Hands On: Arc’teryx Beta AR
Every time we got caught in the rain, we swore we’d buy a waterproof shell — which we eventually did, minus much diligent research. And wearing that cheap polyester shell zipped up made us feel like a turkey wrapped with tin foil in an oven. GORE-TEX, eVent, and other patented breathable technologies, they say, make for a far more comfortable jacket than what was essentially a plastic garbage bag with sleeves. We got our hands on the quintessential GORE-TEX jacket, Arc’teryx’ Beta AR, to review, and while we’re not mountaineers or storm chasers we’re still outside a fair bit all the same — probably like you — and need a sleek and reliable jacket to get us through bike commutes, rainy dog walks, windy hiking days, and snowy ski days. So read on to get our full take.
If we had to chose one word to describe the Beta AR it’d be minimalist, for better or for worse. Few seams are placed between its sheets of GORE-TEX, with two zippered hand pockets above waist level (to accommodate backpacks and harnesses) and a unobtrusive die-cut Velcro cuff adjuster on each side. There’s a third pocket inside as well, but that’s it for storage, and all the exterior zippers including the two-way pit zips are watertight and windproof. Its sleeves are also on the longer side. If you’re wondering about it’s name, by the way, the AR stands for All Around to suit a variety of activities. This entails a shorter cut that leaves room for layering, good articulation for mobility, and a three-way adjustable DropHood that fits over bike/ski/snowboard/climbing helmets.
On the subject of cut, Arc’teryx bases the jacket’s shape on e3D, or Ergonomic 3-Dimensional patterning, to add a greater level of articulation. Moving around shows this, though the added room for layering probably helps keep things from getting too snug at its limits. Keep in mind that if it’s cold you will need layering since it’s got no insulation to speak of, and if you’re carving snow some good snow pants (ideally high rising ones) would be in order since the jacket isn’t as long as dedicated ski wear, nor does it bear attachment points to hold the two together. On our tester’s slim build it fit well, though we could envision the lower torso and waist being a touch narrow for dadbod-boasting men with amped up beer bellies.
Two types of GORE-TEX Pro 3L materials go into it: N80p-X and N40r-X. Didn’t mean much to us either, but the more resilient of the two is placed at high-wear points like the shoulders and back of the arms (elbow areas) to add durability where it’s more more likely to get rubbed repeatedly over the years. The lighter and more flexible of the two makes up the rest of the jacket to keep it lightweight (at about a pound) and packable — it’s pretty thin so just scrunch or roll it up and shove it in your bag while you wait for the rain to rear its ugly head. Both of these types are purported to be extremely rugged by the masses, and we don’t doubt it. Seams are taped and not one drop of water should get in. Ours hasn’t shown signs of wear in the months we’ve used it, though we haven’t bashed it against rocks just yet. You’ll need to maintain it occasionally, though, with a wash and dry as per their instructions, the latter which reactivates the DWR treatment.
Subjectively, breathability was very good, though when you’re being wrapped in essentially nothing but GORE-TEX we figure that was predictable. Because that’s what this jacket is. But they still nailed the details you’d never think about until you’re out there wearing one. For instance, the collar provides room for your chin to slip behind while shielding it from wind, and the hood is built outside the collar to keep water from running down your neck. All zippers are easy to grasp with gloves on, as are the adjustment drawcords, and they mostly sit inside waterproof “garages” to further safeguard them from the elements. We walked and biked through heavy rain while barely minding it, at least above the belt. Next step: GORE-TEX pants.
It’s not completely without qualms. For one, the material is a little stiff; it doesn’t impair movement but you feel it. If we could we’d also take in the sleeves length and width a little, and probably make the torso an inch or two longer (though their otherwise similar Theta AR has more of a ski jacket profile). But when it comes to performance and overall practicality there’s little to complain about, and while on the sporty side it still looks very good in the city. Plus we’ll take one jacket that’ll do a very good job at everything over five excellent at one activity each — especially at this price — so we’ll stick to the Beta AR.