Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket Review

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One of the newest jackets introduced by Arc’teryx for the 2019 hiking season, the Zeta SL (men’s & women’s), is an excellent balance between quality, durability, and weight. The highly packable and versatile design of the SL is a great option for hikers looking to push through wet weather in rugged conditions.

Quick Specs

  • MSRP:  $299

  • Weight:  10.9 oz (Men’s) / 9.5 oz (Women’s)

  • Material:  2-layer N40r Gore-Tex Paclite Plus

  • Features:  Sealed waterproof zippers, adjustable hood, adjustable hem and cuffs

Like the even lighter Zeta FL (men’s & women’s), the SL features the new Paclite-Plus Gore-Tex technology. This incorporates a lightweight, two-layer shell with a heavy duty 40 denier nylon face fabric. The thicker nylon, while more likely to take a beating, does have a tougher and stiffer feel more often associated with heavier technical rain shells.

The design of the Zeta SL smoothly incorporates lightweight minimalism with more traditional adjustability of a heavier jacket. Velcro cuffs and an adjustable drawstring hem let you control the fit of the jacket, keeping water out while maintaining mobility and comfort. High, top-down zippers on the pockets will easily accommodate a backpack hip belt or climbing harness, and a fully sealed main zipper will keep water from seeping in the front.

The nylon face fabric will stand up surprisingly well to the occasional bump or scratch. But due to its 2-layer construction, the SL will require more frequent washings with Tech-Wash to flush out oil and sweat from the Gore-Tex compared to a 3-layer rain shell incorporating a liner fabric. That said, washing rain gear is far easier than most think. Here’s our quick guide on how to wash your rain gear.

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What We Like

  • Weight and packability - The SL is very light and packable compared to most rain shells on the market. That makes it a great choice for backpackers or day-hikers looking to fend off intermittent storms throughout the day.

  • Design and Fit - The Zeta SL feels like a heavy duty jacket, bringing in features more commonly found in thicker mountaineering shells, but it maintains a lightweight and comfortable fit.

  • Durability - The 40 denier nylon face fabric feels thicker and more likely to take a beating than the fabric on the thinner Zeta FL.

  • Warranty - Arc’teryx covers all of their products for the lifetime of the product (excluding wear and tear).

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What We Don’t Like

  • Breathability - To us, the word “breathable” tends to be misleading when it comes to rain shells. That said, hikers will still want to monitor their activity level and keep perspiration to a minimum while wearing the SL. Also, the SL may require a bit more washing than a typical 3-layer shell.

  • Cost - At an MSRP of $299, the price of the SL will be a bit high for many backpackers. That said, the Zeta SL is one of Arc’teryx most affordable rain shells.

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Bottom Line

The Zeta SL (men’s & women’s) is a very well balanced jacket for backpackers looking to shave weight but still stay dry in nasty conditions. More durable than the ultralight Zeta FL, the SL will allow you to venture into more rugged terrain with fewer worries about tearing your sleeve on a stray branch.


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