When I had the opportunity to review the Arc’teryx Atom SL Vest, I have to be honest, I did raise an eyebrow. As a Dutchman, I am not used to bodywarmers. It is not something that we wear a lot in the Netherlands. Exemplified by my dear wife who asked: “Are you going fishing or golfing?” Neither is my thing, but in the months that I have had the Atom, I used the vest a lot, often just at home (we don’t heat our house very high), but also during a hike in the Peak District in England, on vacation in the evening at campsites, and during many forest walks near my house in recent weeks. I used the vest as an outer layer and mid layer.
The promise of the product
Arc’teryx’s description of the vest is a great read: “delivers minimalist warmth appropriate for higher output and milder conditions.” Minimalist warmth points to the fact that it is a very simple, lightweight product, with the synthetic Coreloft ™ Compact filling giving that little extra warmth that can mean the difference between being warm enough and just too cold. While at the same time being quite breathable. The outer material of the Atom promises mild DWR based water repellency (not water resistance) and extra wind resistance.
As I said, I wore the vest as an outer and a mid layer. During the hike in England in both capacities. At the beginning of the hike, the weather it was dry and a bit nippy and I only wore a technical shirt with short sleeves under the Atom Vest. It really struck me how long the vest simply kept me warm, without getting too hot. Despite the wind blowing around Stanage Edge, I stayed comfortable. I was really pleasantly surprised by it.
With the first light rain, the DWR layer did quite fine but when it really started to come down harder, I put on a shell jacket (also of Arc’teryx, review upcoming) over it. Even then my “microclimate” remained completely in order. (If you want to know exactly what I mean by that check the GearGuide 3-Layers system page). with which the Atom SL Vest proves to be a very good mid layer.
Back home in the Netherlands, I went on a number of forest walks with a thicker plaid shirt and merino undershirt underneath. With temperatures around 11-13 degrees. Your body stays warm but the heat doesn’t build up less under your armpits or on your back. Really nice.
The vest has a slim fit, it feels snug against your body without being too tight. It has side stretch panels that improve the wear comfort (also when moving), and helps ventilate even more easily. The two zipped side pockets are well placed so that the hip strap of your backpack falls neatly under them giving free access for your hands. And even though I am not a fisherman or golfer, I do like the look of it.
This winter I will definitely take the Atom Vest into the mountains, and if I do not wear it immediately, I will certainly take it with me in my backpack when I go snowboarding. Because it is so lightweight and easy to compress, it is extremely suitable to take along as an extra layer in case you misjudged the weather or it takes a turn towards the cold. Because it (obviously) has no sleeves, I would definitely wear the vest under a shell jacket in winter conditions in combination with a base / or mid layer with long sleeves.
The Arc’teryx Atom SL Vest is a great vest for the fresher spring days, cooler summer evenings, windy autumn days and in the winter as an extra mid layer. It gives just that extra layer of insulation and warmth that gives just that bit of extra comfort. It is not a cheap product, but because it is so versatile, it may well be worth the money.