Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody
$229, 9 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL
Here’s a testament to the versatility of this partly insulated, lightweight wind shell: I’ve probably worn it more than any other layering piece I own over the past several months, for virtually everything I do outdoors, in every season: backpacking in August in Kootenay National Park, in the Canadian Rockies, and in October in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains; scrambling a 10,000-foot peak in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and hiking to the very windy summit of 10,243-foot Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park in September; and numerous times in late winter, skate-skiing for an hour or two in temps from the high 20s to the 30s. Simple and yet unique—essentially an ultralight wind shell with some strategically placed insulation—it’s one of the smartest pieces of outerwear I’ve seen.
The secret? Simply that it delivers just enough insulation for being active in cool temps without causing you to overheat. Credit the hybrid design that places fleece under the arms and 40 grams of insulation in the torso, but no insulation in the hood or on the outside of the sleeves, where there’s just windproof shell fabric so you can vent better. So whether I was standing on a windblown 10,000-footer, carrying a backpack through the mountains in conditions that shifted frequently between warm sunshine with calm air to overcast with cold wind, or perspiring profusely while skate-skiing on very hilly trails, the Atom SL keep me warm but didn’t make me too hot. And breathability is respectable: At the end of even the sweatiest outings Nordic skiing, the inside of the jacket was hardly damp, even at my upper back.
Arc’teryx’s Coreloft synthetic insulation is very compressible, retains heat when wet, and dries quickly.
The lightweight hood, adjustable with a single drawcord in back, and with a low-profile wire brim, stays put on your head, with or without a helmet.
The thin, water-resistant (but not waterproof), 20-denier Tyono shell fabric is very light but durable for its weight; I’ve seen no damage after a lot of use. The front zipper is designed to lock in place, not slipping open—a smart feature for high-velocity activities. The fit is trim, with space for layering a warm, long-sleeve top underneath.
For active people who head outdoors year-round in variable weather, the Atom SL Hoody offers a bit of warmth not generally found in ultralight shells, which makes your entire layering system lighter and more versatile.
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See my review of “The Best Ultralight Hiking and Backpacking Jackets” and all my reviews of ultralight wind shells, ultralight rain jackets, trail-running apparel, hiking apparel, and outdoor apparel at The Big Outside.
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.
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