The highest scoring of the medium and heavy insulated models we tested, the Arc'teryx Atom AR brings cozy warmth and great features to the table. If you usually play in truly cold weather, this versatile jacket will serve you well. It received high scores in warmth, comfort, and weather resistance.
Zac Castillo playing in the rocks in Vedauwoo, WY. This jacket has a heavier, more durable fabric than most.
The Atom AR uses twice as much insulation (120 g/m2 Coreloft) around the torso in comparison to the lightly insulated models we tested. It remains warm while reducing bulk by using less insulation in key areas - 80 g/m2 under the arms where it is often compressed anyway and 60 g/m2 for the hood. We found this design to be both cozy warm and very mobile. The warm hood cinches tight with a rear cord lock and the stretchy, snug-fitting cuffs seal in warmth. The hem is also a bit longer on this jacket than others; another fine feature that adds warmth. The Atom AR has a better warmth-to-weight ratio. Meanwhile, the Hyper Puff, our Top Pick for Warmth, is the warmest and heaviest model we tested.
This big warm hood snugs up with an elastic cord lock in the rear.
Weight & Compressibility
Warmth comes with trade-offs and this model is one of the bulkier and heavier ones we tested. Unfortunately, though, the AR does not stow into one of its pockets.
As we've come to expect from Arc'teryx, the Atom AR sports a fine set of features that makes it super comfortable. Additionally, its athletic cut and incorporation of three different thicknesses of insulation creates great mobility. It also features a relatively long waist hem that stays put when lifting the arms. The wrist cuffs and waist hem are top notch. Both this jacket and its little brother, the Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody, sport low profile, snug fitting cuffs with a wedge of stretchy fabric sewn in. These are comfortable, seal in heat, and are easier than others to slide under gloves. Finally, the hem tightens with easy-to-use cord locks on both the left and right side.
An adjustable hood sets this jacket apart from most of its competitors, but there are no soft fleece bits. One elastic cinch with a cord lock at the back of the head snugs it up to seal out the weather and a stretchy sleeve at the back of the neck seals in heat. One internal zippered chest pocket is perfect for securing valuables around town or keeping your snacks from freezing in the backcountry. The zippered hand pockets are relatively shallow but are lined with a soft micro-fleece. While the zipper pull on the main zipper has an easy-to-grab pull, the hand pocket zippers would benefit from the same pull. Overall, this jacket earned a comfort score right up there with our award winners.
Here we see the nice fabric gasket in the collar that helps seal in warm aari at the back of the neck and Arc'teryx's fabulous, plays-nice-with-gloves wrist cuff.
This jacket, like the award-winning Xenon X, has a near continuous outer fabric. Fewer seams mean fewer places water can seep in if you get stuck in a downpour. This jacket's fabric continued to bead water well throughout our testing and we feel Arc'teryx's DWR treatment is one of the best. The continuous shell and thick insulation also lead to excellent wind resistance. While a breathable jacket like the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody or Outdoor Research Uberlayer needs a light shell layer over top in unpleasant conditions, this jacket does a great job blocking cold, gusty wind. With the snug cuffs and hood in the mix, we don't hesitate to use this as a stand-alone outer layer on clear windy days in the mountains.
The trade-off for great wind resistance is relatively poor breathability. While this model's lining wicks well, overall it is not a jacket you want to keep on for high energy activity unless it is really cold out. We do like to use the Atom AR under a shell in really cold weather, but the Uberlayer would be a better mid-layer choice if you're really pushing hard and have the potential to overheat. The Uberlayer breathes really well and is the warmest of the breathable jackets when used as a mid-layer.
Our lead tester liked the cut of this jacket - with its near continuous shell, it has a clean, sleek look. We wore our blue test model around town and the black and gray color options make for a nice, low-key look. If you want the warmest jacket that looks great around town, the Atom AR is the way to go; it looks much nicer than the Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody, but then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
This piece is a great mid-layer for truly cold weather. It also looks great for cold nights in town. Finally, it's also an excellent mountain jacket on its own in clear weather and under a hardshell when snow is falling. We used ours ice climbing, alpine climbing, and downhill skiing.
At $299, this insulated jacket is competitively priced for the warmth it provides. The jacket has many refined features, looks great, and offers both comfort and versatility. Arc'teryx is known for making products that last a lifetime and most people who own their jackets love them.
This warm, durable jacket gets most of the fine details right and it would be hard to find a better jacket if you need a medium amount of insulation. The Arc'teryx Atom AR will keep you warm as an outer layer in all but the harshest conditions and is finely tuned as a dead-of-winter mid-layer. We find ourselves wearing it around town quite often as well.