Monday, 5 December 2016

Gear Review: Arc'teryx Atom SL Hoody

The Atom SL in fetching Genepi Green
Released in early 2016, the Atom SL Hoody is the lightest and least-insulating of the legendary Atom range that includes the LT, AR and SV flavours. It is designed as a summer insulating layer because we all know mountain weather can be unpredictable. But summer insulation? That was a new one for me. Having now owned this for nearly a year, it's clear that it is so much more and shouldn't be limited to just summer use.

It really comes into its own across the spring, summer and autumn seasons. It's a supremely versatile jacket thanks to the combination of fabrics used throughout. Firstly, being an insulated jacket, there is a thin layer of Coreloft (Arc'teryx's own take on Primaloft), a synthetic insulation layer that surrounds the torso. The arms and hood are not insulated, allowing for better temperature regulation while the side panels are made from thin, super stretchy fleece called Torrent. The main fabric of the jacket is a tightly weaved nylon shell which provides great protection from the wind while also being breathable. In essence, it could be thought of as an insulated wind shell.
Insulation is held in place by a sewn grid
The fit is incredible, I would say it's one of the best fitting jackets I own. For me, it's the perfect length and the perfect cut in the body and arms and is one of the main reasons why I love it so much.

Let's take a closer look:
The Atom SL
A full rundown of the features of the Atom SL:
  • Coreloft Compact insulation 
  • Torrent stretch fleece side panels 
  • Low profile Stormhood 
  • 'No Slip Zip'
  • Shaped cuffs
  • Adjustable hem drawcord 
  • Two zipped hand pockets
The Hood 
The hood is a simple affair made from the wind-resistant outer fabric and is designed to fit underneath a helmet (if you climb or ski). Good enough to keep a cold breeze at bay but certainly far from waterproof. Adjustments are provided by an excellent drawcord that runs around the base of the skull and the sides of the face, allowing you to pull the whole hood tightly around your head. There is also a modest visor to help keep any wind or rain out of your eyes.
The simple hood 
There are numerous details that make this jacket a true Arc'teryx piece. Here a few of them. As I mentioned, stretchy fleece panels run up either side of the jacket and down each arm to the cuffs. These help to better regulate temperature as they are more breathable that the main face fabric but they also provide a certain amount of warmth when it cools down. They are super soft and extremely comfortable.
The side panel that runs the length of the body and arm
Hand pockets sit clear of backpack straps and provide enough room for hands but not a lot else.

Aside from these obvious details, a few minor Arc'teryx flourishes are also thrown into the mix.

Firstly is the 'No Slip Zip', a clever feature that prevents the zip from opening on its own with irregularly shaped teeth in the top portion of the zip prevent it from slipping, though this has never been a problem for me.

The shaping of the cuff is also really neat with an extended piece of fabric sitting across the back of the hand. This small detail is one of one of the things I really like.
The neat cuffs
In Action 
This jacket has been on numerous Lakeland trips over the last few months from early Spring, through summer and into autumn. It starred in the ascent of my final Wainwright which, despite being the middle of summer, took place under the shadow of a chilly wind. It really came into its own during a recent trip to Yosemite where valley temperatures could hit 35 degrees but summits on the valley rim were much cooler.
The Atom SL at Glacier Point
While I have found this jacket to be really useful, some will be put off by its high price and many would think it's not worth the money. That said, if you are happy to fork out the necessary cash, or can find it reduced, then it could well be the jacket you never knew you needed.