UKH

Arc'teryx Beta LT Jacket

The Arcteryx Beta LT is a simple, versatile and lightweight hardshell that utilises Gore-Tex Pro to keep the water at bay but still remain as breathable as you would expect from a modern premium hardshell. The Beta line features three different jackets: Beta LT (Lightweight), Beta AR (All-Round) and the Beta SV (Severe Weather). Though the skimpiest of the three, the Beta LT is still an ideal jacket for year-round use, particularly if you're going fast and light. Over the last few months my review sample has seen both summer monsoons and winter gales, and a mix of walking and climbing, and it has very much lived up to its billing as an all-rounder.

Martin Mckenna in Stob Coire nan Lochain with the Beta LT, 174 kb
Martin Mckenna in Stob Coire nan Lochain with the Beta LT
© Iain Small

Weight

At only 338g for a size Small (as weighed on my kitchen scales - Arc'teryx say 345g), the Beta LT is impressively light for a full-on Gore-Tex Pro shell, and this is arguably its greatest selling point. Nevertheless this headline figure has not been achieved by compromising on an active cut, on durability, nor on the basic features you'd expect from a simpler mountain shell. By way of comparison, the Beta AR and SV offer more features and more storm protection for really awful weather, but at the cost of at least 100g more in weight.

What is it for?

It's probably fair to say that the Beta LT is not a pure climbing-foused shell for the very toughest conditions. Instead, think of it as a versatile all-rounder, a jacket that's equally suited to wet weather hillwalking, long distance backpacking, scrambling, general winter mountaineering and lightweight alpine climbing. Having now subjected it to a few early season Scottish mixed climbs too, I'd say that this is a shell that you don't have to handle with kid gloves, despite its lightness.

Fit

Gearing up with the Beta LT in Coire an t'Snechda, 126 kb
Gearing up with the Beta LT in Coire an t'Snechda
© Gordon Lacey

A wet autumn day on the summit of Cairngorm, 85 kb
A wet autumn day on the summit of Cairngorm
© Victoria de Ga

The Beta line comes in both men's and women's versions. I'd say the Beta LT's cut is on the larger side all round. I take a size small in most other jackets so ordered a small for the Beta LT; it feels slightly baggier and broader than usual across the shoulders, which does seem to contradict what Arcteryx say about it being "slim-fit". Let's face it - North American sizing is usually on the bulkier side, and this jacket is no exception. This room inside does however allow for many layers to be added without restricting any mobility. In addition to its general roominess, the Beta LT is cut slightly longer in the body than many a shell, a conscious decision on the part of Arc'teryx and one that offers that bit more protection from the elements.

The arms allow for a good range of movement in all directions without tugging at the sleeves, pulling on the hood or making the jacket ride up around the waist - ideal if you're swinging tools above your head, or reaching up for the next hold on a scramble. Around the wrist the sleeves are wide enough to be strapped over gloves without any hassle. The hood is oversized to accommodate a helmet, although when you aren't lidded it can be adjusted very effectively using drawcords around the back of the hood and at the neck. Finally the back drops down enough to give good coverage of the bum and prevent wind and snow from blowing up into the shell.

Fabric

Arc'teryx have opted for three layer Gore-Tex Pro for the Beta, a fabric which is widely regarded as one of the best in terms of waterproofness, breathability and long term durability. Like many other modern breathable fabrics, when coupled with the right layering system, during a medium workload the breathability is good; however when the workload is high there is always going to be sweating inside the jacket. It's hard to definitively quantify just how much better Gore-Tex Pro is over the regular Gore-Tex fabric in terms of breathability while out on the hill, but from using this jacket over the last few months I would say that it does perform very well.

The face fabric is something called N40p-X. That meant nothing to me, so I asked Arc'teryx to explain. "This is a high tenacity nylon with a flat filament warp yarn and false twist textured fill yarn" they told me. Now at least partially the wiser, I can at least say that in use it feels very light and that it has a very effective water repellent finish.

As for its robustness, this is definitely a case of being able to feel the difference. I would not normally expect great durability or abrasion resistance from a shell this light, so Arc'teryx have clearly made a good choice on the face fabric here. Having climbed and scrambled in this jacket in summer, and now on several early season routes this winter - the real test of durability! - I'd say Gore Pro lives up to its robust promise. There is no visible wear to the outer surface of my review sample, and I've climbed quite a few thrutchy pitches in it now!

Arcteryx Beta LT Jacket, 66 kb

Arcteryx Beta LT Jacket, 103 kb

Features

Although the Beta LT is a simple hardshell, and that's one of its plus points, it has still got a few features worth talking about. Firstly there are two large chest pockets, which are capable of holding anything from a few bars to a medium sized pair of gloves, or a map and compass. Featuring water resistant zippers, the contents should be safe from the elements in most situations, but Arc'teryx do rather cover themselves for possible leakage in the product spec, where they say: "our WaterTight™ zippers are highly water resistant, but not waterproof. We do not recommend keeping items in your pockets that may be damaged by moisture". To be fair, no zip is 100% waterproof. On the plus side these pockets are positioned such that they can be accessed while wearing a harness or rucksack hip belt. A single interior zipped pocket is a good deal smaller but proves suitable for holding a phone, car keys or headtorch.

As you'd hope, there are a number of drawcords, one around the waist and two on the hood for adjusting the fit of the Beta LT. These are of the built-in 'Cohaesive' vaiety, so they can be operated using one hand and there's nothing on the outside of the jacket to snag.

The Beta LT on Ben Nevis early mixed terrain, 131 kb
The Beta LT on Ben Nevis early mixed terrain
© Tim Miller

Fiacaill Ridge in the Cairngorms, 89 kb
Fiacaill Ridge in the Cairngorms
© Hugh Simons

The hood is helmet compatible and has a laminated brim to keep snow and rain away from the face. Although it's slightly stiffened I do find that in strong wind it tends to bend and buckle, something that a stiffer peak might avoid. There's no getting away from the fact that for very windy UK winter mountain use, a traditional wired brim still tends to be the best option - something non-British brands often fail to address.

The Beta LT has good robust velcro wrist tabs, providing a secure fit with or without gloves. The velcro resists getting choked with snow, something I have had problems with in the past and that during the day can render wrist straps completely useless.

My only gripe with the Beta LT is the lack of pit zips. This is a really important feature for me in Scottish winter as you're often walking in in relatively mild humid conditions up to the freezing level. I really do miss not having these, I have tried just keeping the front zip opened slightly but with a rucksack chest strap on this doesn't quite have the same bellows effect as a pair of open pit zips. Not everyone feels the same as me of course, and I'm prepared to accept that for many users the lack of pit zips is likely to be part of the Beta LT's minimalist charm.

The Beta LT on being tested on Southern Highland winds, 119 kb
The Beta LT on being tested on Southern Highland winds
© Tim Miller

Summary

An all-rounder that's equally at home hillwalking, scrambling, winter climbing or stuffed in the pack just in case, the Beta LT is a great shell for anyone looking for a light jacket that does not make big compromises in terms of performance, cut or durability. Its roomy fit accommodates several layers undernaeath, which is a bonus in winter but may make it feel baggy in summer if you're skinny. In terms of performance the choice of Gore-Tex Pro fabric puts this jacket up there with the best for waterproofness, breathability and robustness. To help save weight this is a simple jacket, and though most of the necessaries are still on offer the lack of pit zips and wire brim is not ideal in the humid and windy UK climate. The £400 price tag is at the high end of the ballpark for a decent shell, and it has to be said that compared to some rivals you're getting slightly less here for your money in terms of features. However, to compensate, the weight is lower than average for a mountain-worthy shell, so if you're serious about counting the grams then £400 may be a price worth paying.

Arc'teryx say:

Designed with disciplined simplicity, the versatile Beta LT delivers GORE-TEX® Pro protection and lightweight durability across a range of activities. The helmet-compatible StormHood™ provides full coverage without impeding sight lines, and adjusts with glove-friendly custom Cohaesive™ cordlocks. The trim fit puts the GORE-TEX® close to the body, maximizing breathability. The longer back length extends coverage and fits comfortably under a harness.

  • Price: £400
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men) XS-XL (women)
  • Fabric: N40p-X 3L GORE-TEX® Pro
  • Weight: 338g size S (our measure)
  • DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish repels moisture
  • Taped seams for added weatherproofness
  • Longer length for additional coverage
  • Articulated patterning for unrestricted mobility
  • Gusseted underarms for mobility and comfort
  • Trim, slim fit, increases breathability during high output
  • Helmet compatible StormHood™ with custom Cohaesvie™ cordlock adjusters and laminated brim
  • Chin guard with brushed microsuede facing for added comfort
  • WaterTight™ full length front zip
  • Adjustable hem drawcord
  • Internal laminated pocket with zip
  • Two hand pockets with WaterTight™ zippers and RS™ zipper sliders

For more info see arcteryx.com

Beta LT prod shot, 52 kb

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UKH Articles and Gear Reviews by Martin McKenna - UKC

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