Arc'teryx Beta AR Pant Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Rugged, very weather-ready, with excellent features
Cons: Heavy, expensive, with large and bulky cuffs
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arc'teryx Beta AR Pant is a sturdy product designed to bridge the gap between rugged ski pants and regular rain pants. Some will use these as your typical hiking and mountaineering shell pants, while others will find them totally appropriate as ski and snowboard resort pants. Spanning this broad gap leaves significant compromises in either extreme, but the end result might just work for you. They are plenty protective and breathable; the fabric, especially when brand new, is stiff and crinkly. They are heavier than we'd like for hiking and mountaineering and more confining and close-fitting than many seek for resort ski wear.
In sum, these are nothing special. The construction is immaculate, and the materials are excellent, but the niche they fill is a strange one. If you find yourself hiking for weeks in cold rain, these would be a good choice. No many enjoy hiking like that, though. Even for extended rainy exposure, lighter construction and less bulky cuffs are preferred.
Here, these pants excel. The Gore-Tex fabric and careful construction work together to keep all the weather outside; we expect nothing else of the long-time partnership between Arc'teryx and Gore-Tex. Even in snowy and brushy walking, the integrated gaiter keeps moisture out of your boots. Few hiking rain pants have an integrated gaiter similar to this; it definitely adds some weather resistance (though careful use of an added elastic stirrup can replicate a gaiter even in regular cuffed pants) but adds a lot of bulk.
We got similar weather protection from the Foray and Minimalist. These other pants are nearly half the weight and bulk of the Beta AR.
Comfort and Mobility
We expect excellent tailoring from Arc'teryx, and as such, the Beta AR shell pants meet our expectations. What is interesting, especially as other companies move forward in this regard, is that they use relatively stiff and "loud" fabrics for their shell gear. They must have some reason, but the result is shell clothing that isn't quite as comfortable as we'd wish it to be. We want shell pants and jackets with the Arc'teryx tailoring and attention to detail but with softer fabrics. The Beta AR pants are downright loud in use, and this has been our experience with other Arc'teryx gear as well. It eventually quiets, with use, but the initial experience is scratchy.
Breathability and Venting
When it comes to breathability, Gore-Tex fabrics are near the top of the heap. Only the DryQ membrane of the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic is more breathable than any of the Gore-Tex products. The Beta AR augments the breathability of the fabric with pretty good venting, and the 3/4 side zips vent basically as much as full zips do. Even the zip fly can be used as a vent, modesty permitting.
The usability, protection, and comfort features of the Beta AR are plentiful and handy. The adjustable and low-profile integrated belt works with a zippered fly and central waistband snap to hold the pants up but not interfere with a climbing harness or backpack waist belt. The long side zips open to vent and to get the pants on over even the bulkiest ski boots. The lack of full-size zips is only a problem when trying to put the pants on or off over crampons, snowshoes, or skis. The double-layered cuffs seal tightly over boots of many dimensions. The cuffs are nicest for very large boots and for a tight seal while maintaining the appearance of regular hanging pant cuffs.
All the features and durability add up to make the Beta AR a relatively bulk package. The compact Outdoor Research Foray packs to the size of a large apple while the Beta AR is closer to the size of a pineapple.
At well over a pound, the Beta AR is the sort of thing you choose for when you absolutely know you need all of its protection. These are not the pants you carry "just in case". When there are options that are less than half the weight, choosing the Beta AR is not a choice you make for light weight. The Top Pick Outdoor Research Helium, for instance, is only a little over one third the mass of the Beta AR. In extended poor weather, the Beta will be much more comfortable and protective, but the Helium is featherweight by comparison.
Here the Beta AR excels. That stiff, rugged fabric and Arc'teryx's proven construction techniques combine to make pants that will last for years of even the most robust and stormy use. These pants will last longer than the ultralight products like the ultra-packable Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic.
The best application of this product is difficult to pin down, as it combines unique attributes. The Beta AR is rugged and very weather-ready. It is as stout as many ski resort pants, without some of the more important features (some sort of warmth, for instance) of those pants. For really warm and wet ski conditions, consider the Beta AR. For hiking in the rain, the Beta AR will keep you dry and will do so for a long, long time. The catch for human-powered adventures is in the weight. Also, when hung over normal hiking and climbing footwear, the cuffs of the Beta AR are bulky and swish together in normal strides.
You don't choose these if you're on a strict budget. Of course, value is correlated with something more than just a price tag. They are more expensive than most, but they will last much longer than most as well. When you amortize over a long lifespan, the value of the Beta AR might be greater.
The ultra-burly and fully-featured Arc'teryx Beta AR is ready for the most rigorous of use. A pair of these in your pack are bulky and heavy, but will stand up to years of gnarly weather.
— Jediah Porter