From Arc’teryx’s formidable hardshell lineup, the Beta AR slots in as the all-around workhorse. The jacket has been a flagship piece since its release back in 2000, and it remains a favorite thanks to a premium Gore-Tex Pro construction, complete feature set including pit zips and a sturdy hood, and competitive 16-ounce weight. We put the Beta AR to the test in the roller coaster of early winter conditions in the Pacific Northwest, and it impressed as a versatile and reliable backcountry partner. Below we break down the Beta AR’s weather protection, breathability, durability, features, fit, and more. To see how it stacks up, see our article on the best hardshell jackets.
The Arc’teryx Beta AR has proven to be both a great shoulder season and winter jacket, skillfully blocking out rain, wind, and snow. Built with Gore-Tex’s top-end Pro membrane, the jacket delivers bombproof 3-layer protection at a reasonable weight. On a multi-day trip to Mt. Baker in Washington State, the fully waterproof and windproof AR fought off heavy, wet snow and constant winds, and continued to protect during much colder conditions as the week wore on. Arc’teryx has cleverly divided this jacket into zones, with lighter weight, more breathable 40-denier (D) Gore-Tex Pro fabric used on the majority of the jacket, and heftier 80D Gore-Tex Pro covering exposed (and wear-prone) areas such as the hood, shoulders, elbows, and forearms. Compared with my burlier Alpha SV, which has a 100D Gore-Tex Pro build, the Beta AR is moderately less durable but hasn’t given up much in terms of harsh weather protection.
North Vancouver’s rain and coastal snow make for prime hardshell testing grounds, and I haven’t found a vulnerability in the design yet. The high quality DWR coating and fully taped seams have repelled downpours and snowfall that can wet out a lesser jacket. And Arc’teryx’s WaterTight external zippers with zipper garages have helped prevent moisture from penetrating the shell (Arc’teryx does state, however, that the zippers are not waterproof and only water resistant). And to top it off, the AR features an adjustable, full coverage hood with a separate collar that provides a cozy and warm seal around the neck. If I were to nitpick, the hood on my Alpha SV provides slightly more coverage with a smaller opening for the face when fully cinched, but the Beta AR is not far off.
I tend to run far too warm to wear a shell during any high-output activities unless the conditions are brutal, so I’ve primarily used the Beta AR for transitions while backcountry skiing, on descents, and when the weather is particularly harsh. I’ve experienced several days this year in the Pacific Northwest’s coastal mountains (specifically Seymour Provincial Park and Mount Baker National Forest) where temperatures were cold enough (hovering in the mid 20s Fahrenheit) to wear the shell while skinning. Each time I comfortably wore my Outdoor Research Ascendant midlayer under the Beta without overheating. As with my Alpha SV, Gore-Tex Pro breathes admirably for a fully waterproof design, and the large pit zips are a lifesaver for me to dump heat in a hurry (I will also partially open the main zipper as conditions allow).
We have come to expect nothing less than topnotch quality from Arc’teryx, and the Beta AR is no exception. Every detail on this jacket has been attended to, from clever fabric mapping to a consistent 1.6mm seam allowance that keeps weight in check. This jacket has withstood the elements, wear and tear, and hardships associated with life in the bottom of a pack with a shovel, probe, and ski crampons without showing even a bit of wear. As mentioned above, the high-use areas of the Beta AR feature reinforced 80D Gore-Tex Pro, providing extra durability in the arms and shoulders and allowing the jacket to effectively resist abrasion from backpack straps. And we’ve found that the 40D fabric doesn’t sacrifice much durability, with a burly ripstop construction.
Weight and Packability
The Beta AR weighs in at 16.2 ounces for a men’s medium, which puts it about middle of the pack for alpine-ready hardshells. It’s certainly not a fast-and-light machine like the 11.1-ounce Arc’teryx Alpha FL, and it even weighs a couple ounces more than jackets like the Outdoor Research Axiom and Patagonia Pluma. Perhaps a future update will trim an ounce or 2—Arc’teryx’s new RS zipper design that foregoes zipper garages would help—but we think the weight is put to good use overall: the jacket has excellent all-day comfort with a microsuede lined collar, a large and highly functional hood with laminated brim, multiple pockets, pit zips, and a roomy torso. More, it compresses nicely into its own hood, which can be cinched down into about a 1.5-liter size to keep everything neat and tidy.
When skiing, mountaineering, or climbing, a sturdy, large, and adjustable hood is a must, and the DropHood on the Beta AR excels at all the above. The design is helmet compatible and easy to fine tune, with a separate collar for additional comfort and protection. The large hood fit easily around my Oakley Mod 5 helmet and Airbrake goggles without restricting movement. Additionally, the laminated brim on the hood effectively kept rain and snow off the face. I found the adjustment tabs easy to reach and large enough to manipulate with ski gloves on, which is extremely handy in cold temperatures when removing gloves means instant discomfort.
Compared with Arc’teryx’s one-piece StormHood, which is found on jackets like the Beta SV and Alpha SV, the DropHood is almost identical in size and adjustability. Unfortunately, it does leave a larger opening around the face when fully cinched down, and snow can build up in between the collar and hood. That being said, the DropHood’s collar is a nice touch when you don’t quite need a hood but you still want to tuck your chin away or keep drafts or moisture from entering your jacket. In the end, we prefer the StormHood’s greater protection and the weight savings of the one-piece design, but both have their pros and cons.
Storage is another strong suit of the Beta AR, and falls nicely in line with its multi-sport intentions. The jacket is outfitted with two large volume hand pockets that are easily accessible even when wearing a pack or harness. Unlike more streamlined chest pockets, these openings are better placed to protect hands, but can also accommodate larger items like ski goggles, skins, maps, or a two-way radio. A small internal chest pocket is great for stowing away smaller items like a mobile phone or GPS device.
Billed as a “regular fit” by Arc’teryx, the Beta AR is roomier than their “trim” fitting jackets, with more volume in the torso in particular. Some might find this jacket to even be baggy in the chest, but we appreciated the extra space in the cold. Layered with insulated jackets such as the Outdoor Research Ascendant or Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, the Beta AR remained comfortable and did not restrict any movement. This was especially noticeable in the armpit area, where bunching and restrictions occur in most fitted shells. The no-lift gusseted underarms and articulated elbows allowed for movements like adjusting the hood, reaching for skis in a roof box, or even splitting wood—all without causing the waist to ride up.
Size-wise, we’ve found the Beta AR runs true. But it’s important to note that its hemline is right around the waist, noticeably shorter than other shell jackets I have worn. I’d prefer that it run a few inches longer, especially for skiing and wearing under a harness or backpack. Additionally, the Beta AR does not feature the harness hemlock that we see on other Arc’teryx jackets (like my Alpha SV), which is a feature that keeps the jacket from riding up under a harness or hipbelt strap.
What We Like
- Gore-Tex Pro construction and a mix of 40D and 80D shell fabrics make for a bombproof, durable, and reasonably lightweight jacket.
- Large hood does not impair vision and is easy to adjust with gloves on.
- The hand pockets are large enough to fit skins for quick transitions.
- Regular fit provides space to layer without the jacket riding up or restricting movement.
What We Don’t
- The separate collar and hood adds weight and allows for snow to build up in between.
- We’d prefer a longer waist for additional coverage while skiing and wearing under a harness/backpack.
- If you want a true ultralight jacket, look elsewhere.
|Arc'teryx Beta AR||$575||All-around||16.2 oz.||Gore-Tex Pro||40D & 80D|
|Patagonia Pluma||$549||All-around/minimalist||14.6 oz.||Gore-Tex Pro||40D|
|Arc’teryx Alpha SV||$749||Alpine/all-around||17.3 oz.||Gore-Tex Pro||100D|
|Arc'teryx Beta LT||$525||All-around/minimalist||12.2 oz.||Gore-Tex Pro||40D|
|Arc'teryx Alpha FL||$425||Minimalist/all-around||11.5 oz.||Gore-Tex Pro||40D|
As the all-rounder of the multi-sport Beta family, the Beta AR is one of our favorite one-quiver hardshells. Arc’teryx has an unmatched selection of storm-ready alpine jackets, so some of the best alternatives to the Beta AR come from in-house. At the premium end is the Alpha SV, which costs an additional $174 more than the already-spendy AR. For the extra cost, you get a more streamlined fit (the Alpha series is climbing-focused, hence the trimmer design), greater durability with a stronger 100D shell, and only a small weight penalty (for more information, see our in-depth Alpha SV review). If you want the best of the best, it’s hard to beat the Alpha SV—we also prefer its longer fit when skiing—but it’s equally difficult to justify the price difference unless you’ll be out in the absolute worst conditions.
Two lighter weight Gore-Tex Pro alternatives from Arc’teryx are the Beta LT and Alpha FL jackets. Both are made with 40D shells, so their overall durability falls short of the reinforced 80D sections of the Beta AR. They also do not include pit zips, so they’re less versatile than the Beta AR for activities like backcountry skiing. If, however, weight and packability are priorities—climbers and backpackers should take note—it’s hard to beat the level of weather protection these jackets provide at 11.1 ounces (Alpha FL) and 12.2 ounces (Beta LT).
Patagonia had been surprisingly quiet on the hardshell front, but they have released a quality competitor to the Beta AR for 2017-2018 in the Pluma jacket. Priced at $549 and featuring 40D Gore-Tex Pro construction, pit zips, and a helmet-compatible hood, it’s intended as a versatile backcountry skiing, climbing, and mountaineering piece. Our initial impressions of the Pluma have been strong, but we aren’t at a point where we can make a final call between the two jackets just yet (be on the lookout for a review in the near future). One area in particular where the Pluma will need to prove itself is matching the Beta AR’s long-lasting durability and performance.
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