As I had anticipated this jacket was a delight to wear from the start, it's exceptionally well-designed and built with precision engineering. The Beta AR is designed for Alpine mountaineering in particular but it transfers well to British winter conditions and stands up to our rather more varied and demanding climatic conditions. I used it for autumn hill waking, roped scrambling, Welsh winter climbing and even went for a run in the driving rain. It performed above expectation in all those settings, even on the run.
The fit and cut of the medium was right for me (an average 10), I certainly wouldn't have wanted a small. The sleeves seem long when you first put it on but of course the slack is soon taken up when you add a rucksack, extra layers and gloves.
The hood, as claimed, is helmet compatible with sufficient volume not only to put it up while belaying but also to carry on climbing with the hood up without noticing too much restriction of movement. So often you can have the hood up for belaying but it has to come down straight away when you set off climbing. Likewise the volume adjuster at the back of the hood does the job when you need to minimize the volume for windy walking conditions. The one handed adjustable drawcords take a bit of practice, you need to do a dry run rather than try and work it out for the first time amidst a howling gale like I did!
The Beta AR isn't designed specifically as a climbing jacket but yet again it performed well. The athletic, slim fit means it tucks easily into a harness, the pockets are still accessible and there is minimal bulking up (you know that feeling that you have a huge belly suddenly once you put your harness on and can't see to finish tying your knot!). The cut as suggested does allow unrestricted movement, even when tucked in and there was never a danger of it coming un-tucked, although you do need to tug down on the front waist hem now and again to keep it down in place.
It has two main external hand pockets, so you can walk with your hands tucked away and they're high enough to still access them with a harness on. It has one small internal zipped pocket, large enough for a phone or GPS.
The fabric is 410N GORE-TEX® Pro Shell 3L with reinforced shoulders and elbows. In other words it's medium beefy and though I haven't had the chance to give it a real battering yet, I'm sure it'll stand up quite well to groveling up abrasive chimneys. Now, I'm not a techie and don't normally read labels but apparently it makes use of Tiny GORE® seam tape (13 mm) and has a micro seam allowance (1.6 mm) to reduce bulk and weight and I have to say it does feel very sleek to wear, so the little details do make a difference. One of the other clever features I also liked was the ‘laminated high-strength hanger loop', it's always frustrating when you have to hang your pride and joy up by the hood.
One niggle or criticism is the size of the cuff opening which in my opinion is a fraction too small. If you're wearing a medium weight glove with only a short but slightly bulky cuff it's impossible to tuck the cuff up inside the sleeve (well you can do the first one while you still have a hand out but can never manage the second one).This means you get rain running down into the glove and you get a bulky mess where cuff meets sleeve. This isn't a problem if you have thin gloves on as they tuck in no problem or big gauntlet style gloves as the sleeves tucks up into the cuff and stays tucked in. A tiny bit more room here (probably only an extra cm or two) would make all the difference.
Overall I was as impressed as I had expected to be with my first taste of Arc'teryx. A definite four stars and if they sorted the sleeves it would be a five star jacket.
Images - Mike Robertson
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