In recent years, Arc’teryx has become a reference when it comes to designing light and effective quality products in performance outdoor equipment. Based in Canada, the company is located in the mountains, making sure that the team remembers at all time what it is they are trying to achieve: “to create equipment that enables a person to be immersed in the moment of doing, regardless of external conditions”. I have always been interested in their products but have never gotten to the point of actually purchasing one. The price of the garments always put me off. Could such an investment really be worth it?

It so happened that at the end of May, I am invited to join a  group of friends and to travel to the French Savoie for a trekking session around Chamonix. Just before departure, I am given the opportunity to try out one of the latest models from the Arc’teryx BETA line, the Arc’teryx BETA SL HYBRID. I was in need for a shell jacket for the trip, so who am I to say no to such an offer?

First impressions

As part of the BETA line, the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid jacket comes is an array of different colours and I am lucky enough to receive the dark blue version of the jacket (Tui). The fit is very comfortable and the two outer pockets are capacious. No inner pocket though.  The SL in the name stands for Super Lightweight and with its 360 grams, it doesn’t disappoint.

According to the tags and labels, this jacket is specifically designed to deliver high performance for diverse activities and conditions. Using two different GORE-TEX fabrics, the claim is that it will keep me dry no matter what. I was looking very much forward to getting an opportunity to put this to the test.

The trek

The idea for this test was to take the jacket with me on a 32 km hike up and down a mountain, just off of Chamonix and the weather conditions couldn’t have been better. Or at least, they couldn’t have been better for this review. Persistent drizzle, heavy rain, and hail were on the menu with only a few occasional appearances from the sun to cheers us on.

The start of the trek goes just fine. The jacket’s breathability is good, keeping me cool as we start our 1200m ascent towards the lake of Pormenaz. The paths are steep but gorgeous, taking us along cascades and an endless array of viewpoints dominating the valley below.

All hell starts to break loose weather-wise as we near the summit. We have seriously underestimated the snow conditions. Instead of the easy to follow path we had expected, we have to forge our way through a snowy desert, using our GPS to stay as close as possible to the path laying a meter or so under our feet. Despite this, I am impressed by the level of comfort I amin. I am warm, not a drop of rain is making it through and neither is the wind. Not only that, I am not experiencing any sweaty, clammy discomfort from the arduous trek through the, at times, knee-depth snow.

After finally reaching the lake and admiring the view, we decide to head back down as fast as possible. The snowy fields have slowed us down and we have quite a way to go in little time to avoid arriving back in town in the dark.

The climb down is a technical one, not helped by the relentless rain which is making the path extremely slippery. This does, however, allow me to put the Arc’teryx BETA SL HYBRID to yet another test by falling and sliding over rocks for a few meters. Brushing myself off, I inspect my jacket and, despite a few mud stains here and there, there is not a scuff to be seen. This lightweight jacket is tough!

Conclusion

As the going gets progressively easier, I am able to discover the best thing about this jacket. It is forgettable. What do I mean by that? At no point did I have to focus on it. I wasn’t overheating, I wasn’t wet. It does exactly what it is supposed to do; allow me to focus on the trek and the incredible views we encounter along the way. What more could you ask of a technical piece of clothing?

So to answer my question: could such an investment really be worth it? Well, put it this way. There are plenty of alternatives that will get the job done. But if I had the budget for it and was looking for a jacket that will last, I wouldn’t think about it twice.

Summary

  • WATER RESISTANCE – Outstanding thanks to the use of two different GORE-TEX fabrics
  • WIND RESISTANCE – Excellent
  • COMFORT – Very comfortable jacket. The hood of the jacket was easy to adjust and can easily accommodate a helmet for climbing or winter sports. Also, the jacket makes very little swishing noise while walking. Always a plus in my book.
  • BREATHABILITY – Good
  • DURABILITY – Very good. I inspected the jacket following the trek and couldn’t find a scuff.
  • FEATURES – The jacket has two large pockets but lacks an inner pocket.

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