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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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.

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Arc’teryx Atom SL Jacket Review

 

This is my first foray into an apparel review.  To be honest, I tend to be cheap when it comes to trail running clothes, with most of my drawers consisting of race shirts and great finds from the aisles of TJ Maxx.  However, I do sometimes think about that old adage “you get what you pay for” and wonder if there is any truth to it.  So here I go, my chance to review a high end jacket from one of the top outdoor gear companies out there: the Atom SL jacket from Arc-teryx.

Product Overview

Out of the box, the jacket looks great.  solid looking construction and stitching.  I love the solid color pattern.  At only 250 grams (about 8.8 oz), it is super light, whether wearing it or rolling up nice and small and stashing it in your running pack.  One nice attention to detail is the “no-slip zip” feature.  It is a zipper with built-in “speed bumps” that prevent it from self opening while running.

On the inside of the jacket, you see the contrast of materials.  The front and back panels use a light insulation, which is great and blocking wind and keeping heat in.  Along the sides, you have fleece, which is designed to help circulation of air.

Inside the arm sleeves, you have the same fleece that runs along the underarms.  The rest of the sleeves swaps out the inner insulation material with a breathable mesh.  This does a great job at blocking out the wind, but regulating temperature and letting air circulate.

In Action

One word, unbelievable!  This is definitely not a jacket from TJ Maxx.  Let me lay out the scene for you.  An early winter day, with 20 degree Fahrenheit temps.  Coming up out of shelter onto a ridge line with full exposure only to be suddenly hit with an unrelenting 40 mph wind that made it feel at least 15 degrees colder.  Within minutes, my double-gloved hands and face started to hurt from the biting cold.  What was it in this hour or so in these conditions that didn’t get cold?  The answer, anything covered by the Atom SL.  I decided to wear only a compression base layer beneath the Atom SL and despite nature’s attempts that day, it lost!  What was even more impressive is that while the cold never got in, it was ventilated enough that I always felt comfortable and never too sweaty.  I attribute this to the correct use and placement of the different materials used.  While this is part of their Spring line, its insulation and super light weight makes it a great winter running jacket.  If I am to be perfectly honest…this may be the best performing taril running jacket I have ever worn.

Shortcomings/Wish List

I have absolutely no issues with the performance of the Atom SL.  Most of my shortcoming have to do with design preference.

  • The hood cinch is located on the back of the jacket around the neck area.  With gloves on, I found it pretty difficult to cinch the hood up and ultimately had to take my glove off to do it.
  • Nitpicky, but I like a snap near the top of the zipper.  Sometimes I like to leave my jacket on, but unzip it a bit.  A snap keeps it from flapping open while running.  I think this is a definite nice to have on, particularly on a jacket marketed for Spring/Summer use.
  • Another thing I like are thumb holes.  This is more of a preference thing though.  The cuff design is effective at keeping the jacket in place and preventing cold air from getting in, but I still kind of like them.

Why Arc’teryx?

One of the questions I ask myself of any product with a premium price tag is, “is the product worth the extra amount of money that I am going to have to pay?”  The cost-benefit here is often a very individualistic decision.  With clothing, there are often a number of factors, short and long term, that one considers when making this decision.

  1. Quality, both in materials and construction
  2. Design/Utility
  3. Style

Being my first direct experience with Arc’teryx products, I can only comment on my short-term experience, but I will also throw in some third-party feedback I have heard from within my network.

Personally (and especially for active wear), I put emphasis on quality and design/utility; I don’t really care how stylish it is if it gets the job done.  From a quality perspective, if it holds up to the demands that I put on it and in the process lasts 3x as long as a competing product before requiring replacement, it is often pays for itself.  Beyond the tangible cost comparison though is the design/utility factor.  In other words, how much attention to detail went into the design and how well does it perform the job I am asking of it.

What I can say about quality is that it seems to be very well constructed in all aspects.  The stitching looks sound and the materials are definitely high end.  I cannot say for sure how time will treat it, but I have high hopes that I will use this jacket for a long time.

As far as design/utility, it was perfect for a cold trail run.  Going back to the saying, you definitely get what you pay for.  This jacket performs, hand down, better than any that I have gotten for cheaper.  Assuming that what appears to be great construction results in this jacket lasting a long time too, I would say that it is definitely worth the investment.

Conclusion

 

I have said already that Arc-teryx is marketing the Atom SLt as a spring/summer jacket.  I think that is appropriate for hiking on a chilly day or for some late season skiing even.  However, as a trail runner or anyone else getting their heart rate up and generating a lot of body heat, this is a great jacket for the winter use to.