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Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody Review

An incredibly light jacket for your trips where weight matters
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $359 List | $215.40 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, stylish, high warmth to weight ratio
Cons:  Expensive, not super durable
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Adam Paashaus ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 2, 2020
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80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 10
  • Warmth - 30% 6
  • Weight - 20% 10
  • Water Resistance - 15% 7
  • Fit - 15% 9
  • Compressibility - 10% 10
  • Features - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody is just about the best available when it comes to ultralight down jackets. It was our go-to piece for thru-hiking the Long Trail of Vermont in the fall, where temps routinely hovered around the freezing mark, prompting us to name it a Top Pick for Ultralight Warmth. If you are playing hard in big mountains, you might want something more durable, warmer or more feature-rich, but for all-around use, including ultralight thru-hiking in cool weather, this is an excellent option. There are some definite limitations of this jacket but for what it is, it does a great job.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

One thing to get out of the way early; honest reviews of gear require the tester to give honest feedback. This jacket has its weaknesses, but it's almost a foregone conclusion. As with any ultralight style jacket, it will fall short when it comes to durability and overall warmth. It's always a tradeoff when you start cutting ounces. So if ultralight is what you are looking for in a down hoody, take these criticisms with a grain of salt.

Performance Comparison


The sun gets low  the cold comes out in southern Utah in early spring.
The sun gets low, the cold comes out in southern Utah in early spring.

Warmth


The Cerium SL Hoody is an ultralight down hoody, stuffed with high quality, 850 fill-power, ethically sourced goose down. The sewn-through baffles are narrow horizontal channels, so not much down is needed to get them lofted up. However, the narrow channels also mean the loft is limited, and this jacket isn't one of the warmer jackets we tested.


The exterior shell is wind resistant, almost to the point of being wind proof, having tested it to the extreme on the frigid gusty High Peaks of Vermont.


The hood has an excellent closure with a simple, user-friendly design that comfortably seals out the cold. An adjustable hem is another feature that we were glad to have, again, helping to keep our body heat inside rather than losing it from underneath to a cold breeze.

While this jacket works well as a mid-layer, we used it mostly as our main terminal piece unless the skies opened up. With as wind-resistant as it was, we found this layer to be plenty warm for most conditions we used it in, choosing to layer underneath to get the warmth level just right. This jacket isn't for serious alpine pursuits, but it makes an excellent option for the cold of a shoulder season or a beautiful winter day in the Sierra.

Weight


At 8.4 ounces for a size large plus the included stuff-sack, the Cerium SL is the lightest jackets in our review. The 850 fill-power down lofts up well, allowing less of it to be used to fill the baffles, which helps to keep the weight low. The shell and liner fabric are among the lightest in the test, not to mention, softest to the touch.


What are the drawbacks of being so light-weight? Well, for starters, it won't have the same warmth, durability, or as full a feature set that is commonly found on non-UL down jackets. With that said, this jacket packs a surprising amount of perks into such a lightweight package.

The Cerium SL (right) stuffs smaller than any jacket in this test. Here it is shown beside the Feathered Friends Eos and the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody.
The Cerium SL (right) stuffs smaller than any jacket in this test. Here it is shown beside the Feathered Friends Eos and the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody.

Water Resistance


To battle moisture, the Cerium SL incorporates a DWR or durable water repellent treatment that helps keep water from "wetting out" or soaking into the fabric and thus coming into contact with the down itself.


However, a DWR finish will only work for so long in wet conditions before water will work its way through the stitches, and unfortunately, the down is non-hydrophobic, so over time will get soaked and lose its loft, and therefore its warmth as well.

With a non-hydrophobic down insulation  we are glad to report the DWR does an outstanding job.
With a non-hydrophobic down insulation, we are glad to report the DWR does an outstanding job.

There is one area in which this jacket shines when it comes to moisture - in the shoulders, cuffs, chin, and underarms, Arc'teryx uses what they call down mapping; instead of using down in these moisture-prone areas, they incorporate Coreloft synthetic insulation, which doesn't absorb moisture. While this is a good idea, we feel it can only help so much, and the down is still somewhat vulnerable to moisture from rain, or even sweat.

Arc'teryx uses down mapping  which is where they strategically place small sections of synthetic insulation in areas that are prone to getting wet like the shoulders  cuffs  and armpits.
Arc'teryx uses down mapping, which is where they strategically place small sections of synthetic insulation in areas that are prone to getting wet like the shoulders, cuffs, and armpits.

Fit


The fit of this jacket is just about ideal, allowing plenty of room inside the jacket for a base layer and light fleece, while also easily fitting under a shell jacket or heavier insulating layer. If we were to pick one coat for a night out on the town, this would be the one.


We had no problem layering with the Cerium. It was common for us to use this with a baselayer  lightweight fleece  and a hard shell when weather rolled in.
We had no problem layering with the Cerium. It was common for us to use this with a baselayer, lightweight fleece, and a hard shell when weather rolled in.

Compressibility


The compressibility of a down jacket comes down to a few things; how thin and light the fabrics are, how feature-laden it is, and the fill-power of the insulation. This jacket checks all the boxes to make it the light-weight authority that it is.


The Arato 7 nylon shell material is some of the softest and lightest in this test, but it still has a decent tear resistance. However, tear-resistance, in this case, is a relative term, and this fabric is less durable than hoodies with a heavier fabric. Using 850 fill-power ensures the down itself won't be a limiting factor when it comes to compressibility, and the features included in this coat, while useful, are few, keeping things super basic and as light and compressible as possible.

Some jackets came with a stuff sack instead of using a stow pocket. We had mixed feelings about this as a stuff sack can protect the jacket if the bag were to get damaged  but you have to keep track of it.

Features


The Cerium SL isn't what we would describe as feature-rich, which helps to keep it lightweight, but the features it does includes are crucial and well-designed. The hood cinch is easy to use with one hand and creates a comfortable seal from the elements without bothering our ears, which is a common problem in other down hoods.


The Cerium SL has one of the best hoods in our test. We loved the full coverage seal and it adjusts with a simple single pull shock cord.
The Cerium SL has one of the best hoods in our test. We loved the full coverage seal and it adjusts with a simple single pull shock cord.

It also comes with a very basic elastic hem adjustment, that unfortunately skimped on using a cord-lock and requires two hands to de-tension through its friction tensioner. While a cord-lock would have been easy to incorporate, this small tensioner won't bother you under a harness or backpack strap as easily.

Dual hem cinch cords work well and can be tightened with one hand  but the fasteners are simple friction mechanisms that need two hands to pull slack to release.
Dual hem cinch cords work well and can be tightened with one hand, but the fasteners are simple friction mechanisms that need two hands to pull slack to release.

The small zipper is smooth and light, but we've experienced failure on these lightweight zippers in the past. This jacket uses a separate stuff sack rather than stuffing into its pocket. If it were to get scuffed on the rock while on the back of your harness, the included bag will take the brunt of any damage, while the jacket itself is safely tucked inside.

The thin zipper is one of the weakest links of this jacket. We have had other jackets with this same zipper wear out before the rest of the jacket. Also  note the down coming out one of the stitches. While rare  it did happen from time to time  as with most down jackets.
The thin zipper is one of the weakest links of this jacket. We have had other jackets with this same zipper wear out before the rest of the jacket. Also, note the down coming out one of the stitches. While rare, it did happen from time to time, as with most down jackets.

Value


Like everything Arc'teryx produces, this jacket is far from cheap. That's not to say it isn't a good value for some people. If you are going light and you love the build quality of an Arc'teryx product, you will love this jacket and likely be happy to spend that kind of cash. However, if you are looking for an all-around down hoody, you can get one just as warm, albeit slightly heavier, for a much lower price. The niche for those who need this jacket is relatively small, but the soft feel, nice style, and simple design make this an excellent option for a much larger group.

Conclusion


The Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody is a great jacket if you are looking to go light. It isn't one of the warmest in the lineup, but when you consider how much it weighs, it sports an incredible warmth to weight ratio. Features like the strategically placed Coreloft insulation where moisture often will absorb into the down add to the appeal of this jacket, but this is no jacket for the alpine unless used as a mid-layer. We don't recommend wearing a shell over it for much aerobic activity; however, as sweat can find its way into the non-hydrophobic down. But, if you want an ultra-light down hoody with an excellent fit, the Cerium SL is not to be overlooked.

The desert in early spring was a great place to test the jackets. Once the sun went behind the red rock canyon rim  the jackets came out!
The desert in early spring was a great place to test the jackets. Once the sun went behind the red rock canyon rim, the jackets came out!

Adam Paashaus