The Arc'teryx Zeta SL is a well-rounded rain jacket in a highly competitive category and just fell just short of the award winner's circle. The highly anticipated PACLITE Plus fabric is impressive; it was lightweight and especially comfortable while being worn with a short-sleeved layer, even while the fabric rested on your skin. Even if it meant a slight weight increase, we have to admit we would have appreciated pit zips, especially for high-intensity activities. 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. Read on to see if the minimal features of the Zeta SL make it the right rain jacket for you.
Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Women's Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Exceedingly water resistant, great fit, comfortable fabric
Cons: No pit zips for dumping excess heat in a pinch, expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
If you are an avid hiker who tends to find themselves out amongst the storms, the Zeta SL might be just what you are looking for; that is, so long as you're not on a budget. This jacket really does feel great; it's the perfect combination of a slim, almost tailored fit, that also allows room to layer. The sleeves and back are long enough to keep you dry while moving around and the hood has a fun feature to aid with packability. If hiking is your number one outdoor pursuit, the Zeta SL might be the perfect match.
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 on the pockets, which eliminates the so-called "housing" that most zippers tend to tuck into. The Zeta SL zippers are more streamlined for ease of use and remained highly water resistant throughout testing.
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 had 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 major downfall to quickly dump excess heat and perspiration that build up with high aerobic activities. That said, we were impressed by the lightweight fabrics ability to breathe while out on shorter hikes and especially using it around town when the weather turned drizzly.
The Zeta SL has gusseted underarms and the ever so soft fabric, which give it a slender look and comfortable feel. We were 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 appreciated the asymmetrical design of the jacket, with its longer back panel, giving plenty of coverage from the elements.
With its fairly light weight of only 9.5 ounces, the Zeta SL left out a lot of the bells and whistles that weighed down some of the other contenders. 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, it's lack of features kept it just out of our award circle.
The Zeta SL incorporates a robust, 40D 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. 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.
Although not an incredibly heavy jacket, the Zeta SL 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. It was, however, the smallest of the three that didn't include a stowaway pocket.
If you are an avid hiker who is not on a budget, this jacket will make a great addition to your pack. 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. The Zeta SL does not have pit zips for the quick dump of perspiration for your more aerobic of endeavors, but what it lacks in breathability it makes up for in comfort and functionality.
The Zeta SL boasts a very high price tag, ringing up at $300. It's tied with the Outdoor Research Interstellar for the most expensive rain jacket. Though it has a sleek, minimal design that was comfortable and highly water resistant, we felt this made for a better multi-use hardshell than a rain jacket. You can check out our review of The Best Hardshell Jackets for Women if a burlier jacket is something you feel would better suit your needs.
If you find yourself hiking in the great outdoors more often than not be in rain or shine, this jacket will make a great addition to your pack; as long as you are not a budget, that is.
— Katherine Elliott