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Pat Kinsella

Arc’teryx Atom Vest review: a classy, multitasking three-season gilet

Man wearing Arcteryx Atom Vest.

Meet the reviewer

Arc’teryx Atom Vest: first impressions

The first thing to note about the good-looking Arc’teryx Atom Vest is that it’s designed to be lightweight and low profile – this is not the kind of gilet that’s packed full of high-loft insulation, arranged in bulky baffles to keep your body warm in seriously cold conditions.


• List price: $200 (US) / £180 (UK)
• Insulation: Synthetic (Coreloft Compact 60g/m²)
• Gender availability: Male / Female
• Sizes: XS / S / M / L / XL / XXL
• Weight: 230g / 8.1oz
• Colors: Edziza / Black Sapphire / Black / Smoke Bluff

Instead, the Atom is a thin, breathable gilet, designed to provide light-touch protection from the wind and moderately chilly weather while you’re engaged in a wide range of relatively high-energy activities that require a full range of movement, from hiking and biking through to rock climbing and paddling.

As such it feels to me like the perfect piece of apparel for adventures in spring, early and late summer, and well into fall. That said, I can also see myself wearing this gilet on midsummer evenings in camp, after the sun has set and the temperature starts to drop.

Arc’teryx Atom Vest: design and construction

Making use of the Atom’s internal chest pocket (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

A great feature of the Atom gilet’s design is the use of stretchy fleece side panels, which give you a full range of arm movement, permitting you to reach for high handholds without the top riding up and exposing bare skin. The drop-hem back panel also extends below the top of your bum, for extra coverage around the lower back area.

The Atom is a versatile vest that can be worn in several ways according to the conditions you’re heading out in. In mostly dry, fairly temperate weather, when you still require a touch more torso protection than a simple T-shirt can provide, it works really well over the top of a base layer or a good hiking shirt.

Water beads off the Atom’s DWR-treated face farbric (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Made from 20-denier Tyono nylon with a ripstop finish, the face fabric of the Atom vest has been treated with a DWR (durable water repellent), so light rainfall and mist simply beads up on the surface and drips off without penetrating the material and soaking it through. If you do get caught in a downpour, however, it’s not the end of the world because the Coreloft Compact 60g/m² synthetic filling retains its loft and thermal properties even when wet. (The insulation is 100% recycled too, and bluesign approved.)

When the weather is wilder, the low profile design of the Atom vest means it easily fits beneath a more substantial softshell jacket or waterproof shell jacket, providing that all-important extra layer of thermal protection for your trunk, where most of your vital organs live.

Other features include a pair of handpockets, both with zips, plus an internal chest pocket, which also zips shut to keep essentials and valuables (credit card, cash, keys, ID, etc) safe and sound. The entire vest can be stuffed into one of the pockets, making it very easy to store and transport. The front zip has a pull tag, making it easy to use with gloves.

Arc’teryx Atom Vest: on the trails

The drop-hem back panel provides extra coverage around the lower back area (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

To see how it performs compared to the best men’s gilets on the market, I’ve been testing out the Arc’teryx Atom Vest in a range of conditions, across the highly changeable month of March, as the British winter hands the baton over to a slightly hesitant spring. It feels like all four seasons have paid us a visit here in the South West this month – which is perfect for putting a piece of apparel like this through its paces. 

As mentioned, this isn’t the warmest gilet I’ve ever tested, but it’s not designed to be ultra toasty. Instead the emphasis is on a lack of bulk, combined with comfort, versatility, dexterity and breathability, and on these metrics it scores highly. 

The Atom gilet has been protecting me from the wind and the chill just fine during early spring, but it also allows my body to breath and not overheat when I’m tackling steep climbs on foot or in the saddle. It’s also ideal for scrambling, rock climbing, kayaking and canoeing, with the synthetic fill continuing to work even when damp.

The Atom stuffs down into one of its own pockets (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The long back and mid-height neck keep drafts out nicely, and I’ve been particularly impressed with the flexi-fleece side panels, which really do facilitate a full range of arm movement while still providing cover and warmth where it’s required.

The quality of the components (including the zips), and considerate design features such as the internal chest pocket are exactly what you would expect from top-end Canadian brand Arc’teryx. Anyone familiar with the name will know the famous fossil logo comes with a pretty hefty price tag, but the build quality and sartorial style is premium on this piece, as it is with all Arc’teryx apparel. This is a good-looking as well as a high-performing garment, which can be worn in the pub with a pair of jeans just as comfortably as it can in the hills, but we did think Arc’teryx could have included a reflective logo on the back of the vest, for safety (and so you get your money’s worth out of the investment).

It may be pricey, but the build quality and sartorial style is premium on the Atom, as it is with all Arc’teryx apparel (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
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