Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket Review

The Arc’teryx Zeta SL is a hiker jacket that aims to blend a rugged shell and a lightweight, packable rain jacket. With the implementation of a 2L Gore-Tex shell, the ideal user is one after a reliable shell that doesn’t want to sacrifice room or weight in a backpack. It succeeds exceptionally at the task, and finding a better blend of weight and protection is tough than the Zeta SL.

After my third summer hiking with the Zeta in the Canadian Rockies, I’ve given the jacket a thorough test in tough conditions. Thanks to Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, the jacket offers plenty of protection, can be worn with multiple layers, takes up minimal room in a backpack, and feels comfortable on the skin.

The weight savings allows me to bag numerous summits with a 10L running vest. A trail runner or ultralight thru-hiker would love this jacket. Finding the right balance between protection and weight can be challenging for a jacket. The Zeta SL manages to make this balance exceedingly well, but it does come with a high price tag.


Arc’Teryx Zeta SL Review

Arc’teryx Zeta SL Best Packable Rain Jacket

Quick Specs: Price: $299 | Weight: 10.9 ounces | Material: GORE-TEX 2L Paclite

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable Backing
  • Gore-Tex 2L Paclite
  • Comfortable liner
  • Protection
  • Quality construction
  • Value

Cons

  • Expensive (granted, the value is there)
  • High Pockets
  • No Stuff Sack
  • No Pit Zips

Shop For Arc’teryx Zeta SL


Performance of the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Jacket


Gore-Tex Paclite Pro

What sets the Zeta apart from most hiking jackets is the robust build for a lightweight hiking jacket. The Zeta supplies a two-layer build that offers robust protection and manages moisture well. It’s also treated with a DWR coating to help repel moisture.

The Zeta utilizes a fleece backer from Gore-Tex that is quite thin and comfortable against the skin. Its supple and lightweight nature means it’s an exceptionally lightweight and packable 2L shell jacket. It does all this without feeling too crinkly or noisy.

I often wear this jacket with a lightweight hiking shirt and never notice any discomfort. Its interior layer provides just enough softness for reliably next-to-skin comfort that feels good on the trail. The soft fleece liner also does a good job of absorbing and dispersing moisture away from your body, avoiding a clammy trashbag feeling.


Element Protection

Given its 3 Layer construction, the Zeta is a robust shell that does a solid job protecting it from the elements. I’ve spent several hours hiking in the rain, sleet, and snow yet remained dry. It’s tough to beat the water protection of a 3 L Gore-Tex. Granted, I have felt some moisture in the shoulders, hood, and front zipper in truly nasty weather. Pretty standard for all but the burliest of shell jackets.

Wind protection is excellent, and it’s become my go-to jacket for quick alpine ascents and scrambles. However, it feels a little airy in heavy alpine winds due to its thin nature, as the lightweight jacket cools off easier. So if you spend a lot of time at elevation, it’s likely best to look at the Beta or Alpha line of Arc’teryx jackets. For those of us that remain on the trail, it’s an exceptional jacket for wind protection. It would be a great jacket for hikes in rough regions like Patagonia, Scandanavia, and the Pacific Northwest.


Packability and Weight

The Zeta SL is not packable because it includes a stuff sack or two-sided zipper to stuff the jacket into a hand pocket. It is packable because it can easily compress and manage the jacket’s size. When I throw it in my backpack, I fold and roll the jacket into the interior of the hood. The result is a manageable size that doesn’t weigh your pack down.

At 10.9 ounces, the jacket is not the lightest on the market, but it is far more robust and contains more than an ultralight shell. More affordable hiking shells such as the Outdoor Research Foray and Marmot Minimalist come in several ounces heavier with a slight downgrade in performance.


Temperature Management

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You’re unlikely to have any issues with the jacket and temperature management in mild temperatures. I’ve regularly worn the jacket when hiking uphill in cool temperatures and rain in comfort. As mentioned earlier, the liner does a good job of dispersing heat and moisture away from the body.

When the temperatures start rising, I would appreciate the addition of pit zips. As the jacket has no ventilation, removing the jacket or unzipping the front is the only way to cool down. This is not great for rain in warm temperatures. The material does a good job of not feeling clammy, but your body temperature does start to rise.


Fit

Arc’teryx describes the fit of the Zeta SL as trim with enough room for layers. I’ve effectively worn several different mid-layers with the jacket comfortably, including a Cerium down jacket. I am 5′ 10″ and weigh 165 lbs and the medium jacket has enough room. We own and have tested out many Arc’teryx products and find the size to be slightly more forgiving than most of their trim cuts.

The jacket’s cut is long and sits comfortably underneath a backpack’s hip belt. It supplies decent coverage over your back, and the long drop hem supplies nice coverage. The drop hood on the ac


StormHood

The Zeta features Arc’teryx’s simple StormHood, similar to their popular Atom and Cerium hoody jackets. It offers a secure feeling and plenty of protection from the elements, thanks to a single drawcord on the back of the hood.

I’m often in a hat, but the jacket also features a stiff bill that hangs over the forehead. A slight downward angle allows for precipitation to fall away from the face. It’s a great hood for hiking, but it is not helmet compatible like the Beta and Alpha shell jackets from Arc’teryx.


Zippers, Pockets, and Features

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All of the features that you could hope for in a shell jacket are in the Zeta SL. It starts with two hand pockets. The two hand pockets are placed high on the jacket to avoid a backpack hip belt.

The design is not wonderful urban wear, as the pocket placement is a little too high for comfort. For $299, those after a bit more versatility may want to look elsewhere — this jacket is very much about performance.

With the waterproof full-length front zipper, the Zeta is made to withstand snowy weather or cold icy rain. Thanks to the generous hood coverage and the zipper can be closed up past your chin if desired, the Zeta SL is a good match for windy and cold weather. Little touches like the small fleece at the top of the zipper prevent chin chaffing.

Users can easily adjust the jacket size thanks to an adjustable hem drawcord. It sits nicely around the hips and provides reliable coverage that doesn’t move in windy environments. It’s nice that a lightweight jacket features adjustable cuffs, which are often removed to save weight.


Overall Comparision

Arc’teryx Zeta SL Best Packable Rain Jacket

Quick Specs: Price: $299 | Weight: 10.9 ounces | Material: GORE-TEX 2L Paclite

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable Backing
  • Gore-Tex 2L Paclite
  • Comfortable liner
  • Protection
  • Quality construction
  • Value
Cons
  • Expensive (granted, the value is there)
  • High Pockets
  • No Stuff Sack
  • No Pit Zips

Shop For Arc’teryx Zeta SL

About Cameron

Cameron Seagle is one of the principal writers and photographers for The World Pursuit. He is a travel expert that has been traveling the world for the past six years. During this time he established a passion for conservation and environmental sustainability. When not traveling he's obsessed with finding the best gear and travel products. In his free time, you can find him hiking, mountain biking, mountaineering, and snowboarding. His favorite countries are Ireland, Scotland, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Japan.

You can learn more about Cameron on The World Pursuit About Us Page.