Arc’teryx just updated its popular Zeta line of hiking jackets and rain pants to be more comfortable and better at fending off the elements. And for a time, you can buy it only at REI.
The Arc’teryx Zeta line comprises versatile shells for rain and wind protection. The apparel offers premier protection against nasty weather, be it rain or sleet or snow. And now, Zeta receives a facelift that includes three pieces for men and three for women: the (super-light) SL Jacket and Rain Pants and the (fast-and-light) FL Jacket
The top aim of the new gear? To improve feel against skin during activity. The goal came from customers’ candid feedback. But such a high-end jacket also has to be durable.
Arc’teryx Zeta: Tested Beyond Intent
Arc’teryx said it put this rain gear through rigorous testing. Testers wore the pieces in activities beyond the scope of the apparel’s intended use.
“So basically, we tried to destroy each piece in an effort to improve that next-to-skin comfort,” said Renata Mannino, Arc’teryx product line manager.
For example, Mannino said she tried the Zeta jackets and pants ski touring, even though the gear isn’t built specifically for winter — it’s designed to repel rain on the go.
“Then, I took mine to China in the summertime to see what happens to the jacket in 100-degree heat and 100-percent humidity,” she said.
The point was to push the gear in the harshest conditions and locations to knock them down so the brand could build the products back up.
Zeta SL and FL: 2 Jackets for 2 Different Uses
The Zeta SL is the brand’s go-anywhere, do-anything piece. The SL upgrades the Beta, Arc’teryx’s classic Gore-Tex adventure raincoat.
“The Zeta SL is that go-to, all-around generalist,” Mannino said. “It’s got more features, which increases the weight slightly when compared to the FL. It’s your day hiking piece, but also your walk-the-dog, go-to-work, and still-take-on-multiday-backpacking-trip piece.”
The Zeta FL is a brand new, lighter model. It’s a minimalist piece for going faster and lighter in variable weather. Compared to the Zeta SL, the FL is lighter, trimmer in fit, and more packable. It squishes down to the size of a banana.
“In the FL, we stripped away anything that could be stripped away, which was quite a challenge while keeping the necessities,” she said.
Paclite is a waterproof fabric made by Gore-Tex aimed at weight-conscious adventurers. It helps performance rain clothes protect against the worst wet conditions while keeping weight a top priority.
Paclite has long been in Arc’teryx’s jacket line. But the Zeta jackets and pants are made with Paclite Plus, Gore-Tex’s latest fabric. This waterproof membrane keeps outerwear light and breathable enough to move fast through the backcountry.
2. A better-fitting rain pant
This was a real eye-opener for Arc’teryx: Some women admitted they’d rather get wet during a four-day backpacking trip than walk around with a baggy-looking butt, Mannino told us.
So she wrote that the Zeta SL Pant “In addition to function, mobility, and performance, it must make you look and feel good” in the product brief. And that’s what Arc’teryx did. In both the men’s and women’s versions, the designers patterned a flattering rear end right into the packable Zeta SL rain pant. That construction also helps the bottoms move better.
Other features include watertight lower-leg zippers, snapping zip fly, and a fully articulated waistband. Not surprisingly, people want to wear the Zeta rain pant more.
“While not designed for biking, we tested on our bike commuters for mobility, and they’re now the riders go-to pants,” she said.
3. A smarter zipper
For the Zeta line, Arc’teryx also figured out a way to remove the “housing” that zippers traditionally tuck into often called a “zipper garage.” Arc’teryx’s zipper technology, the “Rain Shield slider,” now comes standard on the Zeta SL and FL jacket pockets.
The new construction requires fewer seams and uses less seam tape, which saves weight. Removing the zipper garage also eliminates a potential leak point because the zipper now closes flush to the pocket terminus.
Even this seemingly small upgrade helped in the making of a lighter, better-moving, waterproof raincoat.
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