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Hands-on Gear Review

Arc'teryx Beta SL Review

Arc'Teryx Beta SL
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $299 List | $208.73 at REI
Compare prices at 7 resellers
Pros:  Best mobility and range-of-motion in the review, awesome hood design, lightest Gore-Tex jacket we tested, long-lasting DWR
Cons:  No ventilation options, expensive for a Gore-Tex Paclite jacket
Bottom line:  A top-notch all-around rain shell that is lighter-than-avererage but gives up nothing for storm worthiness. Its hood is our favorite overall and was more durable than we originally anticipated
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Beta SL is our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice. It scored the highest, or near the highest, in all of our comparison categories and offered exceptionally versatility. It had the best in review mobility, featured a fantastic hood design, and provided exceptional storm worthiness at a below-average weight, all while maintaining a high-level of durability. There are some jackets in this review that might offer specific advantages for certain situations. One would be our Top Pick, the Outdoor Research Foray, which features the best ventilation of any jacket we tested. But if we could only have one jacket for a wide range of activities, from rainy around town walks, to backpacking, to alpine climbing, this rowdy weather do everything rain jacket would be it.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Rain Jackets of 2017

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Score Product Price Our Take
90
$299
Editors' Choice Award
A top-notch all-around rain shell that is lighter-than-avererage but gives up nothing for storm worthiness. Its hood is our favorite overall and was more durable than we originally anticipated
89
$215
Top Pick Award
A fantastic all-around shell with some of the best ventalation features out there in a fairly light but durable package
87
$200
While this jacket BARELY didn't win an award it remains one of our favorites and is an awesome do-anything jacket offering excellent storm worthiness, functionality & durability
84
$190
Top Pick Award
We loved the breathable eVent fabric & its very funcationally focused pockets & hood. While it isn't as durable as other options we tested it was plenty tough enough for most applications
84
$159
Top Pick Award
Lightest and most packable jacket in our review with excellent mobility and a sweet hood
82
$199
A solid all-around preformer that was super effective at keeping the wearer dry but its features and design weren't quite as functionally focused.
77
$129
Slightly more durably jacket that's features, preformance, and design will keep the budget focused climber or backpacker satisfied
75
$100
Best Buy Award
A killer jacket considering the $100 price offering above-average breathability among similarly designed coated waterproof breathable jackets
68
$99
A respectable preforming jacket especially considering the price. The Venture is one of the better jackets in the $100 price range that is slightly more durable than the PreCip but not as breathable nor cut as nicely.
65
$90
An excellent price on a jacket that keeps the wearer dry is hard to argue with, but it didn't offer near as many outdoor activity oriented features as other models we review

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday
November 21, 2016

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The Beta SL is a fantastic all-around shell. Our testers loved its articulated arms and shoulders that gave it a review-best rating in mobility, allowing its user to take part in nearly any activity they choose. The Beta's weather resistance is among the very best in the review.
Arc'Teryx Beta SL
Arc'Teryx Beta SL

Performance Comparison


The Arc'Teryx Beta SL is the top scoring rain jacket in our review, narrowly edging out the Outdoor Research Foray for first place. Check out the chart below to see where the rest of the jackets fall in line behind our Editors' Choice winner.



Water Resistance


This Editors' Choice award winner uses Gore-Tex Paclite, one of the lighter and more breathable fabrics in Gore's line of waterproof materials. The Beta SL's hood cinched around heads fantastically, regardless of head wear and the stiffened brim helped keep the rain off our face. We liked the jacket's sleek, low profile Velcro wrist closures that minimized how much water was able to run down our sleeves (if working with our hands above our head).


The Beta SL performed the best in both our shower and garden hose tests, as well as in our real world testing (which took place over two dozen days while backpacking and climbing in the very rainy Pacific Northwest). The jacket's watertight zipper and minimal internal storm flap, while small in appearance, was more than adequate to keep the water out, even during the wettest of storms. The Durable Water Repellency (DWR) held up very well on this jacket and was easily among the best in the review.

The Arc'teryx Beta SL uses Gore-Tex Paclite fabric and an excellent design that was among the best at keeping its wearer dry in both our shower and garden-hose tests  as well as in real-world use.
The Arc'teryx Beta SL uses Gore-Tex Paclite fabric and an excellent design that was among the best at keeping its wearer dry in both our shower and garden-hose tests, as well as in real-world use.

Hood Design
The Beta SL featured one of the best hood designs of any jacket we tested. With cinch-toggles on either side of the front of the hood and on a second piece of shock-cord (elastic) wrapping horizontally, the Beta SL's hood fit snugly over a baseball cap, beanie, or a bare head. This was one of the best hoods to be worn over a climbing or bike helmet. Lastly, the Beta SL's hood likely maintained the best peripheral vision of any of the models we tested.

The hood featured on the Arc'teryx Beta SL was among the very best in the review  providing top-notch storm protection that fit well over a wide-range of head wear while keeping as much peripheral vision as you could ever expect from a rain jacket.
The hood featured on the Arc'teryx Beta SL was among the very best in the review, providing top-notch storm protection that fit well over a wide-range of head wear while keeping as much peripheral vision as you could ever expect from a rain jacket.

Breathability and Ventilation


As we mentioned, the Beta SL uses Gore-Tex with Paclite technology. This fabric was among the most breathable in the review. The only fabric scoring better in breathability was the eVent used in the REI Rhyolite; even so, the results were close.


The only small drawback of the Beta SL is that it doesn't feature any additional ventilation. If that is what you're looking for, the Outdoor Research Foray and the Marmot Minimalist both feature pit-zips (much bigger ones in the case of the Foray). This isn't a deal breaker, but for higher exertion activities, we couldn't dump heat and internal moisture as well as we could with other models.

Arc'Teryx Beta SL doesn't feature any venting features like pit-zips of mesh-lined pockets. This made it slightly harder to dump moisture and heat compared with other jackets in our review. While the inability to vent was occasionally an issue  most of our testers didn't think it was a very big deal  thanks in-part to Gore-Tex Paclite  which was among the most breathable fabrics in the review. Our testing team just made more of an effort to layer appropriately for the activity.
Arc'Teryx Beta SL doesn't feature any venting features like pit-zips of mesh-lined pockets. This made it slightly harder to dump moisture and heat compared with other jackets in our review. While the inability to vent was occasionally an issue, most of our testers didn't think it was a very big deal, thanks in-part to Gore-Tex Paclite, which was among the most breathable fabrics in the review. Our testing team just made more of an effort to layer appropriately for the activity.

Comfort and Mobility


The Beta SL featured the best mobility and range of motion of any jacket in our review. Check out the chart below to see how the other jackets in our review performed compared to the Beta SL.


We loved this jacket's slightly longer arm length and exceptionally well-designed and articulated sleeves. Even folks who didn't have longer arms found this combination of features had the ability to keep the ends of the sleeves from pulling back from their wrists. They never felt bulky or TOO long, and most folks commented that this design just felt more comfortable.

The Arc'Teryx Beta SL featured an awesome cut and very well articulated shoulders and sleeves  helping it to score the best mobility and range-of-motion of any jacket in our review. Whether climbing  skiing or just plain doing something with your hands above-your-head or out to the side  the Beta SL did the best job at minimizing bunching  keeping the hem from being pulled up  and moving with your body.
The Arc'Teryx Beta SL featured an awesome cut and very well articulated shoulders and sleeves, helping it to score the best mobility and range-of-motion of any jacket in our review. Whether climbing, skiing or just plain doing something with your hands above-your-head or out to the side, the Beta SL did the best job at minimizing bunching, keeping the hem from being pulled up, and moving with your body.

The Beta SL was the lightest jacket we tested that featured a Gore-Tex membrane. Despite its low weight, this award winner still featured several small nods to comfort, like a micro-fleece lining on the top of the inside of the zipper. This extra worked to protect the wearer's chin and a similar fabric on the back of the neck. Our testing team loved the balance of a fairly athletic fit that still allowed for effective layering without bunching in the arm-pit area.

The Arc'teryx Beta SL featured one of the best hoods in our review that effectively cinched down over a wide range of headwear  while keeping as good of peripheral vision as you could hope while wearing a hood.
The Arc'teryx Beta SL featured one of the best hoods in our review that effectively cinched down over a wide range of headwear, while keeping as good of peripheral vision as you could hope while wearing a hood.

Pocket Design
The Beta SL offers an extremely functional pocket design that didn't pinch under a waist-belt while wearing a pack. The pockets are still low enough to offer a nice place to keep our hands warm and tucked away. When necessary, they offer storage for small items; most importantly the pockets didn't pinch zippers into our hips while wearing a pack, a common occurrence with pockets that are too low.

The Arc'teryx Beta SL features two pockets that are slightly elevated compared to most models. Our testing team universally LOVED this feature; they provided a great place to tuck your hands out of the cold but we were still able to access them with a backpack's hip-belt or climbing harness on. Best of all  there was no zipper to get pinched under a hip-belt and bite into your waist at the end of a long day of carrying heavy loads.
The Arc'teryx Beta SL features two pockets that are slightly elevated compared to most models. Our testing team universally LOVED this feature; they provided a great place to tuck your hands out of the cold but we were still able to access them with a backpack's hip-belt or climbing harness on. Best of all, there was no zipper to get pinched under a hip-belt and bite into your waist at the end of a long day of carrying heavy loads.

Weight


The SL in Beta SL stands for Super Light. At 11 ounces, the Beta SL is the lightest Gore-Tex jacket we tested and among the lightest rain jackets overall. Arc'teryx reduced weight in several ways: no additional ventilation, using 13mm seam tape that is the smallest in our review, and watertight zippers with minimally sized storm flaps. Even the Velcro wrist straps are lower-profile than most, minimizing weight wherever possible.


Durability


The Beta SL uses a 40 denier external nylon fabric that our testing team found slightly more durable than average among jackets we tested. It's tough enough for most outdoor activities, from downhill skiing to ice climbing. Besides the Beta SL's external face fabric, there are several features that increase the jacket's overall durability. First, there aren't any seams on the shoulders of the jacket, which is typically the first place the seam tape will pull back.


The seam tape on this jacket is the thinnest in the review, which not only saves weight but is also less prone to peeling after extended use. The inside of the chin area has an additional layer of nylon to combat the wearer's sweat from clogging the pores of the membrane, which can cause it to prematurely break down or delaminate. Bottom line is the Beta is among the toughest jackets we tested; the Outdoor Research Foray and Marmot Minimalist just barely edged out the Beta.

Packed Size


We were impressed with how small this jacket packed down. It's roughly 25 percent more compressible than most three layer Gore-Tex jackets. Compared with other jackets in our review (that tended to be on the lighter and more packable end of the spectrum), the Beta SL offered a marginally smaller packed size than average. It did compress smaller than the Outdoor Research Foray, The North Face Dryzzle, or Patagonia Torrentshell, but wasn't quite as small as our Best Buy, the Marmot PreCip or the Outdoor Research Helium II, which was half the compressed size as most jackets we tested.


Best Applications


The Beta SL is a quintessential all-around rain shell. It is perfectly at home while used on mountaineering trips, long-range backpacking, backcountry skiing or simply walking the dog on a wet Sunday morning. It's light enough for long range thru-hikers, alpine climbing, or for folks who want a "just-in-case jacket" at the bottom of their pack. This award winner offered the best range of motion of any jacket we tested, making it a great option for ice climbing or other activities that require this kind of mobility.

Not only did the Arc'teryx Beta SL feature one of the best hoods in our review but it also featured the BEST hood to fit over a climbing or bike helmet.
Not only did the Arc'teryx Beta SL feature one of the best hoods in our review but it also featured the BEST hood to fit over a climbing or bike helmet.

Value


At $300, the Beta SL is the most expensive jacket in our review; because it's arguable more versatile and lighter weight than many $400-$700 jackets, we think it remains a good value. Those $400+ hard shells might be slightly more durable and could perform better for specific applications like downhill skiing; however, for a true all-around jacket good that can be used for day hiking or alpine climbing, we would prefer the Beta SL. Compared to other Gore-Tex Paclite jackets, the Beta SL is roughly $80-$100 more than most models.

We like the mobility, low weight, exceptional hood design, and amazing storm-worthiness of this jacket. However, there are several other Gore-Tex Paclite models that range from $200-$225 that are very close in rating. In some cases, they might even offer a particular advantage, like the Outdoor Research Foray, which offers far better ventilation, but is also 50 percent heavier.

Conclusion and the Bottom Line


The Beta SL is our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice because it scored at or near the top in nearly every comparison category. Its only downside was that that it is not as well ventilated and is on the more expensive side. Our testers loved this extremely versatile jacket with its mobility, hood design, top-notch storm-resistance and overall functionality. That said, there are a few jackets that performed very near the Beta SL in almost every category. In addition to the Outdoor Research Foray, the Marmot Minimalist and REI Rhyolite were also exceptionally close to the the Beta SL; they give up very very little and offer a $100 savings.
Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 21, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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