The Arc’teryx Beta AR
– Price: $600
– Weight: 15.8 oz (448 g)
– Waterproofing Fabric: 3-layer GoreTex Pro
– Waterproofing Rating: 28,000 mm
– Number of pockets: 3 (one interior)
– What we like: Outstanding waterproofing, rugged construction, premium features
– What we don’t: Expensive, a bit heavy, less breathable than comparable softshells
The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict
This is The Wise Adventurer’s review of the Arcteryx Beta AR shell jacket!
One general purpose alpine shell to rule them all: That’s what Arc’teryx was going for with the Beta AR (that’s short for all-round, by the way), and after spending a few months testing one ourselves, we believe the hype may be justified.
If you’re into technical outdoor gear, chances are the Arc’teryx Beta AR needs no introduction. Often touted as the greatest do-it-all hardshell money can buy for rain, snow, and wind protection, general consensus tells us this jacket packs all the technical chops you could ever ask for.
Arc’teryx is widely known for taking no prisoners when it comes to performance. Headquartered in the world’s largest temperate rainforest in British Columbia, the brand’s testing and research takes place in some of the wildest and most remote regions on the planet including the notoriously treacherous Boundary Range of the Coast Mountains.
In this sense, you could consider the Beta AR to be a product of its environment: Arc’teryx promises this shell to be unfailingly waterproof, snow-ready, and impressively rugged, largely due to its judicious use of hard-wearing GoreTex Pro fabric.
So does the jacket live up to the legend, or is it just an urban myth cashing in on the brand’s reputation? We took the Beta AR for a waterlogged three-day weekend in the woods to find out what all the hype was about (Want to learn more about our testing process? You can read an in-depth breakdown here). After traveling, hiking, and camping with the Beta AR in conditions ranging from dreary drizzle to outright downpour, we’ve got a few key takeaways from our time with this legendary shell.
Here are our first-hand field notes on the Arc’teryx Beta AR.
Detailed Evaluation of the Arc’teryx Beta AR Rain Jacket
Camping and hiking in the Beta AR was our primary mode of testing, as part of our yearly field test of the best rain jackets. But we’ve also been living with the jacket day to day for several months to get a more comprehensive idea of what it’s like to own and regularly use such a technical shell in daily life. This approach allows us to drill down on all the nitty gritty details we evaluate in a review including obvious features like waterproofing and breathability as well as more nuanced manufacturer claims like durability, comfort, and fit.
The first order of business when testing any rain jacket is water resistance, which is why we chose to test the Beta AR almost entirely in sub-prime conditions. In this case we tested in the Southern United States from late winter to early spring, which means lots of rain, big temperature swings, and all the sweat-inducing humidity you could ask for.
Like all of Arc’teryx’s shells, the Beta AR’s water resistance comes from premium GoreTex fabric. What sets this version in particular apart is its illustrious GoreTex Pro with “Most Rugged Technology,” which is essentially the most durable and long-wearing GTX material money can buy.
Above all else, this fabric promises to be 100% waterproof regardless of how hard or how long it’s raining. When you’re stepping up to a shell this technical (and this expensive), you’re paying to remove any possibility of “wetting out” from the equation, and we found this to be the case with the Beta AR.
The jacket’s combination of high-tech fabric, a high-performance DWR coating, and a masterpiece of thorough and precise seam taping has yet to let a single drop pass through in the four months we’ve used it. The brand’s “WaterTight” zipper tech does a great job of keeping moisture from creeping in around the pockets or the pit vents (when they’re closed), while the impressively adjustable hood (there are four separate cinches for dialing in an ideal fit for your headwear of choice) and tall collar provide outstanding coverage and minimize any encroachment around your face.
Even with the advancements made in waterproof fabrics over the last decade, waterproofness and breathability still exist more or less on a continuum: The more waterproof your jacket is, the less likely it is to vent heat/sweat/moisture effectively. GoreTex Pro is arguably the most protective breathable material on the planet at the time of this writing, so we were eager to see how well it would actually vent in the field.
Long story short, the Beta AR breathes about as well as your average hardshell if not marginally better. With that being said, the jacket’s breathability is impressive when you remember that it’s built from a combination of burly 80D/40D fabric.
We will note that Arc’teryx did a great job of boosting the adjustable breathability by adding some of the largest pit vents you can get in a shell. Measuring a whopping 15” from end to end, the Beta’s vents ran the full length from the middle of our tester’s biceps to the middle of his rib cage, which kept the jacket comfortable for hikes with or without a pack.
While we’re on the topic of the pit vents, we’ll also note that we’re fans of the dual zipper design on the Beta AR’s vents. This feature isn’t unique to the Arc’teryx by any stretch of the imagination, but we loved being able to choose both the size and the location of the vents, which helped keep dripping water from finding its way into the openings on rainly hikes.
Fit and Comfort
We’re happy to report that both fit and comfort were major highlights of our time spent with the Beta AR.
As far as the fit goes, Arc’teryx did a great job of giving the Beta AR a tailormade look and feel. This jacket is much more streamlined and closefitting when compared to much of the competition, yet still manages to leave ample room for layers without limiting movement.
Our tester was perfectly comfortable in baselayers and one or two mid-layers underneath the Beta AR depending on the conditions. Even when fully dressed, out, the Beta still moved naturally with his body, even with his hands up above his head when setting up or taking down camp.
In terms of comfort, the inside of the Beta feels surprisingly soft against the skin, especially for such a tough shell. The fabric is thick, but doesn’t feel overly crinkly, and we particularly appreciated the little comfort-oriented details like the patches of smooth suede at the back of the neck and behind the zipper at the wearer’s face.
As you might expect given the Beta’s “most rugged” GoreTex Pro construction, we found the jacket’s durability to be rock solid throughout our testing process, and quite possibly the toughest of the lot.
Want to stuff the Beta down into your pack among loose tent poles, car keys, electronic devices, and all manner of gear without a second thought? Want to take it hiking off-trail through prickly underbrush and thick pine branches? Or maybe wear it around all day with a heavy pack on your shoulders? This jacket will do it all without a second thought.
In fact it did all of the above without getting so much as a visible scratch or scrape anywhere on the material, much less any tears or punctures. Of course anything less would have been a major issue considering both the Beta AR’s marketing claims and asking price, but we’re happy to report there’s no hype or exaggeration surrounding the jacket’s bombproof reputation.
Weight and Packability
If there’s one place the Beta AR compromises, it’s weight and packability. Don’t get us wrong, our medium-sized tester was far from overweight, tipping the scales at a respectable 16oz even, but there’s no denying there are lighter options out there.
The same goes for packability. We found the Arc’teryx Beta AR packed down reasonably well into its own hood, but all that extra thick material simply couldn’t compete with faster and lighter options like the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic we tested it alongside. We’d have zero issues toting the Beta AR around for cold weather hiking where heavier/bulkier gear is the norm, but for backcountry adventures in warmer weather, we’d only take the extra weight and space in our pack if rain was guaranteed in the forecast.
We can confidently report that the Beta AR lacks nothing in terms of features. Everywhere you look on this hardshell you’ll find an exceptionally well-executed example, which, again, should be the case at this price point.
Where do we even begin here? For starters there’s the aforementioned hood, with its four separate adjusters and effectively designed brim. The system works well to keep unwanted wind and wet at bay whether you’re wearing a bulky climbing helmet or a thin beanie. We also appreciate that Arc’teryx made the hood and collar separate entities, which allowed us to comfortably wear the jacket hoodless while still keeping our neck and mouth protected from cold air.
This is also one of the more glove-friendly jackets we tested, and our testers gave the Beta AR high marks for its oversized zipper pulls and intuitive cinces at the cuffs and hem. We’ll also note that while the jacket’s exterior pockets are technically only “water resistant” rather than waterproof (we never had any concerns stashing our phones in them for what it’s worth), the inclusion of a separate interior waterproof pocket added further value to the design.
Lastly, we’ll give Arc’teryx props for their hipbelt-friendly hand pockets. This is a feature often overlooked in less technical shells, but we had zero issues accessing the Beta AR’s pockets wearing large and small packs alike.
There’s no way to tiptoe around the Beta AR’s $600 asking price. This is a premium shell with a premium price, and if it didn’t deliver the degree of technical performance it does, it would simply be a flop as far as we’re concerned.
After testing the jacket ourselves, however, we believe the Beta’s price will be justified for those who need its technical prowess. In cool-to-below-freezing conditions, the Beta AR delivers the goods for any number of activities, and that versatility is worth paying for if you’re active in the cooler months. The water and wind protection on offer here are simply the best in the business, no buts about it.
What makes the deal even sweeter, in our opinion, is just how well Arc’teryx nailed the fit of this hardshell. It’s not bulky, but it isn’t too tight either, leaving just enough room for movement and layers while still looking handsome around town. Shells tend to air on the big and boxy side, but our medium-sized sample jacket was spot on for a 6’1” tester with fairly broad shoulders and an athletic build.
Another major selling point we found during testing was just how rugged the Beta AR’s GoreTex Pro construction proved to be. We made a point of playing it fast and loose with the jacket to test its durability, and never managed to harm or puncture the material in any way.
Yes, it’s expensive, but there’s no grey area here: This shell is built to perform and built to last, and also happens to look awfully smart anywhere you wear it.
What We Like
Our test crew was smitten with the performance, build quality, versatility, and rugged character of the Beta AR. Water and wind protection are second to none here, but there’s so much more we love about this shell than sheer technical performance.
Take the fit, for example. Arc’teryx has always done a great job of delivering a well-fitting jacket that still has room for layers without looking or feeling boxy or bulky. The Beta AR is as roomy as it needs to be without an inch of unnecessary fabric anywhere on the garmet, which is more than we can say for some of the “ski jacket” fits we experienced throughout our recent field testing.
We’ll also give Arc’teryx props here for their attention to detail. Everything about this jacket looks and feels thoughtfully designed. The stitching and seam taping are utterly flawless, all of the adjusters from the hood to the hem are absolutely dialed, and all the little premium details from the suede trim around the neck to the glove-friendly zipper feel premium beyond reproach.
Lastly, we love how durable this thing is. This is the kind of jacket you can simply stuff into a backpack, saddlebag, or suitcase without having to worry about tearing or puncturing the material. Arc’teryx’s clever use of heavier 80D fabric in high wear zones like the arms and shoulders gives us confidence that the Beta AR will stand up to years of hard use, which makes its asking price feel more reasonable.
What We Don’t Like
Clearly the Arc’teryx Beta AR is an outstanding jacket in cold to mild weather, but our main complaint here is that the thicker fabric and limited breathability aren’t ideal for the warmer months. The jacket was outstanding for backcountry use in cold weather, but as fall transitioned into spring we found ourselves reaching for it less and less, favoring lighter shells like the Beta LT.
By the time summer rolled around we didn’t relish the idea of using it as a standalone jacket over something like a moisture-wicking t-shirt, and were more than happy to lose a little durability and protection in exchange for lighter, more active options. Again, the pit zips kept the jacket serviceable in terms of body heat, but the Beta’s burly build loses some of its appeal as the temps climb.
Our other nitpick with the Beta is its packability. The jacket is reasonably light for a 3L hardshell, but doesn’t pack down nearly as well as faster/lighter designs like the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic we tested this year. It’s one thing to take a hardcore hardshell like this out when it’s already raining outside, but when we were looking at a dayhike with a 30% chance of rain in the forecast, we were willing to compromise a little protection in exchange for less weight on our back and more room in our packs.
- Patagonia Torrentshell 3L: A budget-friendly hardshell with comparable protection but fewer features. Read our full test and review…
- REI XeroDry GTX: GoreTex protection and a decent feature set for less money. Boxy fit, but quality waterproofing. Read our full test and review…
- Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic: A premium softshell jacket that sacrifices some protection for outstanding breathability and soft, stretchy material. Read our full test and review…
The Bottom Line…
When it comes to staying dry, the Arc’Teryx Beta AR truly does everything well. It may not be the lightest or most compact hardshell option out there, but if you only have room for one jacket in your quiver, this is the one to beat. Regardless of whether you’re backpacking, skiing, snowshoeing, or just walking back to the car in a rainstorm, the Beta AR does it all with aplomb.
We’ll also note that while the Beta is one of the more expensive hardshells out there, it’s also one of the toughest, and we expect it to last for years of abuse without losing any performance along the way. Premium tech, an outstanding fit, surprising comfort, and long-wearing construction blend together for a versatile investment that we believe is worth serious consideration.