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Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Women's Review

A seriously protective jacket that's also impressively comfortable and could double as a lightweight hardshell in a pinch.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $300 List | $200.02 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Exceedingly water resistant, great fit, comfortable fabric, good zipper design, very durable
Cons:  No pit zips for dumping excess heat in a pinch, doesn't pack into a pocket, expensive
Manufacturer:   Arc'terxy
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 13, 2019
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 13
  • Water Resistance - 30% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Breathability - 20% 5
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Weight and Packability - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Zeta SL is a well-rounded, seriously impressive rain jacket in a highly competitive category and is our Top Pick for a Torrential Downpour. The highly anticipated PACLITE Plus fabric is impressive; it's lightweight and especially comfortable, even while the fabric rests on your skin. It's also durable enough to almost double as a lightweight hardshell! However, it doesn't have pit vents, which, even if it means a slight weight increase, we have to admit we would have appreciated them. While it breathes well in most scenarios, we still found ourselves with an excess build-up of perspiration and no way to quickly vent, not even through the pockets. Even though it doesn't have a stow pocket, it does fold up nicely into its hood, and you can even use the hood cinch to fully secure your jacket to help save space when not in use. With its Gore-Tex PACLITE Plus fabric, it's highly water-resistant in even the heaviest of downpours and comfortable to boot.


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Pros Exceedingly water resistant, great fit, comfortable fabric, good zipper design, very durableWater resistant, wind resistant and breathable, dual direction whole side/pit vents, dual direction main zipperIncredibly stretchy, comfortable, breathable, long arms, not crinklyProtective hood, comfortable, great for dynamic movements, waterproofSimple but functional, can pack away hood, high pockets for waistbelt, inexpensive
Cons No pit zips for dumping excess heat in a pinch, doesn't pack into a pocket, expensiveVery difficult to pack into its pocket, sleeves a bit short, main zipper difficult to match upThin, hood not great coverage, not windproofExpensive, zipper catches easily on storm flap, no pit zipsNot the most durable, hood not great protection, difficult to fit into pocket
Bottom Line A seriously protective jacket that's also impressively comfortable and could double as a lightweight hardshell in a pinch.Waterproof, breathable, and comfortable, it's an all-in-one marvel.Its status as a highly functioning stretchy rain jacket sets this model apart and will suit your active lifestyle be it rain or shine.If you are an avid climber who frequently encounters drizzly weather, this would make a great addition to your archive of must have gear.A solid, non-technical rain shell that will get the job done without making you broke.
Rating Categories Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Women's Aspire Stretch Ozonic Interstellar Marmot PreCip Eco - Women's
Water Resistance (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
Comfort (25%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
Breathability (20%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
Durability (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
Weight And Packability (10%)
10
0
4
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs Arc'teryx Zeta SL... Aspire Stretch Ozonic Interstellar Marmot PreCip Eco...
Measured Weight 9.4 oz 11.4 oz 9.4 oz 9.2 oz 8.7 oz
Number of Fabric Layers 2 2 2.5 3 2.5
Material 40D ripstop (N40r) GORE-TEX PACLITE Plus, DWR treatment GORE-TEX with PACLITE technology 2L, 100% polyester 50D plain weave Dry.Q Active Stretch 40D 2.5L (100% nylon) Ascentshell 3L 100% nylon 20D mechanical stretch ripstop with 12D backer NanoPro Eco 100% recycled nylon ripstop 24 oz/yd
Pockets 2 hand 2 hand, 1 chest 2 hand, 1 chest 2 hand, 1 chest 2 hand
Pit Zips No Yes Yes No Yes
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Helmet Compatible Hood No Yes Yes Yes No
Stows into Pocket No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Carabiner Loop in Stow Pocket No Yes No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Arc'teryx Zeta SL is a seriously protective jacket made with the outdoor enthusiast in mind. Constructed of N40r GORE-TEX PACLITE Plus ripstop fabric with fully taped seams and a DWR finish, this jacket literally exudes durability. It features high hand pockets that are waistbelt compatible and waterproof zippers on every opening.

Performance Comparison


The large storm hood (although not helmet compatible) has a hollow adjuster to bunker down the proverbial hatches; the rain just rolls right off the brim  keeping you dry in even the heaviest of a deluge.
The large storm hood (although not helmet compatible) has a hollow adjuster to bunker down the proverbial hatches; the rain just rolls right off the brim, keeping you dry in even the heaviest of a deluge.

Water Resistance


Equipped with the latest GORE-TEX PACLITE Plus technology, the Zeta SL earns high marks in the water-resistance metric, keeping us dry in a multitude of precipitation scenarios. We love the new zipper technology incorporated in the pockets, which eliminates the so-called "housing" that most zippers tend to tuck into. Additionally, all the zippers are identical, which eliminates the awkward but typical three-different-zippers routine of most raincoats. The Zeta SL zippers are also more streamlined for ease of use and remained highly water-resistant throughout testing.


The waterproof fabric also impressed us a TON during our water pooling test. The pool of water we left sitting on this jacket and the fabric of the jacket itself both looked exactly the same at the beginning and end of the test. Not a single smidge was soaked into the fabric. This coat is so waterproof it's practically a lightweight hardshell! Our only minor complaint about the Zeta's waterproofness is the hood itself. It's pretty good at keeping our faces dry, but it's so large and cavernous (without being helmet compatible) that it leaves a ton of extra room for rain or wind to whip inside. This does help it to fit over a beanie with a bobble on a brisk morning backpacking, but over just a dry head, it's a bit much.

Some seriously waterproof fabric  a high chin  and watertight zippers make this jacket incredibly protective.
Some seriously waterproof fabric, a high chin, and watertight zippers make this jacket incredibly protective.

Comfort


The Zeta SL has gusseted underarms, articulated elbows, and the ever so soft fabric, which gives it a slender look and comfortable feel. With fairly long arms to match those movement-friendly joints, this jacket has some of the best continuous coverage while you move. We are impressed by the overall comfort and fit of this jacket; its predecessor, the Beta SL, had a much slimmer fit that didn't allow for layering without sizing up, unlike the Zeta SL, which manages not to be too cumbersome while still looking delightful and having room for those much-needed layers when the weather gets chilly. Arc'teryx is well known for the sleek look and design of their clothing; we appreciate the asymmetrical design of the jacket, with its impressive drop hem, giving a full 5.5 inches of extra coverage in the back from the elements.


The Zeta also has dual elastic adjustments in the hem, which is always nicer to use than a single, asymmetrical adjustment point. A brushed microsuede chin guard helps to keep your face from scratching against the fabric even when you're bundled up. We never had any issues with the main zipper catching on the storm flap underneath, which is great. In fact, the only real issue we have with the comfort of the Zeta is that the chin is very tall (4.75 inches), and with the stiff fabric, it sometimes would rest a bit awkwardly when not fully zipped. But that same stiffness of the fabric also helps you to place the chin guards where you want them to stay, so it isn't a big issue.

We love the fit  feel  and adjustability of the Zeta.
We love the fit, feel, and adjustability of the Zeta.

Breathability


Arc'teryx uses regular 40D Gore-Tex, not Gore-Tex Active, as with a few other rain jackets we tested. While proving to be a highly durable lightweight jacket, the hearty nature of the durable 40D Gore-Tex fabric, combined with the lack of pit zips, has it scoring lower in this metric than some of the other contenders.


We experienced a consistent build-up of perspiration from sweating while performing highly aerobic activities, and not having pit zips is a significant downfall to quickly dump excess heat and perspiration that build up with high aerobic activities. That said, we are impressed by the lightweight fabric's ability to breathe while out on shorter hikes and especially using it around town when the weather turned drizzly.

The Zeta keeps you protected with long sleeves that can be easily adjusted to not fall over your hands like they are here.
The Zeta keeps you protected with long sleeves that can be easily adjusted to not fall over your hands like they are here.

Durability


The Zeta SL incorporates a robust, 40D ripstop nylon fabric, making it a fairly durable jacket that we are rather confident will hold up well throughout its lifespan. Throughout testing, the zippers were flawless, easy to access, and use without any sticking. We also appreciate that the brim holds its shape well even after being packed away for long periods and despite the lack of any wire stiffener inside.


If you find yourself wearing a pack on longer trips, this jacket handles the wear and tear well that results from wearing a pack for long periods. It didn't acquire any visible rub marks, and even while climbing in it, the jacket held up to well to rock abrasion and harness wear. We are incredibly pleased with the overall durability of this jacket, making it well-equipped for any adventure where durability is a must.

This jacket comes equipped with a 2-layer PACLITE Plus GORE-TEX fabric; it is fairly lightweight as far as rain jackets go and oh so soft against the skin.
This jacket comes equipped with a 2-layer PACLITE Plus GORE-TEX fabric; it is fairly lightweight as far as rain jackets go and oh so soft against the skin.

Weight and Packability


With its weight of just 9.4 ounces, the Zeta SL is about average in our fleet. The SL in its name stands for super light, and if this were in the hardshell category, we would completely agree to the relatively lightweight design and functionality of the Zeta SL. However, in the rain jacket category, this weight is less impressive. And the loss of pit vents to reach this slightly lower weight, we just aren't sure is worth it.


Although not an incredibly heavy jacket, the Zeta doesn't incorporate a stow pocket. That said, when rolled into its hood, you can use the cinch to secure the jacket, giving it a little extra packability. If you tend to gravitate to the cram-it-in-the-bottom-of-the-bag style, the Arc'teryx is a rather stiff jacket that is less suited to being jammed in corners than some of its competitors.

Although not able to stow into its own pocket like many of the others we tested  the Zeta SL does pack down fairly small. What made it stand out was the ability of the hood cinch to be used as a wrap for secure storage in your pack.
Although not able to stow into its own pocket like many of the others we tested, the Zeta SL does pack down fairly small. What made it stand out was the ability of the hood cinch to be used as a wrap for secure storage in your pack.

Value


The Zeta SL boasts a very high price tag and is one of the most expensive options we tested. It has a sleek design that is comfortable and highly water-resistant without compromising your range of motion. It's lack of packability and breathability make it less versatile than many other coats in this review. But if you're on the hunt for a jacket to carry you through a torrential downpour or perhaps even a super lightweight hardshell, this might be right up your alley. And though it costs a pretty penny, you can be sure this jacket will last a long time.

Though its far from cheap  the Zeta is one of the most protective jackets we tested and is among our favorite all-around options.
Though its far from cheap, the Zeta is one of the most protective jackets we tested and is among our favorite all-around options.

Conclusion


If you're on the hunt for a jacket that can take you through some serious rainfall, trekking across Iceland or hiking the PNW in winter, this jacket will take you there. Offering serious protection and a great range of motion and impressive durability, the Zeta is our Top Pick for a Torrential Downpour. What it lacks in breathability and packability, it makes up for by being a seriously beefy rain jacket that won't give up when it comes to keeping you warm and dry.

Spend less time worrying about the weather and more time playing outside!
Spend less time worrying about the weather and more time playing outside!


Maggie Brandenburg