I’ve heard about Arc’Teryx outdoor gear for years, though until I purchased an Atom LT Hoody I’d never owned any. While doing research for one of my novels I asked some of my friends who are involved in military and police special operations what the cool kids in the tacti-cool community wear these days, and I was told “Everybody who can rocks The Dirty Bird”.
“The Dirty Bird” is one of the outfitters of choice when it comes to tactical haberdashery (though Brian Kroon of Drop Zone Tactical, protege of the legendary Mitch Werbell, has legitimate claim to the title of Tactical Haberdasher) for elite military special operators.
I bought an Atom LT Hoody in my size and favorite color (Grey Man grey) for a ridiculously low price at a local REI. My initial impressions were favorable: great fit, well thought out hood, light weight and compressible.
It looks cool, too.
But I don’t buy gear to look cool or because extraordinary individuals wear it. I buy my gear to hold up to the hard use I put it through out in the real world. I travel a lot and I get to go through a wide variety of climes and terrain as I wander the world. The Atom LT Hoody was tested on early morning beaches in California, in freezing blizzards in the Utah mountains, during the icy cold wind chill blowing through the Wisconsin foothills and across the barren plains of frozen Central Illinois.
Things that rock: This jacket is designed as a close-fitting mid-layer, that can double as an outer layer with its water repellant surface. Shove it under a shell and over a base layer and it can replace all your old fleece in the worst conditions. Why? It’s way lighter. Way more compressible. Way more thermally efficient than several layers. Way more water resistant. I wore it in light rain and in bitter cold with a wind-chill down in the single digits. The outer shell material turned the wind, and I stayed toasty with a mid-weight base layer, hat and gloves. Ventilation is easy, if you know how to run your clothing like equipment: unzip the body and drop the hood when moving, zip up and hood up when stopped; use your hood pulls and hem pulls as necessary to keep that cold air outside and that warm air where it belongs, right next to your body. The slick surface makes it easy to shoulder a pack without snagging, and the material didn’t catch on brush during bushwhacking. The exterior pockets can hold a water bottle, snacks, a hat and gloves if you don’t mind mussing the otherwise trim fit. The hem cord allows the lower edge of the jacket to be snugged tight and above a holster if you carry a pistol openly, and can be loosened to be pulled over one if you carry concealed, though you’ll need to make sure it doesn’t snag when you clear it for presentation.
Things that don’t rock: Small details — thread on the zipper of the inside pocket started coming undone after light everyday use as my main stash pocket for keys and sunglasses; elastic at the wrist once wet, stays wet for long time, unlike the rest of the jacket.
Things that *might* not rock: Long term durability under hard use is an area I have questions about. Light and fast is important, but durability — as in lasting a long time — is also important, especially when you pay the premium for an Arc’Teryx product. I polled some friends about how it stood up to hard use on rock, on firing ranges, and daily wear by military and police — none of them had owned the jacket for more than a year and even with daily wear they were careful with it. So the jury’s still out.
Despite my quibbles and some minor quality control issues with the stitching on the inside pocket, I have to rate this jacket as a big time keeper. The versatility, the superior thermal efficiency and packability make it a must-have for travel and everyday wear.
It normally retails for $220. Between 24 August – 3 September you can get it at REI for $149.99 (sometimes less). http://www.rei.com/product/787706/arcteryx-atom-lt-hoodie-jacket-mens