It's that time of the year again. Waking up to dark skies and the disappointment of looking out of the window to see it's no-longer sensible to wear shorts. But the Autumn chill doesn't mean that the best part of the year is over. In fact, the opposite is true! Both Anna and I agree that the colder months are more fun, and the clothing options are certainly a lot better - after all, you can wear more of them!
One of my favourite, most versatile and most comfortable pieces of clothing for this half of the year is the Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody, a lightweight synthetic insulator for almost any cold-weather activity. Mine's a couple of years old, which gives me a fair amount of winter experience backing up this review. I chose the tasteful (but now unavailable) wheatgrass green colour, though it's available in a wide variety of colours. I'm more than a little bit tempted to get another colour! I've spent a fair amount of time outdoors in this jacket. Everything from long backcountry ski tours and pulling on as a belay jacket on windy crags, through to chucking on as a warm-up layer following a chilly walk on the Welsh coastline. It's been through a lot, but you'd hardly be able to tell based on the condition it's in! It's probably my favourite insulating layer, for more than one reason.
First of all, the jacket is very lightweight. So light, in fact, that Arc'teryx named this jacket the LT (Lightweight) version. Arc'teryx also make the warmer AR (All Round) and the lighter SL (Super Light) versions too, but I find that for maximum versatility, the LT is the one for me. It features a relatively thin but remarkably warm layer of Coreloft insulation, which is panelled only on the front and back of the body, top and sides of the arms and into the hood. The side panels and armpits are made of a hard-faced Powerstretch material, aimed to provide more breathability and weight savings on the sweatier parts of the body.
Arc'teryx are known for their attention to detail. Nothing is missed in these jackets, from the quality stitching and premium materials, through to the finishing touches which make the jacket stand above its rivals. A very smooth and easy running Vislon zip helps make this a really easy on-off later. The cuffs of the jacket are made of a light, smooth and comfortable stretchy material. The hood is easily big enough to wear over a helmet and features an adjustment cord, enabling it to be easily cinched down in high winds, while the neck is just high enough to pull up over the nose for when you're really trying to escape the weather.
Talking of weather, these jackets are pretty good when it starts to get miserable out there. The jacket has a reliable DWR coating which does a good job of keeping light rain out. If you get caught out in serious rain without a waterproof (a cardinal sin, in my book), you can be sure that you'll at least retain a good level of warmth from the synthetic insulation. It's super tough too; I've dragged it up a few trees and boulders and it's still looking as good as the day I bought it.
All in all, Arc'teryx have done a pretty amazing job on the Atom LT. It makes sense, because they've been making it for long enough to have got it right by now! My only gripe (and it's a small one) is that the jacket doesn't pack down easily into its own pocket. A reversible zip and a little more capacity on the chest pocket would have made a big difference! But without a doubt, the Atom is the perfect jacket for when you really need reliable warmth, durable performance and a crazy level of versatility. It's the perfect layering piece for so many activities, I highly recommend it. Just make sure you get yourself a cool colour!