The Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody is a high-quality, synthetic insulation jacket that’s lightweight, versatile and compressible. It might be the only piece of cold-weather outerwear you need in your wardrobe.
Get You a Jacket That Does Both
If you’re reading this, odds are you dream of nights in the backcountry or days on the trail. If you had to picture yourself in a car, it might be a mud-splattered AWD… a Subaru perhaps, bumping along a rocky road to some remote crag or campground.
The reality is, however, that you’ll mostly be negotiating speed bumps and roundabouts on the way home from the supermarket.
So it is for jackets – unless you’re a committed adventurer or downright dirtbag, you’ll be spending most of your time outside commuting or walking to the shops.
And the puffer that’ll keep you warm through a nuclear winter? It’s safely hanging in your wardrobe because you live in a temperate climate where a cold day’s 15° above zero.
This is where the Arc’teryx Atom LT steps in – a technical jacket, stuffed with 60g Coreloft insulation, that’ll serve you as well in the wilderness as it does when dashing between car dealerships.
When I first put my hand up for the Atom LT, it was mid-October. Just when I was giving up hope of cold weather, the review gods answered with a massive low-pressure system that ripped through the East Coast, bringing with it a second winter.
I got to spend about 10 days running about town (including, yes, car shopping), followed by three days of rock climbing and bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. The temperatures ranged from about 5-15℃.
Here in Sydney, even in the depths of winter, my puffer rarely gets a guernsey. But when I had to dash out on a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon, I was pleased to have the Atom LT at hand.
Air temperature was 13-15℃ with a biting wind and rain squalls. Wearing just a t-shirt underneath, I felt perfectly warm as I wandered Rosebery’s industrial area. Just as importantly, I didn’t overheat inside any car or the car dealership – the Atom LT never left my shoulders.
That’s great, I hear you say, but what about performance in the wild? Well, the news is good here too.
Over three days of Blue Mountains climbing in early November (when the temperature was always below 15), it kept me toasty, whether I was belaying a mate in morning shade at Porters Pass, admiring the view from the Wave Wall at Centennial Glen, or sitting on the verandah after the sun had gone down.
I’m a big fan of the hood too (more on that later). I also didn’t turn into a puddle of sweat the moment my heart rate went up while wearing it.
To be fair, I was glad to have my down puffer when overnight hiking on Barrington Tops in late winter, but for all other times, the Atom LT did the job, especially with layering.
After a 15-minute walk in persistent rain, I found the jacket’s DWR (durable water-repellent) coating worked a treat with the water beading nicely on the surface. This jacket holds up well to light precipitation and, even if it gives out, will keep you warm thanks to its synthetic Coreloft insulation.
Unlike down, synthetic insulation still works when wet. Because synthetic insulation doesn’t require baffles either, there’s also less stitching in this jacket (which means less ways for water to seep in). Over time the DWR will wear off and you’ll still need a rain shell if heading into properly wet weather.
There are fleece panels up the side, which increase breathability if you’re moving around in cold conditions. However, they do let the breeze in a bit so watch out for wind chill.
The only time I felt cold was when stepping out into some 20-30km/h winds one afternoon. Again, I was only wearing a t-shirt so a bit of layering could have solved this.
Style, Quality, and Comfort
The Atom LT is a bit on the techy side but I didn’t feel too conspicuous wearing it around town. Sure, the car salesman had me pinned as an outdoors type, but is that a bad thing?
The fabric is soft against the skin while the hood is pleasingly voluminous: it even fits over a climbing helmet, meaning you can quickly pull it over your noggin without looking like you’ve just slipped into a wetsuit.
I chose a light-green colour for something different but a safer bet like navy blue or black will help you blend in more.
Weight and Packability
Warmth-to-weight ratio is the one area where synthetic insulation loses out to down. My puffer (also an Arc’teryx) weighs in at 305g, is warmer and compresses down to about 1L in its own pouch.
By contrast, the Atom LT weighs in at 375g (hardly a porker) and gets down to about 2.5L volume when rolled up into its hood (it doesn’t stuff into a pouch or pocket).
But unless you’re into ultralight hiking and/or multi-pitch climbing, this probably won’t matter.
The fabric is a technical 20-denier Tyono that’s lightweight and will hold up to more abuse than the 10-denier weight fabric of my puffer jacket.
This is really where the Atom LT shines. This jacket will be the one I reach for on just about every cold day between autumn and spring, whether I’m camping, cragging, or shopping. The breathable panels are useful to those doing serious cold-weather aerobic work. Arc’Teryx classes it as ‘All Round’ and I think that’s about right.
One Jacket to Rule Them All
This jacket is a true all-rounder. You’ll get a lot more use out of it than a down puffer in any mild climate area’s winter and shoulder-season conditions. Its synthetic insulation will keep you toasty while its weight and compressibility are without fault for the class.
It’s also a lot cheaper than a similar quality down jacket. How does it compare to other synthetic insulation jackets like the Patagonia Macropuff? It’ll mainly come down to a question of style, budget and preference.
And, since you asked, I ended up buying a Skoda, not a Subaru.
James was provided the Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody for review purposes and got to keep it. The views are entirely his own.
Photos by Kane Pham