What do you think would happen if you took a top-notch wind shell and added 40 grams of insulation to the torso? To be honest, we’d never asked ourselves that question. Thankfully, the folks at Arc’teryx did. The result? The new Arc’teryx Atom SL hoody.
We’re huge fans of Arc’teryx. Even though a lot of their manufacturing has moved away from British Columbia, you can still count on them to produce top-quality gear that functions well. That quality and function generally comes at a price, however. You can expect to pay north of $500 for a jacket. That $500 gets you a garment that will last a long time, fitting well into the “buy it once” philosophy. Better $500 now than $150 ten times over, right?
For the Atom SL, buy-in is $229, retail. What do you get for your $230? You get a jacket that you can wear almost every freakin’ day. Seriously. I’ve been wearing it for almost two months, non-stop, in just about every imaginable situation.
On the first day it arrived, we had Thai food with Bent Gate Mountaineering in Golden. The high temperature was 55° that day and the sky was sprinkling just a bit. The Atom SL stayed on through lunch. The hat had to come off, but the jacket didn’t overheat, even with spicy green curry warming me from the inside.
I’ve taking it hiking, mountain biking, and ski touring and worn it casually to the office where it received myriad compliments. My hikes consisted of some quick jaunts and longer excursions in 45°-60° weather. The bike ride was a brutal slog up Bergen Peak. The ski tour was a quick jaunt up Jones Pass. I’ve even worn it, sleeves pushed up, under my waders while fishing tenkara.
The Arc’teryx Atom SL is available for both men (XS-XXL) and women(XS-XL). Weight is listed at 9.2 oz (261g). Our sample, men’s large, weighs 9.7 oz (276 g). Find the best price on the Atom SL using our Gear Search.
To create the Atom SL, Arc’teryx started with 20-denier Tyono nylon fabric. It’s the same fabric they use in the Atom LT. Arc’teryx uses a 30 denier version of Tyono in their Squamish wind jacket. Tyono incorporates a bit of mechanical stretch while resisting wind. While the Squamish puts bare nylon on your skin, the Atom SL incorporates a polyester mesh on the inner face of the sleeves, which adds both comfort and a bit of warmth.
Arc’teryx then adds 40g of their Coreloft insulation to the torso of the Atom SL. Coreloft uses multiple deniers (thicknesses) of polyester fibers, each treated with silicone, which Arc’teryx says then undergoes a process that thins it by 50% without reducing its insulation value by as much. Ignore that mumbo jumbo. It’s amazing how light and thin 40g of Coreloft feels.
Under the arms and down the side of the torso, you get highly breathable, very stretchy Torrent panels, treated with Polygiene, which uses silver (not nano-) particles to prevent odors. Torrent is 84% nylon and 16% elastane – it’s really stretchy. Finally, Arc’teryx adds their Nu DWR treatment (using short chain flourocarbons – the “better” kind) that beads water superbly.
Full front zipper functions well, locking in place wherever you put it. Hand pockets are high enough to avoid hip-belt interference and the zippers slide smoothly. (We like when pocket zippers pull down to open and up to close.)
There’s a drawcord on the hem, but we don’t expect it to get used much if the jacket is fitted properly. Seams and tolerances are good, as we expect from Arc’teryx, though the cuff on one sleeve is slightly different than the other. I’m not sure what happened there, but it doesn’t affect function.
Arc’teryx classifies the Atom SL as a Trim Fit piece. I’ve always found Arc’teryx’s sizing to be accurate and the Atom SL is no exception. It fit my 43″ chest exactly. Do not expect to wear heavy layers underneath – the Atom SL is designed to be worn over a base layer and under everything else.
Sleeve length is excellent. The sleeves do not expose your wrists if you reach up to grab a hold or swing an axe. Arc’teryx added a bit of extra length on the top of the hand, which I love.
The hood is designed to fit under a helmet. There is a single adjustment cord at the back of the head that runs forward to about cheekbone height and then up and over the brim. It’s a simple and effective way of cinching the hood down. The brim is perfect – just stiff enough to retain its shape without getting in the way.
Here’s the main course after all the appetizers. The Arc’teryx Atom SL is a phenomenal jacket for both layering and wearing on its own. It slides effortlessly under a shell, providing just enough insulation to take the chill off without overheating. On its own, it’s perfect for early morning workouts, evening hikes, or those summer days when it’s 50° in the mountains all day instead of 70°.
Tyono fabric has been panned in the past for letting a little too much wind through. Where that may be a failure in a wind shell, it’s a blessing in the Atom SL, which has excellent breathability. During the bike and ski tour, I put out enough effort to warm up a bit. I could feel air moving through the fabric to pull that heat away. Likewise, the Torrent fabric panels under the arms sheds heat well.
There was a moment of panic when a pedal-strike tossed me from my bike. Did I tear the fabric on the rocks and branches I landed on? Nope – a few stains, but not a thread out of place. So, the Atom SL is surprisingly durable on top of everything else.
I combined the Atom SL with Arc’teryx’s Alpha FL shell on the ski tour. It was snowing hard and we were working hard to cut a skin track through about 24″ of fresh snow (in April! No, you can’t move here). No overheating on the way up and great comfort on the way back down.
Worn under waders, the Atom SL was perfect to shoo away that chill you get from standing in a cold, mountain stream in the shade. In the sun, it didn’t overheat. A bonus of having the Torrent fleece run all the way to your wrists – you can push the sleeves up so they don’t get soaked when you’re pulling your fly out of that beautiful cutthroat’s lip.
We’ve always liked Arc’teryx’s Atom jackets, but the Atom SL truly completes the lineup. It combines the best features of the excellent Squamish with a thin, ultralight layer of insulation that feels like it’s barely there, but still makes for real warmth. If you spend any time pursuing active endeavors in cool weather, you need an Atom SL.
- Materials are spot on
- So versatile
- Might draw attention from opposite sex
- Doesn't shoot rainbows
- No spontaneous beer
- Might draw attention from opposite sex