Gear Review: Arc’teryx Zeta FL Rain Jacket, Zeta SL Rain Pants

The Arc’teryx Zeta FL jacket and SL rain pants are designed for hikers who want to move fast and light. The men’s jacket weighs 7.2 ounces. The men’s SL rain pants are 8.6 ounces. This is trimmed down rain gear, with extra pockets, drawcords, and adjustable cuffs eliminated. And Arc’teryx takes it a step further by giving their gear a trim fit, eliminating excess material. This is gear that will ride lightly in your pack, and keep you dry in hours of rain.

Zeta Fl Jacket and SL Rain Pants At-a-Glance

Zeta FL

MSRP: $349
Men’s: 7.2 ounces
Women’s: 6.3 ounces
Material: Two-layer N20p Gore-Tex fabric with Paclite Plus
FL: Fast and light

Zeta SL

MSRP: $249
Men’s: 8.6 ounces
Women’s: 8.1 ounces
Material: Two-layer N40r Gore-Tex fabric with Paclite Plus
SL: Super light

Best Use for this Arc’teryx Rain System

Bring on the rain. Bring on the trail. The Zeta FL and SL jacket and pants are the gear I want when the going gets wet. They’re light, packable, and breathable. But make no mistake. This is gear for the trail; not for rock scrambling, not for bushwhacking. I’m an East Coast guy, where rain is a near-constant trail companion. This is the gear I want on the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail, or peakbagging in the Whites. But wherever you hike, if it rains, the Zeta FL and SL will keep you dry.

Circumstance of Use

There’s no better way to social distance on trail than hiking in the rain. So while day hikers in my state packed trails on sunny days, I threw on the Arc’teryx Zeta Fl rain coat and Zeta SL rain pants and headed out in the rain. I’ve worn the coat and pants in a driving rain, with wind gusts to 30, and stayed warm and dry. I’ve worn the coat in the rain under day packs and backpacks. They’ve nestled in my backpack mesh pocket when the sun shines. This is the rain gear that I’ll carry for many more miles.

Zeta FL Jacket Features

Slim fit: At 5 feet, 10 inches, and 175 pounds, the large FL was a good fit. The coat has a slim fit so there’s not a lot of extra material flapping around. I could fit a lightweight and mid-weight layer on underneath, even a 9-ounce puffy if needed for chill days and nights at camp. I’d suggest you size up if you’re taller or heavier than me.

Packed: The coat doesn’t have a stuff sack, or stuff into a pocket. I keep it in my pack mesh pocket when hiking.

Hood: Snugs tightly around your head using the drawcord on the back of the hood, and doesn’t limit your peripheral vision. The stiff hood brim kept water from running down into my face. During a strong wind and driving rain, the hood kept both out. The hood rolls up and is secured by a snap inside the collar when not in use.

Collar: High enough to protect your neck and chin from wind and rain. The collar does not have a drawcord, but it wasn’t necessary because the fit was snug enough.

Cuffs: The cuffs are elasticized to seal in the warmth and keep out the wind, but loose enough for lightweight gloves to slip underneath them.

Seams: Fully taped seams throughout.

Hem: Hip-length elastic hem. No drawstring, but the FL fit my build well enough that I never missed one. Longer in the back.

Pockets: Two side zipper pockets outside, with top-down openings, and accessible while wearing a pack. The inside pocket fabric is solid, unlike some rain coats that have inside mesh liners for the pockets. I miss having an inside chest pocket for storing a phone or snacks while my pack is on, but if the tradeoff is less weight, I’ll take it. Arc’teryx warns that the pocket zippers are highly water resistant, but not waterproof, and recommends against keeping something like a phone inside them in the rain. Nevertheless, my liner gloves inside stayed dry during hours of rain.

Zippers: All the zippers are seam sealed, and I never had water get through. They feel rugged and don’t snag.

Water repellency: Excellent. Water beaded up on the outer fabric, and brushed off like snowflakes, even in the heaviest of rain. The beading properties of Gore-Tex go a long way toward preventing the fabric from wetting out.

Inside moisture management: No pit zips so I hiked with a light base layer underneath. My back got hot and damp inside while wearing a backpack. And even though I heated up inside while hiking on warm days, I didn’t get the sticky feeling inside that I did with other non-Gore-Tex raincoats I own.

Pit zips: None. I definitely would like them.

Warmth: Cuts the wind to keep you warm and dry on chilly days.

Material: N20p Gore-Tex fabric with Paclite Plus. The Gore-Tex membrane is bonded directly to a nylon outer shell material, then covered by a durable protective layer made of an oleophobic (anti-oil) substance and carbon, creating a two-layer construction. An abrasion-resistant treatment is given to the inside surface, making a separate lining unnecessary. And Gore-Tex says Paclite Plus stretch technology is designed for ease of movement and an attractive fit. Nerd talk on N20p: N (nylon) 20 (denier) p (plain weave).

Durability: This is where it gets tricky. Arc’teryx calls the FL an “emergency shell.” The fabric is 20 denier, which is in the middle of the pack for ultralight coats weighing 4 to 7 ounces. So although Arc’teryx implies this is only a coat to be worn perhaps briefly in a heavy rain, I’ve had no concerns or problems with wearing it on trail for hours under a pack.

Warranty: Arc’teryx will replace or repair rain gear for what it considers to be the practical product lifespan. Rain gear damaged through wear and tear, misuse, or neglect may be repaired at a reasonable price.

What I liked best: The Zeta FL is light, insanely water resistant, and breathable. The hood snugs up to keep out wind and rain. The zippers feel sturdy, don’t snag, and keep out the water.

What I don’t like: I wish the coat had pit zips.

Corporate responsibility: Arc’teryx adheres to the Bluesign standard, which ensures that companies act responsibly and sustainably with regard to people, the environment, and resources; and follows the responsible down and wool standards. Arc’teryx also sells used gear.

Point of origin: Made in China.

Zeta SL Pants Features

Slim fit: The pants don’t bag out in the rear or thighs. There’s an inside cord to adjust the pants at the waist. The large pants fit nicely over my 5 feet, 10 inches, and 175 pounds. Again, I’d go up a size if you’re much bigger.

Packed: Light, and compresses small enough that you won’t know it’s in your pack.

Cuffs: A two-inch-high double layer of fabric at the pants cuffs gives them extra strength where they’re more likely to rub against rocks or logs. Each pants leg has an inside snap, which together with the extra material gives the cuffs enough weight to hang solidly over your shoes. The cuffs are not elasticized, which allows the pants legs to rise and fall as you walk without snagging on your shoes.

Zippers: The pants are loaded with zippers, which I loved. A front zipper and waist snap make these the easiest pants to get on and off that I’ve ever worn. No more struggling to pull up rain pants over shorts or other underlayer. And three-quarter-length leg zippers make these a dream for pulling on or off over boots and trail runners.

Material: N40r Gore-Tex fabric with Paclite Plus. These pants are made from 40 denier ripstop nylon, and the ruggedness of the fabric is noticeable. (More on the Gore-Tex treatment above under the rain jacket.) More nerd talk: N (nylon) 40 (denier) r (ripstop).

Durability: Like the coat, Arc’teryx calls the Zeta SL an “emergency shell.” But with 40 denier ripstop nylon I’m not concerned about durability if standard use is confined to trail walking.

Water repellency: Excellent. Water beaded up on the outer fabric, and brushed off like snowflakes even in the heaviest of rain.

Inside moisture management: Three-quarter-length zippers provide plenty of ventilation.

Warmth: Cuts the wind to keep you warm and dry on chilly days.

Warranty: Arc’teryx will replace or repair rain gear for what it considers to be the practical product lifespan. Rain gear damaged through wear and tear, misuse, or neglect may be repaired at a reasonable price.

What I liked best: The Zeta SL pants, like the coat, are light, insanely water resistant, and breathable. The front crotch zipper and three-quarter-length side zippers give these pants versatility that I’ve never had in rain pants.

Corporate responsibility: Arc’teryx adheres to the Bluesign standard, which ensures that companies act responsibly and sustainably with regard to people, the environment, and resources; and follows the responsible down and wool standards. Arc’teryx also sells used gear.

Point of origin: Made in China.

About Gore-Tex

Gore-Tex revolutionized outdoor apparel in the 1970s with its breathable, windproof, and waterproof fabric. Since then other companies have developed their own treatments, but Gore-Tex remains an industry leader. The Gore-Tex membrane is applied to garments in three main ways: outer textile/membrane/lining textile (3L products); outer textile/membrane (2L products); and outer membrane/lining textile (Gore-Tex Shakedry). In addition, Gore-Tex seam tapes make seams waterproof. Gore-Tex recommends washing garments as often as needed, and says that washing and tumble drying helps restore water repellency. When water no longer beads on the outer fabric, Gore-Tex recommends applying a DWR treatment product.

And What About Arc’teryx?

Arc’teryx was founded in 1989 by climbers in Vancouver, Canada. Since then the company has expanded to include a range of outdoor clothing and gear. “Arc’teryx is built on the principle of obsessive, precise design and production,” the company says. “Timeless quality, intuitive design and simplicity result in unrivaled performance at the point of extreme need.” And that prehistoric creature in the Arc-Teryx logo? It’s an Archaeopteryx Lithographica, the first reptile to develop feathers for flight.

Pros

Waterproof: Goes without saying. Hiking cold and wet in the rain doesn’t make me stronger. It makes me miserable.

Pants: Zippers, zippers, zippers. Love the crotch snap and zipper, which along with the three-quarter-length leg zippers make these pants easy to get on and off. The leg zippers provide good ventilation as well.

Hood: Snugs tight to keep out wind and rain. The stiff visor keeps rain off your face.

Collar: High enough to keep wind and rain off your neck and chin.

Lightweight: Another plus. With the FL and SL, I don’t have to sacrifice comfort for weight.

Easy to clean: Gore-Tex recommends washing garments as needed, and says washing and tumble drying can improve water resistance.

Packability: You’ll barely notice the coat and pants are in your pack.

Durability: The 20 denier for the coat and 40 denier for the pants feel robust enough to last for years.

My take: This is gear that will keep me warm on miserably soggy days and nights, and that will withstand the beating of the trail.

Cons

Price: High end for rain gear.

Pit zips: None. Pit zips would definitely help cool you down on warm and wet days. I would give up the two side jacket pockets for pit zips.

Final Thoughts

The Zeta FL coat and SL pants are solid, lightweight gear certain to keep you warm and dry on trail for years. Gore-Tex, too, is a proven name for water resistance and reliability. But here’s the catch: the cost. The coat and pants are at the top of the line for price, and together can set you back $600 unless you shop deals. And there are plenty of deals right now as companies scramble to move gear because of the coronavirus economic downturn. So here’s my bottom line: If you want something that will keep you dry and last for years, go with Arc’teryx. The high initial cost will balance out over many years of use.

Overall Value

The high cost—$349 for the Zeta FL coat and $249 for the SL pants—can be daunting. But consider how long you want gear to last. The coat and pants are well made, and should last for years. And consider what you’re getting: time-tested Gore-Tex fabric proven to shed water and vent heat from your body.

Shop the Zeta FL Jacket Here Shop the SL Rain Pants Here

Comparable Rain Jacket and Pants

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium Pants

MSRP, Jacket: $159
Weight: 6.4 ounces (men’s); 5.5 ounces (women’s)
Waterproofing: Pertex Shield+ 2.5-layer waterproof breathable laminate
MSRP, Pants: $119
Weight: 6.7 ounces (men’s); 5.6 (women’s)
Waterproofing: Pertex Shield+ 2.5-layer waterproof breathable laminate

REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Jacket, XeroDry GTX Pants

MSRP, Jacket: $249
Weight: 10.5 ounces (men’s); 8.6 (women’s)
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Active 3-layer fabric
MSRP, Pants: $139
Weight: 10 ounces (men’s); 9.1 ounces (women’s)
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Paclite

Enlightened Equipment Visp J Jacket, Pants

MSRP, Jacket: $190
Weight: 5 ounces (men’s); 4.5 ounces (women’s)
Waterproofing: Three-layer fabric with waterproof/breathable ePTFE membrane
MSRP, Pants: $160
Weight: 4 ounces (men’s); 3.9 ounces (women’s)
Waterproofing: Three-layer fabric with waterproof/breathable ePTFE membrane

The Zeta Fl and SL were donated for purpose of review.

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