< Go to Hardshell Jackets

Hands-on Gear Review

Arc'teryx Theta AR Review


Hardshell Jacket

Arc'Teryx Theta AR Jacket Black
Price:   Varies from $491 - $625 online  —  Compare at 5 sellers
Pros:  Very protective, durable, lots of pockets, great collar and hood
Cons:  Heavy, expensive, very bulky and baggy fit, loud and crinkly
Editors' Rating:     
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx

Overview

The Arc'teryx Theta AR is the most expensive jacket in this review with a price tag of $625.00, but it is also the most heavily featured. In many ways it is very similar to the Arc'teryx Beta AR, but has a much lower hem line that protects better against snow while skiing. The Theta also has an extra mid-back draw cord to snug up the empty space and includes a sleeve pocket and larger interior pocket. It has a GORE-TEX Pro membrane paired with a combination of 80 denier and 40 denier fabrics that make it like a bomb shelter when it comes to weather protection. If you want the single most durable jacket in this review, then look no further, but if you want something that is form fitting and designed to be light, then we recommend something like our Editors' Choice award winner Arc'teryx Alpha FL instead.

Updated Colors for the Arc'Teryx Theta AR - November 2016
Arc'Teryx has updated the Theta AR's colorways. Scroll down to find out more.

RELATED: Our complete review of hardshell jackets

Compare Side-by-Side

Compare all Hardshell Jackets >

Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Andy Wellman
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
November 11, 2016

The New Version of the Arc'Teryx Theta AR Jacket vs. the Older Version


No new changes have occurred since we tested the Theta AR except updated colors. It is now available in Admiral Blue, Black, and Cardinal Red. These updated colors are shown below.
Arc'Teryx Theta AR Jacket Admiral Blue
Arc'Teryx Theta AR Jacket Black
Arc'Teryx Theta AR Jacket Cardinal Red
 

Hands-On Review


If you intend to live or work in the gnarliest of weather and want a jacket that can protect you from those hard elements for years to come, there is no better jacket in this review than the Theta AR. Its reinforced GORE-TEX Pro, combined with the highest quality construction, ensures that this will be among the longest lasting of your outdoor garments. While it is designed to be versatile and functional for all outdoor activities, it is not a specialist in any one activity. However, none will live up to the moniker of "storm shelter" quite like this one will.

Performance Comparison


Designed as an all-around jacket that can do everything  we can certainly attest to the fact that the Theta AR can ski in the backcountry. This jacket had the lowest and longest cut of any in the review  a feature that we loved for skiing in fresh snow.
Designed as an all-around jacket that can do everything, we can certainly attest to the fact that the Theta AR can ski in the backcountry. This jacket had the lowest and longest cut of any in the review, a feature that we loved for skiing in fresh snow.

Weather Protection


Arc'teryx describes this jacket as a "storm shelter," and we would have to agree. Weather protection is the forte of the Theta AR. In addition to having the highest quality membrane combined with the burliest face fabrics in our review, what sets this jacket apart is the storm hood and high collar. The collar, like the one on the Beta AR, is the comfiest of any we reviewed, making it by far the easiest of any jacket to keep fully zipped up, all the time, with no discomfort or mobility restrictions. The Theta AR features the lowest, and therefore most protective, hemline of any jacket, and like all Arc'teryx jackets, the Velcro quality on the wrist enclosures was top notch. (It's worth noting here that the Beta AR uses the same membrane/face fabric combo as the Theta.)

The high collar and storm hood did a good job protecting our face from the water in the shower test. Notice the evidence of wetting out on the shoulders. For this jacket it only happened where pack straps would rub  suggesting that wearing a pack had worn off the DWR coating.
The high collar and storm hood did a good job protecting our face from the water in the shower test. Notice the evidence of wetting out on the shoulders. For this jacket it only happened where pack straps would rub, suggesting that wearing a pack had worn off the DWR coating.

Weight


At 18.1 ounces, the Theta AR is one of the heaviest in this review. Only the Mountain Hardwear Torsun and REI Shuksan II clocked in heavier. We must say, though, that for being one of the heaviest we tried, it's still a pretty light jacket. The added features and longer length are what make it heavier than the Beta AR, and that difference ended up being the only thing separating the two jackets in score.

This jacket is made of 40 denier GORE-TEX Pro and is one of the most durable and heavy in our review. If you need to most protection from the weather you can possibly get  and don't care at all about the price  this is the jacket for you.
This jacket is made of 40 denier GORE-TEX Pro and is one of the most durable and heavy in our review. If you need to most protection from the weather you can possibly get, and don't care at all about the price, this is the jacket for you.

Mobility & Fit


We awarded the Theta AR 6 out of a possible 10 points for Mobility and Fit. The GORE-TEX Pro membrane is loud and crinkly, and the jacket is nowhere near as mobile as some of the best, like the Outdoor Research Axiom and Westcomb Shift LT. We did, however, love how the storm hood worked with a helmet. Its four draw strings really help you hone in on the perfect fit. Depending on how tight you cranked it down, the hood either gripped the head and helmet, or let it move freely inside, but regardless, we never had an issue with impaired visibility. What we didn't like about this jacket was what we considered its excessive space and bagginess in the chest and torso. For us there was simply too much jacket for a size large.

If you need a jacket that's larger in the chest or mid-section, this may be a good option for you, as it does not fit as tight and trim as other jackets in this review.

The lowest hemline of any in the review means great coverage all around. You can see how this jacket has a bit too much girth for our head tester.
The lowest hemline of any in the review means great coverage all around. You can see how this jacket has a bit too much girth for our head tester.

Breathability


Surprisingly, we found the Theta AR to be not as hot as most others while running on the treadmill. We think this may have been due to extra air escaping out the wide neck collar. Likewise, we were unable to find any moisture inside the jacket after the test, proving that it is highly breathable. Just in case conditions are not right for breathability, Arc'teryx also included pit zips under the arms in this model for extra venting.

Pit zips give added ventilation for this heavy GORE-TEX Pro membrane. However  it is worth nothing that we felt this jacket did as good or better job of breathing than any of the other membranes out there  but of course it's nice to have the options.
Pit zips give added ventilation for this heavy GORE-TEX Pro membrane. However, it is worth nothing that we felt this jacket did as good or better job of breathing than any of the other membranes out there, but of course it's nice to have the options.

Features


The Theta AR features a number of things that other jackets do not. It has a very large interior pocket, as well as a sleeve pocket. What we really liked is that it was the only jacket to have a mid-back draw cord that helped us cinch up the excessive bagginess, something that was not present in the Beta AR. The main pockets are two large chest height hand pockets that easily sit well above a harness or waist belt of a pack. All in all, the Theta AR was the most heavily featured jacket we tested, but we found that it was upstaged by some of the more practical features found on the Patagonia Refugitive.

This jacket was the only one to include a mid-back draw cord that is cinchable through the front pocket. This helps with the issue of too much material in the front.
This jacket was the only one to include a mid-back draw cord that is cinchable through the front pocket. This helps with the issue of too much material in the front.

The high collar was one of our favorites again this year  it is the most comfortable on any jacket to have zipped up all the way  which is nice when the weather is bad. Also of note is the four different draw strings that can be used to adjust the tightness of the hood.
The high collar was one of our favorites again this year, it is the most comfortable on any jacket to have zipped up all the way, which is nice when the weather is bad. Also of note is the four different draw strings that can be used to adjust the tightness of the hood.

Best Applications


This jacket is designed to be used for any outdoor application, but it is a bit overkill in our minds for anywhere except places where the weather will always be bad, like the coast of Alaska. If weather protection is so important that you are willing to sacrifice other characteristics like mobility and weight, then this is the jacket for you.

Value


The Theta AR will run you $625.00. This price tag makes it the most expensive one in the review. In our opinion, you can find higher performing jackets for less money, making it questionable what sort of value you are getting. Arc'teryx products have long been known as some of the most expensive available, but most people seem to think that they get what they pay for.

Similar to the Theta AR, but offering a set of features more conducive to high end climbing is the Arc'teryx Alpha SV. While it does cost a bit more money, the SV comes in a sleeker and more mobile fit. Features included on the SV are the harness hemlock, twin naploean-style cross over pockets, and a protective storm hood and collar similar to the design of the Alpha FL. The Theta AR has a lower hemline, more spacious fit, the high collar design like the Beta AR, and high handwarmer pockets. While these jackets are similar, they have different uses in mind. The Theta AR will be more enjoyable for everyday use and skiing, while the Alpha SV is specifically made for high end climbing and mountaineering.

Conclusion


The Arc'teryx Theta AR is the most expensive and the burliest jacket included in this review. For the relatively warm and dry climate of Colorado where most of our testing took place, it was not our favorite option. However, in certain climates, this jacket could easily outperform all the others. We liked it slightly better than the Arc'teryx Beta AR because of its longer cut and mid-back draw cord. For only $29.00 more, we think that it is worth the extra money.

Testing this "bombproof shelter" in heinous conditions in the Ouray Ice Park on a day when it seems like we should be skiing. The Theta AR withstood the elements well.
Testing this "bombproof shelter" in heinous conditions in the Ouray Ice Park on a day when it seems like we should be skiing. The Theta AR withstood the elements well.

Other Versions


Theta SVX - $749.00
  • SV: Severe Weather. Constructed completely with 80D face fabric, more durable version. Does not have the high collar.

Theta AR - Women's - $579.00
  • Women's version
  • Women's Hardshell Editors' Choice winner
Andy Wellman

Where to Buy?


Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 11, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 1 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Mar 7, 2016 - 06:37pm
IM · Climber · Reno, NV
The review hits the nail on the head when they called this jacket "the fortress". I was out this weekend in a pretty good storm in the Sierra, started out at 4:00pm, 36 degrees and pouring rain, which then turned to heavy, wet snow. Throughout 3 hours of moving and digging in my tent for the night, I was 100% dry underneath. It is a long and big jacket, but I like that for layering, and I love the length due to my long torso.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No


Have you used the Arc'teryx Theta AR?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Amazon $490.97  -  21% off!
Backcountry $625.00
REI $625.00
Compare prices at 5 sellers >

*You help support OutdoorGearLab's product testing and reviews by purchasing from our retail partners.
Helpful Buying Tips

Unbiased.