The Arc'teryx Modon is a specialized piece of performance ski outerwear. Essentially, this lightly insulated shell is built to be the outer part of a layering system, or for use on its own in warm and wet conditions.
The Modon is essentially a shell with a bit of insulation added. The insulation used is Coreloft Compact, which Arc'teryx describes as siliconized polyester yarns where the thickness has been reduced by 50% without reducing the insulating value. In our experience it is also less warm that comparable jackets.
This is not designed to be a significantly warm jacket. The insulation is very light. In terms of the insulation, note that the manufacturer's description of the weight of the insulation is their own. The insulation used is Coreloft Compact, which Arc'teryx describes as siliconized polyester yarns where the thickness has been reduced by 50% without reducing the insulating value. In our experience, this jacket is thinner, but also less warm that comparable jackets. Elsewhere in our test, the Helly Hansen Enigma and Columbia Whirlibird Interchange also indicate the same weight of insulation. However, these other jackets are much much more insulating than the Modon. We perceive that the insulation has more loft and therefore provides more warmth. On our list of tested jackets, none compare exactly to the Modon. Perhaps the Spyder Titan is similar, but a little more insulating.
Arc Teryx Modon in action in cold and raw conditions in the Northeastern US. When it's this cold, the skier absolutely must have insulation beneath something like the Modon.
Gore-Tex material continues to be a part of the most weather resistant jackets. In direct comparisons, the Modon blocked the wind more effectively than the thicker Flylow Roswell jacket, for instance. The cut, finish, waterproof zippers, and DWR of the Modon augments the excellent fabric in providing bomber protection from the elements. As compared to less expensive offerings, like the Spyder Sentinel, the DWR and overall weather protection on the Arc'teryx is far more robust. In the end, as we considered the candidates for our Top Pick award, the weather resistance of the Modon was a primary determinant in the ultimate selection. Only a couple of other jackets protected as well as the Modon, and each of these is much warmer. None protected better.
The Modon comes equipped with waterproof zippers, which combined with the Gore-Tex shell material makes this a bombproof jacket in wet weather.
Ventilation in a lightweight jacket like this is less important than in the more insulating pieces like our Editors' Choice winner, the Arc'teryx Macai. However, it is possible that the user will employ the vents in the warmest of ski conditions. In this case, the mesh-covered pit-zippers of the Modon are welcome, but not quite as effective as the long, uncovered ones in the Patagonia Primo Down Jacket. Just like in the top of the line Editors' Choice pick, one could cut the mesh out of the vents of the Modon. The mesh is ostensibly there to keep snow out but let air in. In years of skiing, very few of our testers have found that open, air-flowing vents need to keep snow out. Instead, we find that we prefer to leave the vents closed when it's cold and powdery, and open them when it's warmer with less loose snow around.
The lightly insulated Arc Teryx Modon is excellent for windy but warm conditions in sunny California. Jediah Porter on Mammoth Mountain.
This is a minimalist shell jacket, with just a few accents to support ski function. We wish the powder skirt were removable, and that a pocket was equipped with a leashed goggle wipe. One is apt to wear this particular jacket in wet and foggy conditions. In this case, having an integrated cloth will be much appreciated. Sure, it's a silly little thing, but our testers all appreciate the inclusion of a goggle wipe, when applicable. On our test roster, the similarly insulating, but overall less effective Spyder Sentinel edges ahead of the Modon in just this feature category.
Fit and Comfort
The fully neutral cut of the Modon is wonderful. It will fit most body shapes comfortably, and the jacket will virtually disappear on the user. We can't say anything more favorable than that. Arc'teryx always makes excellent athletic outerwear, and the Modon is no exception. Like Patagonia, this company comes from a climbing background. Climbers and climbing clothing must be able to move arms without disrupting the rest of the body. Attaching sleeves to a jacket in a way that preserves range of motion without disturbing the torso fit seems to be quite a feat, and in our testing these climbing clothing companies do it best. The Modon fits very well while preserving the wearer's entire range of motion. Every single person that put on the Modon found it to be an excellent, welcoming fit.
The hood and collar interface on the Modon makes the hood easy to use and adjust, but we did find that when the collar is zipped all the way, it fits very snug, and leaves little room for a neck gaiter.
Like fit and comfort, the style of the Modon is perfectly neutral. The subtle blocked color scheme contrasts with its closest competitor, the Spyder Titan. While the Spyder comes in a few color schemes, the tested version was fairly aggressive. Our team has tested the Arc'teryx Modon in both a mild and unoffensive Blue Moon color scheme and a more flashy Aruna orange color. All Arc'teryx products come well-finished with clean, classic lines.
If you run hot and/or exclusively ski in a wet, mild climate, this is the jacket for you. If you subscribe to a layering system, but prefer immaculately designed and built high end clothing, the Modon will be an excellent fit. It is similar somewhat to 3-in-1 style jackets, but the construction of all tested modular jackets is far inferior to the Modon. If you already have a shell jacket you like, this lightly insulated piece will be essentially redundant with that. However, the light insulation does allow this jacket to cross-over into other winter activities well.
2015 ski jacket testing. From left: Flylow Roswell, Arc Teryx Modon, Patagonia Primo Down.
This is not an inexpensive jacket. At full retail price, it is exactly the same price as the Patagonia Primo Down. In a direct comparison, then, the Patagonia has to come out ahead. The Primo Down is more versatile, doesn't require an additional insulating layer in colder conditions, and the down insulation will keep its warming value longer than the synthetic insulation in the Modon. Again, however, many users will prefer to have their shell and insulation separated, or create plenty of their own heat, or ski and ride in warmer climates. In any of these latter cases, the Primo Down will be too much and the value of the Modon creeps ahead again.
In short, this is a specialized piece of storm-ready ski clothing. If you need this sort of jacket, you probably have other jackets and know exactly what you are looking for. If you are new to skiing and ski clothing, chances are a warmer, more ski specific jacket is best for you.