Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody – Review

Post by blogger | December 9, 2009      
Arcteryx Atom Hoody is a good layering option.

Me yesterday. Arcteryx Atom Hoody is a good layering option.

Thinner layers or thicker? That is the question. Here in Colorado, I’m always dancing on the edge of the icicle by experimenting with how minimal my layering can get and still keep me alive. To do that, the layers have to be good. During the coldest months I work with a down sweater type jacket, a soft shell, and wool baselayer. But from February through June I like synthetics. Reason: You get caught out for a long day in freezing rain, and you’ll know why duck feathers just don’t cut it.

So the trend in lighter weight synthetic insulated jackets is a welcome one, of which I partake with gusto.

Most recent addition to my layering arsenal is an Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody. This supple layer is insulated with Coreloft™, a synthetic that combines larger fibers for resilience and smaller ones to increase insulation power. The stuff works, as when tested in colder temps, the Atom’s warmth belied it’s thin profile. Don’t get me wrong — this isn’t a Himalayan parka — but it really does hold in the heat.

Main thing with the Atom, however, is how supple and just plain wearable this piece is. Typical of Arcteryx, you can come up with a rather lengthy list of features that make it that way, things like articulated elbows and gusseted underarms, with stretch fabric in key areas. The hem is nicely dropped in back, and I found the moderately loose fit to be perfect for my current cardio-athletic build.

My only gripe is the lack of a hood drawstring on the Atom. Yeah, a drawstring might obfuscate “hoody” style, but while facing the wind in real-life use, having no way of cinching down the hood over my face was a noticeable problem. Solution for such situations is to cinch the hood down with your goggle strap, but what if you don’t need your googles on? Oh well, most of the time you won’t notice this detail, and the hood does have some elastic around the opening so it’s not totally flapping in the wind.

Arcteryx says the idea with this sort of layer is “mobility and breathability” for athletic use. I’d say that with the Atom LT Hoody they’ve got a winner in this category.

Shop for it.


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39 Responses to “Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody – Review”

  1. Dan Patitucci December 9th, 2009 9:44 am

    Lou, I got one of these a couple of months back and can confirm it is superb. The weight to warmth ratio is off the chart. When it is freezing, it keeps you warm. When you put it on to just warm up, you don’t overheat – even if active. Impressive.

  2. Lou December 9th, 2009 9:47 am

    It won’t replace my thicker puffy, but it does have an amazing temperature range. I’m wearing it in my office as a sweater right now, yesterday I was wearing it while skinning up, and skiing down.

  3. Jonathan M December 9th, 2009 11:12 am

    Picked a blue one last month and it has been getting a lot of use. Very versatile and it packs down real well.


  4. Clyde December 9th, 2009 1:16 pm

    It amazes me that Arcteryx still has some of the worst hoods in the industry. They get so many things right but have screwed up on this critical point for years, both in winter and summer storm shells.

  5. Sam Reese December 9th, 2009 1:21 pm

    Re: Clyde & Hoods.

    In my opinion, the “3d” hood system that is on the Theta series and other top end shells is the best hood system I’ve ever come across.

    But you are right at least about this. I’ve noticed that a lot of thinner puffies have piss-poor hood designs. I have a MHW compressor . Despite the fact that I think it should be called the expander because it fills any void in your backpack like two part foam, it is exceptional for California shoulder seasons and winter…. But that damn hood needs something to tame it. I’m looking at sewing a velcro strap down the back, but the solution isn’t that simple, because if you only pull down the outside surface, it distorts the shape, instead of snugging it up.

    My admission is that a good hood on a minimally quilted puffy jacket is going to be a difficult proposition, because you have to gather both the inside face and outside face together, or risk flaring the shape… But Arc should be able to solve that problem with all the cash they get from selling pro-shell to yuppie scum for strutting around downtown san francisco.

  6. Bill Bollinger December 9th, 2009 2:19 pm


    I have been trying to get a jacket for my wife and the only ones I find with a hood large enough to comfortable cover her helmet is Arcteryx.
    Any others you know?

  7. Tom December 9th, 2009 3:40 pm

    Got one of these this fall. I have always felt that the Dri-clime was the best overall jacket that I have owned. This jacket is warmer but falls into the same realm. Going in the pack for all adventures because it’s just a great layer. 2 Thumbs up.

  8. Josh M. December 9th, 2009 7:27 pm

    Is the level of insulation on this comparable to to some of the 100g primaloft jackets or there or is it warmer than that?

  9. steve threndyle December 10th, 2009 12:06 am

    Hah-hah – love the pic. You be ‘gittin’ sum,’ Lou! That blue stands out!

  10. Euro Rob December 10th, 2009 3:15 am

    Thanks for the review, Lou, perfect timing I’ve just been looking to get one of the Atom jackets.

    A question in line with Bill’s though, if you click on “Features” on the arc page it says “Scuba Hood” / “Hood fits under Helmet”, while the hood looks pretty big in your pic above. Your take?


  11. Lou December 10th, 2009 9:09 am

    Like the rest of the jacket, the hood is thin and low volume, thus I think they figured it would fit under some helmets. Nick is testing the jacket at the moment. Nick, can you grab a helmet when you get home today and see how the hood works with it?

  12. Jonathan M December 10th, 2009 10:01 am

    The hood on my Atom works real nice under my helmet, very handy this last week.


  13. Nick December 10th, 2009 4:35 pm

    Interesting – a buddy had pointed me in this direction for a light, synthetic midlayer (for inbounds) and warmth layer (when touring). I handled the Atom and while it was nice, it was bulkier than I expected.

    Agree on synthetics for the warmer months (when wet is an issue). Also, rock the down sweater in the colder months.

    As an alternative to the Atom, I was thinking the Montbell Thermwrap Parka. It is CRAZY light and I suspect less bulky. Does anyone have any experience?

  14. Nick December 11th, 2009 12:17 pm


    I’ll try the hood in the helmet when I go up at lunch. I skied in it yesterday and have to say I’m very impressed. It fits better than my Patagonia MicroPuff jacket. (I have a medium which fits over all my layers and a small which fits more trim like the Atom but has short sleeves. I’m 6’0 160lbs, so the sizing is a little wierd on the MicroPuff). The Atom sleeves are a much better length. Compared the MicroPuff, the Atom seems to have a little less insulation, making it that much better as an active layer.

    The Atom has side stretch panels w/o insulation. Great for activity, such as the skinning I did yesterday in 0 F weather. The main zipper is a basic, large toothed one that is a pleasure to zip up after using so many frustrating small toothed and waterproof zippers. There is a zipper flap behind, but I haven’t had any trouble with it catching. I agree with the above comments that the lack of an adjustment on the hood is disappointing.

    Will let you know about helmet fit later.

  15. steven threndyle December 11th, 2009 1:13 pm

    For hood-o-phobes, the Atom LT is available in a hoodless version.

  16. Chris December 11th, 2009 2:03 pm

    This article in Chemical and Engineering News about current and upcoming technologies for outdoor apparel might be of interest. There are some interesting points about recycling and going green towards the end.

  17. Nick December 11th, 2009 3:59 pm

    Just got back from some runs in the Atom. It fits my helmet, but snugly. The fabric is a little stretchy so it’s a little forgiving, but I think my neck would feel a little scrunched if I wore it for an extended time. I was nice and warm though (too warm if anything).

  18. Lou December 11th, 2009 6:52 pm

    Nick, can you wear the hood under your helmet? I assume you’re talking about wearing it over the helmet?

  19. olddude December 13th, 2009 10:51 am

    A buff as a head band over the hood makes a difference when its windy.

  20. Nick December 13th, 2009 9:00 pm

    Yes, the hood fits under a helmet comfortably, but then the collar doesn’t fit over the front of your face (unless you don’t use your helmet’s chinstrap).

    I skied some more with the hood over my helmet and though it is tight and doesn’t come over the top completely, with the collar zipped up all the way, it stays over your face very well.

  21. BCP December 17th, 2009 6:18 pm

    Hey Lou,
    Have you ever used (or seen?) a Buffalo jacket? Its a single layer system, using a pertex shell with a high loft fibre pile lining. I use one up here in the BC coast Dec – Feb. One 5 day trip stands out in my mind, it was typical wet coast conditions, by the end of it all of my buddys using traditional hardshell/fleece combos were soaked. The outer layer of pertex was wet on mine, but I was bone dry inside. I started using this stuff in England, and it transfered really well to the BC coastal climate. Montaine, and Mardale also make comparable items.

  22. Euro Rob January 2nd, 2010 2:24 pm

    How breathable is it really? Isn’t breathability and insulation a contradiction to some extent (keeping warm air in vs. venting it out)?

  23. Lou January 2nd, 2010 3:09 pm

    Euro, not really a contradiction, as anything but sealed insulation has plenty of air movement for vapor transport, in my experience. That is until said vapor hits an outside area that at the dew point, then condenses. This is the problem with using down sleeping bags when it’s really cold. The vapor condenses in the down before it even gets to any sort of fancy breathable outer layer, or unless the outer layer is super porus (regular nylon), it condenses like crazy on the inside of the outer layer. I just spoke with someone who was on a trekking trip and they experienced this exact thing. Those with the most breathable bags (no Gortex outer, just plain thin nylon) fared the best. Others had sopping wet cold down bags after a few days.

  24. Euro Rob January 2nd, 2010 3:49 pm

    Thanks Lou, finally it’s obvious to me why down jackets usually don’t come with a gore tex outer shell. Anyway I’d guess a lot of the vapor condenses inside the insulation because of the temperature gradient?

  25. Lou January 2nd, 2010 3:59 pm

    Rob, exactly!

  26. shauno January 6th, 2010 9:05 am

    Damn it Lou I only just recently bought a Western Mountaineering bag in Gore wind stopper outer. But reading the comments above it does make sense to get a bag with out it especially if your going to be using it in tents only. Anyway I’ll see how it goes. Its the Antelope model and top build quality by the way.

  27. Lou January 6th, 2010 9:09 am

    Sometimes it’s nice to have a water resistant outer shell on your bag if you’re in an icy tent and get morning “ice rain.” They work fine for a couple of nights — it’s multiple days at cold temperatures where you’ll find the down trapping too much moisture, and it’ll do that anyway even without the membrane shell!

  28. Dan January 9th, 2010 4:45 am

    Does anyone know if 60g Coreloft in the Atom equivalent to 100g Primaloft say in the Micro Puff?

  29. Aaron January 10th, 2011 11:58 am

    @Dan – No, 60g Coreloft is equivalent to 60g Primaloft Sport…

  30. Curtis Pauls February 23rd, 2011 6:49 pm

    Super impressed with this jacket. Have been wearing it now for two seasons and it’s a jacket I won’t leave home without. Super versatile around town too up here in the PNW. Anyone else noticed however, that with the advent of so many great jackets, a person ends up carrying a lot of jackets?! Soft shell, hard shell, light puffy, heavy puffy….on a multi-day trip a guy ends up with a lot of jackets!

  31. steve August 1st, 2011 2:57 pm

    Hey there. I’m 6′, 155lbs, and I just got an XL at a discounted price. I know this is supposed to be athletic fit. It fits well enough, but I can tell the sleeves are a bit longer and slightly bulky in the bicep area. I tried a L on and it was slim fitting (perfect lengths) but didn’t leave much room under it.
    From anyone’s experience, will I lose any performance by having a slightly larger size? I expect to wear it with layers underneath as well. This is my first Arc’teryx item. Many thanks in advance.

  32. Lou August 1st, 2011 3:13 pm

    Steve, that XL fit sounds fine, especially if you want to work with some layers. The longer sleeves might be a bonus if you’re doing any climbing (reaching up).

  33. Kathy December 31st, 2011 8:21 am

    Does anyone know what the 60g of coreloft is comparable to in the down-fill category? I am debating between the Atom LT and the Patagonia Women’s Down Sweater Full-Zip Hoody; of course the Pategonia 800-fill is warmer but I just wanted a general idea how the two compare.

  34. Aaron December 31st, 2011 11:04 am

    Short answer:
    The Atom LT hoodie is around half as warm as the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. That’s not a bad thing- they’re different garments for different purposes. Get the Atom LT if you will be active, get the Down Sweater Hoody if not.

    Long answer:
    Are you asking what the equivalent to 60g Coreloft is in a down fill value? If so, you’re asking the wrong question- that’s like comparing height and weight. Ounce for ounce, a high end synthetic is about as warm as 550 fill down. It’s hard to use this to compare most synthetic jackets with down jackets- they tell you the weight of Coreloft in grams per square meter vs the total weight of down and the fill. There’s no way to directly compare these two numbers- you’d need to know the total weight of insulation in the Atom LT, or the weight of the down in grams per square meter given the loft thickness of the baffles in the Down Sweater.

    Since Coreloft is a proprietary insulation with no technical data available, I’m going to assume it’s just as warm as PrimaLoft One at the same weight. It may be a rebranded PL1. If it isn’t, it’s likely not quite as warm as PL1, but close enough for comparison’s sake.

    Patagonia Down Sweater = Iclo 2.14
    Patagonia Nano Puff (60g PL1)= Iclo 1.51
    Atom SV & Patagonia Micro Puff (100g PL1) ~ Iclo 2.40

    I’m not sure how to factor in the Power Stretch panels on the Atom LT, which don’t insulate as much- intentionally. With the Power Stretch panels, I’d guess that the Atom LT hoody is around half as warm as the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. This matches my experience with my Atom LT Hoody and down jackets similar to the Patagonia.

    All of that said, these are garments for different purposes. I don’t ski, but I do hike, snowshoe and kicksled. I love the Atom LT for cold weather exertion, ~20 deg F and below. Atom LT with a shell on top is almost as warm as something like the Patagonia Nano Puff with a shell. When I get going, drop the shell and allow the side panels to vent. If I was wearing the Nano Puff, I’d be way too warm and would have to shed the Nano Puff entirely.

    If I wanted camp insulation or a daily jacket, I’d get the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody. Down will last a lot longer than the synthetic insulation, too.

    Hope that wasn’t too long!

  35. Kathy December 31st, 2011 11:50 pm

    Whoa… Great response. Thanks for your insight and information; very helpfful.

  36. Lou January 1st, 2012 6:49 pm

    Aaron, thanks for helping out. Lou

  37. Mark December 30th, 2012 8:54 am

    Thinking of getting this hoody, but was wondering how good it would be as an outer layer over a fleece and a base layer for skiing? Whats everyones opinion on this?

  38. Nancy June 29th, 2014 1:26 pm

    I’d greatly appreciate help choosing the best size and model Atom LT. I am female, 5’8.5″ and 125 -130 lbs. The women’s Med. Atom LT is too short in the body, sleeves and too narrow in the shoulders. The women’s large is much too big. The men’s small Atom LT is a good and close fit; it is perfect in the shoulder and body and very close fitting in the hips. The medium is also good and leaves ample room for layers although it’s not unlikely that I’ll often need added warmth where I live as the temp rarely dips below 40 degrees. Is the closer fit of a men’s small the way to go? Do I defeat the insulating capability of the jacket by getting the roomier medium if I’m not going to be adding layers underneath? Do the side panels stretch out over time? I understand that they stretch — but will they become looser/less elastic over time. Finally, hood or no hood? I’ve read the critiques of the hood. Is it good to have the hooded version anyway or am I better off just getting a hat? I don’t do sports that require a helmet. This will be my jacket for hiking, dog walking, etc. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.

  39. Lou Dawson June 29th, 2014 3:06 pm

    Nancy, all good questions. In my experience a slightly relaxed fit in a jacket is not an issue in terms of warmth, and the tighter fit can be uncomfortable if you’re using it for more of an all-arounder. But the tighter one might look better than the big house (grin). If the climate you’ll be using it in is really that warm, I’d get it without the hood if it’s available that way. Hoods on these types of jackets are big and bulky, if you’re not using the hood, it tends to be like having a big pillow following you around behind your head. Hope that helps. Lou

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