Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid
Weight: 10.9 oz. (women’s small)
Waterproofing: 3L Gore-Tex with C-Knit & 2L Gore-Tex Paclite Plus
What we like: Great combination of weather protection, features, weight, and comfort.
What we don't: Expensive and technically not packable.
See the Women's Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid See the Men's Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid
Arc’teryx’s Beta SL Hybrid isn’t your typical rain shell. As its name suggests, the hybrid construction blends two Gore-Tex fabrics of different thicknesses to maximize weatherproofing, minimize weight, and boost durability in wear-prone areas. I took the women’s version on a week-long mountain biking journey, several hikes in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, and backpacking in the Cascade Range. After enduring a number of torrential downpours, I’m confident in saying that this is one of the most well-rounded and weather-ready shells I’ve ever tested. Below we break down the Beta SL Hybrid’s weather protection, weight, breathability, durability, fit, and more. To see how it stacks up to the competition, see our articles on the best rain jackets and best hardshell jackets.
Using both 2-layer Gore-Tex with Paclite Plus and 3-layer Gore-Tex with C-Knit, the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid is a formidable barrier against the elements. The 3-layer Gore-Tex on the front and shoulders is designed to boost protection in critical areas: when hiking or biking, and particularly with a pack, the front of the body and shoulders tend to take the brunt of the precipitation and wind. Using 2-layer Gore-Tex on the rest of the design allowed Arc’teryx to shave ounces without sacrificing wet-weather performance. I’ve worn the Beta SL Hybrid in torrential rainstorms and it has shown no signs of leaking or wetting out. I’ve also thrown it on while traversing windy mountain passes and it has done an admirable job at sealing out strong gusts. I haven’t yet gotten to test the Beta SL Hybrid in rough winter conditions, but I’m confident enough in its performance thus far to throw it in my backcountry ski pack this coming season.
In addition to the hybrid construction, Arc’teryx included a number of details that boost the jacket’s weather worthiness. The fully taped seams prevent water from seeping in, and the front zipper uses Arc’teryx’s WaterTight Vislon waterproofing to seal out moisture (importantly, all the zippers are water-resistant and not completely waterproof, but I haven’t had any issues stowing valuables in the pockets). Further, the bottom hem is easily adjustable on both sides and can be cinched tight in heavy rain or wind, and the 70-centimeter (27.5 in.) back length kept my back dry even when my arms were outstretched on my bike's handlebars. Finally, the full-coverage StormHood has been exceptional at keeping the elements out while hiking, the stiff laminated brim was surprisingly great at shielding my forehead and eyes in driving rain, and the adjustable Velcro cuffs are sturdy and can be pulled tight either under or over gloves.
The “SL” in the Beta SL Hybrid’s name is short for “superlight,” and we think that’s an appropriate designation. At 10.9 ounces for my women's small (Arc'teryx lists it at 10.6 oz.), it’s the lightest jacket in the Beta lineup by a good margin—the Beta SV is 15.5 ounces, the AR is 13.4 ounces, and the LT is 11.1 ounces. One closer Arc’teryx option is the Alpha FL at 10.4 ounces, but we prefer the suppleness of the Beta’s C-Knit backer (the Alpha FL uses 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro). Outside of Arc’teryx’s lineup, other lightweight shells including the Outdoor Research Interstellar (10.1 ounces) and REI Co-op Drypoint GTX (8.6 ounces) also undercut the Beta SL Hybrid. But given its feature set and burly construction, we think the weight is perfectly reasonable.
The Beta SL Hybrid technically isn’t packable—the hand pockets don’t feature two-sided zippers to double as a stuff sack—but it does stuff into an inverted hand pocket. As the name implies, Gore-Tex Paclite is designed to be packable, and the jacket compresses down to roughly the size of a grapefruit. All in all, given the low weight and small form factor, we think the Beta SL Hybrid is a good option for backcountry missions where weight and space are at a premium.
Gore-Tex shells typically prioritize weatherproofing over breathability, but the Beta SL Hybrid allowed for a good amount of airflow during exertion. On one particular outing, I threw the shell on while descending a mountain pass only to have the storm above clear and the sun appear as we began climbing again. Exhausted and with more miles to cover, I decided to keep the jacket on rather than to stop, remove my pack, take the jacket off, and stuff it away (this felt like a huge task when I was already tired). As we ascended, I was extremely impressed by how breathable the Beta SL Hybrid felt. To help with airflow, the jacket’s pit zips are generously sized and have double zippers to allow for customized venting, which is a feature I found very valuable.
Arc’teryx was incredibly thoughtful in designing the Beta SL Hybrid. First, the two Gore-Tex fabrics are strategically placed to boost durability in wear-prone areas, with 2-layer Paclite (40 denier) around the body and thicker 3-layer standard Gore-Tex (42 denier) in places more likely to abrade, like under the arms and along the shoulders. As we’ve come to expect from Arc’teryx, all other details are meticulously executed: the seams and taping haven’t peeled, the jacket has shown no signs of fraying or wear, and all zippers still operate smoothly after months of heavy use. And perhaps most notably, the shoulders and back look like new despite being rubbed against a heavy backpack frequently.
Most of Arc’teryx’s premium shells feature their generously sized and helmet-compatible StormHood, and the Beta SL Hybrid is no exception. I love the versatility and adjustability: the hood sports three drawcords that are intuitive and easy to manipulate, and it can be cinched tightly over a hat when I’m not wearing a bulky helmet. When snugged down fully, the collar covers my chin and cheeks without obstructing peripheral vision. Further, the hood’s brim is laminated and has held its shape even after being repeatedly stuffed into compression sacks. All that said, I found it difficult to wear the hood over my biking helmet while riding. It was fine when I was standing, but when leaning forward, the collar pulled tightly and was uncomfortable. But if you’re wearing the Beta SL Hybrid for any other activity—including hiking, backpacking, or even climbing—this shouldn’t be an issue.
Zippers aren’t often a major talking point, but the Beta SL Hybrid’s WaterTight zippers with RS sliders have a unique construction worth mentioning. Whereas zippers typically leave a small gap at the top and require a “garage” to seal out water, Arc’teryx’s design on the hand pockets is self-sealing, eliminating the need for a cover. In use, this shaves a bit of weight and bulk and also makes the jacket look sleeker. I do struggle with grabbing the rubber pull-tabs when my hands are cold, but to be fair, I haven’t found a zipper that I can consistently open and close with frozen fingers (and these zipper pulls are the best I've used). And although Arc’teryx specifies that their WaterTight zippers are water-resistant rather than waterproof, I have had no issues leaving items like my iPhone in the pocket during heavy rain. If you’re concerned about moisture seeping in, I recommend putting valuables in a Ziplock bag before stowing them in your pocket.
The Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid only has two hand pockets, but this makes sense given the jacket’s ultralight focus. And the pockets are nicely sized, although I would prefer that one doubled as a stuff sack with a two-sided zipper and carabiner loop for attaching to a harness. However, the pockets are high enough to ride above a pack hipbelt or harness, which was great news for my chronically cold hands (I take any chance I can get to stuff them inside).
Many ultralight designs forego pit zips to shave critical ounces, but the Beta SL Hybrid bucks that trend. As I touched on above, these pit zips are very generously sized and have two zippers (one at each end) that allow you to customize venting. In practice, I’ve found the pull tabs to be easy to manipulate and slide, and I’ve even managed to adjust them while riding technical terrain without stopping. That said, to fully open the pit zips, you have to outstretch your arms and hold the sleeve taut at the cuff. To be fair, this isn’t unique to the Beta SL Hybrid, and I’ve had the same issue with almost all hardshells.
Hardshells aren’t often lauded for their comfort, but the Beta SL Hybrid deserves high praise here. This is mainly due to the two Gore-Tex fabrics: Paclite Plus is noticeably less plasticky than standard Paclite, and the sections with C-Knit backer are soft and smooth against the skin. Both of these materials are less crinkly than that of many other shells, which is especially nice when the wind is blowing. In addition, the underarms are gusseted for mobility—I was able to comfortably reach forward while riding—and the collar has a soft chin guard over the zipper to add next-to-skin comfort. All in all, the Beta SL Hybrid is a super comfortable shell.
The Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid has a “trim” fit that keeps the shell close to the body but leaves room for light layers. If you plan to layer heavily underneath, I recommend sizing up to ensure you have enough room in the arms and at the waist. I opted for a small (rather than an extra small, which I occasionally wear) and found that it was perfect for my needs. It allowed me to wear what I wanted underneath without feeling bulky on its own. If I were to use it solely as an emergency shell, I instead would have gone with the extra small to shave weight. But even sized up, I found that the jacket had an athletic fit.
Men’s Version of the Arc’teryx Beta SL Hybrid
We put the women’s Beta SL Hybrid to the test, and Arc’teryx also makes the jacket in a men’s-specific version for the same price. The men’s Beta SL Hybrid shares the same 2- and 3-layer Gore-Tex construction as the women’s and sports an identical feature set including a helmet-compatible StormHood, pit zips for venting, an adjustable hood and hem, and Velcro cuffs. The only notable differences are colorways and fit, and the men’s jacket clocks in slightly heavier than the women’s at 12.7 ounces.
What We Like
- Combination of 2- and 3-layer Gore-Tex fabrics maximizes weather protection and durability in wear-prone areas.
- Nicely appointed for the weight. We especially appreciated the pit zips for dumping heat quickly.
- Fabrics are soft and supple against the skin, which isn’t always the case with rain shells.
What We Don’t
- Like most Arc’teryx pieces, the Beta SL Hybrid doesn’t come cheap at nearly $400.
- No internal pocket for stowing valuables.
- Lacks a stuff sack or dedicated pocket for packing the jacket away, although we were able to use a hand pocket without a two-sided zipper.
|Arc'teryx Beta SL Hybrid||$399||10.6 oz.||Performance/hiking||2L & 3L Gore-Tex||Yes||No|
|Arc'teryx Zeta SL||$299||9.5 oz.||Hiking/daily use||2L Gore-Tex||No||No|
|Arc'teryx Beta LT||$525||11.1 oz.||Performance||3L Gore-Tex||No||No|
|Outdoor Research Interstellar||$299||10.1 oz.||Performance/hiking||3L AscentShell||No||Yes|
|REI Co-op Drypoint GTX||$249||8.6 oz.||Hiking/daily use||3L Gore-Tex||No (vents)||No|
Arc’teryx’s Beta SL Hybrid is a versatile and weather-worthy shell designed to be used for a variety of activities. Another option in Arc’teryx’s “superlight” category is the Zeta SL. Built for summer hiking and trekking, the Zeta SL lacks the strategically placed 3-layer Gore-Tex of the Beta, instead opting for 2-layer Gore-Tex with Paclite Plus throughout, which translates to a bit less durability and protection in truly inclement weather. The Zeta SL also foregoes pit zips and the StormHood isn’t helmet-compatible, which makes it less of an alpine performance piece than the Beta (for more, see our in-depth Zeta SL review). If you need a shell specifically for hiking and around-town wear, we think it’s worth saving $100 with the Zeta SL. However, those headed into rough conditions or who intend to use the technical features should opt for the Beta SL Hybrid.
Another option in the Beta family is the Beta LT (“lightweight”). With the LT, you get an upgraded Gore-Tex Pro construction that offers better protection in harsh conditions. The LT also includes an internal chest pocket for stowing valuables, which the SL doesn’t. Like the Beta SL Hybrid, the Beta LT sports all the necessary trimmings for serious backcountry use: a helmet-compatible StormHood, WaterTight zippers, adjustable Velcro cuffs, and an adjustable hem for sealing out weather. However, the Beta LT lacks pit zips for dumping heat quickly, and the burlier Gore-Tex Pro construction comes with a bump in both weight (11.1 ounces vs. 10.6 for the Beta SL Hybrid) and cost ($525). In the end, the LT is a better crossover piece for demanding winter use, but for the summer and shoulder seasons, we like the cost savings you get with the SL Hybrid.
Outside of Arc’teryx’s lineup, the Outdoor Research Interstellar is another versatile performance shell to have on your radar. Lightly updated for fall 2019, the Interstellar combines softshell-like comfort with impressive weather resistance by using OR’s proprietary 3-layer AscentShell waterproofing. Compared to the Beta SL Hybrid, the Interstellar is slightly lighter at 10.1 ounces, features more storage with two hand pockets and a single chest pocket, and is more packable with a carabiner loop and a pocket that doubles as a stuff sack. That said, the shell is thin at 20 denier (the Beta SL Hybrid uses 40D and 42D fabrics) and doesn’t have pit zips (see our in-depth Interstellar review). For weight-conscious backcountry-goers who need a more durable shell in demanding conditions, we give the nod to the Beta SL Hybrid. But for a significant $100 less, the Interstellar will provide sufficient protection and breathability for most activities.
A final option to consider is the REI Co-op Drypoint GTX. Right off the bat, we’ll note that this isn’t a hardcore performance piece: the hood isn’t helmet-compatible, the jacket lacks pit zips (like the Interstellar above, the mesh-lined pockets double as core vents), and the shell is thin at 20 denier. Further, the Drypoint uses a 3-layer Gore-Tex Active construction, which prioritizes breathability and comfort over all-out protection and toughness. All told, the Drypoint GTX is a great option for year-round hiking and backpacking and $150 cheaper than the Beta SL Hybrid. But for tougher backcountry missions when weather is a major concern, we’ll spend up for the 2-ounce-heavier Beta SL Hybrid.
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