being able to cinch the hood down tight. This is via a single pull that when pulled, the hood face surround tightens. It's a simple design that works really well. The Veilance advantage is that the cord and cinch are hidden under a small tab of fabric making them more discreet. However, I do find that the separate hood and collar design of the Parsec allows you to tighten the face surround without pulling the collar onto the face and chin. Not having the flap is a minor advantage when gloves are on because you can find the cord more easily.
Both jackets include a chest pocket. The pocket itself is relatively the same size in volume. Very handy for storing your phone, wallet, etc. Each jacket hides the access zipper under a fabric flap, however the detail of its application is different.
The Parsec has a full length front zipper with a cover that runs the length of the jacket front and the chest pocket access is hidden behind. The zipper cover is actually larger towards the top and this is where the chest pocket zipper is located. The Monitor has an exposed full length zipper and the check pocket access zipper is hidden behind its own fabric flap to the side.
Pics are below. In my opinion the Parsec is preferred because it's more discreet but also has the added benefit of some wind protection on the from zipper.
Seemingly a small detail, this is another point in which attention to detail separates the two lines. The Parsec uses a larger piece of light weight webbing in a loop. Standard to what you find on most jackets from Arc'Teryx. The same loop is found on my Beta LT shell.
The Monitor has a much smaller, narrow and vertically oriented jacket loop. It's a very discreet tag and seems to be standard on Veilance gear. The same tag is inside my Veilance toque (the unbranded version of their RHO LTW beanie).
Both attach to the jacket at the bottom edge of the collar and are reinforced which you can see in the review pics below. Which is better? I would say the Parsec hook is more functional based on size but the subtle aesthetic of the Veilance application is more appealing.
Obviously both have pockets... and they are standard fair. For comparison, the way in which the pockets are patterned to the shell is different. The Parsec has a more traditional and obvious pocket hem covering the zipper closures. On the other hand, the Monitor has a more hidden pocket hem.
Common to each is a very small nylon webbing zipper pull. The layout of pockets is unique to all jackets so I'll spare a comparison between them.
Not a huge deal, but a point to note. As with all of the Veilance line, branding is minimal and non-existant on the exterior. Honestly, it's only the jacket hook on the Monitor that would ever give notice that it was an Arc'Teryx product. From my experience this is the same for all of their products.
Comparatively, the Parsec does include an Arc'Teryx logo embroidered on the upper left arm. Small and unobtrusive but if your weary of flashing a logo, it's to be considered.
A few things I've noticed and really love about the design of these coats. The Monitor coat thinks of some really handy details like a notch for the thumb in the sleeve hem that I posted about here. It's a detail I've come to really appreciate.
The Monitor coat also has a small tab of webbing at the base of the front zipper to hold onto when zipping up. It's a small detail but I have found this to be incredibly useful. Especially if you all bulked up for cold weather. A pic is included in the review gallery. I wish all my jackets had this tab.
Also found on the Monitor is a sleeve pocket on the upper left arm. While small and easy to miss, this may be the most often used pocket for me. I keep my phone there almost exclusively whether it was intended to be a phone pocket or not. We are so used to our pockets buzzing that I miss calls all the time. I never fail to notice my shoulder buzzing.
The inside of the Parsec coat has small plastic tabs on the end of the collar pull chord. These are inside the collar towards the front and side. Not only does it look nice and discreet it's quite easy to find and give a tug if a draft is getting down your back. A pic is in the gallery.
I have had a few issues with these jackets. Considering what I do with them daily, this is not unlikely or unexpected. I tend to work my way through gear pretty quickly. As noted in the overall section, the Monitor coat had a separation of one of the taped seams inside the pocket. When I contact Arc'Teryx about it they fixed it through their warehouse in Vancouver, no questions asked. It was all handled through their local store and I was contacted personally by their customer service staff through every stage of the process to keep me updated. It was a top shelf customer service experience. That piece of mind may be worth the extra cost of Veilance. I was told that Veilance products receive a priority in the repair queue. I had two items in for repair at the same time and the Veilance product moved through about a week faster.
Quite quickly I had an issue with the Parsec coat. The lower end of the front zipper seam was tearing itself away from the coat. I suspect that this is because the design has the front zipper starting lower down the front of the coat. When sitting or bending over, this posture puts a lot of stress and tension on that spot. What started to give way was the seam. As with the Monitor coat, I contacted Arc'Teryx and they took care of everything. They said they've never seen this issue before but fixed it well and reinforced this seam for me. Upon its return, it looks spotless and brand new. Kudos.
What do you want me to say? Both jackets are worth their weight and more. Well made, well designed, and of course well executed, which is what you would expect from Arc'Teryx. Is one better than the other? The answer would be relative to your personal style, preference, and your budget. At double the price, the Veilance jacket has a lot of design and detail going for it but it will come at a cost. I have been wearing the Monitor coat for a few seasons and it's held up incredibly well. When the taped seam split in the pocket, Arc'Teryx took care of repairs at no cost and with no questions. The Veilance products have a lifetime warranty and that's great reassurance because it seems built to last a lifetime. Although I haven't had the Parsec for as long, I've had a lot of inquiries about it from friends and have been stopped by strangers on the street and in stores to ask where I got it. This may be due to the more stealth and subtle nature of the Monitor or that the rare Utility Green colourway of my Parsec seems to be popular. It looks like a techy army trench. I'm satisfied with both and would quickly and happily buy replacement if need be.