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Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid - Women's Review

The Beta SL Hybrid retains an impressive focus on light weight while introducing key features to make it highly versatile.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $400 List | $399.00 at REI
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Pros:  Highly versatile, breathable, lightweight
Cons:  Expensive, still made of lighter and somewhat less durable fabric
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 7, 2018
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87
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 9
  • Weather Protection - 20% 9
  • Mobility - 20% 9
  • Breathability - 20% 9
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Features - 10% 10
  • Durability - 10% 8
  • Versatility - 5% 9

Our Verdict

The Beta SL Hybrid jacket from Arc'teryx is a significant upgrade from the previous, non-hybrid version. Last year, we loved the Beta SL for its impressive lightweight, and also for the breathable and supple fabric. However, it is a specific-use jacket (Arc'teryx describes it as an emergency use jacket) due to the decreased durability and versatility, largely a result of the ultralight fabrics. The original Beta SL was meant to be lightweight and rarely used so you won't mind carrying it in your pack when the weather is likely to be decent.

The new Hybrid version employs slightly more durable fabric in critical areas of the jacket, as well as pit zips. The improved durability inspires confidence and makes this jacket much more versatile, elevating it from "emergency use only" to "all around mountain hardshell." We feel far more comfortable wearing this jacket on long backpacking trips, ski tours, technical climbs, or on our everyday commute, whether on a bike, foot, or transit. The pit zips also helped us shed heat much faster than the original version, so we can wear this jacket in a broader range of climatic conditions, and use it for more activities. The burlier fabric provides a bit more protection in cold weather, and the pit zips allow for swift ventilation in warmer conditions or faster-paced activities.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Beta SL Hybrid from Arc'teryx is arguably one of the most useful and well made hardshell jackets we have tested. It adds just enough versatility and durability to the simpler, lighter, non-hybrid SL, making it a phenomenally lightweight and fully featured hard shell jacket for use in many wet situations.

Performance Comparison


Racing to pack up and get out as the rain moves in  the Beta SL Hybrid makes moving quickly and staying dry a breeze.
Racing to pack up and get out as the rain moves in, the Beta SL Hybrid makes moving quickly and staying dry a breeze.

Weather Protection


The Beta SL Hybrid is a highly weatherproof hardshell jacket. It combines two types of Gore-Tex fabric, which is one of the key differences between this one and the lighter, simpler Beta SL.


The jacket uses a very lightweight and breathable N40r GORE-TEX Paclite but adds a slightly more durable N42p GORE-TEX with Gore C-KNIT backer technology in areas more prone to wear-and-tear. This addition improves performance across many of our metrics, but in this metric, we found it to offer even more burly weather protection. The more durable fabric is now used in most of the jacket, with the lighter fabric visible under the arms, in the upper back, and the abdomen. This slightly more durable fabric was more confidence inspiring when setting out on bigger adventures with a wet or snowy forecast.

The Beta SL Hybrid seals out the elements without feeling cumbersome.
The Beta SL Hybrid seals out the elements without feeling cumbersome.

Appropriately, Arc'teryx refers to the lighter, non-hybrid Beta SL as a layer for emergency weather protection. The Hybrid is meant for all-around weather protection, applicable in a variety of climates for a wider range of activities.

Mobility


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 hard shell 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 fits comfortably over a helmet, allowing you to move your head around without feeling tight or restricted.

Breathability


We loved the breathability of the non-hybrid Beta SL, and found this hybrid version to be even better due to the addition of pit zips. These pit zips allow you to shed heat and moisture quickly when moving uphill in wet, humid conditions.


The lightweight fabric also aids in breathability—it's just less fabric to pump excess body heat through. The Gore-Tex Paclite technology has been our favorite for its ability to keep out the elements while remaining highly breathable and impressively lightweight. This is not your burly expedition hard shell; however, that lightweight breathability also means you'll feel the cold wind a little more than in an expedition-ready model like the Arc'teryx Alpha SV.

The pit zips make this hard shell significantly more versatile than its even lighter weight cousin  the original Beta SL.
The pit zips make this hard shell significantly more versatile than its even lighter weight cousin, the original Beta SL.

Weight


The Hybrid is slightly heavier than its streamlined, "emergency use," lightweight cousin, the Beta SL, but the extra ounces add tremendously to this jacket's usefulness.


This is one of the best jackets we have tested because it retains the lightweight focus of the Beta SL but adds some key components that make this one of the most versatile jackets in this review. No longer is this a shell jacket for use only in emergencies (read: to carry in the bottom of your backpack for a hike when the forecast says sunshine for days). This is a versatile hardshell that will keep up on all of your adventures where lightweight is essential, but not at the expense of durability or other useful features.

Features


The Beta SL Hybrid is a significant upgrade from the Beta SL in regards to features. The original Beta SL is a truly minimal emergency-use shell jacket. It has a couple of pockets and fit-adjusting features, but it trimmed weight by skimming off most unnecessary features. With the Hybrid, Arc'teryx reintroduced several features which make the jacket far more versatile.


The most notable feature added to the Hybrid is the pit zips, which make this jacket much more applicable in humid climates and for higher output aerobic activities in wet places. These pit zips open and close by separating the zippers from each other. We prefer the type of pit zips which open from each end of the zipper because this gives you the option of venting in two places and keeping the vent holes relatively small. But the vent is small enough on the Hybrid that it works well (sometimes this style makes the vent open too much and feels cumbersome for athletic movements, or can flap in the wind).

The StormHood has a stiff visor and highly adjustable cinch points.
The StormHood has a stiff visor and highly adjustable cinch points.

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 dual cinching points at the bottom hem ensure an excellent fit and good seal from the weather.
The dual cinching points at the bottom hem ensure an excellent fit and good seal from the weather.

The 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 weather resistant zippers are high enough so you can access them even when wearing a backpack hip belt or harness.
The weather resistant zippers are high enough so you can access them even when wearing a backpack hip belt or harness.

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 jacket is arguably more weatherproof and lighter weight without it.

The hood of the Beta SL Hybrid fits comfortably over a helmet.
The hood of the Beta SL Hybrid fits comfortably over a helmet.

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 just makes sense to take it with you almost everywhere.

Durability


The Beta SL Hybrid is more durable than its ultralight cousin, the regular Beta SL. Arc'teryx added the more durable fabric to areas of stress and common wear-and-tear, using N42p GORE-TEX with Gore C-KNIT backer technology.


This was much more confidence inspiring for all-around mountain use, especially involving any sharp objects like an ice axe and crampons. The fabric will also hold up better to areas of friction from backpack shoulder straps, hip belts, and back panels.

Look closely and you'll see the two slightly different fabrics in this photo; the one on top has a knit texture.
Look closely and you'll see the two slightly different fabrics in this photo; the one on top has a knit texture.

Versatility


The Beta SL Hybrid is vastly more versatile than is lighter weight cousin, the original Beta SL (which is advertised as an emergency use hard shell). The Hybrid adds just enough durability and features to the original model to improve its utility in a broader range of wet weather activities, with minimal cost to weight and bulk. The main cost is to your pocketbook.


The Hybrid is better 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.

Best Applications


The Beta SL Hybrid is an impressively versatile hardshell jacket. We loved it for aerobic activities in wet weather, including rainy hikes and snowy snowshoe tours. The trim cut and carefully articulated paneling ensure the jacket moves with you even in the most technical sports like ice climbing while remaining svelte and stylish for use around town. It's a much more durable version of the Beta SL, making it more versatile and appropriate for regular use and daily wear. The Hybrid quickly became our hard shell jacket of choice.

Value


The Beta SL Hybrid is a significant upgrade from the regular Beta SL, including the price tag. At $399, this is a very spendy hardshell jacket. As you may be aware, 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.

Conclusion


Here comes the rain! You'll be ready for any storm in the Beta SL Hybrid.
Here comes the rain! You'll be ready for any storm in the Beta SL Hybrid.

The Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid is our favorite hardshell jacket. It is one of the lightest jackets in this review, but not at the expense of any of our performance metrics. This jacket adds back some of the features we missed in the lightweight-focused Beta SL; 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 the jacket more versatile when it comes to climate and level of activity. The Hybrid tops our charts and earns the Editors' Choice in this year's review.


Lyra Pierotti