Arcteryx Beta FL Jacket review – first thoughts

We had delivery of a pair of Arcteryx Beta FL sample jackets this week, made of the new Gore Active Shell fabric, so Rich and I have been giving them a full beasting in as wide a range of conditions as possible.  Given the weather this week, that’s been fairly easy – so thus far they’ve been underground ice climbing in a cave, subject to plenty rain and snow, worn whilst trail breaking in deep snow, climbing ice routes and mixed routes, plus slogging across glaciers in the afternoon heat, just to see what would happen.

Rich out testing the Arcteryx Beta FL jacket this week

Gore Active Shell Fabric  The performance of the new active shell fabric is the most noticeable thing about these jackets, so I’ll start here. The fabric is designed to be a lightweight, highly breathable shell layer – ie for good for ski touring, alpine climbing, high aerobic activity sports etc – as a succesor to paclite.

Given that so far I haven’t yet managed to sweat in it, despite using it in several ridiculous ‘boil in a bag’ situations where I’d never dream of wearing a full shell garment, the new fabric really is a step up on anything I’ve ever used before in terms of comfort and breathability.

Stomping up to the Cosmiques Arete  in the afternoon heat after we’d climbed the Chere Couloir, breaking trail in deep wind blown snow, walking uphill on a glacier whilst it was snowing, but still loads of heat coming through the cloud: these are the kind of situations where wearing a full shell jacket just guarantees you’ll end up in a full lather – but somehow we didn’t and without any pit zips either.  So all in all, a big thumbs up for active shell!

Arcteryx Beta FL Jacket

Moving on to the jacket itself, FL stands for Fast and Light and the Beta range are designed as technical all rounders.  It fills both specs adimarably, being light at around 340g and versatile enough to use for a wide range of sports.  The jacket has a nice clean cut design with two chest pockets, quite a short waist (that still tucks into a harness) and well articulated shoulders.  Different fabrics are used on the higher wear areas to extend durability, plus the hood has full adjustability and  goes over a helmet. The jacket also has a couple of reflective high vis strips on the cuffs and back, so you could  use it  for biking etc.

I normally look for a jacket with pit zips, but given how breathable the fabric is there isn’t really a need for any, so I’m happy to take the weight saving instead.  If you’re after a really minimalist ‘alpine climbing’ jacket, then go for the Alpha FL – which has just one chest pocket, a higher volume hood which really locks down over a helmet and weighs 20g less – but if you just want one lightweight jacket to use for most occasions – ie a trip the lakes, a week in the alps, or a ride on your bike – then the Beta FL is the one to get.  They’ll be in the shops this autumn.