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 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.Editor's Note: We purchased and put the Cerium SL to the test to ensure it is still up to our high standards. Our review, dated August 21, 2022, reflects our current findings.
Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody Review
Cons: Expensive, not super durable
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Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody
$359.00 at Amazon
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|Pros||Lightweight, stylish, high warmth to weight ratio||Light, great compressibility, strong warmth to weight ratio compact||Warm, well-fitting, excellent styling||Inexpensive, lightweight,||Fit allows for layering underneath, soft inner liner, inexpensive|
|Cons||Expensive, not super durable||Limited features, little adjustability||Poor weather resistance, slightly heavy||Sweater weight warmth, moderate adjustability||Thinner outer shell, less durable, not as warm as premium brands, not that compressible|
|Bottom Line||If you are looking for a warm, light layer for a trip where ounces count, this is a great selection||A mountaineering jacket with high quality down and lightweight, this piece stands out for its functional simplicity||This classic down has a comfortable fit, excellent style, and plenty of warmth making it a reliable choice||This 800-fill jacket offers quality down at a reasonable price and little weight||A down jacket alternative that uses synthetic insulation that won't break the bank|
|Rating Categories||Arc'teryx Cerium SL...||Mountain Hardwear G...||Patagonia Down Swea...||MontBell Superior Down||Amazon Essentials L...|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Arc'teryx Cerium SL...||Mountain Hardwear G...||Patagonia Down Swea...||MontBell Superior Down||Amazon Essentials L...|
|Down Fill||850-fill goose down||800-fill goose down||800-fill goose down||800-fill goose down||100% polyester|
|Total Weight||7.6 oz||8.5 oz||14.9 oz||8.7 oz||11 oz|
|Baffle Construction||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles||Sewn-through baffles|
|Main Fabric||100% nylon||10D ripstop nylon||100% ripstop polyester||10D nylon||Nylon|
|Compression Method||Stuff sack||Zips into pocket||Zips into pocket||Stuff sack||Stuff sack|
|Pockets||2 zippered hand||2 zippered hand||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest||2 zippered hands, 1 internal||2 zippered hand|
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, the Arc'teryx Cerium SL falls short when it comes to durability and is not as warm as some in the fleet. If ultralight is what you are looking for in a down hoody, take these criticisms with a grain of salt.
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.
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 midlayer, 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 the shoulder season or a beautiful winter day in the Sierra.
At 7.6 ounces, the Cerium SL is one of 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 lightweight? Well, for starters, it won't have the same warmth, durability, or as full a feature set that is commonly found on non-ultralight down jackets. With that said, this jacket packs a surprising amount of perks into such a lightweight package.
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.
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.
The fit of this jacket is just about ideal, as it allows 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.
These attributes make it quite comfortable when wearing in the mountains, at a cold crag, or if we were to pick one coat for a night out on the town, this would be the one.
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. The Cerium SL checks all the boxes to make it the lightweight authority that it is.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Should You Buy the Arc'teryx Cerium SL?
The Cerium SL Hoody is a great jacket if you are looking to go light. It's incredibly warm, and 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 midlayer. If you want an ultralight down hoody with an excellent fit, the Cerium SL is not to be overlooked.
What Other Down Jackets Should You Consider?
Like everything Arc'teryx produces, this jacket is far from cheap. 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. These models include the Patagonia Down Sweater, Rab Microlight Alpine, and Outdoor Research Helium. Still lower in cost than the Cerium SL is the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2, our highest scoring down jacket.
— James Lucas & Adam Paashaus
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