Hands-on Gear Review

Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip - Women's Review

Top Pick Award
Price:  $125 List | $125.00 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Cozy fleece interior, easy to layer, warm, high quality performance, versatile, stash pocket, tight fit
Cons:  More expensive, not super breathable
Bottom line:  This high performance synthetic is a Top Pick among our testers to wear as either a base layer or stand-alone piece.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Material:  Torrent (84% polyester / 16% elastane)
Zip neck or crew neck?:  Zip
Smelly over time?:  Yes
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx

Our Verdict

Could it be love? The Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip is our favorite synthetic base layer earning a Top Pick award! As an ultra-versatile and cozy base layer, we found ourselves comfortable and happy on outdoor adventures ranging from campfire singing to hiking peaks above 14,000 ft. The fleece interior sits close to the skin generating warmth and thermoregulating over a wide range of temperatures. The face fabric is slippery making it one of the easiest to layer contenders while the Elastine provides impressive stretchiness. If it's cold, put it under a fleece mid layer, or if you anticipate it to be warm outside put a tank top underneath. This is the only baselayer tested that features a handy stash pocket on the shoulder perfect for storing keys or a credit card.

While there's a lot of pluses with this piece, it's not perfect. While it has a wide range of thermoregulation, it's warmer than most. A great option for cold weather recreation like backcountry skiing. Though, when temperatures rise, it's not the most ideal. If that's what you plan on doing, we suggest a cooler synthetic like the Patagonia Capilene Crew or the SmartWool Merino 250 Base Layer Crew, our Top Pick for Wear All Day. While it's a warmer base layer, this piece takes home a prize because of its incredible durability, performance, and fantasatic versatility. Take it with you on your next big adventure, whatever that might be.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Long Underwear and Base Layers for Women


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Amber King

Last Updated:
Tuesday
March 27, 2018

Share:
The Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip is a warm and cozy synthetic midweight layer that won our love and a Top Pick for Versatility this year. It features a zip collar with a convenient stash pocket and great temperature regulating technology that continues to exceed our expectations year after year.

Performance Comparison


The Rho LT is our Top Pick for Versatility because of its great fit and performance features.
The Rho LT is our Top Pick for Versatility because of its great fit and performance features.

Warmth


From the tops of mountains to the canyons of the desert, this roasty, toasty midweight base layer will keep you warm in frigid conditions. Built with 84% polyester and 16% elastane, it provides a long and tight fit that locks in warmth. The fleece lined interior, and zip-up collar retains heat that will keep you warm and cozy on cold days. It's a perfect layer for backcountry or resort skiing or even running on cooler days. It scores a seven out of ten for warmth overall.


While the face fabric isn't windproof by any means, it cuts the wind to a certain degree. As a result, it's a perfect stand-alone piece that will regulate body temperature on the move and keep you warm while standing still. While it's one of our favorite go-to baselayer, there are other warmer options out there. Merino wool options like the Smartwool Merino 250 ¼ Zip is a midweight contender that kept us the warmest of any base layer tested. While the fabric isn't as wind-resistant, the wool construction is warmer than polyester, and its thermoregulation covers a broader range of temperatures.

Providing ample warmth in the high mountains of Alaska  we test the warmth of the Rho LT while splitboarding on this eight-mile tour over glaciers and corniced precipices.
Providing ample warmth in the high mountains of Alaska, we test the warmth of the Rho LT while splitboarding on this eight-mile tour over glaciers and corniced precipices.

After sweating on a trail run, our testers noted that moisture clung to the Rho LT fabric longer than the Smartwool options, making it a cooler piece (and scoring lower). That said, it's much warmer than other synthetic options like the REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer because of the fleece-lined interior and wind-resistant face fabrics. Overall, this is the warmest synthetic base layer tested and one of the warmest overall. It's perfect as a wear-alone piece during highly aerobic activities in the winter or while engaging in less-aerobic sports during warmer months. Feel free to wear it under a jacket or mid-layer on the coldest days of the year or as a stand-alone piece on warmer days.

The fleece-lined interior is cozy and warm providing lots of heat on cold days. That said  this material is thinner allowing decent thermoregulation for the warmth.
The fleece-lined interior is cozy and warm providing lots of heat on cold days. That said, this material is thinner allowing decent thermoregulation for the warmth.

Breathability


While warmth is a strong suit for this contender, breathability is not in comparison to other options out. While the fabric is relatively breathable (it is a base layer of course!), it didn't perform as well as other contenders. It features a zip-up collar that allows the easy release of heat from the body, but even with this feature, it doesn't compensate for the warmth generated by the super cozy fleece that lines the interior of the shirt in addition to the tightly woven fabric. These two construction features make this shirt a little less breathable on warmer days or while breaking a sweat. It scores a six out of ten in this category.


While it provides decent breathability, it's not nearly as breathable as most wool-based options in this review. For example; the Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew features a 100% wool construct that allows excellent air flow. It provides better breathability because its face fabric isn't as tightly woven. That said, it's not as wind-resistant as a stand-alone piece.

Taking a selfie while on a run through the snowy mountain of Ouray  CO  testing the thermoregulation on this colder trail run after work.
Taking a selfie while on a run through the snowy mountain of Ouray, CO, testing the thermoregulation on this colder trail run after work.

If you are searching for a synthetic base layer with the best in breathability, be sure to check out the Patagonia Midweight Capilene Crew. It has a fleece-lined interior with more air pockets and a wind-resistant face fabric. While the fleece isn't as warm or as cozy as the Arc'teryx Rho, it is cooler and better suited for the warmer months or more aerobic activity. That said, the Rho Zip is our go-to for skiing in the winter or climbing in the Fall or Spring.

The zip collar allows better venting than a crew-collar  increasing the breathability of this top.
The zip collar allows better venting than a crew-collar, increasing the breathability of this top.

Comfort & Fit


Do you love the soft, luxurious feeling of microfleece against your skin? We sure do! The majority of our testers agreed that wearing the Rho LT Zip is like being wrapped in a soft fleece blanket all day long. The Elastine in the fabric makes the fit tight but not claustrophobic. The fit is flattering, providing enough length in both the arms and torso for those with longer limbs. Our testers especially love the handy dandy stash pocket that's perfect to stash a key, credit card, or small iPod. This is the most comfortable (and featured) synthetic base layer tested, earning a score of eight out of ten in this category.


While this is the most comfortable synthetic base layer, it just can't compete with Merino wool. Earning a perfect score for comfort is the Smartwool Merino ¼ Zip for its ultra-soft and comfortable fabrics that all our testers love. The zip option allows more versatility in its uses, much like the Arc'teryx Rho LT.

We love the long and close to the skin fit of this base layer. It doesn't ride up and the zip neck allows you to easily dump heat when necessary.
We love the long and close to the skin fit of this base layer. It doesn't ride up and the zip neck allows you to easily dump heat when necessary.

If you're a huge fan of comfort, the Smartwool is where it's at. If you don't like zip-up base layers, be sure to take a gander at the Smartwool Merino 250 Crew instead.

The stow-away pocket on the arm is perfect for stashing a key or credit card on a long run or adventure.
The stow-away pocket on the arm is perfect for stashing a key or credit card on a long run or adventure.

Layering Ability


Scoring a perfect ten in this category, the Rho LT is the easiest shirt to layer. Its face fabric is nice and silky smooth. It also doesn't generate static cling like the wool contenders in this review. What's more is that the fabric is thin and the fit is so tight, it doesn't catch other upper layers that might also have a fleece layer. Whenever we had to choose a layer to put on underneath a fleece mid layer, this was our top choice. As a result, it scores a ten out of ten in this category.


While no other piece layers quite as well as the Arc'teryx Rho LT, the REI Co-op Midweight and The North Face Warm Crew are both fantastic synthetic options that layer well underneath fleece mid-layers. Both are thinner shirts with the same slippery face fabric found in the Arc'teryx Rho LT. Of the Merino wool base layers, the Kari Traa Rose Half Zip is easiest to layer because it has the closest to the skin fit. While the outer fabric is soft and a little grabby, it is still smooth. That said, it doesn't layer as well as the Rho LT or other synthetics mentioned above. Put it on under a mid layer; just don't expect it layer it overtop any other bulkier layers or t-shirts.

Where this top underneath a jacket on a cool fall day or with a mid-layer during the winter. We like how easy it is to layer over and under other garments.
Where this top underneath a jacket on a cool fall day or with a mid-layer during the winter. We like how easy it is to layer over and under other garments.

Drying Speed


Planning on heading out on the river where you might get a little wet? Have no fear, theRho LT layer is here! In our dryer tests, this layer was the third least absorbent and dried out in 60 minutes. As a result, it scores an eight out of ten!


The only base layers that did better include the Patagonia Capilene that took only 40 minutes to dry out, followed by The North Face Warm and REI Co-op Midweight Crew (both at 50 minutes). All these synthetic options dried out significantly faster than Merino wool options. That said, these are perfect options for adventuring through wet weather!


Durability


The Rho LT is amazingly durable. After four years of use, our main tester hasn't noticed any thread fly-aways or construction defects. This is after wearing while groveling up wide crack systems and stemming it out in box canyons. Of all pieces tested, this is one of the most durable earning a nine out of ten in this category. The only wear we did see was the "Arc'teryx" rubbing out on the collar. Regarding odor, like most synthetic shirts, the odor sticks after a few years of use. During our initial testing period (only three months) we noticed that the "odor-resistant" fabric did a pretty good job, though the odor now lingers after a few years.


Among all base layers, this is the most durable tested. If you want a durable, less tight option, take a look at our Best Buy award winner, the REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Crew. While synthetics are far more durable than Merino wool winners, contenders like the Icebreaker Tech 260 Midweight showed no wear and tear. We also did not notice any stitching fly-aways. That said, it's not an excellent option for thrashing as a wear-alone piece, like most Merino wool layers. If you intend on dragging the fabric through the dirt, the Rho LT is our top recommendation.

While this piece will hold up for years to come  we did find one small stitching fly-away.
While this piece will hold up for years to come, we did find one small stitching fly-away.

Best Applications


This is a great all- around piece that you can take hiking, climbing, or out on the town. Don't be afraid to layer over or under and enjoy it as a base layer or to wear alone. While it performs well for skiing or winter running, we wouldn't recommend it for aerobic sports in the warmer months. That said, it's great to wear on a cool summer night around a campfire or while hiking high into the alpine in the early morning.

Here we tackle this 12-mile summit push in the San Juan mountains in mid-summer. This base layer was perfect for the 3 AM start and 12 PM descent.
Here we tackle this 12-mile summit push in the San Juan mountains in mid-summer. This base layer was perfect for the 3 AM start and 12 PM descent.

Value


The price tag of $125 is a little steep in our opinion. While the Rho has fantastic performance and durability, this is one of the most expensive options in this review. If you're looking for a more affordable piece with similar features, check out The North Face Warm Crew ($50) or the Patagonia Midweight Capilene Crew, for only $59!. The REI Midweight Crew is our Best Buy award winner and costs only $50. All performed well, but The North Face offers a little more warmth, the Patagonia Capilene offers better breathability, while the REI Crew offers better comfort and fit.

Conclusion


This baselayer is fitted, cute, and durable. Its tight to the skin fit and fleecy inner provides all-day comfort while the stretchy fabric accommodates most body types. Try this Top Pick for Versatility this season and enjoy it for years to come!

The synthetic Rho LT Zip wins our Top Pick for versatility for its great performance in an array of conditions.
The synthetic Rho LT Zip wins our Top Pick for versatility for its great performance in an array of conditions.
Amber King

You Might Also Like

OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: March 27, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


Have you used this product?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...