Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Women's Review
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
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arc'teryx Zeta SL is a seriously protective jacket made with the outdoor enthusiast in mind. Constructed of 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
— Maggie Brandenburg