Product Review: Arc’teryx Cerium LT Jacket

After months of unseasonably warm weather, the bone-chilling cold looks like it is here to stay in Salt Lake City.  While I don’t normally rejoice in this type of weather, it does finally give me a chance to review my Arc’teryx Cerium LT jacket in proper conditions.  Let’s take a look shall we?

DISCLAIMER: Arc’teryx provided me with this jacket for the purposes of this review, but Ultrarunner Joe cannot be bought!  My reviews are always as unbiased and honest as possible!

Overview

The Cerium LT was recommended to me when I was looking for a lifestyle/everyday wear type jacket to wear during the winter months.  In addition, Arc’teryx markets it as a mid-layer to use in dry conditions.  As I am not a skier, I can’t comment much on it’s use as a mid-layer during activity, but I will talk to the ways I have used it later in the review.  Before we get into that, here are some of the key selling points (from the Arc’teryx website):

  • 850 fill European goose down
  • 9.3 oz (super light and packs down to a small footprint)
  • Down Composite Mapping strategically places synthetic insulation in areas where moisture may buildup; down in the core and the collar gives maximum warmth.  In essence, this provides maximum amount of warmth with in the lightest jacket possible.
  • Water Repellant
  • Hood model also available (I went without the model without the hood based on my preference.
  • Two zippered pockets with a stuff sack inside the left pocket.

Price: ~$270 on Amazon.com (click to view)

Fit

The length of the jacket extends down to about hip-level.  Also, it has a form-fitting design to provide maximum warmth, which is something you should take into account.  In the image below, I am wearing a medium, which is the same as my shirt size.  It is super comfortable with a t-shirt on underneath, but I found it to be a bit restrictive while zipped when I had a heavier shirt on underneath.  If you plan on wearing this with thicker base layers, I would recommend buying one size up from your typical shirt size.  Construction of the jacket is perfect, with no visible defects or deficiencies.  Everything you would expect to see from a premium jacket.



In Action

As I mentioned earlier, I prefer to wear this as a lifestyle jacket.  I have worn it as an outer shell over a t-shirt (as shown above) and as a mid-layer with a hoodie on over it, with the former being my far more common use.  I was surprised by how warm it is for such a light jacket. It performs so well that when wearing it over a t-shirt, I still find that I sweat if the temperature starts warming to anything over 30-35 F.  The sweet spot as an outer layer is definitely somewhere between 0 – 25 F.  For colder days, you could switch to using it as a mid-layer with something over it.  In either case, it does a fabulous job at keeping the core warm due to the fact that it does such a great job at containing body heat. Another plus about this jacket is that it disappears after awhile.  In other words, it is so light that you forget you are wearing it after a while.  Additionally, despite it being form-fitting, it wasn’t restrictive in the slightest keeping you free to move your arms without discomfort.

Conclusion

If you don’t want to buy another jacket for awhile, I would say that the Cerium LT is a sound investment.  Yes, it is more expensive, but you are getting top-of-the-line technology that results in one of the best weight-to-warmth ratios of any jacket on the market.  Additionally, its construction and durability ensures you will have this for a while.  The only downside to this particular style is that you have to be careful on sizing because the form-fitting design does limit what you can wear underneath it if you do not size it properly.  If you have a chance to try it on first, I would recommend that.  Otherwise, make sure you order from a place where you can exchange it easily if needed.  If not sure, size up one size above your shirt size.

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Product Review: Katadyn BeFree Water Filter Soft Flask

I actually ran across the Katadyn BeFree while I was flipping through an issue of Runner’s World looking at one of their “favorite gear” articles and it caught my eye.  I am a recent convert to soft flasks, which I like to keep readily accessible in the front pouches of my vest.  I figured that one with a built in filter would be great for self supported runs where water sources aren’t always reliable.  I have carried a Life Straw before, and they are great, but the straw is only good when physically at a water source and their bottle models are rigid and don’t fit well in my pack.  This gives me a great option without having to carry any extra gear.

   

Overview

The flask itself is made by Hydrapak, so you know you are getting a solid bottle.  It is a 0.6L flask (20 oz), providing capacity in line with other soft flasks and rigid bottles on the market and perfect for the front pouch of most running packs.  It is going to cost you around $40, which means you are paying about $20 for the added benefit of the filter when you consider the price of similar soft flasks on the market.  The filter is certified for up to 1000 liters of water or about 1600 refills of the flask, so it will last most people for awhile.

In Use

On the trail,  I was quite satisfied, but there are a few things I would tweak to the overall experience.  The bottle itself was great.  Katadyn says that the flow out of the bottle is roughly one liter of water per minute, which is more than enough for a swig of water along the run.  I haven’t yet had any issues with a reduction in water flow and don’t imagine that I will as long as I keep the filter clean between uses.  In general, it is great not having to worry about running out of water.  I generally carry two soft flasks these days.  My usual practice is to empty the filter flask first and then fill up at the next water source, making sure I hang on to my non-filter flask mostly for backup.  Filling it up is super easy.  Just take the cap off, fill the flask, and put it back on.  It is recommended that you wipe off the flask after filling it, but since you are drinking through the cap, the risk of ingesting water that does not pass through the filter is still pretty low.

As for the experience, I would like to see if there is a way to use a straw top instead of the drink nozzle that is on it, that way, I can keep it in the front pouch of my pack and drink from it without having to take it out.  An alternative would be to try one of those soft flask holders (like Solomon has) to make it easier to carry in your hand (which I haven’t tried yet).

Pros

  • Super convenient with the filter built right into the bottle.  You can stop at any water source, take the cap off, fill the bottle, and you are good to go.
  • Easy to clean the filter if water flow becomes clogged.  In most cases, you can just shake it, but if all else fails, you can rinse/flush it in a clean water source.
  • Perfect size to fit conveniently in the front pouch of most packs.
  • Water flow was great.  A light squeeze and you can get a mouthful of water no problem.

Cons

  • The cap is a squirt top, which means you have to take it out and squeeze it to be effective.  I think you could offer a cap with a straw attachment and it would work just as well.  This would keep from having to take it out of the pocket.
  • The top of the soft flask near the cap is a bit more rigid than other Hydrapak flasks I have used and it is a bit more tricky to get stuffed down into the front pockets of my vest when full.

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Arc’teryx Soleus Running Shorts (2016 Version)

If you recall, I did a review of the Arc’teryx Atom SL Jacket last December; a product that I was pretty impressed with.  Based on this experience, I decided to reach out to Arc’teryx to see if they had anything they wanted a review on ahead of the upcoming running season.  They sent me over their newest Soleus shorts, which they updated for for 2016.

DISCLAIMER: Arc’teryx provided me with the product for the purposes of this review.  As always, I do my best to maintain a non biased review for the benefit of my readers and the company itself.

Product Overview

I would describe the Soleus as a minimalist, light weight race short.  Everything about these shorts screams long and fast.  They have a couple of pretty slick features, outlined here and described in more detail further in the review.

  • Lightweight materials, (weighing in at 4.9 oz for the Medium)
  • Short length, with side splits for unobstructed movement
  • Built-in liner for a secure fit
  • 5-pockets for maximum storage to keep your hands free
  • SPF 50 for sun protection

     

Price: $89 here on Amazon

In Action

To start, here is a picture of me with the shorts on to give you a feel for the overall length.

I ran in these a few times, with the primary test being a 16 mile trail run.  I really loved these shorts, and will call out a few areas.

Liner

I don’t run in shorts with liners all that often; I generally opt for compression shorts beneath a regular pair of fitness shorts.  One of the first things I noticed about the liner is that it provided more than enough support while being WAY more breathable.  This kept sweat to a minimum, which I am sure contributed to the overall comfort and lack of chafing.  The liner didn’t have any rough seam spots either, so no weird rubbing was present during the run.

Pockets

The Soleus has three pockets on the back.  The left hip is a zipper pocket; the middle pocket is the widest one with a smaller entrance to keep things from falling out; the right hip pocket is smaller, ideal for gels.  I was worried about how these would feel (i.e., bounce) while running, which ended up being unwarranted for the most part.  I ran with my keys in the zipper pocket, a Clif food pouch in the middle, and a couple of gels in the right.  The bounce was there, but minimal to the point of being mostly unnoticeable.  I wouldn’t recommend carrying much more than that, but what I did pack into the pockets was more than enough storage to get me through my long run and from aid station to aid station on race day.  It was definitely nice having my hands free and being able to use a minimal hydration pack.  I didn’t really use the two front pockets.  They are pretty shallow and I kept stressing about things falling out.

Length

While not the shortest I have seen, I usually run in shorts that are a bit longer than these.  It took a little getting used to for me, but the length was a major factor in the breathability, non-chafing, and freedom of movement.  Each leg has  about a two-inch side split that makes movement more free flowing.  I almost felt like I wasn’t wearing any shorts (although thankfully for those around me I was).  So aside from getting used to a shorter short, I enjoyed the fit and found that it contributed to the overall performance.

Conclusion

Arc’teryx makes some of the the highest quality products in the space.  They use top materials and the finest construction.  Of course, you have to be willing to pay for a product of this quality.  While I believe the cost versus longevity more than justifies the $89 price tag of these shorts, I can also understand why it might be a large pill to swallow when it comes to buying a pair of shorts to do your 6ish mile training runs in.  For me, this is the perfect short for both long runs and on race day.  In fact, I am buying a second pair to make sure that I always have a pair available.  To summarize, here is a list of pro’s and con’s.

Pro’s

  • The liner provided enough support that it basically eliminated the need to wear a pair of compression shorts.  As it was more breathable too, it actually worked out better for me.
  • The back pockets were super handy.  While I was worried about bounce while running, I was able to put my keys in the zip pocket and my nutrition in the other two with no discomfort or fear of losing things.
  • No chafing.  With other shorts, I normally have problems with materials rubbing against my thighs and causing chafing after longer distances.  I feel like the combination of the liner, length, and split legs eliminated this problem for me.

Con’s

  • The two front pockets are shallow.  I was worried about putting anything in them for fear of stuff falling out.  As such, I found them to be pointless.  In the future, I would rather see them either make these pockets a little deeper or get rid of them all together.
  • They rode up a little.  I am not used to wearing shorter length shorts, so this may be normal.  It didn’t cause any problems, but will take some getting used to.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!