Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I just can’t figure out how, when or where to use something. Gore-Tex pants? Easy — wear when the ice is so wet it’s actually raining. A heavily-insulated synthetic jacket big enough to fit over other belay layers? On a very, very cold belay, obviously. But a trim-fitting, lightweight and very warm down jacket? This one had me thinking.
The jacket in question is the Cerium LT Hoody, part of Arcteryx’s new down collection. The Cerium has a body-hugging fit with trimly cut arms and a unique, tuque-like hood. Thanks to a lightweight textile which Arcteryx calls Airetica, it is also seriously light: the size Medium I received weighs a scant 292 grams, mashed into the included stuffsack. Constructed using 850-fill goose down, and in select areas, Coreloft 80g/m2, it is also incredibly warm, easily the equivalent of my most-conditions belay jacket, the Arcteryx Solo Hoody, which weighs almost twice as much at 509 grams.
The Cerium LT Hoody in use as a mild-weather belay jacket. Check out the patterning under the arms, allowing freedom of movement without lifting the hem. The hood, unfortunately, is a bit too small for helmets.
So it fits great, feels like you’re wearing nothing and provides an incredible amount of warmth: what’s the problem?
Well, that, really: the Cerium it is so warm that when used as a mid-layer I overheat in anything over -30C yet the outer fabric is too fragile to be subjected to Rockies’ climbing (though that can be said of most fabrics). And I tend to stay home when it’s -30!
Of course, I have found numerous other uses for this piece though I feel none are quite worthy of what it can truly achieve and has been designed to do: it’s a great fall belay jacket when you’re not wearing a ton of layers; it is a fabulous around-town piece, with large, warm pockets; it makes an excellent cold-weather sweater for wearing around the house when you’re too lazy to turn up the heat; it’s also stylish enough to wear on ‘dressier’ occasions.
In short, this is a jacket that you don’t really want to take off. It’s so light and cut so well as to feel invisible (in fact, I’m wearing mine now, having come home from walking the dogs and haven’t bothered to turn up the heat, or take the Cerium off).
You can find all the technical details on Arcteryx’s website, but I can tell you that the uniquely-designed and creatively-drawcorded hood is indeed excellent. Designed to function like a tuque, the drawcord snugs the hood around the forehead and down around the back of the head, towards the neck. It is awesome — exactly like wearing a down-filled tuque, but without the drafty back-of-the-neck gap. Though the hood is just big enough to fit over a helmet, it is not designed for such use and noticeably tightens up the rest of the jacket.
The other cool detail is the use of synthetic Coreloft insulation where moisture may accumulate: top of the shoulders, armpits, at the front by the mouth and in the hem. Coreloft is amazingly warm for its weight and packs almost as well as down, so this is a great pairing and an innovative way to combat moisture accumulation.
Finally, there is one aspect of the jacket that bugs me: the stuff sack. I love that it is provided with a stuff sack, I just wish it would be a stuff-pocket, not a separate little sack. The design is cool, with a little loop inside the left pocket to which the stuff sack attaches and is then easily stowed in the pocket. However, I also tend to store extra gloves, food, etc. in the pockets so the stuff sack gets in the way so I removed it, and now cannot find it anywhere. This doesn’t happen to stuff pockets (well, unless you misplace the whole jacket, which I have also done!).
To summarize, I love the Cerium LT Hoody. It fits me very well, is more than warm enough and literally feels like you’re wearing some kind of an invisible heat shield (or something… you know how some jackets feel like a suit of armour? this is the opposite, it feels like nothing yet provides tons of warmth!). My only gripe is with the stuff sack, or rather, the lack of a stuff pocket. And the fact that I always feel like I’m not using the Cerium to its full potential — I think perhaps skiers or hikers would find it more useful ‘in the wild’ as they are more active in cold temperatures (whereas most ice climbers I know tend to stay home when it’s that cold!). With a retail price of $370, the Cerium’s price is in line with other high-end down jackets, and of course it is backed by Arcteryx’s awesome lifetime warranty.
Pros: great fit, stupendous warmth for its weight
Cons: lack of a stuff pocket, can be too warm
Overall: An incredible entry into the down market from Arcteryx, with some very cool features, typically excellent fit and competitive price.
NOTE: Arcteryx Equipment Inc. provided The Alpine Start with a Cerium LT Hoody for testing and review, however this in no way influences our opinion or assessment of the product.