What could be better than plane tickets to Europe? Answer: Chic new clothes for the trip that will cause the typical, effortlessly elegant, European gal to sneak an envious peak through her dark Pradas. Could happen since a box from Arc’teryx arrived on my doorstep.
Inside was the Beta FL jacket, a breathable, waterproof, minimalist garment for outdoor pursuits. This piece is a beauty, in a hue as brilliant as a bluebird sky. And, as Coco Chanel said, a girl must be two things: classy and fabulous. Well, the Beta FL makes me both.
But since I’ll actually be using this jacket for “outdoor pursuits,” a test of its functionality is necessary. The perfect opportunity arose when Lou and I ventured out for a ski tour in the West Elk mountains of Colorado.
Spring is my favorite time to ski and the day promised to be a good one. Already 42 degrees, windless and warming in the early morning, I started out in a light wool top, knowing I’d heat fast from the climb. But weather can fluctuate faster than the Hemline Index. Having a reliable shell in your pack assures those changes will be manageable.
The top of the peak was breezy and corn snow slopes glistened below. I was sweating and cooling off fast. I put on the Beta FL. It passed the first test: windproof and breathable. Moisture wicked away and the shell didn’t feel clammy at all. In fact it had a silky, smooth feeling, more like a comfy top.
Lou and I often use radios to communicate slope safety as we ski down one at a time. He went first, then radioed back for me to go. After confirming the message, I slipped the radio neatly into a front pocket. Two front pockets are thoughtfully placed to work with a pack, making them easily accessible (though why they are not larger is mystifying). The zippers are water tight but narrower than usual, which I found easier to zip. I noticed as I schussed down that I felt comfortable. The fabric moved easily, added a slight bit of warmth and didn’t make noise. All I had left to do was concentrate on enjoying the lovely, crystal clear day.
The Beta FL (medium) weighs 10.3 oz, not the lightest of the lightweight shells out there, but almost. The extra grams come from building in more durability. It is made out of GORE-TEX Active, exceptionally lightweight and breathable, designed to suit high output, fast and light pursuits. The fabric is nylon denier, plain weave with superior durability-to-weight ratio. Areas prone to abuse, such as shoulders, hips and lower sleeves are reinforced to increase durability. Storm hood is minimized in size to save weight but roomy enough to fit over a helmet (albeit snugly). Reflective strips on forearms and hips aid visibility on early morning starts and late evening finishes. A bit more weight is a reasonable trade-out for extending the life of this exceptional jacket.
Arc’teryx FL series is a line of minimalist garments designed reduce mass while still providing protection in variable weather conditions. This is a piece that will get a lot of use in any country I go. It will be in my pack whenever I’m outdoors, whether skiing, hiking, biking, climbing, or following Lou to his favorite pastry haunts in Austria.
Famed Italian fashion progettista Valentino Garavani said “I know what women want. They want to be beautiful.” Arc’teryx knows that too.
Almost forgot! Shop for it.