Arc’teryx Zeta LT Jacket
$475, 12 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Pulling the trigger on buying a high-end piece of outdoor apparel like a rain jacket can be a tough decision, but it really comes down to a very basic question: Why do you need it? Beyond personal issues regarding budget and priorities, and certainly comparing similar products based on performance and price, consider whether you will use the jacket in ways that take advantage of those aspects of the jacket that justify its price. The Zeta LT seemed like a good example to use to demonstrate how to evaluate those questions, so I took it out hiking and backpacking in wet weather from Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains to Yoho National Park in the Canadian Rockies, to contemplate the value of a rain shell. And it more than demonstrated its value.
I wore the Zeta LT frequently during rain showers on an early-October, mostly off-trail backpacking trip in the White Clouds, and through two passing thunderstorms on a seven-mile, 2,300-foot dayhike on the Iceline Trail in Yoho; on those trips, temps ranged from the 30s to the 50s Fahrenheit. The three-layer Gore-Tex fabric’s breathability is very good, keeping me from overheating (or even building up much moisture inside) on long, uphill climbs wearing a 35-pound backpack in the White Clouds. The fabric also completely repelled hours of rain, while the fully adjustable hood, with its sturdy brim, provides good face coverage, and the hem extends below the hips.
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With Gore’s new C-KNIT technology, the fabric feels more supple and quieter than many rain jackets. That trait nicely complements the athletic fit: Even when wearing a midweight top and vest beneath the jacket, movement felt entirely uninhibited. I like that; the jacket moves with you and feels light. But don’t expect to layer heavily under it.
At 12 ounces, the Zeta LT is a few ounces too stout to be called ultralight. But I never regretted having it in my pack, unused, through four days of sunshine on a family backpacking trip on the 34-mile Rockwall Trail in Canada’s Kootenay National Park, because the Canadian Rockies certainly present the possibility of sustained wet, cold weather—exactly the conditions for which I’d want a jacket like this one. Plus, it’s relatively lightweight and compressible—wadding up to about the size of a cantaloupe—for a shell that achieves high levels of comfort, breathability, extended protection for hours in any weather, and durability. That’s value you don’t always find, at any price.
If you rarely have reason to prepare for sustained rain, you may be satisfied with a less-expensive shell or better off with an ultralight rain jacket. But for persistent, really wet conditions, especially in colder temps—when both breathability and protection from the elements become more critical to staving off hypothermia—I think a top-performing, all-season shell like the Arc’teryx Zeta LT is worth every penny.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a men’s Arc’teryx Zeta LT Jacket at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com or arcteryx.com, or a women’s Zeta LT Jacket at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com or arcteryx.com.
See my “5 Pro Tips For Buying the Right Rain Jacket for the Backcountry” and all of my reviews of outdoor apparel and rain jackets that I like.
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 categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.