Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Beta SL Hybrid is a lightweight hardshell, or "super light" according to the SL acronym. It is one of Arc'teryx's more fully-featured lightweight hardshell jackets intended for all-around mountain use. It's an excellent choice as an all-around hardshell for general mountain use. We were confident enough (in its performance and protection) to take it ski touring and ice climbing. We also found it to be light and compact enough for backpacking and comfortable and outdoor-chic enough to wear around town.
The Beta SL Hybrid is a highly weatherproof hardshell jacket. It combines two types of GORE fabrics: Superlight N40r GORE-TEX fabric with Paclite Plus technology in the body which feels better against skin, and more durable GORE-TEX with C-KNIT backer technology to reinforce high wear areas like the pit zips.
This design improves performance across many of our metrics, but in regards to weather, we found it to offer even more burly protection. The addition of slightly more durable fabric in critical areas was more confidence-inspiring for our reviewers when setting out on bigger adventures with a wet or snowy forecast.
Arc'teryx has mastered the mobility of stiff fabrics better than any other hardshell designers we have tested. There is not usually any stretch fabric in their hardshells, but they move with you almost as well as a much more supple softshell would. They design and shape the panels of the jacket so it moves with you, and this women's specific jacket has a more trim fit with excellent articulation.
This jacket is meant for activity, which means it is not a loose fit. You can wear light layers underneath, but if you want to wear your bigger down jacket under this hardshell, you'll need to size up. The trim fit of the Beta SL Hybrid makes it an excellent hardshell for ice climbing, ski touring, snowshoeing, curling, extreme coffee-shopping, and any other inclement weather activities. It is excellent for winter aerobic pursuits, but also ideal for summertime mountaineering because of its close-to-body fit.
For any technical endeavors, like skiing or ice and alpine climbing, this jacket's StormHood fits comfortably over a helmet, allowing you to move your head around without feeling tight or restricted.
The Beta SL hybrid has had a bit of an evolutionary process as we've been testing this series, and we are happy with what Arc'teryx has settled on for this niche. This hybrid fabric jacket combines highly breathable GORE-TEX Paclite with a more durable fabric around the pit zips, both contributing to reliable breathability—either at a slower pace through the fabric, or in a hurry by opening the vents, depending on your exertional needs.
The lightweight Paclite fabric also aids in breathability in a relatively intuitive sense — it's just less fabric to pump excess body heat through. This technology has been one of our favorites for its ability to keep out the elements while remaining highly breathable and impressively lightweight, and even more comfortable next-to-skin. The lightweight breathability also means you'll feel the cold wind a little more than in a robust model like the Arc'teryx Alpha SV.
The Beta SL hybrid is a bit heavier than another high performance climbing shell in this review, the Arc'teryx Alpha FL - Women's, but the two jackets take opposite approaches to keeping things lightweight. The Beta SL hybrid has more features with lighter weight fabric, whereas the Alpha FL has burlier fabric with more streamlined features.
The Beta SL hybrid is a relatively fully featured hardshell, an impressive feat for the light weight of the jacket. The main feature that sets this jacket apart from others in this review is the use of pit zips in addition to lightweight, super breathable GORE-TEX Paclite. The pit zip design is also notable: There are two of them which come together in the middle somewhere, allowing you to fine-tune exactly where along the vent you want to ventilate. We have a slight preference for the double pit zips that each unzip from the opposite end, as we find that design best promotes airflow and limits the chances of getting precip in through the open vents.
Otherwise, the jacket has excellent and thoughtful features that make this a very useful and adjustable jacket. The StormHood is helmet-compatible, highly adjustable, and has a stiff, laminated brim to help keep precipitation out of your eyes. The bottom hem adjusts on both sides of the jacket, and the cuffs feature a light and simple velcro closure that allows you to slide the jacket under gloves or secure them over the top of your gloves.
The pocket and pit zip zippers are all waterproof, but Arc'teryx advises that one should not place items that can be terminally damaged by water in these pockets; be sure you have a waterproof case for your phone if you plan to carry it in one of these pockets. The main front zipper has a storm flap to make it waterproof instead of the waterproof laminate treatment on the other zippers. We like this application in the front zipper because it is easier and smoother to operate, and in the very long term, we find these types of zippers to be more durable than the stickier waterproof zippers.
The two side pockets are excellent and placed high enough that you can access them when wearing a harness or backpack hip belt. The jacket does not feature a chest pocket, which we love, but the hand pockets are high enough they almost fill that role.
The hood on the Beta SL Hybrid is roomy enough for a helmet but cinches easily to fit snugly without a helmet, making it a great jacket for a variety of activities in the outdoors, including skiing and ice and alpine climbing. It's also excellent for rock climbing in the desert when there's a risk of thunderstorms; this is a jacket that is light and compact enough that it makes sense to take it with you almost everywhere.
The Beta SL Hybrid is made using a thoughtful blend of lighter weight fabric and more durable fabric in areas of higher wear. Arc'teryx uses mostly Paclite from GORE-TEX, and added the more durable N42p GORE-TEX with Gore C-KNIT backer technology to high wear areas like the pit zips.
We appreciate the approach this jacket takes on versatility and utility. This is likely to be a good fit for many users. After some evolution of this jacket through the years we've been reviewing it, we've seen it turn into a shell that is versatile enough to keep up on all of your adventures, lightweight enough to earn a spot in your backpacking or climbing pack, and still durable to earn its keep in your wardrobe.
The Hybrid is good for regular use (not just emergency use), and more fully-featured for aerobic pursuits like snowshoeing, and technical pursuits like ice climbing. It is also a great cut, making it comfortable and easy to layer with light baselayers or a very thin puffy jacket underneath. It doesn't add too much extra bulk that the jacket gets in your way or feels massive, cumbersome, or just less stylish for use around town, on your daily commute, and running errands in inclement weather.
The Beta SL Hybrid is a very spendy hardshell jacket, as are most things from Arc'teryx. As you may be aware, however, Arc'teryx has an excellent track record for making high-quality products; with this in mind, if it's an important layer for your life, we think you'll love this one and get a lot of miles out of it, in a variety of conditions and climates.
The Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid is one of the lighter jackets in this review, especially for the amount of features, and not at the expense of any of our performance metrics. The Hybrid has slightly more durable fabrics, which give us the confidence to use it in a variety of conditions and for a wide range of activities. It also features pit zips which make it more versatile when it comes to climate and level of activity.
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