The Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody
I just wanted to share a few thoughts about what has become one of my very favorite pieces of kit. I have owned this jacket now for almost 2 1/2 years. My initial thoughts on it when I first put it on were that the fit was perfect, the cuffs were the best I've ever seen for this type of jacket, and the price was very competitive with many of the other synthetic offerings from Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, etc. A few days later I was using it as a belay jacket while sport climbing in Ogden, Utah (it was October), then a week or so later I used it as my active climbing layer while climbing the NW Ice Couloir on the Middle Teton. The next week I was using it as a more formal jacket while going to eat at a nice restaurant. This jacket has been one of the most versatile jackets I have ever owned.
It was about 25 degrees Fahernheit while on the Middle Teton. The wind was blowing about 35 mph from the lower saddle until we got into the couloir and then it died down to about 15 mph. Normally these temperatures would have been a little too warm to be climbing hard in this jacket, but the wind, combined with the underarm stretch panels, made climbing in this jacket quite comfortable. It was just the right amount of insulation to not overheat while climbing, and to not freeze at the belays (though we simul-climbed the majority of the route).
Two years later and I am still smitten with this jacket. My wife was too and often stole it from me, until she got one of her own for christmas. I have taken this jacket on every climbing and backpacking trip since I got it until just a few weeks ago when my wife and I climbed the Pfeifferhorn above Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT. I have grown quite attached to this jacket and I have to admit I was a bit sad leaving it behind. In place of the atom I took the Arcteryx Acto MX Hoody and a Rab Neutrino down jacket. I figured the Rab would be a little nicer around camp (lows were in the single digits) and the Acto was new and I was anxious to try it out. I must admit I was very pleased with the Acto. Stay tuned for a full review. I need to get more climbing and hiking in it under my belt.
My wife and I on the Pfeifferhorn, UT. I am wearing the Acto MX Hoody and she is in her Atom LT Hoody.
Back to the Atom. A few reasons why I love this jacket. First of all, the fit is incredible. I am 6'2", 185 lbs., and have a short torso (18" torso length). I bought it in a medium. The sleeves are the perfect length, the hood fits nicely over my head without a helmet and very well over a helmet, and the hem drops down to about mid butt in back and a couple inches below the belt in front. The DWR was intially very good, though it has now worn off. It still repels snow, and it repelled light rain well for about the first year. With the hood over a climbing helmet, the hood pulls the front of the jacket up to my nose. This is perfect for me in cold, blowing weather, and I can easily unzip the jacket six inches to breathe easier or to dump heat.
A few of the features on this jacket include two fleece-backed handwarmer pockets and an internal zip pocket, 60g of coreloft insulation (very similar to primaloft, from what I can tell), powerstretch hardfleece underarm panels, the best cuffs on the market, and a hem drawcord.
About Coreloft: I was told by an arcteryx rep that coreloft is very similar to primaloft, except the fibers are slightly bigger in diameter. This allows Arcteryx to use a looser weave in their nylon without coreloft fibers pulling through the shell fabric. This increases the breathability of the shell. I would have thought that a looser weave would decrease the durability of the fabric, but in the two years I have been climbing in the jacket, I can't find a single snag or sign of wear. My wife, on the other hand, has had her jacket for about a month and just found a small snag. She was using an ice axe for the first time a couple weeks ago, so that may have been the culprit.
There is only one way in which Arcteryx could improve this jacket, in my opinion. And actually, I don't really think it would be an improvement in most cases. Anyway, a drawcord on the hood would allow one to cinch the hood down a little tighter around the head for windy conditions. With a helmet on, the hood is perfect. Without a helmet, the hood can let a bit of cold air in around the head and can even blow off the head. A drawcord on the hood would fix this, but I'm still not convinced it's worth the extra weight. On very cold and windy days, the powerstretch panels can get a little drafty. In this case a light wind jacket over the top is an easy solution. The benefit of the added breathability far outweighs this bad side effect.
To see this jacket in action as well as the fit and features, here's a good, short video from ogdenoutdooradventure.com:
Also, a couple good reviews from a very knowledgable Dane at Cold Thistle can be found at this link:
I'm convinced that this jacket will continue to be a favorite for years to come.