The Arc’teryx Atom AR Jacket is our favorite jacket in this test. With this jacket you get a highly competent jacket that can stand alone in cold weather, or can be used with a shell in harsh conditions. This range of performance is the single biggest determining factor to secure it the top spot. The obvious limitation is the high price.
Quality This is a category where you get what you pay for. The stitching is seamless and this tester has a high degree of confidence in the construction of this jacket. We experienced no insulation loss and the exterior proved to be resistant to mild and moderate levels of abrasion. The zippers are well constructed and proved consistently reliable.
Comfort/Fit This jacket sits towards the slender end of the fit spectrum, but it will still accommodate a range of body types and shapes. There is attention to detail to the comfort factors of this jacket like a small piece of fabric comes down off the collar to prevent the tag from rubbing on the back of your neck, and the cuffs provide enough tension to keep the sleeves from riding up, but not so much as to pinch or prove uncomfortable after hours of use.
Warmth The Arc’teryx Atom is the warmest jacket in this test set. Slipping into it feels like slipping into a much bulkier and heavier jacket, but for less money, pack space, and weight. There are no gaps or breaks in insulation, and the exterior can shed mild to moderate wind and precipitation while maintaining good warmth. This is a jacket that could be used as a standalone in the alpine during summer, or during early-winter squalls.
Features This jacket’s main draw is its warmth, without a lot of gimmicks to distract from that mission. There is a zippered interior chest pocket, which is good for valuables or that Snicker’s bar that would freeze if kept elsewhere on a cold day. The two hand pockets are soft, with a string zipper pull to provide a lightweight solution to clumsy, cold hands.
Packability The Arc’teryx Atom AR is able to pack a large amount of warmth into a small space, thanks to its Coreloft insulation. In a pack it can be squeezed into a space about the size of a one liter water bottle, making it easy to fit. Although this is a slightly larger size than two other jackets in this category, it earns a similar score because of the better ratio of insulation to packable space.
Scott Morris guides backpacking expeditions and hiking trips for Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. He is a writer, traveler, and runner. Scott tests backpacking equipment.