Arcteryx is a popular manufacturer of outdoor apparel. If you’re looking for a jacket for the winter season, the Atom AR and Atom LT are both promising options. Figuring out the best one for you can seem overwhelming, but we’ve broken down the basics.
Our Best Pick
#1. Arc’teryx Atom AR
The AR jacket comes with a significant amount of insulation, which helps it to keep in warmth in cold temperatures. In fact, it’s one of the best performing jackets when you’re dealing with frigid winter weather.
The torso of the jacket comes with 120 grams of Coreloft insulation per meter squared. Underneath the arms, the insulation drops to 80 grams per meter squared. In the hood, the jacket boasts 60 grams per meter squared. Because of how the AR is designed to lock in body heat, it’s best for extreme weather. If you engage in active fitness or move through warm environments in it, you’re likely to overheat.
The AR jacket is also highly wind resistant, allowing you to deal with biting seasonal winds with ease. Though the manufacturer says that the AR is a middle layer, you won’t typically need an extra layer unless you’re dealing with heavy rain. The top of the jacket has a DWR coating, which is a spray-on waterproof coating that keeps water from soaking into the design.
It should be noted that DWR coatings do wear off over time, whether that’s due to exposure to the elements or multiple washes. You can purchase a new spray coating to refresh the jacket at any time.
The AR is far from the most breathable jacket on the market, though. For this reason, you won’t want to wear it if the temperature is above freezing or you’re engaging in physical activity that makes you sweat.
The fit of the AR is regular, so it can fit a wider range of body types. For those with a slim or athletic build, though, the jacket may look a little bulky. The AR jacket weighs just one pound, which is significantly lightweight when you take into account the amount of insulation and warmth.
If you’re dealing with frigid temperatures or more extreme winds, the AR jacket is ideal. However, it won’t serve you well during intense athletic activities, since you’ll have the potential to overheat.
#2. Arc’teryx Atom LT
The Atom LT bears some similarities to the AR, but there are also some significant differences. It’s important to understand how the construction of each jacket differs.
The insulation of the LT uses 60 grams of Coreloft per meter squared throughout the entire jacket. That means the torso, arms, and hood. The level of insulation is smaller than that of more heavy duty winter jackets, but the LT is also more lightweight at just 0.9 pounds.
The LT also has fleece panels on the side that are breathable enough to keep fresh air flowing throughout the jacket. For this reason, it’s favored by athletes who engage in physical fitness in cold weather. The additional breathability means that you’re less likely to overheat if you’re sweating through intensive cardio. But you should be aware that the breathable panels will let in frigid air if you’re out in the cold.
Like the AR, the LT is marketed as a middle layer. Unlike the AR, you actually do need an outer layer for the LT. Since the overall insulation is so thin, you’ll be warmest if you have a base layer, the LT jacket, and a final layer on top. The jacket comes with a DWR coating to resist water, but it will need to be reapplied eventually.
The LT is designed with a trim fit. It’s a jacket that is marketed toward athletes and the physically active. As such, it looks sleekest on those with a traditionally athletic or thin build.
One of the great things about the LT is that the jacket can be used in pretty much any outdoor activity. Whether you’re snowshoeing, climbing, biking, fishing, trekking, snowboarding, mountaineering, or skiing, the LT has the versatility and breathability to keep you comfortable.
While the AR and the LT both use Coreloft insulation, the AR has significantly more insulation. In fact, it has twice the level of insulation around the torso. This means that the AR tends to be much warmer.
If you’re using the jacket without a layer on top, the lowest temperature that you could comfortably wear the LT is around 30 F. Meanwhile, the AR can be worn at temperatures as low as 10 F. If you’ve bundled up with insulated inner and outer layers in addition to the jackets, the LT is comfortable at 10 F and the AR is comfortable at temperatures as low as -20F.
The AR is significantly more wind resistant, lending it an advantage in extreme weather. But the LT is more breathable, so athletes can wear it without overheating.
Both of these jackets are ideal options for protecting yourself during the winter season. The one that works best for you will vary depending on where you are, what the weather is like, how often you intend to wear the jacket, and what your physical activity level is like.
For those who need a winter jacket that can offer strong insulation against temperatures below freezing, the AR is the jacket for you. It’s extremely warm and well-insulated, including wind resistance. Unlike the LT, you typically won’t need an additional outer layer unless you’re dealing with intense rain.
For those who engage in more physical fitness or live in slightly warmer climates, the LT is a much better bet. It has breathable side panels that allow fresh air to circulate, keeping you from overheating. Athletes will find themselves much better served by the LT than the AR.