As one of the most versatile, lightweight, and packable hardshells around, it’s the ideal jacket for a wide range of adventures. This is largely thanks to its hybrid construction, which increases breathability and durability without sacrificing weather-resistance.
The Beta SL Hybrid is the perfect piece to throw in your bag before heading to work or hitting the trail. It’s an ideal three-season shell that also doubles as a midlayer during winter activities. Comparable hardshells in this category include Black Diamond’s Stormline Stretch Rain Shell (women’s), (men’s) and Outdoor Research’s Helium II (women’s), (men’s).
What really sets the Beta SL Hybrid apart, however, is the Arc’teryx eye for detail. Here we have a jacket that’s ultralight, weather-resistant, surprisingly breathable, and versatile for both outdoor and urban pursuits. And all this while offering an unrestricted range of motion. Of course, its sleek, stylish design and athletic cut don’t hurt, either.
|Beta SL Hybrid|
A Few Things to Consider Before Buying a Lightweight, Hardshell Rain Jacket
Put simply, if you’ve ever been outside in wet or windy conditions, well, a hardshell rain jacket is for you. From your daily commute to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, unpredictable weather is a fact of life. That’s why this piece should be a staple in everyone’s closet. The question remains though: why a lightweight jacket?
What makes a lightweight hardshell an especially attractive option is its versatility; you can squeeze it into your briefcase, shove it into your hiking bag, or even stuff it into the pocket of your insulated midlayer jacket. Lightweight means increased versatility. Of course, some may argue that a lightweight model is less weather-resistant. Fair enough; however, the Beta SL Hybrid strikes a fine balance between weight and weather-proofing.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an insulated softshell, then the Beta SL Hybrid isn’t it. This jacket is a hardshell, meaning it’s going to keep the elements at bay—without generating heat. If a lightweight softshell is what you’re after, check out the Arc’teryx Gamma MX instead. Keep in mind that although warmer, softshells tend to be less waterproof due to their insulating materials, like down or synthetic.
Why Should You Consider the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid
So, what’s the Beta SL Hybrid all about? According to the Arc’teryx naming guide, we find that its Product Family, Beta, is defined as, “Versatile: high-performance for diverse activities and conditions.” While SL, its Product Modifier, is described as, “Superlight materials and design, emphasizing lightweight and packability over durablity.”
Interestingly, although weight and volume are emphasized over durability, we found this jacket to be particularly durable, largely thanks to its abrasion-resistant ripstop weave. Reviewer Justin L. writes, “Great jacket, very light and durable. Kept me dry while trekking through japan [sic] in rain and snow.”
Compared to other lightweight hardshell rain jackets in its class, the Beta SL Hybrid scores better in nearly every category. It’s lighter, more durable, more weather-resistant, and more breathable than many of its competitors. Although its high price point may raise eyebrows, the Beta SL Hybrid really does offer incredible value.
Harking back to Arc’teryx’s thoughtful design sense for a moment, consider this jacket’s side pockets: They’re uniquely placed, sitting slightly higher than the norm, which allows easy access while wearing a backpack hip-belt or climbing harness overtop. Coupled with its durability, you can see why this is a favourite lightweight hardshell among climbers and hikers alike.
The Hybrid in Beta SL Hybrid comes from its dual-layer construction. The face fabric is predominantly 40D ripstop nylon with a GoreTex PacLite Plus membrane, a highly weather-proof, abrasion-resistant, and compressible fabric. A 42D plain weave nylon with GoreTex C-KNIT backer reinforces areas of heavy friction, such as along the shoulders where your pack sits, and throughout the trunk.
Thanks to the compressibility of its fabrics, we found the Beta SL Hybrid easy to stuff into a side pocket of a hiking backpack, making it accessible in dubious weather conditions. And, in stark contrast to the typical coarseness of a hardshell’s internal membrane, the Beta SL Hybrid is surprisingly soft against the skin—a welcome feature when paired with a t-shirt on a muggy day. All told, this piece weighs in at an impressively light 12.7 oz. in a men’s medium.
Next to weather-resistance, breathability is arguably the most important feature of a hardshell rain jacket. Whether you’re hiking, trail-running or climbing, working up a sweat in a downpour requires some tact to stay comfortable. A good hardshell should use fabrics that are both weather-resistant and breathable, while also offering users the option of making micro-adjustments. As you’ll see, the Beta SL Hybrid fares well on both counts.
While the original PacLite was known to be highly weather-resistant, many people complained about its poor breathability and clammy feel. With PackLite Plus, however, GoreTex has remedied the issue: PackLite Plus is essentially a more textured version of its older brother. This added texture decreases direct skin contact, thereby increasing overall breathability, all while conserving PackLite’s renowned weather-resistant properties.
The Beta SL Hybrid also allows you to adjust its degree of breathability to suit your needs: Cinchable drawstrings around the neck, hood, and waist allow you to restrict or increase airflow as needed, while pit zips offer improved ventilation and mobility without having to shed layers. This makes the Beta SL Hybrid a highly breathable hardshell.
Here we arrive at the most important metric for any hardshell: how well does it stand up to the elements? Thanks to its hybrid construction incorporating GoreTex membranes and gridstop weaves, the Beta SL Hybrid stands up to wind and rain, slips and slides.
All zippers (front zip, pocket zips, and pit zips) are WaterTight with RS sliders, meaning they’re weatherproofed and feature a protective hood when closed. For increased heat retention, tighten the laminated, VELCRO Dry-Cuffs and cinch the drawstrings located around the waist, hood, and neck. Inside, microseam taping around the stitching ensures that no wind or rain can seep in.
The helmet-compatible StormHood is spacious enough to accommodate a cycling or climbing helmet, while a stiff, laminated brim keeps the hood from falling over your eyes (and the rain from falling onto your face). When not wearing a helmet (say, while taking the bus to work…), a cinchable drawstring in the back lets you adjust the hood snugly to fit your head.
In bitter weather, the StormHood excels at cutting wind and rain without interfering with your peripheral vision—an especially important feature in reduced visibility. When fully zipped, Beta SL Hybrid’s tall collar provides ample coverage and features a micro-suede chin, a thoughtful detail that prevents irritating zip-to-chin friction.
The Beta SL Hybrid is both lightweight and compressible. A men’s medium weighs in at just 360g (12.7 oz.), or just ¾ of a pound. While the Beta SL doesn’t officially compress into its own pocket (in other words, neither pocket features a two-way zip), it can nevertheless be stuffed into it, packing down to roughly the size of a small coffee to-go.
While the two-way pocket zipper is a feature we can live without, it would’ve been a nice touch for climbers who want to keep it clipped to their harness
As a rain jacket, the Beta SL Hybrid is built slim, trim, and athletic. It falls to about hip length, with a rear drop hem for added protection. We recommend pairing the Beta SL Hybrid overtop a baselayer or, in colder climates, a baselayer and an insulating midlayer like the Atom LT.
The ergonomic design of the Beta SL Hybrid is typical of all Arc’teryx products. Between its e3D patterning, gusseted underarms, and articulated elbows, this jacket offers an impressive range of motion for any outdoor activity. Style-wise, it invokes the virtues of functional minimalism and clean design in a most striking way.
Final Words on Our Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid Review
For a top-notch hardshell rain jacket, we recommend the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid. Its versatility across myriad activities, both urban and wild, makes it an excellent travel companion. Meanwhile, its compact and lightweight design means you’ll hardly notice it until you actually need it. This is a highly durable piece of kit and an essential wardrobe staple for unpredictable weather. You’ll be putting it to good use for years to come.
Thanks to its dual-layer GoreTex hybrid construction, it strikes a fine balance between weather-resistance and breathability. It features a helmet-compatible StormHood that’s adjustable and offers great visibility, while drawstrings around the neck, hood, and waist allow you to adjust heat and airflow.
Waterproof pit-zips are great for mobility and ventilation, and the front pockets are sewn slightly higher than average to allow easy access while wearing a harness or hip belt. As always, a range of colors are available, from earthy tones to psychedelic neons. Find the Beta SL Hybrid that suits you here.
If you’re looking for a more urban version of the Beta SL Hybrid—that is, even lighter, more minimalist, and easier on the wallet—we recommend the Arc’teryx Zeta SL (women’s; men’s). For a more robust hardshell suited to rugged alpine conditions, check out the Arc’teryx Alpha SV (women’s; men’s).