Hybrid Insulated Jacket
Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody
$379, 11 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL
In the evening shade of a windblown campsite at around 10,500 feet in Titcomb Basin, an alpine valley in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, I pulled this jacket on and instantly felt warmth infuse my torso and arms. Popping the hood up mimicked the sensation of wearing the top half of a sleeping bag—if the bag had a hood that seemed designed around a sculpture of my head. Throughout that 39-mile, mid-September backpacking trip in the Winds, wearing this puffy jacket over just a couple light base layers kept me warm in evening and morning temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit, while fitting like a glove. I had to keep reminding myself it weighs just a few ounces over a half-pound.
The Cerium’s sky-high warmth-to-weight ratio—it’s quite possibly warmer than any other down jacket of the same weight that I’ve used—is explained by the 850-fill down stuffing in the hood, sleeves, and torso. High-quality down creates more space between feathers, increasing the heat-trapping efficiency, which translates to more warmth per ounce of jacket. But since water is the enemy of down, flattening feathers and eliminating their ability to trap heat, Arc’teryx placed its Coreloft synthetic insulation—a lightweight, breathable, and thermally efficient siliconized polyester yarn that’s highly compressible and demonstrates excellent loft retention—in areas prone to getting wet: the shoulders, cuffs, chin guard at the top of the zipper (which gets wet with condensation from your breath), and the armpits.
The combination of insulation types delivers the benefits of down (warm, light, and compact) and synthetics (retaining heat when damp). Spitting rain showers didn’t seem to affect the jacket at all, thanks in part to a durable, water-repellent (DWR) treatment on the shell fabric. One warning: The lightweight shell fabric, while durable for its weight, is more susceptible to tears than heavier fabrics. Similarly, the light front zipper, while keeping jacket weight down, raises durability concerns; but a little care in using it can avoid problems.
It feels like the jacket was tailored for me, with a trim fit throughout that provides enough space for a couple of base layers. Outstanding shoulder articulation paired with enough sleeve length prevents the cuffs from sliding up your forearms when reaching. Given the jacket’s slim profile, you can easily layer a shell over it without feeling like the Michelin man.
The close-fitting, under-the-helmet hood also elevates this jacket above many insulation pieces. Adjustable using just one drawcord in the back, with an elasticized hem, it wraps snugly around your face to trap body heat very efficiently—ensuring the hood stays put even in strong winds and helping to explain the jacket’s exceptional warmth for its weight. When zipped up, the soft chin guard comes up to lip height, nice in chilly temps.
The two zippered hand pockets warmed my chilled digits quickly and have space for three-season gloves and small items like a map and headlamp. while elasticized cuffs and an adjustable hem seal in your body heat. The jacket stuffs easily into a stuff sack attached to the zippered inside pocket—no losing this sack—and packs down to barely larger than a liter bottle.
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You don’t necessarily see the value in an expensive puffy jacket with just a cursory look at it. The proof comes in wearing it in backcountry situations. Whether sitting around a wilderness campsite on a chilly evening or morning, pulling it on for added warmth while climbing, or using it as a middle or outer layer in your favorite snow sport, the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody is a versatile, standout puffy jacket for users willing to pay for performance.
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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 categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.