One of my most frequently used pieces of kit is my Arc'teryx Beta SL jacket. It's my go-to packable waterproof for day trips, rainy runs or bike rides and to take along on a city getaway. In a nutshell, I pack it whenever it might get wet but I won't get stuck in a massive downpour. Arc'teryx call it their "packable emergency weather protection" which describes its use perfectly. So, let's jump straight into the review!
A key reason for me to love and trust Arc'teryx' wear is their attention to detail. While every single item of clothing I own by this brand covers all aspects of what it is made for, there is never any overengineering. With an Arc'teryx piece you don't get extra pockets that add weight or rough edges around the neckline. Everything just works.
The Beta SL by Arc'terys is a GORE-TEX® jacket with Paclite® product technology. As the name suggests this jacket is made to be very packable and light which means it's easy to take along even when you are only carrying a small daypack. The jacket is constructed from an N40r fabric meaning it's a Nylon, 40 denier, rip-stop fabric. 40 Denier - similar to tights - is fairly thin but this jacket covers what it's made for: it is waterproof, windproof and breathable making it the perfect shell for when you are active. I will wear mine on walks, for running or, for example, on the bike. I am lucky enough to have a range of waterproof and windproof shells but my Beta is probably my most used one.
Compared to other lightweight waterproofs that I have owned in the past, the fabric of this jacket feels pretty solid and substantial. There's really not all that much to it but it has a smooth feel and you can tell it's quality.
Pockets + Zippers
Many lightweight waterproofs don't have pockets. However, the fact that the Beta SL comes with two hand pockets makes me even more likely to reach for it when I need the protection. To give you an example, previously I have had a light waterproof without pockets and would often end up with cold, wind battered hands after a walk in bad conditions. The Beta, on the other hand, has comfortable hand pockets big enough to easily store a large phone, stuff your hands inside or even store a map. Also, unlike my Alpha AR which you could easily wear with a harness, the jacket's pockets are fairly low on the body - the way they would be on standard outerwear.
Day to day, I will use this jacket when I am unlikely to need extreme protection but I am looking for ease of use and comfort in the elements. That's when pockets are definitely useful. Just one note of caution, the zippers on the pockets are water tight (using the WaterTight™ technology) but they are not waterproof. Therefore, I would not recommend storing valuables in them that absolutely can't get wet. The same goes for the main zipper which should keep you dry for a long while but will not be entirely waterproof. A nice to have might be a very basic internal pocket, just big enough to hold an item like a phone that you want to keep even more secure. However, this might actually prove too heavy for the fabric - I don't know.
Finally, the zippers have zipper garages and the back of the zipper is lined in a soft fabric to minimise the likelihood of chafing. The zipper pulls are also micro corded. This has a number of benefits: they are light, tough, and they are unlikely to bounce up and down when you are running.
In terms of configuration, it is very easy to adjust the cuffs using the contrasting velcro straps, as well as the hem, using the built in drawcord. The latter I don't tend to adjust very often personally, as the jacket has a snug fit anyway. The hem is also dropped in the back allowing for a bit more coverage which helps especially when you plan on riding a bike.
A feature that you will not find in this jacket are vents. But then again you wouldn't really need them considering the breathable fabric and the fact that the Beta is marketed as an emergency shell.
As with any good Arc'teryx jacket, the Beta SL features a very well shaped Storm Hood. This is very easy to adjust using the drawcord on the back of the head as well as the ends sticking out on the inside of the neck. I find, that when properly adjusted, the hood moves with me and allows for a great field of vision. The only thing that I have read in other reviews and agree with is that, if you are wearing a hat, it might be a tiny bit more difficult to get the hood quite right as it is fairly short in the front. To be honest though, this is hardly anything that would be annoying.
Compared to jackets that are made for similar conditions I found that rain does not seem to build up on the side or neck of the hood and slowly run down the inside of the jacket - another plus point in my books.
Colours + Fit
As I said in the beginning, this jacket is probably my most frequently used piece of outdoor gear. It is versatile and light, packable, compressible, bright and easy to slip on and off over any lighterweight clothing. I often wear it over a long-sleeve shirt, my Arc'teryx Atom or a lightweight down jacket. For me, the green colour (which I believe is one of last season's colours) works perfectly as I like to be seen in the outdoors. Especially, when I might get trapped in bad weather. However, the Beta SL also comes in some more muted shades that might work better if you prefer a darker colour palette.
The women's Beta SL is shaped to fit the female body and runs true to size. Mine is a size XS and fits my 5'4" (1.64m) frame perfectly. The slightly longer hem covers base and mid layers well keeping my down jackets dry when I get caught in some rain.
In conclusion, I would recommend this jacket to anyone who is in need of a fairly basic waterproof that doubles as a windproof. I would recommend using this for day trips where there is a chance of rain but where you are unlikely to be caught in long durations of heavy downpour. The Beta SL is easy to roll up into its hood and store in a daypack or even a handbag. I take mine with me on hikes, for short city trips or even just on a walk to the beach.
As part of the Beta range, you can get both a women's and a men's model. Furthermore, Arc'teryx sell a pair of Beta SL trousers and, as of this season, have added a Beta SL Hybrid jacket that features the more durable GORE® C-KNIT™ fabric in high wear areas.
I would give this jacket a 95/100 rating as I love every aspect of it and would recommend it even as a first or only waterproof for the casual outdoors(wo)man. Depending on what you need this for you might want a jacket with double zippers, an internal pocket or a larger hood but for day to day wear, the Beta SL should keep you very dry and comfortable in most conditions.