All-Season Shell Jacket
Arc’teryx Beta Lightweight Jacket
$500, 13 oz./369g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-3XL, women’s 2XS-2XL
From a pair of three-day backpacking trips and some dayhikes in the Canadian Rockies in early August to a four-day trip in the Wind River Range in mid-August and a seven-day hike in Glacier National Park in September, I logged countless hours walking through rain showers, steady rain, intense thunderstorms, and very strong, chilly wind in the Beta Lightweight Jacket. My takeaway: This is one of the most weather-resistant and comfortable all-season shells on the market.
Summer in the northern Rocky Mountains can give you a strong opinion about any rain shell and my trips certainly put Arc’teryx’s Beta Lightweight to every three-season meteorological test imaginable. To cite a few examples…
I stayed dry wearing it through an intense thunderstorm and the steady rain that followed it on our first day backpacking the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. And dayhiking the 13-mile Burgess Pass Loop in Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies on an overcast day in the 50s Fahrenheit/low teens Celsius, the jacket kept me dry through steady rain showers while hiking above treeline. But almost more importantly, it breathed well enough that the synthetic T-shirt that I soaked with sweat on the humid, steep, fast-paced hike up 3,500 feet in 4.5 miles to Burgess Pass dried out completely on my body within about 20 minutes after I pulled this shell on over it as we started traversing and gradually descending the Burgess Highline Trail.
I also wore it for a few hours or more almost every day in the Winds, mostly to fend off cold gusts probably exceeding 40 mph and occasionally perhaps 50 mph, as well as through an afternoon thunderstorm; I even wore it carrying a backpack uphill to a couple of 11,000-foot passes, hood up and cinched tight, without overheating (largely because of the cold wind). And in Glacier, I wore it through a few hours of steady rain one morning and in sunny but windy conditions and temps in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit/teens Celsius.
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Credit that excellent weather protection to the three-layer Gore-Tex membrane and DWR (durable, water-repellent coating). Arc’teryx bills this jacket as an all-season shell and that’s valid—it’s definitely built for all conditions.
That begins with an athletic fit that never feels bulky while still providing space for layering a midweight puffy jacket underneath in deep cold. I wore it virtually always over just one or two base layers while hiking and this jacket felt great on me—never restricting movement, bunching up, or feeling like a box made of nylon. In other words, it never made me think about it; it just did its job in an unnoticeably comfortable way, which is what good gear should do. (I wore a men’s medium and I’m five feet, eight inches and 150 pounds, with a 38-inch chest and 30-inch waist.)
Besides the design, part of the explanation for its high degree of comfort is the C-KNIT backer on the fabric, which makes the fabric softer and quieter: This jacket isn’t stiff, crinkly, or noisy like some hard shells.
At 13 ounces/369 grams, the Beta Lightweight is what the name asserts: lightweight but decidedly not ultralight, falling a bit north of the median weight for three-season rain jackets for the backcountry and packing down to slightly larger than a liter bottle. (The jacket packs inside either hand pocket, but oddly, neither has a two-sided zipper for that purpose.) But it also transitions smoothly to winter and technical use, thanks to a simple but highly functional set of features.
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Arc’teryx’s one-hand-adjustable, helmet-compatible StormHood, which has a pronounced brim, kept rain off my face, aided by a front zipper that collar that close up over your chin. The two zippered hand pockets are positioned above a pack belt or climbing harness and hold a climbing skin or ski glove; and the one zippered internal pocket is slightly larger than a smartphone.
The 40-denier fabric, which blocked wind very effectively and ensures greater durability than most lighter jackets offer.
The two-way pit zippers slide reasonably easily—like many pit zips—and provide decent ventilation that enabled me to keep hiking uphill with a pack on (albeit in somewhat cool temps). The sleeves have hook-and-loop cuffs and enough length and mobility in the underarm panels to never ride up, even when reaching overhead. The jacket’s adjustable hem extends below the waist, helping to keep the top of my pants dry and never riding up under a pack hipbelt when I bent forward.
As with many waterproof-breathable jackets in this sub-one-pound weight class, I find the Beta Lightweight a little too warm and not quite breathable enough to wear while hiking in mild temperatures, especially when carrying a pack—but that’s not the intended use profile for this shell. If you rarely hike in rain or temps below around 60° F/15° C, get a lighter (and much cheaper) rain jacket. (See my picks for the best rain jackets in a wide range of weights and designs.)
But if you need a shell for any and all weather—and you might encounter it in August, January, or any month in between—the Beta Lightweight fits the bill, as exemplified by many of the situations I wore it.
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Arc’teryx Beta Lightweight Jacket
If you can get past the price—and there are good rain shells ranging from $100 cheaper to half the sticker price of this one—the Arc’teryx Beta Lightweight Jacket delivers superior weather protection, comfort, features, and durability at a moderate weight in a packable design, making it one of the top all-season shells you’ll find for backpacking, dayhiking, climbing, ski touring, snowshoeing, and other outdoor pursuits.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking either of these affiliate links to purchase a men’s Arc’teryx Beta Lightweight Jacket at arcteryx.com or a women’s Arc’teryx Beta Lightweight Jacket at arcteryx.com. .
See “The Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking,” “5 Pro Tips For Buying the Right Rain Jacket For the Backcountry,” and all reviews of rain jackets and outdoor apparel at The Big Outside.
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.