Hands-on Gear Review

Arc'teryx Cerium SL Review

Arc'teryx Cerium SL
Price:  $329 List | $244.95 at Amazon
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Pros:  Stylish, warm
Cons:  Fragile, not breathable
Editors' Rating:   
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Down Fill:  850
Total Weight:  6.5 oz / 185g
Main Fabric:  Thisela 100% Nylon 7D
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx

Our Verdict

A cleverly designed hybrid of synthetic and down insulation wrapped in cutting edge fabric, the Cerium SL is a slick city jacket that will suffice for the slopes, but excels apre ski. The athletic cut and trim fit of the Cerium SL belies its lack of mountain sensibility. While plenty warm, particularly for its weight, this jacket lacks critical features such as a hood and has fabric that is neither very durable nor breathable. Its performance in the mountains is limited. Best reserved for the chalet or city streets, the Cerium SL looks good and will keep you plenty warm between bars. If you're looking for a lightweight down jacket that's a true a champ in the mountains, we recommend checking out the Mountain Hardwear Hooded Ghost Whisperer.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Thomas Greene

Last Updated:
Wednesday
November 26, 2014

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More Louis Vuitton than Yvon Chouinard the square shouldered, low volume athletic fit of the Cerium SL will look stylish on you even if your physique is more Peter Griffin than Ueli Steck. Equipped with well intentioned features, such as Coreloft synthetic insulation in areas prone to getting wet, and pared down to an impressive 6.5 oz. the Cerium SL is at first glance a well put together performance piece. However, while being tested the Cerium SL begin to reveal some flaws. Nothing critical if you're not wearing it to climb or ski, but some unnecessary and compromising deficiencies if you are.

Performance Comparison


Here we test technical down jackets in the cold  dry environment of Antarctica.
Here we test technical down jackets in the cold, dry environment of Antarctica.


Warmth


The Cerium SL is impressively warm given its weight and sewn through construction. The Arc'treyx proprietorial Thisela fabric while not breathable is a great windbreaker and retains warmth well. Arc'teryx advises that the Cerium SL is best used in cold dry environments. We tested this Jacket in Antartica-the coldest, driest place on earth-and found this recommendation to be more an admonition than a suggestion. All of our testers reported heavy to moderate moisture build-up while engaging in any activity more vigorous than a casual walk, a very dangerous condition in the backcountry. Overall, this jacket is remarkably warm for its weight and compressibility, but the need to stay dry takes precedence in the mountains.

Weight


The Cerium SL floats away from the competition in the weight department. At a mere 6.5 oz. it weighs less than a cup of water, meaning that you could carry 5 of these jackets and it would still be less than a full liter Nalgene in your pack. The Thisela 7 Denier nylon is incredibly fine and fragile, sacrificing durability for ounces in pursuit of being one the lightest jackets on the market. We've made several repairs to this jacket during the course of testing from rips accrued from normal wear.

Water Resistance


The Cerium SL sheds water well enough that you won't feel compelled to throw another jacket on if you encounter a little rain. For anything more persistent or heavy you'll want to keep this jacket dry. The 850 fill down and Thisela fabric doesn't dry quickly, and the Coreloft synthetic insulation in the sleeves, collar, shoulders and underarms stays wet for much longer and keeps the surrounding down damp.

Compressibility


Though philosophically opposed to creating little bricks of clothing with manufacturer provided stuff sacks the Cerium SL got surprisingly small when we used the one that comes in its pocket. If you choose not to pack your bag like a crazy person, i.e. you are of the "more mortar, less bricks' persuasion, you'll find the Cerium SL disappears quite handily into any small (explicitly non-external) space your pack provides.

For hopping in and out of the car in cold weather this jacket is perfect.
For hopping in and out of the car in cold weather this jacket is perfect.

Style


This jacket is so stylish it should come with a hair gel dispenser. Whether you're going for the immaculately disheveled but still rocking a 300 dollar jacket at the crag look or groomed for a trip to the office the Cerium SL is the jacket to be in if you want to look good doing it.

Durability


This jacket is a testament to how hard it must be to manufacture a jacket that is simultaneously ultra-light and durable. How durable is durable enough depends on what you are doing. The jacket might endure a day at the mall better than the average climber, but for half of its recommended uses: rock, alpine and ice climbing the jacket is simply not durable enough. The jacket accrued several tears from normal wear and one major tear from brushing against the teeth of an ice screw that resulted in an experience analogous to having a pigeon explode in your hands.

Small tears like this were common with Cerium SL.
Small tears like this were common with Cerium SL.

Features


The Cerium SL could almost be forgiven for not having a hood if the low profile collar didn't leave such a large gap. The low profile collar requires either another layer with a hood or a neck gaiter to stay warm when climbing in cold or windy weather. The torso length of the jacket is fairly short and the the pockets relatively low, meaning that when worn with a harness it won't stay under it and when it does you can't access the pockets. The clever addition of Coreloft in areas that are susceptible to getting wet, and for that matter torn, is brilliant save that it doesn't dry at the same rate as the down and keeps surrounding down wet.

Best Applications


While not well suited for the mountains the Cerium SL is not without its place in the world. It would be best used as a commuter jacket, or for days around town in colder weather. Wear this jacket for it's form rather than its function and you'll be eminently happy with it.

Value


Depending on how you use it the Cerium SL is either a great or not so great investment. If you are looking for a jacket to wear around town that can be stuffed away in a computer bag and brought out when it gets chilly then this jacket is great. If you are a climber you might look elsewhere before settling on the Cerium SL.

Conclusion


The cerium SL gets high marks for style. Good looks go a long way but they aren't everything and they definitely don't keep you warm, dry or comfortable. Depending on what you'll be using this jacket for do a little more research before settling on it. If you are a skier or climber I would recommend checking out the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer.
Thomas Greene

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Most recent review: November 26, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (3.0)
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