I picked up an Arc’Teryx Beta LT (ignore that link if you are not familiar with the brand, or you might have a price induced heart attack) recently, finally buying into the Arc hype. The Beta LT is replacing the Theta AR that I recently sold, since the Theta was just too much for the temperatures and humidities I am exposed to in the southeast. I have several Precip-ish jackets, but wanted something that didn’t feel like Saran Wrap in the constant 100% humidity of the region. Weight was also a concern, since it needed to be a jacket that would always be in my pack, since more often than not, there is a surprise rainstorm on a hike in the southeast, especially during the summer.
Enter the Beta LT. The Beta LT is a new Fall 08 style for Arc’Teryx, adding another super light Gore-Tex Pro Shell offering alongside the current champion, the Alpha LT. I could not get over the Alpha’s ridiculous cross handed pockets (your right hand goes in a pocket on the left side of the jacket and vice versa), which is why I ordered the Theta AR in the first place. I was overjoyed to see the Beta LT several months back, since it was similar to the Alpha and only a few grams heavier. I couldn’t quite do the bright blue or bright green, so I had to go with black. I will not stand out in the woods for sure in this jacket, so thank goodness for my bright red and bright orange packs. I do my best not to be mistaken for wildlife by a hunter with too many PBRs in his system during hunting season.
The fit is great, as it is with most Arc’Teryx items. Their larger sizes are for taller people with longer torsos and larger bodies, instead of fatter people with bigger guts like a lot of brands. It’s nice to have a jacket where I cannot pull 2′ of fabric away from my abdominal area and have enough room in my sleeves to smuggle small children in and out of the country. The jacket is very comfortable, even when against wet skin, which is a big credit to the 3-layer waterproof fabrics out there like Pro Shell, eVent, MemBrain, etc. Just to get an idea of what Paclite/Precip/etc. feels like versus Pro Shell or any of the other 3 layer fabrics, wet your skin and then put painter’s plastic and then something with a tight weave like a canvas on your skin. It’s pretty easy to see which one you would rather have rubbing on you for hours or days on end, and you only add a couple of ounces over the Beta SL that is made out of PacLite. Add in the fact that Pro Shell is supposed to be more breathable, lighter, and still more durable than the old XCR, and you have a winner. Some people in the industry have expressed some concerns with the durability of eVent, which is why I did not go that route, even though eVent is supposed to be more breathable.
Regarding the waterproofness, I have only worn it in light rain so far, so I cannot give a two week backpacking abuse verdict quite yet. It is an Arc’Teryx product made of WL Gore fabrics, so I have no doubts that it can keep the rain out with the best of them. There are sizable pit zips with tiny little zippers, so you have extra ventilation if you want it during those extra muggy days. The pit zips have those annoying laminated reverso (teeth are on the inside instead of outside) zippers, so they can be a pain to zip and unzip, but that is a minor quibble. Thankfully, the main zipper is one with wider teeth, so it is much easier to move up and down.
Since I’m sure someone will ask, yes, the hood is helmet compatible. I’m not sure why they did this with their light, short jacket, but I am probably not their target market. At this price, most buyers have to actually need a jacket of this level, or you just have more money than you know what to do with. I’m sure some mountaineer out there is very happy that he can climb part of K2 in his Beta LT, and some trust fund kid is glad he has enough room for his Bed Head encrusted hair.
The two issues that I can see people possibly having are the stow-away hood and the short length. I will always have the hood out of it’s pocket, so the stow-away does not bother me like I know it does some people. Regarding the length, it comes halfway down my ass, which is plenty. If I am really that worried about my legs getting wet, I will put on my rain pants.
To summarize, it’s an awesome jacket, but very expensive. If you have an obnoxious amount of money or are hiking the AT soon, the Beta LT is a great option in the super expensive waterproof shell category. It’s brand new for this season, so finding it for more than 20% off or so will be tough for a while.