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High-Output Activity Hardshell for Anything but Climbing: Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket Review

From high-aerobic activities like cross-country skiing, all-day endeavors such as backcountry touring, and everyday outdoor excursions with kids, the Arc'teryx Beta AR is the perfect hardshell for almost any adventure.

Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket Hero(Photo/David Gladish)
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The previous time I skied into the Yuditna Cabin on Eklutna Lake, a backcountry cabin in Alaska, I was smarter. It turns out that pulling 75 pounds of gear on a sled in winter is easier with classic skis, and is not recommended, nor fun, with skate skis. 

Alas, despite my poor choice of flotation, my decision to wear the Arc’teryx Beta AR hardshell jacket into the cabin in November made up for any errors in my choice of ski. I reached for this jacket because of its versatility. It’s perfect for a cold day out with my family when I knew I wasn’t doing anything super technical or specific, but needed a jacket for whatever conditions the day would throw at me.

Having an all-around hardshell while pulling a heavy sled allowed me to stay ventilated and sweat-free. It blocked out the biting north winds and helped me retrain much-needed body heat between snack breaks with my two toddlers in tow. 

Beyond my overnight Alaskan adventure, I took the Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket through the wringer, cross-country skiing on the world-class nordic trails at Kincaid Park outside of Anchorage, ski touring at Stevens Pass in Washington, and camping along Hood Canal just outside of Olympic National Park. The Beta AR was a welcome companion through all of it.

In short: What stood out about the Arc’teryx Beta AR jacket is just what the AR or “all around” name implies. It is an impeccably designed, highly breathable, fully functional, durable, and easy-to-use hardshell. This jacket worked phenomenally for winter activity in almost any condition, no matter the weather. It is a top-choice quiver-killing hardshell for anyone who might want to pare down the contents of their closet. It’s a shell you can use for almost any adventure — as long as it doesn’t require a harness.

Want to compare the Beta AR to the hardiest hardshell jackets available today? Check out GearJunkie’s Best Hardshell Jacket guide.

Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket

Specs

  • Material construction 40D/80D 3L GORE-TEX Pro Most Rugged
  • Waterproof rating (mm) 28,000
  • Breathability rating (RET) <9
  • Fit Regular
  • Pockets Two handwarming pockets
  • Weight 1 lb.
  • Best for General mountaineering, ski-touring, alpine rock

Pros

  • Versatile feature set
  • Unique raised collar for weather protection
  • Built with Most Rugged GORE-TEX tech

Cons

  • Most Rugged version of GORE-TEX Pro has lower breathability
  • No two-way front zipper

Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket: Review

Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket Eklutna Lake
Traveling junk show would be an accurate term; (photo/David Gladish)

First Impressions

More than a rain jacket and less than a suit of armor, hardshell jackets like the Beta AR are waterproof shells. They’re made to keep the elements out, help users stay dry in rain, snow, and muck, and act as a final steadfast barrier between a person and whatever conditions they face.

Most days when I need a hardshell jacket, I’m hoping it does a few key things. I want it to keep me dry, retain body heat, and allow sweat and moisture to escape. The Beta AR does all of these well. To me, this jacket stands out for being the Swiss Army knife of shells. It performs at a high level in almost any condition and usage — without feeling like it’s too much.

There are more activity-specific and higher-end hardshells from Arc’teryx such as the Alpha. That jacket uses the GORE-TEX Most Rugged version of its Pro fabric for extreme durability. Or, if you want a lightweight jacket (weighing in at just 13.9 ounces) for less extreme activities, the Beta LT is a safe bet. GearJunkie’s guide to the Best Hardshell Jackets has a complete variety of styles and uses on full display.

But while the Beta AR isn’t the most durable or lightest weight, it makes up for its lack of specifics by being the “just right” bowl of porridge. It’s functional across activities and conditions.

Beta AR Feature Set

Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket Pockets
(Photo/David Gladish)

Breathability and Fit 

Eklutna Lake is surrounded by rugged mountains marked by alder trees and tundra. Eklutna Glacier feeds the lake, which sparkled crystal clear in the flat, low-lying, and quickly diminishing light of late fall when I was skiing along its western shore.

In that moment, it was hard to ignore how comfortable I was. I wasn’t overheating while pulling a sled filled with firewood, sleeping bags, and food for an overnight.

The Beta AR uses N40d (denier) GORE-TEX Pro fabric in the main body of the jacket, providing efficient breathability. The shoulder and hood are reinforced with N80d GORE-TEX Pro fabric. That added durability is crucial for protecting against the abrasive wear of carrying a heavy pack all day long.

The pit zips, too, are generously sized and easy to adjust on the fly. I was able to open and close them without taking off my skate ski pole straps. I was extremely impressed with how the jacket regulated moisture. It allowed sweat to escape on the uphills. But on the descents, it held in my precious body heat. 

Arc'teryx Beta AR Pit Zips
(Photo/David Gladish)

Weather Protection

While skinning uphill during an early December ski tour at Stevens Pass, I experienced some classic Pacific Northwest weather. We passed through a bit of wet snow, light rain, and cold fog. It was the first legit snow of the year with touchy avalanche conditions forecasted. So, my friends and I stuck to uphilling at the ski resort. And we were joined by what felt like dozens of others with the same idea.

On this occasion (and every day I used this jacket), I zipped the DropHood collar up fully. This 2.5-inch barrier helps shield the face, providing protection without needing to flip the hood up, which I avoid unless I absolutely need it.

The extra material on the Beta AR’s collar gives you the ability to tuck your chin into the collar, keeping rain and snow from pouring down onto the chest, and protecting one’s face. The brushed microsuede fabric facing on the inside adds comfort. I found myself wanting to cozy up against the collar rather than avoid it.

When I didn’t need the full protection of a hood, the collar was perfect for keeping out the elements. When the snow turned to rain, the DropHood easily accommodated a helmet. It adjusted smoothly with gloves on, and it shed water efficiently thanks to the laminated brim.

Arc'teryx Beta AR Stevens Pass
(Photo/David Gladish)

Favorite Features 

Living outside of Seattle, I spend a lot of time in the rain. For instance, last December I was bopping around the Hood Canal along the Olympic Peninsula with my kiddos. I needed to be prepared for a long, wet day, catering to the small steps and many snack breaks that adventuring with little kids entails.

The Beta AR was a perfect jacket for the wet Northwest day. It fit me generously for all-day comfort and easily accommodated layering warmer clothes underneath.

Arc'teryx Beta AR Hood Canal
(Photo/David Gladish)

I love the two large hand pockets and its internal chest pocket for storing keys, my phone, or extra tissues for the little ones. The Velcro cuff adjusters are a snap to use and allow me to fit bulky gloves underneath the sleeves or keep a tight fit around my wrists to keep moisture out.

The GORE-TEX Pro material with DWR finish kept me dry without question. It beaded water off effectively, allowing me to focus on my kids instead of my comfort level and dryness. Things like the jacket’s extended resistance to wetting out have kept the Beta AR in my daily rotation.

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Room for Improvement

Arc'teryx Beta AR Alaska
(Photo/David Gladish)

This jacket is not the lightest jacket by a longshot, though that’s not its intention. At 1 pound, 0.3 ounces, it’s quite a bit heavier than its cousin, the Arc’teryx Beta LT, at 13.9 ounces. It’s also a more alpine-focused counterpart to the Arc’teryx Alpha at 13.1 ounces. It doesn’t pack down extremely well, taking up more room in a pack than shells designed for more specific activities.

This jacket’s fit isn’t “alpine svelte,” either. That makes it better for layering with warmer garments underneath. That’s perfect for colder weather, but not as useful for activities such as climbing where harnesses require a snugger-fitting shell.

The lack of a two-way zipper on the Arc’teryx Beta AR also seems like an oversight for climbers. For mountaineering and rock/ice climbing, the option to unzip a shell from its bottom is crucial — especially if the harness doesn’t fit over. If you were hoping to use this jacket for any activity that requires a harness, I’d recommend shopping GearJunkie’s Best Hardshell Jackets list for some alternatives.

Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket: Conclusion

Arc'teryx Beta AR Stevens Pass Skiing
(Photo/David Gladish)

My judge of a good all-around hardshell jacket is whether I want to put it on or avoid it until it’s absolutely necessary. I catch myself reaching for the Arc’teryx Beta AR again and again, looking forward to wearing it rather than dreading it. 

It held its own in harsh Alaskan weather, during high-output activities in temperatures down to 0 degrees. The tall collar kept the elements at bay while touring in wet conditions in the PNW, keeping me cozy and dry. And for the day-to-day, it’s kept me comfortable and looking good.

Yes, there are lighter, more specific hardshell jackets out there. There are also heavier, warmer, and more durable ones. But if you are looking for a quiver of one, the Beta AR performs to a high standard. It remains comfortable and flexible for almost any activity (except climbing) and gets the job done from the slopes to walking the kids around the block. 

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