Arc'teryx has a reputation for perfection. When they release a new product, you know it has been diligently tested. This jacket performed so shockingly well that it seriously raised the bar for what we can expect from a lightweight down jacket.
The Cerium is an excellent all around lightweight down jacket.
This jacket was by far the warmest in this review. It's great for those midwinter trips to your favorite winter wonderland, especially if you hail from a warmer climate and are not remotely acclimatized to cold temperatures. The jacket was so warm, in fact, that we used it to replace our much bigger, puffier, heavier down jacket on our frigid ice climbing trips.
This was the only jacket in the review which was warm enough to keep us comfortable while standing still and belaying on cold, single-digit, windy days in Montana's ice climbing Mecca: Hyalite Canyon. In fact, we would not venture out without this one—even if we layered two of the other jackets in this review, we could not achieve the same warmth as the Cerium SV Hoody.
Brilliant hood design keeps you toasty warm.
Part of the Cerium SV Hoody's secret to keeping you warm is the brilliantly designed hood. It seals so well around your face and neck that no cold air manage to get in once you are all bundle up. The shape and cut of the jacket also contribute to its warmth: it has a snug fit, designed to reduce the amount of air space inside the jacket. The secure wrist cuffs and cinching drawcord in the bottom hem also ensure no cold air sneaks in as you walk through your favorite winter wonderland..
Arc'teryx has designed the baffles to optimize loft in crucial areas. We noticed this excellent design (though we couldn't fully explain it—their engineers are very brilliant) every time we pulled the Cerium out of our pack. It would emerge from our backpack looking very tiny with all of the air compressed out of it. Within seconds, however, the loft would return—and it would look twice as puffy as any other jacket in this review.
For ice climbing on particularly cold days, we liked to add the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer as a midlayer, under our hard shell jacket, then pull out the Cerium SV Hoody for the cold belays. These two models worked impeccably well together, with similar climbing-specific cuts and features that allow excellent freedom of movement. The Cerium was in a warmth category of its own, but it remained competitive in the Weight and Compressibility metrics below.
Our small Cerium SV Hoody weighed in at 10 ounces. This was on the heavier end of this lightweight down jacket review, but still highly competitive.
We gave it a 5 out of 10, which is an average rating, but there was only one jacket heavier than it in this review. We could not justify giving the Cerium a below average rating because of its phenomenal warmth to weight ratio and the fact that it packs a stunning amount of features into this competitive weight category. We gave it the lowest possible rating we could justify, trying to be as critical as possible, and this jacket is an obvious Top Pick winner. This was certainly the warmest jacket for the weight, but if you're looking for something really light for milder weather, check out the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer.
This is our favorite jacket for ice climbing: it is light, and incredibly warm.
The Cerium would emerge from our backpack looking so small we thought it had gotten wet or damaged somehow. For such a lofty and warm jacket, it still doesn't make sense to us how it can be so impressively compressible. But every time we pulled it out, it re-lofted quickly and was ultimately twice as puffy as the runners-up in this review.
The Cerium couldn't compete with the Ghost Whisperer, which is highly compressible but also much smaller (and not as warm, since it ultimately has less total insulation), so if you're looking for a very lightweight and compressible down jacket for milder temperatures, this might be your best bet. But the Cerium SV compressed to the same size as the Rab Microlight Alpine jacket, underlining its impressive compressibility. The Rab Microlight Alpine jacket still earned an award despite its lower warmth and compressibility.
The jacket is compressible enough to clip to the back of your harness while climbing.
The Cerium is full of excellent features and is designed with the serious mountain athlete in consideration. From top to bottom, here is what we found.
The hood is helmet compatible and adjusts easily (even with thick gloves or mittens) to cinch tighter around your face when not wearing a helmet or hat. There are large round buttons on both sides of the hood that are easy to squeeze to loosen the fit and drawcords inside the neck collar that are also easy to grab and tighten. The only downside is you have to unzip the collar slightly to access those drawcords and tighten the fit.
The neck is extra puffy, ensuring an excellent seal and a particularly cozy feel. The internal chest zip pocket is a favorite feature—we could stash our smartphone there for easy access to our app-based maps, topos, and camera and keep it warm to help prevent the battery from dying too quickly on our walks about town or climbs in the mountains.
There is a separate stuff sack in this chest pocket. At first, we were annoyed that the Cerium didn't just stuff inside its pocket, as this is simpler. However, this extra stuff sack ensures you don't scrape up the jacket while climbing with it hanging from your harness. And Arc'teryx was one step ahead again when they thought to attach that stuff sack to the pocket, so you don't drop it when pulling out your smartphone or snacks from that pocket. They used a very clever girth hitch to keep the bag in that pocket—and still make it easily removable for those who want to shave that modicum of weight and don't use that feature anyway.
Best idea ever: girth hitch the jacket's stuff sack inside the pocket so the pouch doesn't fall out every time we pull our phone out of that pocket. Sweet.
The pockets have baffles on the inside and outside of the pocket, ensuring a very, very warm hand pocket, and no loss of heat when you unzip them. Wow, that was thoughtful. The elastic cuffs at the wrists are stretchy enough for a snug fit over climbing gloves, but slender enough to slide into bigger gauntlets. Either way, we were well sealed from the elements. The bottom hem has a drawcord to cinch it tighter and keep out the cold. The tightening and loosening function of this cord was not the easiest (it's a very simple, small, and light design), but we often find that once we adjust it, we don't have to frequently re-adjust it.
There is a large button, right there, which loosens the hood easily, even when wearing gloves. This button was just one of the traits we absolutely loved on this feature-rich model.
In summary, the features on the Cerium are so well thought out that everything feels simple, streamlined, and easy. And extra, extra warm.
The Arato 7 and 10 nylon used in the Cerium SV Hoody is more light than it is durable; however, as this is a cold weather jacket, we find ourselves pulling it out more often for snowy and icy adventures where abrasion is less of a hazard. The shape of the Cerium SV Hoody also ensures that the jacket remains close to your body, which helps reduce the risk of snagging the fabric. After a year of wearing this jacket a whole lot—probably too much—we observed the fabric thin out enough to start getting little holes. We were heartbroken, and recognized that this jacket is not meant for daily use. This is an exceedingly lightweight down jacket, so it doesn't top the charts for durability. If you're searching for something just super burly for everyday use, you might consider The North Face Aconcagua or the Canada Goose Hybridge Perren.
Down jackets are not meant to be waterproof, but sometimes the mountains test our layering abilities—and our hard shells—so it is great for a down jacket to have some water resistance. In addition to the industry standard water repellent fabric, Arc'teryx has placed Coreloft synthetic insulation in areas prone to moisture, which we noticed to be an advantage over other jackets in this review. The Cerium SV's down remained dry and lofty even when challenged by heavy snowfall as we raced from our car to the coffee shop, and when tested on dripping waterfall ice climbs. The Cerium did very well in this category for a lightweight down jacket. If you're looking for a more casual use jacket that will repel water relatively well, consider The North Face Aconcagua.
The Cerium SV Hoody is stylish if you like an outdoorsy look and value the look of an obviously well made jacket. This jacket looks like a highly functioning climbing jacket, so if that is your style of choice, you'll love it. The baffles and shape are certainly flattering, but if you're looking for a more stylish down jacket, you might appreciate the textures and materials on the Kuhl Spyfire, or the colors and fun baffling on the REI Magma or the ever-classic, Patagonia Down Sweater.
The Cerium is an excellent choice for cold mountain adventures where you want to travel with a light kit without sacrificing warmth. This was our favorite jacket for those bitter cold days visiting our favorite winter vacation spot, and certainly for ice climbing and very cold ski tours where light weight is especially important.
At $525, this is a pretty spendy down jacket. In fact, it is double the price of most jackets in this review. But for what you get, we still call it a great value. If you use it selectively—for really cold temperatures when you still want to feel maneuverable and light on your feet—you'll have this jacket in your closet quiver for a long time.
The Arc'teryx Cerium sets the bar high for all other down jackets. It is twice as warm as all the other jackets in this review, and still on par for light weight. We loved it for ambitious, cold pursuits like long ice climbs and cold ski tours, but we had to be sure we used it somewhat sparingly as the fabric is not durable enough for daily use over multiple seasons.
The Cerium quickly became our favorite for ice climbing and protected us from all harsh environments that we encountered.