Arc'teryx Nuclei FL - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Deliciously comfortable, amazing weather resistance, light and packable, cozy, cute style, versatile fit
Cons: Expensive, lacks a chest pocket, zipper is sticky
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL wins our Editors' Choice award for its stellar performance — in all the metrics except breathability. It features a continuous shell construction with two handwarming pockets, two interior pockets, and a helmet-compatible storm hood. It's exceptionally weather-resistant and is built to take on high winds while hanging out on a high bivy.
Wowzers! The Nuclei FL is a midweight jacket that offers an exceptional amount of warmth.
Filled with 65-grams of Coreloft synthetic insulation, we felt bundled up like a bug in a rug. The insulation throughout the jacket fills with lots of air, capturing it, heating it, and keeping you warm, even through some of the coldest days of winter (with a nicely layered system).
This warm synthetic jacket is suitable to wear on its own over a nice, warm, fuzzy fleece, or as a mid-layer for days where temperatures drop into the double negatives. While it's not the warmest possible jacket on the market, it's one of the warmest for its midweight design. If it gets wet, it still provides excellent warmth. It's also one of the most weather-resistant insulated jackets we've seen, but we'll talk about that later.
We love the super-insulated hood, which easily fits over the top a helmet and still offers full-face coverage. This jacket is built for taking on alpine conditions. Our testing verifies that it'll keep you warm when the wind howls, and you need to hunker down on windy ridges.
Weight & Compression
Again, we're super impressed with the performance of this metric. A size small weighs only 9.70 ounces and fits easily into the attached stuff sack.
When packed down, it's a little smaller than a Nalgene bottle. It offers a ridiculously high amount of warmth. This is one of the many reasons it takes the podium as our favorite insulated jacket.
We used it on a few backpacking trips and easily stuffed it inside our packs. It was also the first choice for cold belays while multi-pitch climbing. The jacket packs down enough to take little space in a small backpack, and offers an exceptional amount of warmth. In all cases, it hardly felt like it was there. Take this super light and packable jacket anywhere you go!
Comfort & Coziness
Slide into this lap of luxury! The continuous fabrics are slippery and smooth, while the airy construction wraps around your arms and body.
While it doesn't feature any fancy, fleece-lined hoods or pockets, it feels like you've just put on your favorite lightweight sleeping bag. Its level of warmth, excellent pockets, and hood add to its comfort.
The hood on this jacket easily fits over a helmet, and completely covers your face — up to your nose, balaclava style. The pull on the hood makes for a specific fit in all the right places. The garaged zipper keeps the metal off your face, while the voluminous fit around the neck allows for layering a buff or neck warmer. You can also nuzzle in without a problem.
The elasticized cuffs on the jacket aren't anything special but easily stay in place with movement. Inside the jacket are two large hidden pockets that'll easily fit your snacks, a headlamp, or other larger, flatter items that you might need in a pinch.
The handwarming pockets are a good size as well, but sadly can't be accessed when wearing a harness or backpack (bummer!). Another thing we'd like to add to the wishlist is a chest pocket. Any good technical jacket geared towards climbing or hiking needs one of these to store a phone (for pictures, obviously). If this jacket had this, it'd be close to perfect.
This is another "wow" inspiring category that the Nuclei FL totally crushes! This jacket has a continuous exterior fabric called Arato 10R ripstop nylon. It, along with its overall construction, offers some of the best weather resistance we've seen from a midweight jacket. Wind, water, snow; no problem. It's also exceptionally quick to dry.
We tested this jacket while skiing, both in the backcountry and at the resort. We also tested it while hiking and camping. While skiing, we got into a small snowstorm where we got to see this jacket in action.
The material wicks away small drops of water easily enough. However, when the snow or rain really starts to fall, the materials do eventually absorb. Unlike other jackets, it almost immediately drains out of the fabric. Even after battling the snowstorm, we stayed completely dry, with just the outermost layer getting a little bit wet. The material behind the zipper also stayed dry.
In windy conditions, it completely breaks the wind, making this jacket effective for high bivvies and windy ridges. In our shower tests, where we simulate a full-on rainstorm, this jacket performed impeccably. The jacket stayed under a constant stream of water for over one full minute. After this, we checked the fabrics, pockets, and interior. Surprisingly, all the pockets were dry, the interior looked as if it hadn't seen any water, and the body of the jacket absorbed almost no water at all; the face just looked beaded. We were dumbfounded and completely surprised by this performance, as jackets with this build tend to absorb and pool water in its fabrics.
With this experience and performance, we'd say that this jacket can absolutely take on bone shivering winds and a small rainstorm. While it's far from waterproof (and we always recommend taking a rainproof shell), it'll protect you better than any of the jackets we've tested thus far — another reason it wins our Editors' Choice Award.
This jacket offers a good level of breathability for less sweaty pursuits like rock climbing, winter hiking, and taking your dog out for a walk. However, it's not a jacket that you'll wanna keep on while running or chugging up steep hillsides. The continuous face fabric is thin but trades breathability for exceptional weather resistance and warmth.
We tried wearing this jacket on winter trail runs and hiking adventures in warmer weather. While we could keep it on, with it fully zipped down while hiking, we still got pretty sweaty in our lower layers. While running, we lasted about five minutes before we had to pull it off. The continuous fabric underneath sticks to the skin when wet, like any jacket with a continuous shell construction.
On super cold days, we were able to don this jacket while backcountry skiing. But as the day heated up, we ended up taking it off. Luckily, it's easy to pack and store. That said, if you're on the move through most of the cold months and want an insulative layer that'll breathe, this is far from our first choice. Look for a jacket that offers more passive breathability. That said, it's more breathable than thicker jackets we've tested, which have similar construction.
Style & Fit
This jacket is super cute, with many of our testers "oohing" and "ahhing" over its sleek and chic look. Since the fabrics are a little shinier, it does have a techier look to it. However, the fit is so flattering and it can easily be worn to work or out with friends.
The fit of this jacket is roughly true to size, fitting small and medium height ladies best. Our broad-shouldered testers mentioned that the fit felt a touch bit narrow through the chest, but that was only noticed by one tester of many. There is plenty of room through the arms and torso for taller women, but you might find the arms a little short. If you're used to Arc'teryx sizing, know that the fit might feel a bit bigger than normal. The size we wear is a size small for a 5"6 women, weighing 145 pounds. If you've got longer limbs or want a roomier fit, size up.
It's no doubt that this jacket is expensive, like most clothing from Arc'teryx. It's designed to be light and packable with exceptional performance all around and is a wonderful coat for many active pursuits. If you can shell out the big bucks, or wait for it to go on sale, this our favorite, despite the high price. If this jacket isn't in your budget, know that other top performers with similar performance retail for less.
The Arc'teryx Nuclei FL is our favorite insulated jacket because of its stacked, stellar performance all-around. It's designed to battle the elements with its protective, continuous shell that'll keep you comfortable, warm, and protected all day from high winds and weather. While it's not the most breathable, it can easily be taken off and stashed away for when the temperatures drop. The price is high — and there are other affordable options out there — but none that match the performance of this impeccable and new favorite that's hard to beat.
— Amber King