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Arc'teryx Beta AR Review
Cons: A bit large and bulky, expensive, face fabric easily stains.
Bottom line: A fantastic hardshell that has a perfect set of features and an amazing collar, but comes at a hefty price.
The Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket is a bomber hardshell that offers fantastic weather protection and comes loaded with a whole heap of handy features. The jacket is part of the Beta series, meaning it's made for all-around mountain use, and the AR also stands for all-around, so this is designed to be one versatile jacket. Whether you use it on expeditions or while alpine climbing, skiing, working outside, or simply as your everyday, all winter long jacket, this durable beast will not let you down. If you have the money to afford its hefty price tag and want one jacket that can do it all, look no further than the Beta AR.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Arc'teryx Beta AR remains unchanged for the 2016-17 winter, except for the selection of colors. It is an all-around jacket that will do an incredible job of protecting you from the elements while providing exemplary durability with its blend of 80D and 40D face fabrics paired with a GORE-TEX Pro membrane. The features included with this jacket are top-notch and it is built with careful craftsmanship. Arc'teryx describes it as their ultimate lightweight hardshell, but at 16.7 ounces, we hardly found it to be super light or super packable. We did love the weather protection it offers, especially the tall collar feature that is really comfortable and doesn't rub the chin while sealing off the neck from the elements.
This jacket fits the more "traditional" mold of hardshell jacket than the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, which won our Best Overall Hardshell Jacket award. It has all the features one would expect, such as pit zips and dual chest pockets, and is of course a little bit heavier because of it. It is perhaps most similar to the Marmot Cerro Torre in this year's review, although the Beta AR will set you back quite a few more dollars than the Marmot Cerro Torre. For a slightly lighter and more affordable version of this jacket, check out the Arc'teryx Beta LT Jacket, which uses only 40D nylon face fabric, but also lacks the amazing high collar.
This shell is made of both 80D and 40D face fabrics backed with a lightweight GORE-TEX Pro membrane. Most of the face fabric is the lighter and more supple 40D, with the 80D reinforcing the shoulders. It includes all the stellar features found on the other Arc'teryx jackets we have tested over the years, like a four-point adjustable storm hood and water-tight zippers. What we really love about the Beta AR is its collar. The collar is a separate piece of material from the hood, meaning it wraps and seals all the way around your neck, and is incredibly cozy and comfortable. It is easily the most comfortable collar in this review, and has plenty of room underneath it for warmth layers or a Buff to help keep your face and neck warm. We thought this jacket was up there with the best when it came to weather protection, and so awarded it 9 out of 10 points, similar to the Arc'teryx Alpha FL and Outdoor Research Furio.
Weight and Packability
At 16.7 ounces for a size large, the Beta AR is a moderately heavy and relatively bulky jacket. It weighed approximately the same amount as the Marmot Cerro Torre, and also packed down about as well as that jacket. In year's past we considered this a heavy jacket, but compared to behemoths like The North Face Free Thinker Jacket or even the similar Patagonia Triolet, this jacket now fits in the middle of the range. Regardless, we don't quite agree when Arc'teryx brings out the marketing speak to call this jacket "minimalist." The reality is that it is about average, and received 7 points.
Mobility and Fit
This shell is cut to Arc'teryx's "Athletic Fit," standard, meaning that it includes plenty of room underneath for layering. To us, it felt bulky and baggy in the chest and lacks the mid-back draw cord like the one found on the Rab Latok Alpine Jacket to snug everything up. While it is designed to allow plenty of layering underneath, we feel that the cut of this jacket could hardly be called "athletic." Additionally, the heavy weight Gore-Tex Pro membrane is stiff and crinkly, making this one of the less mobile jackets available.
That said, we liked how the hood fit, even with a helmet on, allowing for movement of the head and helmet within the hood, rather than moving with it, but our visibility was never impaired. The hemline of this jacket is at waist level, which we found to be sufficient, but we have to admit that we liked a lower hem for skiing a little bit better. People with a larger frame will do well with the fit of this jacket, as it doesn't have any of the constrictions we found with The North Face Fuseform Brigandine 3L. 6 out of 10 possible points.
Venting and Breathability
By testing this jacket's breathability by running in it on the treadmill, we were able to ascertain in the past that the GORE-TEX Pro membrane does at least a good of job breathing as any of the other membranes used in comparable jackets — if not better. However, we also learned that raising the relative humidity level within the jacket to the point where direct diffusion breathing is taking place sure makes one uncomfortable. For this reason, it is probably wise to use the easily manipulated pit zips to ventilate and dump heat and moisture however one can. We liked how the zippers on the pits zips performed, although we think this jacket could be well served by including a two-way front zip to aid in ventilation even more, like those found on the Marmot Cerro Torre or Outdoor Research Axiom. We awarded 7 out of 10 points for this metric.
This product has a feature set that differentiates it from jackets like the Arc'teryx Alpha FL; the Beta AR is a bit more comfortable to hang out in, but is a little heavier as a result. Instead of chest pockets, it has two large and high handwarmer pockets that live above the hip belt line of a pack or harness. It also has a small internal zip pocket. We have already described how much we love the high collar. While the draw cord buckles are adequate, they are not as good as the ones found on the Patagonia Refugitive. The Beta AR has four adjustment points on its storm hood, but is lacking the harness hemlock feature (present on the Alpha FL) that keeps it from riding up with a harness on. Compared to the competition, the quantity of features found on this jacket is merely average, although we liked how well they all functioned. 7 out of 10 points.
While you could certainly climb ice or large mountains in this jacket, we don't think it performs quite as well as the Alpha FL in those environments. This might be one of the best jackets to buy if you are wanting something that can do it all — skiing, climbing, working, or hanging out on gnarly winter days. However, we don't think it is the best jacket for doing any one of these things — it is rather the consummate all-arounder.
This jacket costs $575, which is a lot of money. The materials and craftsmanship probably make this jacket worth that price. However, for any given activity, there is a jacket in this review that will probably do a better job at a lower price, throwing into question the actual value you are getting for a jacket that is so expensive.
The Arc'teryx Beta AR is a great winter hardshell that will protect you from the weather in any conditions. It is an extremely durable and well-made all-around jacket that can perform admirably for any activity. While it is perhaps one of the most comfortable jackets to hang out in that we have tested, its bulkier fit makes it less technically inclined than it's Alpha FL cousin. While we like this jacket a lot, we found it to be about average in head-to-head comparison testing.
— Andy Wellman
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