User Review: Arc'teryx Men's Theta AR Jacket
Price Paid: $225
I recently went shopping for a lighweight rain jacket to replace my 10-year-old Eddie Bauer Gore-Tex (made back before EB was turned into another Gap-like clone). It was a simple jacket but like the X-terra ads, it had everything I needed and nothing I didn't. Unfortunately, my darling wife had a habit of loaning it out to friends and we realized one day we didn't know where it was. Still don't.
Anyway, I recently set about to replace it. Obviously, different people need rain jackets for different purposes. Also, what might be a great jacket for $150 might be considered lacking if you are shelling out two or three times that much.
Having said that, a few thoughts on the Theta AR ("all round"). The demands I put on this jacket will be much less than some of you hardcore outdoor enthusiants. I'm not out in the woods as much as when younger. Mostly light hiking and camping with the family and friends. More often I'm outdoors watching/coaching/reffing kids sports. However, sometimes this can be in pretty miserable conditions.
So, my requirements do not include a lot of the "technical" features found on most high end jackets. But I absolutely insisted on something that would keep me 100% dry and do so without compromising too much on breathability. For me to spend anything over a couple of hundred, it has to have virtually year round useability and easily packable for travel.
The Theta does not disappoint. By using watertight zippers, they have eliminated the need for storm flaps, thus saving a few ounces of fabric. The use of GoreTex XCR and pit zips enhances breathability while keeping the jacket, at least in my experience, absolutely watertight. Somehow, they have managed to tape seal the interior seams without adding too much weight or impairing breathability. It is therefore a little "stiffer," especially when new, than other jackets but it is no big deal and remains very packable (I like to cram a raincoat into my camera bag when traveling).
In some ways, it is pretty spartan, though not plain. In fact, as these sorts of jackets go, it is pretty good looking. There are no interior pockets but there are three on the outside. All three have vertical zippers and are placed high enough to accomodate most backpack belts. Not real convenient as a "handwarmer" sort of pocket though, but you get used to it. There is also a small pocket on the exterior of the left sleeve, like were added to flight jackets in the '50s. Big enough for a small GPS device, map, cell phone, or Ipod.
It is not as long as a parka, but is longer in the back than the front, thus giving you a bit of a snow skirt.
The fit is "athletic" but not overly snug. It does seem to run maybe half a size smaller than comparable Marmots I tried and almost a full size smaller than a TNF Mountain Light. If ordering on the net and not sure of your size, if in doubt go up a size.
The zippers, as others have noted, are stiff and the pit zips are especially tough to manipulate with one hand. If that is the price to pay for the thing to be absolutely, positively dry as a bone, then I can live with that. Your mileage may vary.
Finally, my other finalists were a Marmot with Precip Plus with an MSRP of about $180, a Mountain Hardwear Backcountry Recon with their proprietary 3 layer "Conduit" for over three bills, and the venerable Marmot Minima (MSRP of $250). The Minima has Paclite Gore-tex. The jacket is lighter than the Theta, though not a whole lot, is softer, and maybe even has a little interior pocket. Almost got it. In fact, I'm sure that, for me, any one of those would have been excellent choices.
However, sometimes you just stumble into good luck. The nearby outfitter store where I was trying these on was getting ready to have a late-in-the-season sale. The sales clerk helping me offered to put back whichever jacket I chose for a few days until the sale started and give me the sale discount. I wasn't even going to try on the Theta until he told me it would be on sale as well. I was afraid I might like it.
Anyway, he mistakenly thought it was going to be marked down half off. When I discovered it was a mistake, the store manager nevertheless graciously offered to honor the price. That made my mind up pretty fast!
I wouldn't pay $450 for a Theta, no matter how great it is. For one thing, depending on the time of year, you can find them on the internet for less than $300, if you are willing to take a color you might not like. For another, there are less expensive alternatives for those of us not swinging an ice axe or hanging off a rock every other weekend. But if you luck into a deal, I'm not sure there is a better made rain jacket for all round use anywhere in the world. As an added bonus, I'm pretty sure they are made just "north of the border" in British Columbia, rather than some third world sweatshop if you want to factor that into your decision.
All in all, a wonderful piece of equipment, dending on your needs, and absolutely made of the first quality in materials and workmanship.