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Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody - Women's Review

An excellent lightweight down jacket that is twice as warm as the competition: an excellent severe weather jacket for ice climbs and ski tours.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $525 List | $288.75 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Very warm, lightweight, versatile, great features
Cons:  More expensive, less stylish, less durable
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Feb 23, 2020
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 12
  • Warmth - 30% 9
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Compressibility - 20% 8
  • Features - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 2
  • Water Resistance - 5% 8

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody is a stunningly lightweight model that fluffs up to a size that rivals some proper expedition parkas, but still feels light and maneuverable for those bitter cold winter days around town. The jacket has an excellent puff-to-freedom-of-movement ratio, so if you get cold easily, you'll get outstanding warmth from this jacket without feeling like a marshmallow with legs. This hoody became our go-to insulation for early winter ice climbs in Montana and long mid-winter ski tours in Washington, and the weight-to-warmth ratio is unrivaled in our decades of experience with down jackets.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Arc'teryx has a reputation for perfection. When they release a new product, you know it has been diligently tested. The Cerium SV is no exception, but it must be noted that it is not intended for everyday wear; this is a very warm and lightweight specialist jacket. The extremely high-quality, 850 fill down certainly explains part of this winning ratio—but not all. We found the hood with the extended collar and tight seal around the face to add a tremendous amount of warmth: body heat is sealed in, and the fierce weather is sealed out.

To be so light and maneuverable, Arc'teryx used very lightweight outer fabric, which comes at a cost to long-term durability. We don't recommend this hoody as a daily workhorse, but rather more of a specific-use jacket. With this one in your closet quiver, we think you'll be looking forward to those big, cold days when this is your obvious go-to.

Performance Comparison


Keeping warm as we tie in at the crag  the Cerium SV provides.
Keeping warm as we tie in at the crag, the Cerium SV provides.

Warmth


The Cerium SV is the warmest jacket in this review, trailing somewhat closely behind the Feathered Friends Eos. The Cerium is perfect for a midwinter trip to your favorite winter wonderland town and was even warm enough for December ice climbing trips to Canada, where the days are short and frigid.


The Cerium SV is optimized to keep you warm in challenging conditions. We loved it for those single-digit, blustery days out ice climbing in Montana's Hyalite Canyon or perched on long multi-pitch ice climbs in Canada's Rockies—exceptionally challenging conditions because you have to stand quite still, hanging in one spot, in the bitter cold when belaying your partner. Yikes.

The StormHood on the Cerium SV seals in warmth  no matter the weather.
The StormHood on the Cerium SV seals in warmth, no matter the weather.

Part of the Cerium SV Hoody's secret to keeping you warm is the brilliantly designed StormHood. The collar comes up high without feeling stifling, and there is lots of insulation around your neck and face to help keep precious body heat inside. The overall fit of the jacket is also relatively slender, which helps to reduce air movement inside the jacket. Plus, the snug cuffs and cinching bottom hem drawcord ensure you can seal out any cold drafts.

Arc'teryx features their Down Contour baffling which optimizes loft. 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. This is in part due to the high lofting 850 fill down, but the bigger baffles also seemed to contribute to an impressive puff factor.

For ice climbing on particularly cold days, we liked to add the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer as a midlayer, under our hardshell jacket, then pull out the Cerium SV Hoody for the cold belays. These two models worked impeccably well together, wit,h similar climbing-specific cuts, and features that allow excellent freedom of movement. In this update, we also checked out the smaller cousin to the SV, the Cerium LT, which also stacks nicely under the SV, filling a similar role as the Ghost. The Cerium is in a warmth category of its own, but it remained competitive in the Weight and Compressibility metrics below.

Weight


The Cerium SV Hoody is on the heavier side of jackets in this review, but it achieves maximal warmth with this weight, rising well above most of the competition. And with its high quality down, the Cerium SV is even more stunningly warm for its weight.


We scored the SV in the middle of the pack for weight. This metric is designed to be mutually exclusive of warmth and compressibility, though high-quality down often scores high in all three of our top metrics. Because this is such a warm jacket, it is also a little heavier, but the Warmth and Weight metrics balance it out.

The Cerium SV has possibly the best warmth-to-weight ratio  making it a favorite for cold climbs where the weight of our gear is also high on our mind.
The Cerium SV has possibly the best warmth-to-weight ratio, making it a favorite for cold climbs where the weight of our gear is also high on our mind.

Compressibility


Every time we pulled the Cerium SV out of our backpack, it emerged looking squished; it was sometimes so flat that we thought it was wet or damaged. In moments, the loft would pop back up, and the jacket seemed to have tripled in size. We could not get over how puffy this jacket was when it could compress into such a small space.


The Cerium SV 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.

The Arc'teryx Cerium SV is among the largest when compressed  out of jackets in this review; however  for the warmth  it is impressively compressible.
The Arc'teryx Cerium SV is among the largest when compressed, out of jackets in this review; however, for the warmth, it is impressively compressible.

Features


The Cerium is full of excellent features and is designed with the serious mountain athlete in mind.


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, lightweight 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 Arc'teryx Cerium SV's hood is easy to adjust: the drawcords inside cinch it snug  and the large round tab  between our fingers here  makes it easy to loosen the hood with gloves on.
The Arc'teryx Cerium SV's hood is easy to adjust: the drawcords inside cinch it snug, and the large round tab, between our fingers here, makes it easy to loosen the hood with gloves on.

The neck is extra puffy with a high collar, 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.

Keeping our phone warm is easy in the chest pocket of the Cerium SV!
Keeping our phone warm is easy in the chest pocket of the Cerium SV!

There is also a separate stuff sack in this chest pocket. At first, we were annoyed that the Cerium didn't just stuff inside its own 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. Arc'teryx was one step ahead again when they thought to attach that stuff sack to the pocket, so you don't lose it when pulling out your smartphone or snacks from that pocket, using a very clever girth-hitching loop design to keep the stuff sack in that pocket. This also makes it easy to leave behind for those who want to shave that modicum of weight, and don't use that feature anyway.

The internal chest pocket on the Arc'teryx Cerium SV has a separate stuff sack girth-hitched inside  which is for stuffing the jacket into. We love this design. It makes it easy to clip to the back of your harness on a long ice climb  without risking dropping the stuff sack.
The internal chest pocket on the Arc'teryx Cerium SV has a separate stuff sack girth-hitched inside, which is for stuffing the jacket into. We love this design. It makes it easy to clip to the back of your harness on a long ice climb, without risking dropping the stuff sack.

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, was that 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, and the cord is easy to access without having to wrestle with the bottom of the jacket and risk getting cold drafts up the jacket. The loosening of that hem drawcord was trickier, but this is less important and often done at home or when temperatures warm up anyway.

The Cerium SV is cozy and highly adjustable with drawcord hood and hem.
The Cerium SV is cozy and highly adjustable with drawcord hood and hem.

The features on the Cerium are so well thought out that everything feels simple, streamlined, and easy. And extra, extra warm.

Durability


The Arato 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 was starting to thin out and get little holes. We were heartbroken and recognized that this jacket is not meant for daily use. This is an exceedingly lightweight down jacket, and it doesn't top the charts for durability.


Water Resistance


Down jackets are not meant to be waterproof, but sometimes the mountains test our layering abilities—and our hardshells—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, such as the shoulders and cuffs, which we noticed to be an advantage over other jackets in this review.

You can see the synthetic insulation in the shoulders and cuff of the Cerium SV. We love this feature; the targeted use of synthetic insulation in moisture-prone regions (as well as the armpits  not pictured here) helps keep you warm and dry  when challenged by precipitation.
You can see the synthetic insulation in the shoulders and cuff of the Cerium SV. We love this feature; the targeted use of synthetic insulation in moisture-prone regions (as well as the armpits, not pictured here) helps keep you warm and dry when challenged by precipitation.

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 SV performed well in this category for a lightweight down jacket.


Value


The Cerium SV is quite a lot of cash for a lightweight down jacket; it is nearly double the price of many of the jackets in this review. For what you get, however, it still may be considered a good value. If it's important for you to have an extremely warm and lightweight jacket for selective use, like on challenging, long ice routes or ski tours that push the limits of your aerobic endurance, then this might be an ideal companion. But this is definitely not a quiver-of-one jacket due to the wear and tear you would put on it as your daily winter jacket.

Conclusion


The Cerium SV sets an impressively high bar for warmth, low weight, compressibility, and overall comfort. It feels twice as warm as most jackets in this review. We loved the SV for our most ambitious, cold adventures but learned to use it sparingly after wearing the fabric thin from overuse. If you save this one for your big climbs and ski tours, we think you'll look forward to these trips even more, knowing you have the perfect jacket.

The Cerium SV is a favorite for climbing of all kinds.
The Cerium SV is a favorite for climbing of all kinds.


Lyra Pierotti