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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:  $130 List | $84.98 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Incredibly lightweight, breathable
Cons:  Few features, no hood
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 27, 2019
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 14
  • Breathability - 25% 8
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Portability - 20% 9
  • Features - 15% 5

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, though its lack of visibility makes it a poor choice for urban environments. 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 a clear choice for our Top Pick for Lightweight Adventures.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Incredibly lightweight, breathableBreathable, comfortable, great featuresLightweight, affordable, comfortableLightweight, easily packable, affordableComfortable, breathable, lightweight
Cons Few features, no hoodNot as lightweightNot as resistant to rain, fewer featuresNot as breathable, fewer featuresExpensive, few extra features
Bottom Line An incredibly light and breathable jacket ideal for fast-and-light alpine missions.A comfy, breathable jacket well-suited for any runner.Light, breathable, and comfy; the perfect summer adventure layer.An impressively affordable, super packable jacket.A comfortable, lightweight jacket that balances breathability and weather protection.
Rating Categories Arc'teryx Cita SL - Women's Merino Sport Ultra Light Hoody Patagonia Airshed - Women's Brooks LSD - Women's Houdini Air
Breathability (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
7
Weather Resistance (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
Comfort (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
Portability (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
Features (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
9
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
6
Specs Arc'teryx Cita SL... Merino Sport Ultra... Patagonia Airshed... Brooks LSD - Women's Houdini Air
OGL Weight 2.33 oz 4.48 oz 3.10 oz 2.95 oz 3.6 oz
Material 50% nylon, 50% polyester 54% Merino Wool, 46% Polyester 100% nylon ripstop Nylon 90% nylon, 10% polyester
Packable? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hood? No Yes No No Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Cita SL has one of the highest overall scores in this review as well as top-notch scores in a few key categories.

Performance Comparison


Cruising around Yosemite is a breeze in the Cita SL from Arc'teryx.
Cruising around Yosemite is a breeze in the Cita SL from Arc'teryx.

Breathability


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


The Cita has an incredibly thoughtful design, utilizing panels and different materials types for different parts of the body. The back and underarms 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

As opposed to other jackets, like the Patagonia Houdini Air, which is made with just one cohesive fabric, we prefer these pieces that have zones designated for airflow. We found this to be very effective at helping us regulate our body temperature when on the go.

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 we have to layer up. Having a running layer that can withstand rain, wind, and cold temperatures.


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, this jacket does plenty to protect you from light rain and wind.

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

One reason this jacket scored lower in this category is due to its lack of 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 does help keep the wind out, as do the stretchy wrist cuffs. This jacket is a good option for chilly, windy days but not necessarily for inclement weather.

Comfort


There are a whole bunch of things that make a jacket comfortable or uncomfortable: material types, shapes, stretchiness, 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 doesn't create a clammy feeling as many other jackets do. We did love the feel of the nylon back and underarms, though.

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

We loved the fit of this jacket and found it to have spot-on sizing. That being said, we appreciated jackets with a bit of stretch, like the Patagonia Airshed, that help create a greater range of motion.

Portability


If there's one category where the Cita SL 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 2.33 ounces, the Cita SL is the lightest jacket we tested. The next closest are The North Face Flight RKT and Brooks LSD, the only other jackets under three ounces. Additionally, the Cita SL 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, not a zipper.

The Cita SL self-stows without the need for a heavy zipper.
The Cita SL self-stows without the need for a heavy 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 so quickly no matter where you are. Even if we plan to keep the jacket on for the duration of our workout, sometimes the sun peeks out, and we have to shed the layer. In that case, having a tiny, packable jacket that's easy to carry is key. The Brooks models, like the lightweight LSD we just mentioned, have an elastic armband to help you carry your layers hands-free when you're not bringing a pack or vest with you.

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 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 was 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 energy gels. It doesn't have a hood, but it does have a nice collar that blocks wind and adds some security.

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 the Brooks LSD is nearly as light for a much smaller cost, it's not as comfortable or breathable. If you 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