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Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody Review

The ideal active insulated layer combines lightweight mobility and great breathability, yet still wards off the chill during cold weather
Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody
Photo: Arc'teryx
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $259 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Very comfortable, great fit, breathable, impressively warm, great mobility
Cons:  Pricey, not as warm as thicker layers, doesn’t stuff into itself
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 27, 2021
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 13
  • Warmth - 25% 5
  • Weight and Compressibility - 20% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 5
  • Breathability - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Atom LT is our favorite choice for use as an active insulated layer. There is a lot of competition in this genre of specialized jackets, but this one takes the cake due to its improved fit and incredible breathability. The Coreloft Compact insulation combined with stretch fleece panels on the sides makes it incredibly breathable while still warm. We've loved testing it while nordic skiing and running in winter and find that it makes an ideal choice as the only layer if staying aerobically active or as a mid-layer beneath a shell if the temps or weather are a bit too gnarly.

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
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$299.00 at Backcountry$329.00 at REI
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$107.22 at Backcountry
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$219.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Very comfortable, great fit, breathable, impressively warm, great mobilityLight, easily stowable, very weather resistantLightweight, wind and water resistant, quite warm, durable face fabricLightweight, warm, great wind protection, sheds water well, affordableVery warm, great features set, packs away easily
Cons Pricey, not as warm as thicker layers, doesn’t stuff into itselfDoesn't breathe, expensiveExpensive, no hem drawcords, hood is slightly tight with a helmet onDoesn’t breathe well, fit isn’t very athleticNot the lightest
Bottom Line The ideal active insulated layer combines lightweight mobility and great breathability, yet still wards off the chill during cold weatherWhen it comes to features, this jacket has everything you need and nothing you don'tA versatile and lightweight insulated jacket that offers superior weather resistance, and remains impressively warmThe best lightweight insulated outer layer is highly wind resistant and impressively warmWith hi loft, water-resistant insulation, this jacket is a great option for staying warm on cold, damp days, and doesn't break the bank
Rating Categories Arc'teryx Atom LT H... Arc'teryx Nuclei FL Patagonia DAS Light... Rab Xenon Hoodie Rab Nebula Pro
Warmth (25%)
5.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
Weight And Compressibility (20%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
3.0
Comfort (20%)
9.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
Weather Resistance (20%)
5.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Breathability (15%)
9.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
Specs Arc'teryx Atom LT H... Arc'teryx Nuclei FL Patagonia DAS Light... Rab Xenon Hoodie Rab Nebula Pro
Measured Weight (size) 12.2 oz (S) 10.5 oz (S) 11.0 oz (S) 11.0 oz (S) 20.3 oz (S)
Insulation 60 g/m2 Coreloft Compact w/ Stretch Fleece panels on sides Coreloft (65g/m²) 65 g PlumaFill 100% recycled polyester 60 g Stratus Cirrus HL
Outer Fabric 20D Nylon Tyono Arato (10D nylon ripstop) 10-D 100% nylon ripstop Pertex Endurance Atmos ripstop Pertex Quantum Pro (30D recycled nylon)
Stuffs Into Itself? No Yes Yes Yes, clip loop Includes stuff sack
Hood Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Number of Pockets 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest 2 zippered hand, 2 internal 1 chest zippered, 2 handwarmer zippered 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Atom LT, along with the rest of Arc'teryx's synthetic insulated jackets, saw an update in 2020 that made subtle yet significant improvements. In our mind, the fit, fabric, and cuff designs all changed for the better. Compared to the other two Arc'teryx jackets also included in this review, this one is the lightest and thinnest and is the only one that uses Coreloft Compact insulation, which is reputed to be thinner and more compact without losing much in the way of insulating power. This is also the only hybrid choice, which means that it has standard synthetic insulation sandwiched between face fabrics covering most of the torso, but also has panels of stretch fleece along both sides under the arms for greater range of motion and breathability.

The use of these two materials ensures that this is the least warm of the three options but is also the most versatile for use when working out in cold weather. We found on many winter runs and nordic ski missions that this jacket worked great to keep us from freezing when the temperatures were below 20F while ensuring that we didn't get cold from soaking in our sweat. Without the critical "active" ingredient, expect this jacket to serve well for shoulder seasons or mild weather or as an insulating mid-layer. Mild temperatures, or else lots of activity generated heat, are essential to its use as a standalone layer. We tested the hooded version, although it also comes as a jacket without a hood or as a vest.

Performance Comparison


The Atom LT is a rather thin, lightweight hybrid active layer that...
The Atom LT is a rather thin, lightweight hybrid active layer that combines breathable insulation with stretch fleece panels on the sides for greater breathability. It works great for aerobic workouts on cold winter days, such as classic cross country skiing.

Warmth


The Atom LT uses a hybrid combination of Coreloft Compact insulation and stretch fleece panels on the side to provide warmth. The 60 g/m2 Coreloft Compact is half the thickness of the Coreloft found in the Atom AR yet doesn't sacrifice nearly that much in terms of ability to insulate. Compared to other contenders, though, this is one of the thinnest options, and thus one shouldn't expect maximum warmth retention. The stretch fleece panels found on both sides of the torso add to this, as they are designed more for breathability than heat retention. Simply put, if the idea was to insulate to the max, these fleece panels wouldn't have been used, and the jacket would also have thicker insulation.


The features found on this jacket work great to help keep the cold out and the warmth in, effectively sealing up the openings. A single drawcord on the back of the hood, as well as two hem drawcords, help one tighten up the fit. Our overall impressions were that we were impressed that it offers as much warmth as it does, considering how thin and light it is, but that we only wore it when we knew that heat generated by exercise would help keep us warm.

While the front and back of the jacket is traditional design with...
While the front and back of the jacket is traditional design with insulation sandwiched in between the face and interior fabrics, the side panels, shown here and stretching up under the arm, are highly breathable and air permeable stretch fleece.

The elastic cuffs stay tight against the skin and help seal off the...
The elastic cuffs stay tight against the skin and help seal off the openings where warm air can escape. Their low profile is also nice for layering with gloves.

Weight and Compressibility


We weighed our size men's small jacket at 12.2 ounces. While this is about three ounces heavier than the lightest option in this review, it is notably the lightest of the similar stretch active layers that we've tested.


Like all of the Arc'teryx models in this review, this one cannot stuff into its own pocket and zip closed. Lacking this feature makes it harder to compress when trying to fit things into a smaller pack or for wearing on a climbing harness. Without a confined stuff sack or pocket, it is hard to compress and stuff this jacket very small, which forced us to deduct points for this metric.

At a mere 13.4 ounces, this is the lightest of all the stretch...
At a mere 13.4 ounces, this is the lightest of all the stretch active insulated layers we tested, although is still a few ounces heavier than the very lightest layers in this review.

Comfort


It's hard for us to imagine a much more comfortable jacket, which goes a long way in our appreciation for this active layer. In terms of fit, we find that it is pretty much perfect for our bodies, with excellent mobility. The fit in the torso is on the leaner side without being at all constrictive and tight, but avoiding unnecessary bagginess. Athletes will likely love the slim fit, but those with rounder torsos may struggle a bit more to love it. The hem has been lowered and sits well below the waistline, while the sleeves are long enough that they don't ride up at all when moving the arms about, especially when climbing.


We also appreciate the excellent mobility of the shoulders and neck, both with and without the hood on. Many of the competing jackets made by other brands are overly tight and constrictive in these areas, impeding our range of movement, and forcing us to notice that we do indeed have a tight jacket on. With the Atom LT, there is literally no constriction of any sort. Some nice final touches are the Dope Permeair 20 liner fabric, which feels so much nicer against the skin than slippery nylons, and the tricot fleece-lined pockets.

The fit of the Atom LT is pretty much perfect. No matter how we move...
The fit of the Atom LT is pretty much perfect. No matter how we move our arms about, the hem stays down below the waist and the sleeves don't ride up our forearms at all. This is one reason we find it to be so comfortable.

Weather Resistance


This jacket is best worn during cold but dry weather, or pair it with a shell if it's raining, snowing, or the wind chill is too low. Designed as an active layer, the fabric and insulation choices are meant to optimize breathability and thus suffer a bit when it comes to wind resistance. To be extra breathable, a jacket needs to be somewhat air permeable, and thus when it is really windy, one can feel it through this jacket.


The entire outside is coated with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating, which effectively causes water to bead up and shed off without being absorbed into the fabric, when fresh. Wearing the jacket as it is designed will slowly cause this coating to wear off, which you likely won't notice until you get wet. Granted, all synthetic insulated jackets such as this one can keep you warm when wet because their insulation doesn't compress with moisture. That said, the DWR coating on this jacket does wear off and needs to be reapplied over time, and the stretch fleece panels are water absorbent, even with the coating.

The is the outside of the stretch fleece panel after being sprayed...
The is the outside of the stretch fleece panel after being sprayed with water for over a minute. As you can see, in some areas the DWR coating is working to bead water, while in other areas it has worn off and water is soaking into the fabric.

Breathability


The hybrid design pairing compact insulation with stretch fleece panels is expressly designed to be ultra-breathable. In fact, it is easily one of the most breathable insulated jackets that we have tested, far more so than those with slippery nylon face fabrics designed to repel the wind.


We tested this jacket primarily in the dead of winter at altitude in Colorado, so average temps were in the 20s, occasionally up to the 30s, and sometimes in the teens. At these temps, we would wear it as a single outer layer in dry weather while running and nordic skiing, sports that certainly induce us to work up a sweat. We were amazed at how well this jacket regulated our temperature, as we rarely felt either too hot or too cold and never had to fully unzip or shed the jacket in order to ventilate.

On the slopes of Bear Peak outside Boulder, CO, on a cold and windy...
On the slopes of Bear Peak outside Boulder, CO, on a cold and windy day, its nice to have a layer like the Atom LT that can breath as you run uphill, but also takes the sting out of the biting wind.

Value


As with most products made by Arc'teryx, the price point on this jacket is near the higher end of the spectrum. However, the quality is top-notch, and so in many ways, you get what you pay for. Worth noting is that we wouldn't recommend this jacket as the only insulated layer you own — we would only consider buying it after we already had a thicker and warmer jacket, such as the Atom AR, for hanging out in and general day to day cold weather living. With that base covered, adding in a lighter weight choice for milder weather and use on adventures and during workouts is certainly worthwhile.

The value of this jacket is as an active warmth layer for cold day...
The value of this jacket is as an active warmth layer for cold day workouts. Here getting in some all important miles despite the snowy winter trails.

Conclusion


The Arc'teryx Atom LT is easily one of the best choices for active use while staying aerobic outdoors — running, skinning, nordic skiing, or hiking — or even for less high paced endeavors like climbing or camping. It is comfortable, fits like a dream, and is exceptionally versatile, making it one of our go-to insulated layers.

An early winter trail run on dry trails but with cold temps is a...
An early winter trail run on dry trails but with cold temps is a perfect use for the Atom LT.

Andy Wellman