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 Spotlight: Injinji Performance 2.0 Snow Socks

New from Injinji for winter 2014 is the SNOW, a new product within their Performance 2.0 line of socks.  I love seeing that, as Injinji continues to grow, they continue to expand their product line to include socks that are much more specific to a purpose or activity versus having a few multi-purpose variations.  By going the route of specialization, they can ensure that their socks provide the best comfort and protection for all of the specific activities that we do.  The SNOW is a perfect example of how they are branching out.

Description
The SNOW provides the right combination of warmth, cushioning, and performance for any of your winter endeavors.  It uses Injinji’s nuwool, which is their unique wool blend.  It combines that with a well padded foot and OTC (over the calf) graduated compression design meant to improve blood flow and performance in your legs.

Injinji Performance 2.0 Snow

Price: $30

Review
Snow has been rather scarce early in the season here in Salt Lake City, but I finally got to take these out recently for a bit of snowshoeing.  I would classify the SNOW as a cross between Injinji’s Compression and Outdoor lines.  It comes with the warmth of the Outdoor model and a bit of the full leg compression that you get with the Compression line.  Overall, I was very happy with these.  Here are my thoughts across the key sock categories:

Comfort
I love wearing the Outdoor as an everyday sock in the colder months, so considering that the SNOW have a similar feel, I was not surprised that they too were very cozy and soft.  They aren’t as tight and restrictive as the regular Compression line, but still offers much of the endurance and recovery benefits of OTC compression.  These were so comfortable that I even found myself leaving them on for most of the day after I was done snowshoeing.

Protection
They provided ample cushioning, from under the foot to the top of the sock, to keep your legs protected from obstacles and the elements.  I wore regular (non-insulated) trail shoes with these while snowshoeing and my feet stayed pretty warm for the most part.  One of my big toes was starting to get a bit cold, but warmed up as soon as I started moving a bit faster.  With insulated footwear, such as a ski boot or winter hiking boots, your feet would definitely remain nice and warm throughout your activity.

Breathability
There was a good balance here.  My feet did not get sweaty at all while at the same time, they weren’t so breathable that they let cold air in to my feet.  Even wearing them around the house afterward, my feet remained at a constant, comfortable temperature.

Moisture
This one is hard to tell because Utah has the “best snow on earth”.  In other words, it is powdery and dry versus wet and sloppy.  My feet were not wet and neither were the socks after I was done snowshoeing.  However, if they are truly like the Outdoor line (which is my impression), then you shouldn’t experience any more issues with these than you would any other wool blend sock.  In fact, Injinji’s wool blend often outperforms many other wool blends from what I have seen.

Conclusion
The SNOW is the perfect blend of warmth and compression that will keep your legs fresh for hours of activity.  At $30, these are less expensive than most compression and in line with many OTC ski socks.  This would be a good addition to your cold weather apparel, whether your ski, snowshoe, hike, or run in the winter months.  For extra warmth and protection, you may even pair them with the Injinji sock liner if that is your thing.  I will likely find myself also using these as a winter post-activity recovery sock.

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Gear Review: Virus Stay Warm Compression Clothing

Overview

I ran across VIRUS (http://www.virusintl.com) recently as I was looking around for some new warm compression gear for the upcoming winter months.  VIRUS, to date, has built its brand outside of the running world, focusing on sports ranging from MTB and Skiing to MMA and training.  What intrigued me the most about them and convinced me to look at them a bit closer is their use of recycled materials in the manufacturing of their products.  As a trail runner that cares about the nature around me, this really spoke to me.  I wanted to see if their products performed as well as some of their competitors given their unique manufacturing approach.

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with Virus, however, they provided me with the product used in this review.

Technology

VIRUS incorporates a number of features into their Stay Warm compression gear.  Some are pretty common across the board, such as anti-odor, heat trap, and quick dry, but Virus does so without being over-reliant on chemical treatments of the fabric to do so.  In addition, they also incorporate recycled materials.  For their Stay Warm gear, they use recycled coffee grounds.  Here are some descriptions of the technology used directly from their website:

  • Coffee Char – Our Coffee Charcoal technology is designed specifically for use in cold weather. Made from recycled coffee beans, this technology insulates and traps heat. Our studies prove that the use of coffee charcoal in contact with the skin will raise surface temperatures 10 ° F. This technology provides a superior natural barrier from the cold combined with our quick dry technology allows for a comfortable resistance to low atmospheric temperatures.
  • Heat Trap – Heat Trap is designed to trap heat close to the skin, while allowing moisture out. Based entirely on our yarn construction and material selection – our testing proves that heat trap increases surface temperature by 10 °F 2°C. No chemical treatments or applications are used to achieve this feature.
  • Anti Odor – Anti-odor technology begins with selecting compounds to weave in our fabric that deters the growth of microbes that grow and emit noxious fumes. There is no artificial or chemical process in the treatment of our fabrics to achieve this feature.
  • Quick Dry – Quick Dry begins with the formula of our fabrics. We carefully design fabrics to inhibit the absorption of moisture. We then weave the yarn with microscopic funnels that allow wicking to flow moisture away from the skin. No chemical treatments or applications are used to achieve this feature.
  • 4 Way Stretch – 4-Way Stretch is designed for effortless 360 Degree range of motion. 4-Way Stretch starts with the construction and design of our fabrics that allow for effortless wide ranges of motion. Garment fabrication then is made to allow fabric stretch flows throughout – ensuring optimal stretch.

In the Box

For my review, I tested the Stay Warm Compression top and the matching Compression 3/4 pants as shown in the images below.  The packaging it comes in is fairly minimal, which is nice.

Virus Stay Warm TopVirus Stay Warm Three Quarter Pant

Experience

I first wore these during a night shift pacing at The Bear 100 in Northern Utah at the end of September.  The weather was in the low 40’s and rainy for most of the night, allowing me to give these a nice test.  I purposely wore these how I would during a typical winter run.  In other words, I wore the tights alone with nothing over them and wore the compression shirt beneath a long sleeve tech shirt.  It is important to note that these were designed to be worn as base layers, so I was slightly deviating from the intended use with the tights.  During the run, both the top and bottom were fantastic in keeping me both dry and warm.  They performed so well in fact that there were times during the run that I actually felt I might need to shed clothes, particularly while moving.  The friction caused by my movement generated heat, which the material did a fantastic job at retaining.  Even standing around at aid stations; although I did get colder as you would expect, they still did a good job at minimizing the chill.  From a moisture perspective, they also performed well at shedding water.  Despite a constant rain through much of the run, I did not feel soaked or cold at all.  I encountered one downside during the run, when I snagged the pants on a branch, tearing a small pin-size hole in them.  Then again, when worn as designed, an outer layer would have protected from this happening.  In fact, these would be perfect out of the box for road running as well, where the risk of branches and other obstacles isn’t as great.

Conclusion

The current warm compression gear from Virus is geared toward using as base layer versus an externally facing running tight.  As a result, the pants emphasize being thin versus durable.  This is neither a plus or minus, but it may dictate how you use them.  In talking with the rep from Virus, they are looking toward designing some running specific tights as they expand their product line.  I will say though, they were fantastically warm.  I found them to perform equal to or better than other warm compression gear I have tried before.  This gear will definitely come in handy this winter.

Score: 4.5 / 5.0 (from a trail running perspective – higher score is used as intended as a base layer)

Pro’s:

  • Unbelievably warm for how thin they are
  • Lightweight
  • Non-restrictive
  • Made from recycled materials, which is a bonus for us nature-loving trail runners

Con’s

  • Durability issues when wearing as an outer layer (please note however that this is not the intended use)
  • I didn’t experience this as I wasn’t moving too quickly on the test run, but the seams around the inside of the thighs could potentially cause rubbing issues at higher speeds/longer distances.

Virus has provided me with a 15% discount to offer for those that would like to try their products.  You can view my What I Use page for details.

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