Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket Review

While it doesn’t compress well, the Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket keeps you dry, blocks wind, and weighs almost nothing.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket In Detroit
Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket In Detroit

Our Verdict

8.0 /10

Form

87/100

Design

80/100

Value

73/100

Pros

  • Keeps you dry
  • Breathable (for a rain jacket)
  • Extremely lightweight

Cons

  • Doesn’t compress as small as we would’ve liked
  • A zipper garage on the main zipper would be a nice touch
  • Lacks ventilation zippers

Technical Details

  • Weight (oz)

    10.9 oz (309 gm)

  • Notable Materials

    GORE-TEX, YKK Zippers

  • Manufacturing Country

    China

  • Warranty Information

    Arc'teryx Product Service

Full Review

While a rain jacket isn’t the flashiest travel companion, it’s hands down one of the most useful items you can have on the road. Contrary to popular belief, a rain jacket doesn’t only shine in the rain. It blocks icy wind, can work as a pseudo winter coat over some base layers, and makes a decent picnic blanket in a pinch (yeah, we’ve tested it).

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket Pulling Up Hood
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Pulling Up Hood

No matter where you travel, you’d be smart to pack a rain jacket—rain not required. And the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket is a solid option.

So let’s get into the full review.

Fit, Fabric & Features

The SL part of the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket names stands for super light. And, wouldn’t you know it, this rain jacket is super light, clocking in at 10.9 ounces. You’ll be able to find lighter options on the market, but this is still pretty good.

Arc’teryx offers a number of other rain jackets in the Zeta collection. There’s the FL (fast and light), AR (all around), LT (lightweight), and probably more. They’re all built for hiking and trekking with an “emphasis on comfort and efficiency,” according to Arc’teryx’s website. Different versions work better or worse for different use-cases, so be sure to choose the one that’ll work for your situation.

In the case of the Zeta SL jacket we’ve been testing, it emphasizes its low weight and packability over durability. If you’ll be trekking through the jungles of Thailand during monsoon season, we suggest opting for a hardier, more durable jacket. If you’re just throwing it in your pack for the odd moments you’ll need it while traveling, the SL will work well for you.

Besides, it’s not like this jacket isn’t durable. Quite the opposite in fact.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket Zipped Up
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Zipped Up

It’s made of 2-layer waterproof GORE-TEX Paclite®, which is a solid choice. A GORE-TEX rain jacket will usually cost you more upfront, but GORE-TEX Paclite® lasts longer than other methods used to waterproof jackets. GORE-TEX is a brand that offers a variety of technical waterproof, water-resistant, or water-repellent products and fabrics. The company’s waterproof fabric works by utilizing a durable water-repellent coating (DWR) that’s PFCEC-Free (the coating is free of PFCs of Environmental Concern). Plus, the fabric itself is all sorts of technical.

We’ll just let the folks over at GORE-TEX explain it: “The GORE-TEX membrane [which is bonded to an outer shell material] contains pores smaller than a water droplet, but larger than a water vapor molecule. So rain and snow can’t get in, but sweat can get out.”

That’s a huge plus. While the wind-block properties of rain jackets are awesome, it can consequently make them as breathable as a plastic bag. Causing an awkward hot and cold situation if you’re out and about during a cold snap. This jacket’s breathability avoids such a situation.

To be clear, this jacket is breathable for a rain jacket. It’s still going to trap heat. And it doesn’t have “pit-zips,” (a.k.a. ventilation zippers). We don’t mind this—as it helps keep the size and weight down—but some people may miss the extra breathability these zippers would add.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket Material
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Material

Now, the fabric is also 40D ripstop nylon, meaning if you accidentally tear it, the rip will stop in its tracks, which is obviously a pro.

The zippers are all waterproof—the main zipper is Arc’teryx’s WaterTight™ zipper, while the two zippered pockets are Arc’terx’s RS™ sliders. They work great, although we think having a zipper garage for the main zipper would’ve been a nice touch.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket Water-Resistant Zipper
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Water-Resistant Zipper

We know what you’re thinking—that sounds all nice and scientific, but does it work? Short answer, yes. We haven’t tested it in end-of-the-world rain, but it’s kept us dry and warm during smaller storms, and we have no doubt it’ll work in downpours. Water simply slides right off the material in a very satisfying way.

And, again, this thing isn’t only handy in the rain. It’ll keep you warm against cold winds that’ll blow right through fabrics like Merino wool.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket Length On Hips
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Length On Hips

The Zeta SL hits at your hips, meaning your pants will still get soaked-through if you’re just hanging out in a storm. But it’s longer than several other rain jackets on the market and the fit is nice overall. Roomy enough to comfortably wear over base and mid-layers, but not too loose to where you’ll be swimming in the fabric.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket Pocket
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Pocket

The two pockets are perfectly positioned. They’re great when you need to transfer items from your jeans to your rain jacket to protect them from the rain. We also like the hood adjuster and drawcord hem, so you can secure this around your head and torso respectively—and the sleeve cuffs have velcro to keep this jacket tight on your wrists.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Jacket Compressed
Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Compressed

As we alluded to earlier, our main gripe with this jacket is its size when compressed. It packs into its hood, so it’s not going to take up a huge amount of space in your pack, but it doesn’t compress nearly as small as some other rain jackets on the market. You’ll notice it in your pack. Not a huge deal, especially since it’s lightweight, but something to note.

Durability & Testing

We’ve been testing the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket for two weeks around Detroit, Michigan—well, really, it’s been about a month, but it doesn’t rain every day. In typical Arc’teryx fashion, everything is still looking solid. The construction and craftsmanship are top-notch. Though this jacket isn’t as packable as some other options on the market, and it may not be as durable as some of the others in the Zeta collection (so the folks at Arc’teryx say) we expect it’ll last us years to come.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Doesn’t feel as plastic-y as other raincoats, relatively comfortable
  • Will be interested to see if it breaks in at all, it is a little stiff
  • Elastic keeps hood in place while wearing it
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

Everything is still looking nice!

Overall

The Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket is a solid rain jacket that’ll keep you dry in most situations. Its low weight and packability mean it’s great for travel—although it doesn’t pack as small as other jackets on the market. It also blocks wind while managing to stay breathable, lacking that plastic-bag feel you may get with other jackets. Overall, it’s a solid piece of gear to toss in your bag on your next adventure.

mm
By Tom Wahlin
Created September 24, 2019 • Updated October 21, 2019