Arc’teryx Beta FL Hardshell Jacket Review
I think every avid outdoor adventurer probably has their own set of relationships with and opinions about different types of weather. Sunshine and snow are an easy “yes!” for me. And I have learned to deeply treasure wind, even when I hate it. But then there is rain. Despite all of rain’s silver linings (e.g., the earth survives), I do not love rain. Yet, I’ve recently moved to a place where there is no shortage of it. While rainy conditions are not my favorite, I do subscribe to the motto, “There’s no bad weather, only bad gear.” Which brings me to my saving grace: the Arc’teryx Beta FL Jacket. If anything is going to make me tolerate being out in an endless downpour, it is this jacket.
Arc’teryx Beta FL Jacket At-a-Glance
Weight: 11 ounces (Women’s X-Small)
Material: Gore-Tex Pro 2.0 (membrane), 40 denier nylon (shell)
Intended use: All-around weather protection
Circumstance of Review
I tested the Beta FL over the course of a few months ranging from late fall to early spring in both North Carolina and Utah. Weather conditions included cold with pouring rain, cold with dumping snow, and cold with no precipitation at high altitude. The jacket performed extremely well in all conditions.
Arc’teryx Beta FL Features
- Lightweight – A novice ounce counter might see 11 ounces and think, “That’s double an Outdoor Research Helium Jacket! No thanks.” But the weathered hiker (or skier or climber or whatever) knows that ounces always come at a cost. The amazing thing about the Beta FL is that you get pretty outstanding weather protection in exchange for adding back very few ounces. This jacket is the best of both worlds.
- Breathable – I’ve never had a Gore-Tex shell without pit zips, so I was curious (and skeptical) about how this would pan out. Turns out it’s not a problem for the Beta FL. The lightweight 40D Nylon works wonders at improving breathability.
- Storm hood – This is a must for any worthy shell. Ideally, I would’ve had a chance to test the storm hood with a ski helmet, but I did at least do some inclement weather biking to get an idea. The Beta FL was extremely helmet-compatible. Easy adjustment from multiple angles left no blind spots, and the large brim prevented dripping. It’s also just the right amount of material for flexibility when worn, without feeling like you have a giant bag blowing around behind you when the hood is off. I’m always impressed with how well Arc’teryx does hoods.
- Watertight zippers & dry cuff – No leaks. Easy to adjust. Glove/mitten compatible. No complaints.
Fit and Performance
As I’ve mentioned previously, one of my favorite things about Arc’teryx is that their gear and apparel are generally very slim-fitting. So slim that I’ve had other Arc’teryx shells that I almost had to size up to be able to fit a sufficient variety of puff underneath. Thus, I was surprised to discover that the Beta FL was very roomy. It’s still a trim fit, but I had a lot of extra space and it covered my entire bum. It was nice to have as much room as I wanted for layering, but even so, it was a bit too much. For those not at the bottom of the size line (I tested an x-small), you might want to save yourself some grams and consider sizing down.
That said, the minimalist design of the Beta FL is delightful and it offered optimal, streamlined performance. I stayed out in cold, pouring rain for hours without a single drop of condensation on the inside of the jacket, and without a moment’s consideration that rain might be soaking through. There’s really no comparison to something like the OR Helium I mentioned above, or honestly any jacket utilizing a coating over an inherently waterproof membrane. In terms of sustained protection, Gore-Tex will always win. The jacket also performed well while I was biking in the rain. I will add the important caveat that I am perpetually cold and don’t sweat much, if at all. To the warmer-bodied human, you may have a different experience with moisture on the inside.
I also stayed out in cold, snowy conditions for hours, with precipitation varying from whiteout to bluebird day. Again, no issues. The Beta FL’s utility for many different layering systems was decent. My go-to system is a wool baselayer (150 or 250 SmartWool weights or another brand’s equivalents, depending on temperature), and a synthetic or down midlayer, depending on location (synthetic for humid, east coast conditions; down for dry, west coast conditions). I tried it with an Arc’teryx Atom Jacket, a Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer, and a Patagonia NanoPuff.
If you do it right, this generates four layering options suited for pretty much whatever happens with the weather: baselayer alone, baselayer + midlayer, baselayer + midlayer + shell, and baselayer + shell. On the up-side, the roomy fit of the Beta FL made the trio option fit very comfortably. My motility was unimpaired while skiing, hiking, and biking. On the down-side, the roomy fit makes baselayer + shell a little less ideal. You can bypass this drawback by using the jacket’s cords to pull it closer to your body to prevent drafts.
Pros and Cons
The hood, versatility, and capacity for sustained, lightweight protection from the elements strike me as the most valuable aspects of the Beta FL. This piece really is meant for moving fast and light (that’s what the FL stands for), and the combination of Gore-Tex with 40D nylon accomplishes this well in multiple forms of inclement weather. And I don’t know who Arc’teryx has got in their laboratory designing hoods, but I hope they never leave. Truly every Arc’teryx hood that has ever donned my head has fit and functioned exceptionally.
I think the most notable potential drawback of the Beta FL is that the 40D nylon could come at a deal-breaking cost. Most shells designed to perform in similar conditions have much heavier face fabrics (80-100 denier). I have yet to experience any problems due to the lighter fabric, but it’s worth noting that at some point, it may not be enough. It’s also worth noting that this jacket is simply going to feel different to someone who’s accustomed to wearing a heavier shell.
The other big drawback is the price point. It’s a lot of money for a jacket. If you’re a very dedicated athlete, frequently in inclement weather, and really looking to shed as many ounces as possible without compromising your level of protection, the Beta FL could be a good investment. Otherwise, you may want to look at similar but more favorably priced garments.
Overall, I think the Beta FL is a great shell. In terms of fit, I recommend sizing down if you can. In terms of lightweight versatility, protection from the elements, and durability, I feel good about recommending this jacket if you can afford it.
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket
REI Xero-Dry GTX Jacket
Outdoor Research Aspire Gore-Tex Jacket
Product donated for purpose of review.
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