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Arc'teryx Cita SL - Women's Review

An incredibly light and breathable jacket ideal for fast-and-light alpine missions
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $129 List | $129.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Incredibly lightweight, breathable
Cons:  Few features, no hood
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 18, 2020
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 11
  • Breathability - 30% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Mobility - 20% 7
  • Portability - 15% 10
  • Features - 15% 4

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Cita SL is a unique, extremely lightweight jacket that combines many of our favorite running jacket qualities. Its inclusion of breathable panels where heat builds the most, combined with its surprisingly affordable price tag and decent weather protection, make this one of our favorite jackets in this lineup. That said, its lack of visibility makes it a poor choice for urban environments, and it doesn't have a lot of frills by way of hoods or pockets. But it does have the lightest weight of any jacket we tested, making it the clear winner of our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures.

New Color Options

Though the overall design stays the same, Arc'teryx offers this running jacket in some new colors. See one of the current choices in the photo above.

June 2020

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Cita SL scores well in our review and excels in a few key categories. If you're counting every gram that comes with you on your runs, this is absolutely a layer to consider.

Performance Comparison


Cruising around Yosemite is a breeze in the Cita SL.
Cruising around Yosemite is a breeze in the Cita SL.

Breathability


A key factor that separates a running jacket from a standard old wind layer is its breathability. While wind jackets can be used for a range of activities, running jackets need to be able to handle high-output cardio.


The Cita SL has an incredibly thoughtful design, utilizing panels and different materials types for different parts of the body. We prefer layers that have these zones designated to airflow, finding them very effective at helping to regulate body temperature when on the go. The back and underarms of the Cita feature a nylon mesh material that is super breathable, allowing heat to escape where it builds most. The front and arms are made with a polyester fabric that doesn't breathe as well but does block out the weather, as we'll describe a bit later.

Two fabrics on the Cita SL: burly polyester and breathable nylon
Two fabrics on the Cita SL: burly polyester and breathable nylon

Weather Resistance


If you're like us, you prefer hitting the trails with just a t-shirt. But sometimes the weather doesn't agree, and you have to layer up. Having a running layer that can withstand rain, wind, and cold temperatures is essential if you want to keep your habit up year-round.


The Cita SL is a solid windbreaker with average rain repelling capabilities. The breathable back material is less protective than the burlier front material, so this wouldn't be our first choice for heading out in a rainstorm. That being said, it does plenty to protect you from light rain and wind.

One reason this jacket scored lower in this category is due to the lack of a hood. While this adds to the low weight of the product, the Cita SL does little to help in serious rain. The sturdy stand-up collar will help keep the wind out, as will the stretchy wrist cuffs. This jacket is a good option for chilly, windy days but isn't made for any kind of seriously inclement weather.

The nylon vents of the Cita SL are breathable and soft while the polyester shell is smooth and luxurious.
The nylon vents of the Cita SL are breathable and soft while the polyester shell is smooth and luxurious.

Comfort and Mobility


There are a whole bunch of things that make a jacket comfortable or uncomfortable: material type, shape, stretch — the list goes on and on. To come up with a score for each jacket, we gathered feedback from a group of runners on every little detail.


The Cita SL has above-average comfort due to its soft, breathable back and underarm material. The main polyester material isn't especially soft or luxurious, but it also doesn't create a clammy feeling as many other jackets do. We love the feel of the nylon back and underarms, though, as well as the overall fit. We found it to have spot-on sizing. Still, we wouldn't mind a bit more stretch to help create a greater range of motion.

This jacket fits well from collar to wrist.
This jacket fits well from collar to wrist.

Portability


If there's one category where the Cita SL really shines, this is it. Portability, as far as we're concerned, is two-fold. It consists of both a jacket's weight and also how easily it packs and transports. This product hits the nail on the head in both ways.


At just 2.3 ounces for a size small, the Cita SL is the lightest jacket we tested. Additionally, it has a stowable pocket without a zipper, a construction that we've never seen before. The jacket simply packs into a pocket, staying shut with a flap of fabric instead of a weight-increasing zipper.

We realize that portability may be more or less relevant to you depending on the type of running you usually engage in. But after months of testing, our testing team agreed that conditions can change quickly no matter where you are. Even if you plan to keep your jacket on for the duration of your workout, sometimes the sun peeks out, and you just have to shed the layer. In that case, having a tiny, packable jacket that's easy to carry is key.

The Cita SL self-stows without the need for a heavy zipper.
The Cita SL self-stows without the need for a heavy zipper.

Features


During the initial phase of this review, we felt frustrated by so-called running jackets that were really just windbreakers. While breathability and comfort are two key aspects to making a jacket more than just a windbreaker, the features that are implemented specifically for runners are what make a great running jacket truly special. We gave bonus points for each time a jacket had good nighttime visibility, sun protection, thoughtfully-placed pockets, and more.


The Cita SL, not too surprisingly, isn't full of crazy features. This jacket is made to be ultralight, and we assume that Arc'teryx purposefully left out some cool features to attain this goal. This jacket has no reflective markings, something that we appreciate when running in urban areas. Its one small pocket seems to be better designed for packing itself up, though it does fit a small snack, like an energy gel. It doesn't have a hood, but it does have a nice collar that blocks wind and adds some security. All in all, while this isn't a feature-rich jacket, it keeps things streamlined and superlight — which may be the only feature that you're interested in having in the first place.

Zipping up the sturdy collar of the hoodless Cita SL
Zipping up the sturdy collar of the hoodless Cita SL

Value


The Cita is a better value than we would have expected from this usually expensive manufacturer. It breathes well, is comfortable, and provides a lightweight option for variable weather conditions. While there are other options that are nearly as light for a much smaller cost, they are generally not as comfortable or breathable. If you absolutely need to save ounces, you can't go wrong with this one.

Size comparison: Patagonia Houdini Air (left) and Arc'teryx Cita SL (right)
Size comparison: Patagonia Houdini Air (left) and Arc'teryx Cita SL (right)

Conclusion


The Arc'teryx Cita SL is a unique garment that provides excellent breathability and a ridiculously low weight for a decent price. It's not the most luxurious, and it doesn't provide great protection from gnarly weather, but it'll meet the needs of the vast majority of runners. We're happy to award it the Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures because of its excellence in a few key categories.

Loving life in the lightweight Cita SL from Arc'teryx
Loving life in the lightweight Cita SL from Arc'teryx

Lauren DeLaunay