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Arc'teryx Beta AR Review
Cons: A bit large and bulky, baggy fit, expensive, face fabric easily stains
Bottom line: A fantastic hardshell that has a great set of features and an amazing collar, but comes at a hefty price.
Measured Weight (Size): 1 lb. 0.6 oz. (L)
Material: N40r-X GORE-TEX Pro 3L
The Arc'teryx Beta AR remains unchanged for the 2018 season, except for a new selection of new colors to mix things up. It has been a mainstay of Arc'teryx's jacket line-up for around 13 years now and remains popular due to its Gore-Tex Pro membrane and burly face fabric leading to exceptional durability. This jacket is known for its versatility and is designed specifically with this attribute in mind. Arc'teryx designs their Beta series of clothing with all-around performance in mind, and the AR also stands for "All-round." Due to its incredible collar design, deep hood, and spacious fit it may be the most comfortable hardshell to hang around in all day, but doesn't quite offer the top-quality performance we found in the Arc'teryx Alpha FL.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Arc'teryx Beta AR remains unchanged for the 2017-18 winter, except for the selection of colors. It is an all-around jacket that will do an incredible job of protecting you from the elements while providing exemplary durability with its blend of 80D and 40D face fabrics paired with a Gore-Tex Pro membrane. The features included with this jacket do an excellent job but have not been upgraded to the newest standard, such as Cohaesive cord-locks found on the Patagonia Pluma or The North Face Summit L5 FuseForm GTX. Arc'teryx describes it as their ultimate lightweight hardshell, but at 1 lb. 0.6 ounces, we hardly found it to be super light or super packable.
That said, we did love the weather protection it offers, especially the tall collar feature that is comfortable and doesn't rub the chin while sealing off the neck from the elements. This fit is quite large, to the point of being baggy, making it perhaps the best hardshell for hanging out in all the time (think work), but not as ideal for technical climbing and skiing missions as more athletically cut jackets. Due to its fit, it is also an excellent choice for dudes with larger frames.
This shell is made of both 80D and 40D face fabrics backed with a lightweight Gore-Tex Pro membrane. Most of the face fabric is the lighter and more supple 40D, with the 80D reinforcing the shoulders. It includes all the stellar features found on the other Arc'teryx jackets we have tested over the years, like a four-point adjustable storm hood and water-tight zippers. What we love about the Beta AR is its collar.
The collar is a separate piece of material from the hood, meaning it wraps and seals all the way around your neck, and is incredibly cozy and comfortable. It is easily the most comfortable collar in this review and has plenty of room underneath it for warmth layers or a Buff to help keep your face and neck warm. However, we found the hem to be a bit high in our size men's large jacket, allowing for annoying ride-up, especially if the draw cords have been tightened. While this jacket offers excellent protection from the storm, we didn't think it was quite as rad as the Dynafit Radical, or even the Mountain Hardwear Cloudseeker, and so gave it 8 out of 10 points.
At 1 lb. 0.6 ounces for a size large, the Beta AR is a moderately heavy and relatively bulky jacket. While this weight probably shouldn't be considered "heavy," this is a comparative review, so we are holding it to a standard set by the other jackets. It was slightly lighter than the Rab Firewall, but nowhere near as light, or as packable, as the best jacket for this metric, the Outdoor Research Realm. We gave it 5 out of 10 for weight.
Mobility and Fit
This shell is cut to Arc'teryx's "Athletic Fit," standard, meaning that it includes plenty of room underneath for layering. To us, it felt bulky and baggy in the chest while also feeling too short at the hem. While it is designed to allow plenty of layering underneath, we feel that the cut of this jacket could hardly be called "athletic." Additionally, the heavy weight Gore-Tex Pro membrane is stiff and crinkly, making this one of the less mobile jackets available.
That said, we liked how the hood fit, even with a helmet on, allowing for movement of the head and helmet within the hood, rather than moving with it, but our visibility was never impaired. The hemline of this jacket is at waist level, and we have to admit that we liked a lower hem for skiing a little bit better. People with a larger frame will do well with the fit of this jacket, as it doesn't have any of the constrictions we found on some of the more genuinely "athletic fits" that we tested, but there is no doubt that it does not have the same fine-tuned fit as the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, or the Outdoor Research Axiom. In fact, in this year's review, only the Marmot Speed Light had a poorer fit for our body, and so we gave it 5 out of 10 points.
Venting and Breathability
Whether we were wearing this jacket while skinning uphill, or while testing it specifically in our stationary bike test, we found the combination of 40D and 80D fabrics, along with the Gore-Tex Pro membrane, to be very hot and sweaty.
While we felt it did an ok job of breathing once we had sufficiently raised the relative humidity to the point where direct diffusion could take place, the fact is that ventilation is virtually always a more comfortable means of staying cool. The Beta AR includes standard pit zips for this purpose, but lacks the mesh-backed pockets or two-way zipper that we found handy on the Outdoor Research Realm, and in no way did it ventilate as well as the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker. This jacket is undoubtedly better at protecting from bad weather than it is at breathing once you are hot, and so we gave it 6 out of 10 points.
This product has a feature set that differentiates it from jackets like the Arc'teryx Alpha FL; the Beta AR is a bit more comfortable to hang out in but is a little heavier as a result. Instead of chest pockets, it has two large and high handwarmer pockets that live above the hip belt line of a pack or harness. It also has a small internal zip pocket. We have already described how much we love the high collar.
While the drawcord buckles are adequate, they are not as good as the ones found on the Patagonia Pluma. The Beta AR has four adjustment points on its storm hood but is lacking the harness hemlock feature (present on the Alpha FL) that keeps it from riding up with a harness on. Compared to the competition, the quantity of features found on this jacket is merely average, and they also functioned roughly average as well. 6 out of 10 points.
While you could certainly climb ice or large mountains in this jacket, we don't think it performs quite as well as the Alpha FL in those environments. This might be one of the best jackets to buy if you are wanting something that can do it all — skiing, climbing, working, or hanging out on gnarly winter days. However, we don't think it is the best jacket for doing any one of these things — it is rather the consummate all-arounder.
This jacket costs $575, which is a lot of money. The materials and craftsmanship probably make this jacket worth that price. However, for any given activity, there is a jacket in this review that will probably do a better job at a lower price, throwing into question the actual value you are getting for a jacket that is so expensive.
The Arc'teryx Beta AR is a great winter hardshell that will protect you from the weather in any conditions. It is an extremely durable and well-made all-around jacket that can perform admirably for any activity. While it is perhaps one of the most comfortable jackets to hang out in that we have tested, its bulkier fit makes it less technically inclined than its Alpha FL cousin. While we like this jacket a lot, we found it to be slightly below average in head-to-head comparison testing.
— Andy Wellman
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