Picked up more than a year ago, the Arc’teryx Atom LT has become the most used piece in my gear closet. While down is king for warmth to weight ratio, the Atom LT proves it’s not always about that.
Arc’teryx’s Atom LT is sold as an active insulation layer. It is designed to be worn under other garments but also on its own. The version we are looking at today is the Atom LT Hoody but it is also available hoodless. It is very similar to the Atom SV Hoody but comes in a lighter and more breathable package. It features two fleece lined handwarmer pockets, an interior chest pocket, draw cord hem for a total weight on my scale of 376g / 13.26oz for the S version.
The outer material of the Atom LT is a very soft taffeta lightweight fabric and provides good wind resistance. Treated DWR, it will also shed rain better. Although it looks a bit fragile on first inspection it has proven durable enough and mine has no signs of premature wear. The DWR treatment has started to wear-off a bit but can still protect from light precipitations if not exposed for too long. Essentially the Arc’teryx Atom LT can be worn as an outer layer in many active situations. It has not been often that I tested a jacket that is so versatile and works for hiking, cycling, skiing or climbing. If temperatures are mild it is also a very comfortable camp layer.
The 60g of insulation are made of Arc’teryx proprietary Coreloft fill. Very similar to the gold standard Primaloft One, Coreloft has been tweaked to offer more breathability and compression resistance by using two types of yarns. In real life this translates to nothing major and I cannot personally tell the difference between the two. They are both very good for synthetic insulations, pack reasonably small and have great loft even when wet.
What really helps moisture management are the two side panel made of Polartec Power Stretch with Hardface technology. The fleece panels start at the armpit and go right down to the hem. Apart from providing great breathability they are also stretchy and combined with the articulated elbows give great freedom. The only down side: they let wind through if strong and blowing from the side. This has been an issue in only a handful of cases though.
What sold me on the Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody over other similar jackets was the design of the hand cuffs. I believe only Arc’teryx makes them in this fashion. They fit snuggly against the wrist and shut the wind perfectly. Plus the stretch fabric is super soft. Hands down the most comfortable and effective cuffs ever made.
The hood is also insulated and can fit under or over a helmet. A major problem for some will be the absence of draw cord. When the wind blows it can blow the hood off, something to consider.
Its main competitors are the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody, slightly lighter, ‘greener’ but more expensive or the Rab Xenon Hoody, similar weight, Pertex Quantum outer fabric, which feels less resistant than the taffeta on the Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody and is also more expensive.
The Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody is a fantastic piece of kit. Everything about it is refined and it has proven it can take a fair amount of beating for such a lightweight jacket. The handcuffs are a bliss, the zippers are smooth and the jacket packs small and light, keeps you warm and allows you to move freely. What else do you need?