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Arcteryx Atom LT Review

 

If there’s one item of clothing that’s never actually in my wardrobe, it’s the Arcteryx Atom LT. I’ve had mine for around 2 years now and it’s my absolute go-to jacket for pretty much everything. Judging by the number around the Facewest office, I don’t think I’m the only one who’s in love…

 

 

The idea behind the Atom LT is to be a lightweight, versatile jacket that can be used either as a mid or outer layer dependent on conditions. The Coreloft insulation is teamed with Powerstretch under the arms, providing a lovely warm jacket whilst keeping breathability high when you’re working hard. The outer is a wind resistant and DWR treated stretch nylon. I’ve been really impressed at how weather resistant yet breathable this is – obviously it is not even close to being a shell layer, however it will keep off a strong breeze and few spots of rain just fine. In winter, the DWR is perfectly adequate to shed snow and prevent it melting on to your jacket. You’ll certainly want to throw a shell over  the top when conditions start to deteriorate, but then the Atom LT provides a lovely cosy warm layer making you believe the storm really isn’t as bad as the rest of your body is telling you!

I also really like the stretchy cuffs, which are tight but not too tight around your wrists, stopping the jacket riding up your arms if you’re putting extra layers on or climbing, and keeping snow/wind/rain out. In theory the hood is not helmet compatible, but it fits over my climbing helmet just fine while I warm up after a belay or have a snack on the summit.

Helmeted and Atom'ed up on the top of a very cold Mt Cook... remember your sunglasses if you don't wish to replicate my comedy taped glasses look!

I’ve been using this jacket nearly daily for 2 years, and it’s shown very little wear whatsoever. The main body is still in perfect condition, there are just a couple of little holes in the cuffs that don’t affect performance at all. Being synthetic, it’s also really easy to wash and very quick drying, none of the hassle you get with down jackets.

 

What have I used it for? Everything.

Skiing- This is the only jacket I’ve found that is breathable enough to let me skin uphill still wearing it, then zip it up and be warm enough for the down hill. I tend to team it with a softshell, the underarm Powerstretch in the Atom LT working perfectly for venting with the pit-zips open on the softshell. If I’m riding lifts, the collar of the Atom comes up just high enough to tuck my chin in on the way up, but not be in the way while skiing.

Ski touring - skinning up hill in the shade, the Atom is breathable enough that you don't get sweaty, but warm enough to keep that snowy chill out.

Climbing- The Atom tends to live in my rucksack on longer climbs, as an extra layer for breaks and when the sun goes down. It’s so light and compressible I don’t notice it in there, but makes a real difference if you’re starting to get cold. I just spent a season in Patagonia and for warm layers took just the Atom and a thin down jacket – I gambled a little on not taking something bigger and puffier, but light really was right and I wasn’t cold once, even abseiling in the dark, in a snowstorm, in typical Patagonian wind – and this Atom/thin down/softshell combo was way more versatile than a thicker down jacket. Perfect as a belay jacket for cragging/really cold climbing walls too.

Chilly multipitching

Biking/running- Anything where I’m going fast, but want a warm layer with me just in case… this goes in the bag. It squishes up surprisingly small.

Everyday- Any day it’s chilly enough to want a coat on, but not pouring rain, this is what goes on. If I had a dog, I’d walk him in it. I even wore it to a wedding last weekend…

Nighttime slacklining, showing off the reflective Arcteryx logo!

Facewest has the Atom LT hoody for both the guys and the girls, and also in a vest version. For something slightly warmer, there is also the Atom SV hoody – the same thing but with a little more insulation and without the Powerstretch. The perfect Christmas present (for yourself!) that’ll be used all year round.

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