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.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.