The Arc'teryx Atom LT employs the classic strategy of hybrid construction to balance weather resistance and breathability. Thin, stretchy panels on the sides vent the heat while less breathable material on the front and back protect you from the elements; the result is a jacket that is not as breathable as the Patagonia Nano-Air, but more weather resistant at nearly the same weight.
Taking the Atom LT out for a spin. Sometimes being high off the ground makes you sweat. Here, our tester is grateful for the Atom LT's breathable side panels.
Arc'teryx uses 60 g/m2 of its proprietary Coreloft insulation for the Atom LT. It is much warmer than its lightweight little brother, the Arc'teryx Atom SL, which has 40g/m2 Coreloft only in the torso. Worn as a mid-layer, the Atom LT is similar in warmth to the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody and the Editors' Choice award-winning Rab Xenon X, but not as warm as the Patagonia Hyper Puff Hoody. 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 layer or wind jacket over this jacket to retain warmth.
Our tester Evan appreciates the DWR treatment on the Atom LT.
Weight & Compressibility
Our small sized test model tips the scales at 12.2 oz, similar to the Nano-Air, and lighter than the Patagonia Nano Puff. The OR Cathode Jacket employs a similar hybrid design and weighs one ounce less, but doesn't feel as warm. While the Atom LT can compress quite small, it does not stow away in one of its pockets. We wish that we could stuff it away and clip it to a harness. Fortunately, it breathes and moves so well that you are less likely to take it off while climbing.
Arc'teryx has long impressed us with its attention to detail and thoughtful features, and the Atom LT doesn't disappoint. It has comfy, streamlined elastic cuffs that fit snugly and keep the heat in. Little details like this earn the Atom LT a high score in the comfort metric. Great mobility made this one of our favorite layers for bouldering in cold weather.
We love the adjustable hood on this model. A single cord lock at the back of the head tightens the elastic cord, which extends to the front of the hood and up over the brow. The Best Buy Award winning Cathode Hooded Jacket 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.
The two hand pockets are lined with a soft microfleece and provide plenty of room for gloved hands. The large chest pocket on the interior of the jacket has ample storage, but the pocket is lower than most, and it felt more like a stomach pocket. The cuff design, shared with the lighter Arc'teryx Atom SL, incorporates stretchy, wedge-shaped panels over the inner wrist. These seal in warmth with a snug fit and are low profile for sliding your glove over top. To seal in the warmth, the elastic hem cinch can be tightened and secured at either hip with a cord lock.
Arc'teryx has always impressed us with their attention to detail. We loved the large zipper pull and the comfy, low profile cuffs.
This hybrid contender 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. This jacket functions perfectly as a mid-layer and is a nice choice for a terminal layer in calm and dry conditions. When the wind blows or it starts to drizzle, layer your waterproof breathable rain jacket or hardshell over top.
A good DWR treatment will keep you dry in light rain so you don't always need to bring a dedicated waterproof shell.
Along with the Best Buy Award winning Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket and the Arc'teryx Atom SL, this jacket employs a hybrid construction. The Tyono fabric that Arc'teryx uses for the Atom LT's main outer fabric provides better air-flow than the Cathode's more wind resistant Pertex Quantum. The Cathode gets a higher breathability score because it has stretchy panels down the sides and under the arms, but it is noticeably less warm than the Atom LT.
For a long time, this hybrid construction style was the best approach to breathability, but now the newer insulation technologies in jackets like the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody
and the Outdoor Research Uberlayer
currently offer state-of-the-art comfort and breathability during high energy activities.
This jacket has a soft matte finish and an athletic cut. It lacks the techy shine of some of the other jackets in the review, and it looks fine for wearing around town, though maybe not in bright yellow like our tester piece. Fortunately, it is available in eight different colors, so there's likely something that will make everyone happy.
This jacket has an athletic cut and stretchy side panels for mobility. The hood fits well and provides great coverage around the neck. The two side pockets are low profile and roomy.
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 outerwear 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 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 on the Patagonia Nano Puff, The North Face ThermoBall Hoodie, or the Rab Xenon X.
Due to its comfy fit and fine features, this is several of our testers' 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.