- Keeps you dry
- Breathable (for a rain jacket)
- Extremely lightweight
- 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
10.9 oz (309 gm)
GORE-TEX, YKK Zippers
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
Everything is still looking nice!