Here’s some unneeded background info: I was motivated (and unable) to write this review a week and a half ago when the Arc’Teryx social media rep replied to one of my tweets and asked to see this review when I was done. Then life got in the way, and it never happened. That made me sad. Fast forward to last night, and I’ve been notified that I won their monthly gear giveaway contest! Woot woot (as my fellow nerds used to say, or do they still say that?)!! So, once again, Arc’Teryx is on my mind. Let’s get to it…
The story behind “how” I got this jacket is kind of amusing, at least to me. It’s probably less amusing to Mat. The short version is that he claims I bought it out from underneath him, and I claim that we played the “you buy it; no you buy it; no you buy it” game too long. I finally had the gusto to actually buy it. So, thanks for offering, Mat!
Moving on, I was a little hesitant to buy it. A week earlier I just bought a Marmot insulated Gore-Tex jacket. What was I going to do with this one?! Well, as the American saying goes, “it was on sale for 45% off, and even though I don’t need it, and it’s still fairly expensive, I’ll find a use for it.” That’s a thing, right? Thought so.
The other apprehensions I had were that A) it’s so freaking light, how can it possibly be warm? And B) even if it is somehow “warm enough” (for some unknown use at the time), would it be warm enough to use as a standalone jacket for freezing morning commutes in the winter before my car warms up? At a stunningly impressive weight of only 17 ounces, these concerns were valid.
I can tell you now that the [core]lofty claims the marketing states are probably even a bit humble! Yes, it is warm enough for almost any situation (almost), and yes, it is warm enough as a standalone jacket in a freezing car (…almost all of the time). The situations in which these “almosts” appear are few and far between. I mean, when it’s -15F, the Atom SV isn’t quite warm enough by itself to sit in a -15F car. All it takes to make that bearable is my down vest over the top. And guess what? Even at -15F, this jacket is STILL too hot if I’m snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. No joke, folks.
One thing I absolutely cannot figure out is how this jacket is good for sub-freezing temps and 50 mph wind gusts, yet doesn’t make me sweat like a filthy pig when I wear it indoors. Earlier this year, my office building had an issue with a boiler and our office was a balmy 60 degrees. It’s not exactly frigid, but I was only wearing a short sleeved polo that day. I decided to throw on the Atom SV and work with my jacket. At no point during the day did I get hot. Never! The thing breaths so well, that sweating never happens. It rarely happens outdoors unless I’m very active like I mentioned above.
Because of the superhuman weight-to-warmth ratio, I pack this jacket with me wherever I go from October through May. When I went to Cloud Peak in Wyoming this past September and pack weight was critical, this jacket still made the trip. Not only is it light, but it packs down to mere cubic inches. The Coreloft insulation handles those crammed situations with ease, lofting right up every time I put it on.
Did I mention how compressible it is? Oh, right. I did. Well, it’s so compressible and so comfortable that this jacket goes in my sleeping bag with me on those cold nights that I’m not confident my sleeping bag is up to the task of keeping me warm. It’s extremely cozy and unbelievably comfy.
The ripstop nylon shell handles wind and mist as if it weren’t even there. I have no hesitation of wearing the Atom SV out in anything but the wettest conditions.
Care is also extremely easy. I have washed my jacket after nearly every camping trip that has it filled with the glorious aroma of cooked meat and campfire smoke. I also wash it about once or twice a month if my activities are more urban in nature (read: more lame). Once again, the Coreloft doesn’t bat an eye.
I’m a towering 5’9″ and a thunderous 165lb. and the jacket’s athletic fit is perfect for me in a size medium. I have relatively broad shoulders and an athletic build, and it is the best fitting jacket that I own, from sleeve length to where it sits on my waist.
The final feature after the weight:warmth ratio is the hood. Man, do I love hoods. Man, do I really hate stocking caps. The Atom SV Hoody has a 2-way adjustment that lets me snug that puppy down in windy conditions and pulls it back so I can actually continue using my God-given peripheral vision. Oh, and the sleeve cuffs. Did I mention the sleeve cuffs? Man, those are some nice things. Nice and snug, but completely flexible and incredibly soft material.
The one, the only, the tiniest gripe I have about this jacket are the hood sinches. You need some pretty dexterous fingers to operate them, eliminating the chance to keep your gloves on in cold conditions when you decide the hood is required. There’s also no way of knowing if you’re pulling on the right end, until you realize that when you let go of the drawstrings, the hood is flopping in the breeze again, which would mean it was the wrong end. Get it? And lastly, once you get everything tightened up, you’ve got some pretty big loops that are partying right in front of your chin and mouth. Though, I have been told my chin is pointier than most, and my mouth is bigger than it needs to be. Either way, it’s annoying rubbing up against my face, especially if I’m using it as a mid-layer with my Marmot jacket. This is absolutely not a dealbreaker. Just something a little…..”off”.
All in all, if you have a chance to buy this jacket and pass it up for a competitor’s, you, sir/madam, are a damned fool! Yes, it is still an expensive item, but as you can see, I hope, it is well worth the money. If this thing ever wears out, I will quickly buy a new one with a big smile on my face. Now, what the heck do I want to get with my free prize??
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.