Updates to the Beta AR
Since we tested the Beta AR, Arc'teryx has revised a few aspects of it. The updated version features Cohaesive cord lock hood adjustments, Rain Shield zippers on the hand pockets, and a helmet-compatible DropHood design. Overall, the jacket looks very similar to the version we tested and features some new color options. The updated Beta AR is pictured in the first image, followed by the model we tested in turquoise.
Hands-On Review of the Beta AR
The Arc'teryx Beta AR is a highly versatile hardshell for all mountain use. The Beta series emphasizes versatility, as does the AR subcategory for "All Round." This jacket, not surprisingly, scored very high across all categories.
The Beta AR was a dream for ice climbing.
The Beta AR is one of the top scoring jackets for Weather Protection. It is highly stormproof in design and manufacturing. The body is made of N40p-X 3L Gore-Tex, which is slightly lighter weight than the fabric used on the arms: N80p-X GORE-TEX Pro. This saves weight while improving durability where it counts.
The many looks of the Beta AR.
The Beta AR is also very well designed to withstand a variety of mountain weather conditions. The hood adjusts easily and seals well around your head or helmet. But the jacket also features a collar which provides excellent wind protection when you're not wearing the hood. This was not a feature we felt was necessary for our uses of a hardshell, and we thought it added a little weight and complexity, but if you climb often in a hardshell and want to keep the wind out whether or not you have your hood up, this might be the perfect design for you.
The high collar on the Beta AR felt a little odd, but definitely added a lot of wind and storm protection.
The hood features four adjustment points, which makes it fit very well to a variety of head and helmet shapes, and the brim and cinching cord around the face help keep rain and snow out of your face and eyes. The back length is relatively long, ensuring good coverage, and has a drawcord at the waist to keep out drafts.
This jacket is well balanced among durability, lightweight, and versatility. It is not the lightest or most supple, but it still allows an excellent range of motion.
Compared to the other award-winning jackets, this one is stiffer than the OR Clairvoyant and the Beta SL, but more supple than the Alpha SV. As such, if you're looking for something that offers a little more burly storm protection and durability, but still feels soft for technical climbing purposes, this might be the right balance for you.
The Beta AR, an excellent and versatile hardshell jacket.
Arc'teryx placed the hand pockets high enough to be accessible while wearing a harness. We liked this for another concept of Mobility—it allows you quick access to snacks or navigation tools without having to slow down or fiddle with awkward pockets and zippers.
Our favorite aspect of Arc'teryx jackets is the way they design the paneling to allow impeccable ease of movement in a type of jacket that otherwise can feel stiff and plasticky. The Beta AR articulates very well in all of the climbing directions we tried.
The Beta AR uses Gore-Tex Pro, which is the burliest of the three main Gore-Tex fabrics. It is a little thicker and more durable, and provides an even more inspiring barrier from the storm—but it will not breathe as easily as the Beta SL or OR Clairvoyant.
The fabric is still impressive as a waterproof/breathable hardshell material, however, and this jacket features pit zippers to expel excess hot air quickly. You can unzip the pits from either end and make the vent hole big or small depending on how much precip is falling or how much heat you need to dump.
The unique front pockets unzip in the upward direction.
This jacket adds an impressive amount of features for a minimal cost to weight. At 8.5 ounces for a small jacket, it is only 2.5 ounces heavier than the Beta SL, but features a storm collar, pit zips, and much heavier 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro instead of ultralight 2-layer Gore-Tex PacLite.
This is an obvious choice as an all-around hardshell for many mountain sports, many seasons, many climates, many adventures, and many years. It is light enough, still, for summer mountaineering—all but the most fast-and-light—and heavy enough to take on most expeditions.
Arc'teryx still keeps it relatively simple with the Beta AR. They have included features which improve the versatility of the jacket without paying a high price in added weight.
The pit zips help manage the thicker Gore-Tex Pro fabric, and allow you to use this jacket in warmer climates (or lower on the mountain) without fear of overheating. The collar provides excellent wind protection even when not wearing the hood, making this a reasonable choice for windy climates, with or without rain in the forecast.
The Beta AR is long enough to tuck under a harness, and the bottom is still easy to cinch tighter to keep those strong gusts out.
The hood has four cinching adjustment points that ensure a proper fit around any head and helmet shape. And the brim with cinching cord around the face helps keep the weather out of your eyes.
We love inner chest zippered pockets.
This jacket features a more "regular" fit, instead of a trim, athletic fit. This allows you to layer warm clothing underneath more natural, which is a crucial feature of an all-around hardshell—you can adapt more readily to cold, warm, rain, snow, and any odd mixture of all four.
This jacket also has exceptional pockets: two high hand pockets, easily accessible while wearing a harness, and an internal zippered chest pocket which is a little small for some of today's massive smartphones, but excellent.
The simple, streamlined, fully featured design of the Beta AR.
This jacket impressed us with its durability. It is second only to the Arc'teryx Alpha SV, which is the burliest hardshell we tested.
To keep this jacket lighter and more versatile, Arc'teryx used a lighter weight fabric on the torso, where you don't typically get as much abrasion, but kept the burlier fabric on the arms to ensure the occasional offwidth or scrappy alpine rock move doesn't turn the jacket into an expensive one-time-use layer—or a patchwork quilt of ripstop patches.
Durable and lightweight: Arc'teryx used two different fabrics to save weight and add strength where it counts.
Beyond the use of durable fabrics, Arc'teryx is known for high-quality manufacturing and excellent craftsmanship of their products. When they launch a new product, you know it has been seriously tested for a long time and by an impressive panel of high-end mountain athletes. The company's description of the Beta AR matched perfectly what we learned about it, which tells us that their products see a significant round of field testing before they are sold to the public. Not every outdoor company does this; some prefer to test their products on the public, and while that might make their gear less expensive, in the long run, that's not the case. With Arc'teryx products, if you take good care of them, they will last an alarmingly long time. Our environmentally conscious minds really like that fact, too.
The Beta AR is an excellent all-around hardshell. The Beta series of jackets from Arc'teryx are specifically designed with versatility in mind, and the AR series stands for "All Round." It's hard to imagine a jacket with more attention to versatility!
As such, this jacket earned the top score of 9 out of 10. We awarded no perfect 10 in versatility because that would be impossible. A perfect 10 would be as light and breathable as the Patagonia Houdini wind shirt and as burly as the Arc'teryx Alpha SV. Yea, right.
The Beta AR is so versatile you can wear a down jacket under or over it!
It is difficult to think of a mountain sport that the Beta AR wouldn't adapt to. It is, as advertised, a true all around mountain-ready hardshell jacket. It even serves as an excellent wind jacket due to the high collar inside the hood, which is an unusual feature on a hardshell jacket.
This is a super durable jacket that will withstand the occasional expedition but is still light enough for "everyday" mountain use. We would take this on summer climbs of Mt. Rainier and spring adventures in the Alaska Range. We loved ice climbing in this jacket because it was easy to layer warm clothing underneath, and then vent with the pit zips when we overestimated our warmth needs. This is not the absolute best jacket for fast and light or highly aerobic pursuits, for that you might prefer the ultralight Arc'teryx Beta SL, or possibly the OR Clairvoyant, which feels almost like a soft shell.
Arc'teryx is not known to be cheap. But, Arc'teryx is also known not to be cheap. Wait, what? We mean that they make a seriously high-quality product that will last, if well cared for, for years and many adventures to come. This is a spendy little jacket, but not for what it is. You can go for a cheaper jacket and expect to replace it sooner, or you can go for Arc'teryx, and so long as you don't succumb to the temptation of a better color next year, you'll be wearing this thing for a very long time. If we had multiple years to test these jackets, we would log each and every day we wore it in the mountains, and if we ran a price per day used, we're pretty sure this would be the best deal out there.
Arc'teryx is a brand that gives you what you pay for. They test their gear extensively in the field and use the best materials and manufacturing technology available. We remain skeptical of any equipment until we thoroughly test it—and Arc'teryx is one that reliably stands above the rest after significant field testing. The Beta AR is an excellent all-around hardshell jacket that will be useful for a wide variety of mountain adventures, and for many, many days in the mountains.
Top Pick for Versatility!