The Arc’teryx Atom SV Hoody – is it an improvement on the LT Hoody…?
Value For Money: ****
Arc’teryx Atom SV Hoody – review by Climbing Gear Reviews UK
In the summer of 2010 I reviewed an Arc’teryx Atom LT jacket for UKC http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=2208
For that review I concluded that the only thing better would be an Atom LT Hoody, well since then I’ve looked hard at the LT hoody and I’ve now been using the new SV Hoody for the winter 2010/11 season. The SV stands for severe weather and is described as their warmest and toughest midlayer garment, so is it fit for purpose? I’ll start with the technicalities:
The outer material is Gossamera, a superlight and compressible ripstop nylon; it had that satisfying checked pattern that inspires confidence in its durability. The Gossamera fabric is the same material that the Squamish is made from, Arc’teryx state that the fabric has an air permeability of 7 CFM. Which means that it’s pretty good as far as breathability is concerned, further wicking is provided by a Tricot lining at the armpit, this area was also uninsulated further enhancing the breathability, a very well thought out area and a great compromise to the Atom LT with its powerstretch inserts. In test I found the jacket very warm, too warm for aerobic work in normal UK winter conditions and I even had to take it off when soloing easy icefalls, the jacket did get damp through sweat but dried out very quickly, even stood still with just body heat.
As well as a DWR the fabric has a light polyurethane coating on the inner face, which helps with water resistance. The fact that the fabric is air permeable means the PU coating is microporous, or discontinuous. Arc’teryx said the coating was very thin and evenly applied by a fabric mill in Japan known for their coating technology. I found the jacket repelled light showers and snow easily, but soon got saturated in consistent rain and wet snow, the addition of a lightweight hardshell just made me overheat very quickly. If you run cold though, this would be a great combination as you could walk in just a baselayer, wear the SV Hoody to climb in and supplement it with a Paclite jacket when the going gets damp, wet or too windy.
The jacket was lined with a silver grey nylon to help with heat retention and the pockets were lined with one side of Tricot – I found this a little disappointing and thought that a jacket with this sort of pedigree could have provided a better tactile experience in the pockets. There was a zipped internal chest pocket on the left hand side I would have liked to see the addition of a large, inner mesh pocket for storing food, spare gloves etc, it would have really enhanced the belay style and added very little to the weight.
The stitching was of the excellent quality you would expect with an Arc’teryx product, the sleeves are articulated and this helped reduced sleeve lift when making high axe placements. The sleeve cuff design is the same as the LT versions; I felt this is where the jacket was let down for climbers in my LT review and I still think that is the case. The cuffs are fine, in fact great with no gloves on as they are really tight fitting and help retain heat and keep your wrists warm, they also fit nicely with approach gloves on, especially silk, powerdry or merino gloves as I could easily take the jacket off and the sleeves slid over the gloves nicely. They were also fine with gauntlet style ice climbing gloves as they fitted well over the cuffs. The jacket was much more difficult to use with the more supple type of glove that I use for UK winter climbing, too bulky for the sleeve to go over and I always ended up turning the sleeves inside out at belays and changeovers.
The hood was excellent, it was easy to adjust with gloves on, except the ones that were inside the jacket which could prove tricky to find if you were caught out in a storm, as the lock was hidden in the collar. They were, however all very easy to use with the single strand and the great advantage of having the adjusting straps inside the jacket is there are no loose straps to whip your face to shreds in that raging gale. It easily accommodated my climbing helmet and was stiffened with a small, neat plastic insert.
The insulation is provided by 100g/m2 of Coreloft, this is a mixture of large and smaller polyester fibres, the larger fibres provide the loft and the smaller fibres boosting the thermal efficiency. The loft was excellent, always super buoyant and the jacket felt very warm due to the complete insulation (unlike the LT versions that have powerstretch side panels). I loved the small details like the drop back hem, this clever little feature really helped retained the loft around the waist when the hem was cinched and the tiny internal collar to help keep wind and spindrift from the back of your neck, just the sort of excellent details you’d expect from Arc’teryx. The combination of Gossamera and Coreloft really meant that the jacket was highly compressible. It easily fitted into an Exped XS drybag and no matter how stuffed my pack was it squeezed into the smallest cavity, I even got into the lid pocket! Arc’teryx do not advocate stuffing it into the inside pocket, as it is not designed for this, they say you should fold it into a sleeve; which worked perfectly well for storage into travel luggage, etc.
The main zip is a YKK Vislon and this seem to repel water very well and worked a treat in all conditions, even frozen. The pocket zips were standard YKK zips and also worked well, but are not waterproof; they all worked well with gloves. The articulated elbows and gusseted elbows meant that the jacket was good to climb in, there was very little ride with a harness on and I used it for winter climbing regularly where it performed faultlessly, even in the most foul of conditions. I was terrified of putting an ice screw through it mind and I don’t think it would last long at all if you were to wear it as your sole UK winter climbing jacket.
So, in conclusion, another superb jacket from one of the best manufacturers out there. Well designed with great features. My recommended uses would be as a warming layer on cold days where you are moving; skiing, mountaineering, snowshoeing and it can be used a climbing jacket. It would make an ideal rock climbing and summer alpine belay jacket and is also a great looking jacket for the winter commute. It is most definitely a big improvement on the LT Hoody.