As most of you already know, I've been sharing helpful guides to all kinds of Arc'teryx jackets for the last couple of years now (find full post list at the bottom). Recently I keep getting asked to make a Zeta FL Review, so here you go.
Zeta FL is light, packable and streamlined. But, as you can guess, this enforces some significant performance sacrifices in breathability, weather resistance and durability departments.
Now... Having said that...
In order to gain weight and packed size advantages, all emergency shells like Zeta FL inevitably make some performance sacrifices in return.
Fortunately, Zeta FL is positioned in the "sweet spot" of performance vs weight trade-off: All performance sacrifices are kept at a minimum while making the most of packability and weight benefits. If you'll be using it as an emergency shell when hiking, then I'd highly recommend it.
- #A sidenote here: Arcteryx.com's PDF guide to their jackets is GOOOLLDDD. Highly recommend you to check it out before you buy.
You might also want to check out my Arc'teryx Zeta vs Beta post to see my performance ratings for all Zeta (and Beta) jackets.
Now let's get to the nitty gritty.
Zeta FL Review: Packability 10/10
I gave Zeta FL a rating of 10 out of 10 in terms of packability. It's actually the only hardshell I gave a 10/10 packability rating.
This doesn't require much explanation. It simply packs very tiny:
Zeta FL Review: Durability 2/10
This might be a problem if you'll be wearing a backpack most of the time.
...then it might get old quicker than you think. Especially in the shoulders and back. Because, Zeta FL is quite minimalist, and hence more fragile.
- Beta line isn't hiking specific like the Zeta line. It's more of an all-round line. It is, however, used perfectly fine for hiking. In fact, in some cases like a lot of backpack use, it can often be even more suitable than the Zeta line.
Zeta FL Review: Breathability 4/10
Yes, in surface, a score of 4 does make the Zeta FL look like it puts forward worse breathability capabilities compared to its cousins Zeta LT (6/10) and Zeta AR (7/10).
This, actually, is far from where we should be look at things. Like I said earlier, Zeta FL is an emergency shell, and it should be assessed that way.
So, when you look at this from emergency shell standards, then you'll realize that its breathability is actually not bad at all.
I gave other emergency shells like Zeta SL and Beta SL Hybrid lower breathability ratings. Not to even mention that the emergency shells of most other brands out there perform much worse than these two.
In summary... Zeta FL offers sufficient breathability.
Zeta FL Review: Weather Resistance 5/10
Again, 5/10 might seem low, but it actually isn't bad at all among emergency shells.
- Zeta refers to products with hiking purpose.
- FL, on the other hand, is short for Fast and Light.
Zeta FL face fabric and zippers are sufficiently water resistant. They of course wouldn't protect you from storms, but they'll be perfectly fine for unexpected downpours.
...which is the standard expectation one should have from an emergency shell.
Zeta FL is also DWR coated.
DWR is a coating.
It's basically sprayed on to the surface of these jackets as a finish. It stands for Durable Water Repellent - which means that water will be repelled under wet conditions instead of soaking into the fabric.
DWR also decreases dry time.
It's a good thing these jackets are coated in DWR, but pay attention to the fact that DWR is a coating - meaning that it will wear off over time.
Which is why you might want to invest in a DWR spray such as this one for after treatment.
As you see, there's a strong correlation between FP x FW and temperature ratings, but not more than, say, 80%. I explained why this happens here in this post of mine.
Lastly, I'd also recommend you to take a look at the Jacket Finder tool at arcteryx.com. Arc'teryx jackets are far from being cheap. Better be sure before you get one.
The product video for Zeta FL: