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Hands-on Gear Review
Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody Review
Cons: No stuff pocket, expensive
An outstanding hybrid jacket, the Arc'teryx Atom LT has breathable fleece side and underarm panels that ventilate the main body of the jacket. While not as breathable as the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody, the Atom LT is better suited to very active use than other jackets with wind resistant outer fabrics. This is the little brother of the heavier and warmer Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody, and with its comfortable features, the Atom LT is a favorite insulated jacket for many people.
If you are interested in the Atom LT, but don't love the high price tag, the Best Buy Award winning Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket, which is also a hybrid jacket, is an excellent and less expensive alternative.
RELATED: Our complete review of insulated jackets - men's
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Arc'teryx Atom LT has an interesting combination of an insulated main body and breathable fleece underarm and side panels. It's one of the more versatile jackets we tested, performing well as a mid-layer and providing ventilation for active use as an outer layer.
Arc'teryx use 60 g/m2 of its proprietary Coreloft insulation for the Atom LT. In contrast, the Atom AR is much warmer with 120 g/m2 around the torso. Worn as a mid-layer, we found the LT similar in warmth to the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody and the Xenon X. But as an outer layer, the warmth that its insulation holds in is counteracted by the easy breathability of the fleece side panels. When cold winds blow, you'll need a lightweight shell to layer over this jacket to retain warmth.
Weight & Compressibility
Our size large test model weighed in at 13.7 ounces, right in the middle of the test field and very close to the Patagonia Nano Air. The very similar Outdoor Research Cathode weighs one ounce less in size Large. While the Atom LT can compress quite small, it does not stow away in one of its pockets. This is a downside for climbers and others, but you likely will wear it through a great range of activities and stow it less.
Arc'teryx has long impressed us with its attention to detail and thoughtful features, and the Atom LT doesn't disappoint. Match fine features like the comfy cuffs and an adjustable hood with an extended comfort range for high energy activity, and the Atom LT received the second highest score we awarded. Great mobility made this one of our favorite layers for bouldering in cold weather.
We love the adjustable hood on this model (a rare feature among the lightweight insulated jackets). A single cord lock at the back of the head tightens the elastic cord that extends to the front of the hood and up over the brow. The Best Buy Cathode has a similar comfortable hood adjustment. The main zipper has a nicely shaped plastic pull that is hooded by a small fabric flap under the chin when fully closed. We only wish Arc'teryx would use these same pulls on the hand pocket zippers. In addition to the hand pockets, which are lined with a soft micro fleece for the back of your hands, an interior chest pocket on the left side provides storage. The cuff design, shared with the warmer Atom AR, incorporates stretchy, wedge shaped panels over the inner wrist. These seal in warmth with a snug fit and are low profile for sliding the gauntlet of your glove over top. And finally, the elastic hem cinch can be tightened and secured at either hip with a cord lock.
The hybrid Atom LT is designed with breathability as a higher priority than weather resistance. While this piece has an effective DWR treatment that beaded water in a light drizzle, the nylon outer fabric and fleece side panels begin to absorb water within a few minutes if you put on a shell. This jacket functions perfectly as a mid-layer and is a nice choice for a terminal layer in cool, calm, and dry conditions. When the wind blows or it starts to drizzle, layer your waterproof breathable shell over top.
Along with the Best Buy winning Outdoor Research Cathode, this is one of two hooded jackets with hybrid construction. The Tinthan nylon that Arc'teryx uses for the LT's main outer fabric provides better air flow than the Cathode's more weather resistant Pertex Quantum ripstop; however, when examining the underarm panels, we found the Schoeller fabric on the Cathode to provide better air flow than the Power Stretch fleece panels on the LT. While we awarded both the same breathability score, the Atom LT is just a little more breathable overall.
For a long time, this hybrid construction style was the best approach to breathability, but the newer insulation technologies in jackets like the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody, Outdoor Research Uberlayer, and Rab Strata Hoody currently offer state-of-the-art comfort and breathability during high energy activities.
While this jacket has a nice, athletic cut, we feel its combination of outer fabrics gives it a "techy" look. With eight color options, ranging from low key, to "in your face" like our bright orange test model, you should find one that pleases you.
The Arc'teryx Atom LT is designed for comfort during high energy activities. The built-in breathability makes it a great choice for a middle layer under a shell, as well as outer wear when you're pushing hard. It functions well for cold weather bouldering, moving with you and preventing overheating during brief, high output burns.
At $249, the Arc'teryx Atom LT is a more expensive than the equally high performing Outdoor Research Cathode, but it's more affordable than competing models from Patagonia. The fleece lined pockets and adjustable hood are features we love that don't appear in similar models. We've been using one for years and love it still.
Due to its comfy fit and fine features, this is one of our testers' enduring favorite jackets. The low profile cuffs and low bulk fit make it an excellent mid-layer for skiing, climbing, and cold weather backpacking. Designed to regulate temperature and moisture during high energy output, this is a fine choice for cold weather trail running and stop and go cold activities like bouldering.
Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's
Atom LT Vest or Atom LT Vest - Women's
— Brandon Lampley & Chris Simrell
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Most recent review: October 12, 2015
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