There is nothing like watching a storm roll in, placing your pack on the ground, and zipping into your rain jacket. You thank the stars you decided to bring it on this trip, and begrudgingly begin to hike in the rain. But does the jacket actually keep water out? Better yet, is it breathable enough to keep your insides from sweating? And is it comfortable against the skin?
The Arc’teryx Zeta LT rain jacket was created to master each of these potential problems. It fends off rain, utilizes new material from Gore-Tex for excellent breathability, and is crazy comfortable. A trim cut and an extremely high cost is the Arc’teryx way, and the Zeta LT rain jacket lives up to both with aplomb. It’s our Premium Pick for the Wilderness Backpacker.
Read the full review of the Arc’teryx Zeta LT below, and be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to rain jackets. It’s a complex category of gear, and we’ve broken down every element so you know exactly what to look for.
|Feature Type||Feature Specs||What This Means|
|Weight||11.8 oz. (335 g)||Moderately light for a 3-layer rain jacket. There are lighter options out there, but the durability and smoothness of the construction makes up for the weight.|
|Layer||3-Layer||3-Layer construction is the most burly and comfortable. It sandwiches the outer durable layer, the waterproof membrane, and an inner layer together. A more detailed explanation is in our Guide.|
|Waterproof Membrane||Gore-Tex||Gore-Tex is still the leading premier “waterproof” manufacturer. Its membranes invented the industry, and this jacket utilizes the best membrane they have. More info in our Guide.|
|Face Fabric||N40p-X 3L Gore-Tex||A fancy name for a highly durable, 3-layer face fabric.|
|Lining Material||Gore-Tex C-KNIT||A new backer from Gore-Tex, C-Knit increases breathability and has a silky smooth feel.|
|No. of Pockets||3||Two external zippered hand pockets, one internal zippered chest pocket. All pockets are very deep and easily accessible.|
|Pocket Placement||Above Hip Belt||The two “hand” pockets are placed extremely high, so they fit perfectly between a hip belt and sternum strap.|
|Pit Zips/Vents||No||Arc’teryx believes in the breathability of this rain jacket so much it hasn’t included pit zips, which are normally there manually dump heat.|
|Water Resistant Zippers||Yes||Arc’teryx uses WaterTight treatment on its zippers, their own proprietary technology. It works.|
|Storm Flaps||No||With water resistant zippers storm flaps aren’t needed, and losing them cuts down on weight.|
|Packs Into Itself?||No||The Zeta LT does not have a dedicated pocket to stuff itself into. It does fold/roll up easily into the hood.|
|Hood||StormHood||The hood is trim, deep, has a laminated and stiff brim, and one adjustment toggle in the back. It works really well.|
|Fit||Slim||The cut is “active”, but there’s room for a couple layers underneath. The sleeves are extra long and the back of the jacket comes down quite a ways.|
|Seams||Fully taped||Utilizes micro-seams, which are smaller taped seams than most rain jackets. Looks clean and is very solid.|
|Manufacturer Warranty||Lifetime Warranty||Arc’teryx warranties all of its products for the practical lifetime of the product, specifically for manufacturer or material defects. They have an incredible reputation, and should be contacted if anything is wrong with your jacket.|
|Cost||$425||Gore-Tex and Arc’teryx are two high-end brands who come together for an extremely pricey rain jacket.|
Gear Review of the Arc’teryx Zeta LT
Origins: Easing You In
As a backpacker growing up in California, rain is not the most common. My trips have historically been scheduled for late summer and early fall, when the Sierras have fewer mosquitos and idyllic weather. That said, rain was always a possibility, and I had a basic shell (a Marmot PreCip) on me in case of a storm.
The Arc’teryx Zeta LT, though, was created for long treks in a constantly wet environment. Luckily, the drought decided to lift on California this winter. Rain was frequent, heavy, and opened up a number of old creeks in the Sespe Wilderness — a.k.a my backyard.
I took the Zeta LT on a two night trek into the Sespe Wilderness, caught a rainstorm, and made it back thoroughly convinced of the merits of this relatively new jacket from Arc’teryx. I continued testing it on day hikes whenever it rained, including a shoe-soaked trail run. Lastly, I took the Zeta LT to Thailand to see how it fared in humid, warm rain.
There’s too much story to recount every individual moment, but, all things considered, the Zeta LT rain jacket sheds the storm (and your sweat) like it was born to.
Revelation: The Moment I Knew
The moment of revelation came on a hike-turned-trail run during a downpour. I was warmed up, my pack weight was low and snug against my body, and all of a sudden I felt like sprinting. The pounding rain probably added to that, especially knowing I had to push the Zeta LT to its limits.
It was a chilly day, and I was wearing a long-sleeve wicking baselayer, a lightweight fleece, and the Zeta LT. My transition from active hike to full-out run was a split second decision, so I didn’t think about my fleece layer.
I ran. The rain soaked my shoes and socks; my hands were dripping and the nylon trail shorts I had on were completely wet. (On shorter hikes I don’t mind if my lower body gets wet.) My upper half, though, was dry. With WaterTight zippers, a full hood, and extra long sleeves, the Zeta LT has no problem keeping the rain out.
But the real test was on the inside of the jacket. I was running with a small pack and fleece layer underneath a heavy duty 3-layer rain jacket. I kept expecting the sweat to clam up, then spread and drench my body from the inside, creating the dreaded wet out scenario. But it didn’t.
The Zeta LT doesn’t have pit zips, which is usually a warning sign for rain jackets because it means you can’t manually dump your internal heat and reduce sweat. In my uphill, flat, heavy pack, light pack, and no pack tests I never found the need for pit zips because the Zeta LT managed to transfer my internal condensation to the outside of the jacket with ease.
In light, very humid rain on the southern islands of Thailand opening the main zipper was sufficient, but if it had started to pour (it didn’t) I probably would have been uncomfortable. I did not use the jacket in the Pacific Northwest or Southeastern United States, where extremely heavy rain and humidity are more common. I believe the Zeta LT would wet out given enough exertion and rain (like any other rain jacket), but I was impressed with its ability to maintain its cool in California and areas of Thailand.
For a Premium Pick, and a rain jacket that costs more than $400, you’re going to need some seriously sweet features and impeccable construction in a lightweight package.
Yes, you read the spec sheet right — the Zeta LT comes in at 11.8 ounces, which is crazy light for a burly, fully-featured 3-layer rain jacket. It doesn’t pack away into its own pocket, but rolls into the hood and packs down tiny.
The Zeta LT utilizes C-Knit, Gore-Tex’s relatively new membrane, in a 3-layer construction. This means the jacket is as durable and heavy duty as they come, and yet focuses on breathability in active environments and a silky-smooth feel.
I was impressed with the breathability obviously, but there’s something to be said for the texture of the jacket. The interior lining is smoother than any rain jacket I’ve tried, and it makes wearing the jacket an easy choice — there’s no clamminess, and none of that sticky, too-close-to-skin feel. This was true in cold, cool, and warm climates with high humidity.
The other standout feature is the hood. Arc’teryx calls it a low-profile “StormHood”, which translates to a deep hood that somehow isn’t bulky. When hiking in the rain I keep my head tilted down, and in this position no rain ever dripped onto my forehead, nose, or further inside the jacket. This is critical, and works very well.
There are WaterTight zippers on all three exterior zippers of the Zeta LT, which is proprietary technology by Arc’teryx. These definitely keep water out, and Arc’teryx hasn’t even included a storm flap they’re so confident in the construction. I found that the zippers kept water out easily, but were a little sticky when zipping up.
Finally, there’s the high placement of hand-pockets. This is so you can zip and unzip your pockets when wearing a backpack (or climbing harness) in one fluid movement. So many manufacturers try to do this, but make compromises for casual users and decide to place the pockets higher than normal, but not high enough.
The pockets on the Zeta LT are extremely high, and fit perfectly between a pack’s hip belt and sternum strap. They also zip in the opposite direction, which utilizes the firm grip of your waist belt to help open and close them. The opposite zipper direction is a unique feature, but it took a while for it to feel familiar.
The C-Knit backer membrane makes the Zeta LT buttery smooth. It fits over a baselayer and midlayer with plenty of room, yet is also cut to fit directly on your skin. The direct-to-skin comfort is standout, without any of the clamminess that usually occurs.
Rain jacket durability is a long term endeavor, and I only had the jacket for a few months. That said, this is a true 3-layer jacket with burly face fabric, and it never snagged in the backcountry, traveling throughout Thailand, or on a run. The DWR will wear off eventually, like it does with all rain jackets, but the initial coating is so serious that I get the house wet when coming in from a hike.
The Zeta LT was breathable during a trail-run, in the rain, with a fleece underneath. For me it doesn’t get much better than that. During a summer thunderstorm with a 50-pound pack hiking uphill in the rain (both ways) your breathability will probably not be great. But who’s packing that much these days?!
I’m 5’6” and have a slim build. Small sizes fit me best, especially when they’re “active” fit, which is precisely who the Zeta LT was made for. This jacket fits impeccably, with room to layer. The sleeves are extra long, but this allows for precise velcro-ing. The tail and front of the coat are extra long too, which really helped to keep rain off my legs, especially the back.
If you enjoy tight-fitting clothes, clean lines, and the bones of a dead bird over the heart, Arc’teryx may just be for you. I wore this rain jacket out to bars at home and abroad in addition to the backcountry and always felt clean cut.
Nothing is perfect, including the Zeta LT rain jacket. All my grievances have to do with the pockets.
First, there’s an internal zippered chest pocket. It has a nice logo, is made of fancy stretch-mesh fabric, and looks suave. But this is a backcountry jacket and I’m not totally sure why you would ever need this pocket. The two external pockets are essentially waterproof, and you will have a backpack on that is also probably water resistant. I don’t carry my wallet or cell phone in my jacket while trekking, and there are already two pockets to do this if I wanted to.
This extra pocket was handy at the bar, but seems like a feature they could cut to save more weight.
Second, while the “hand” pockets are placed high enough for use with a hip belt and sternum strap, they are so deep that objects (like a phone) end up sinking to the bottom, sandwiched between the belt and you. I found this to be rather annoying, and put my phone in my pack’s hip belt pocket instead of the jacket’s pockets (unless it was absolutely pouring). The internal chest pocket suffers from this too — it’s placed a bit too low and is too deep.
Making these pockets a little less deep would solve the problem (and the chest pocket a bit higher, or removing it all-together). In the meantime, the pockets a great place to store a map, or any thin, unobtrusive snack.
The Arc’teryx Zeta LT rain jacket is a slim-fitting, highly durable, silky-smooth water repeller that breathes during high exertion in pouring rain.
We tested the Men’s Arc’teryx Zeta LT rain jacket. There is a women’s version as well, which has the same construction and features. The fit is tailored to a women’s physique, and the color options are different. Arc’teryx uses “LT” to signify its “Lightweight” products. The Zeta rain jacket also comes in an AR or “All Around” designation, which uses a slightly burlier face fabric, has pit zips, and has an adjustable waist cinch. If you are really worried about sweating or wetting out, check out the Zeta AR, which is $50 more than the Zeta LT — the pit zips will come in handy. The Men’s and Women’s Zeta LT rain jackets are listed below.