Field Tested: Arc’teryx Nuclei Hoody Review

There are few items that end up coming along with me on almost every outing, even if I know they might be somewhat redundant. Take Arcteryx’s new Nuclei Hoody, for example: I’ll bring it along just because it fits so well, is so warm for it’s weight and takes up so little space that I always manage to find space for it. It usually ends up sharing backpack space alongside my softshell and belay jacket, solely because I just love it so much I want to find new uses for it.

So far, I’ve discovered the Nuclei Hoody is a brilliant ultra-light belay jacket, superb mid-warmth climbing jacket and excellent approach piece for colder temperatures. And because I bring it on pretty much every outing, I’m sure I’ll add more uses to the list as the seasons change!

Nuclei_01The Nuclei stays put under a harness even during long mixed moves. It has, so far, survived a third of a winter of mixed cragging with no holes or tears.

The cut is climber-friendly with long arms, dropped hem in the back and helmet-compatible hood. There are two hand-warmer pockets, a tiny inside pocket for the included stuff-sack, an adjustable hem drawcord and no other features: it’s great to see such a purpose-designed no-frills item.

Fit is typical Arcteryx, with superb articulation for the arms and a hem that stays put under a harness. It is my opinion that Arcteryx has the best helmet-friendly hoods on the market, and this one doesn’t disappoint, fitting snugly to keep out spindrift and wind gusts yet allowing for movement and offering good side-to-side visibility.

Nuclei_04Size Medium fit is typically Arcteryx-excellent, for my 5-foot-11-inch 160-lb frame, anyway.

One of my favourite design features of the Nuclei is its hem drawcord: it is fixed at the front, for a flat fit and less bulk, and only cinches at the back with an elastic drawcord. This results in a flat front with easy sightlines to frontpoints or rock shoes, while keeping the drafts out as needed. Absolute genius, I think.

The insulation in the Nuclei is Arcteryx’s own Coreloft, here 60g/m2 in the arms and hood, and 80g/m2 in the body. Coreloft is awesome: very warm and packable but breathable enough for high-output activities. I won’t go into the technical details but suffice it to say that it’s a phenomenal insulation.

As a lightweight belay jacket, the Nuclei is hard to fault. It packs down into it’s own tiny stuffsack, and the whole package weighs 300 grams even (for a Men’s size Medium). Though by no means roomy, it’s big enough to fit over winter layers and a harness full of ice screws. Due to the long arms and cleverly-designed hem, it works just as well under a harness, either as a mid-layer or standalone. The DWR finish is excellent and mild precipitation just beads off the fabric.

Nuclei_05The Nuclei in its included stuffsack with a 16cm BD Screw for comparison, also showing the carabiner loop.

One of the ways I’ve been using it recently is as an approach piece in colder temps, typically -15C or so. The insulation offers welcome warmth when stepping out of the truck, the piece is windproof enough to ward off wind chill and the breathability allows the jacket to be worn on the whole approach, even when working hard uphill.

The Nuclei comes with a stuff sack, though it is such a compressible jacket that I really wish it would just stuff into its own pocket. But that’s really the only gripe I can come up with.

Nuclei_06The stuff sack and its dedicated pocket on the inside left breast – a handy place to store the stuff sack, though with a jacket this compressible I wish it would just stuff into its own pocket.

This jacket really is almost faultless. I love the compressibility, the fit, the light weight, its warmth-to-weight ratio is incredible, and it’s even priced reasonably ($260 MSRP). It also layers beautifully under heavier-weight jackets for colder-weather belays, making it a superbly versatile piece that I suspect will accompany me on climbs and adventures year round.

Pros: warmth, fit, size, weight, price
Cons: could use a stuff pocket (but it does come with a stuff sack, so this is a minor quibble)
Overall: An extremely versatile piece that I just keep finding more uses for! If I were to buy only one jacket this winter, the Nuclei would be it.

NOTE: Arcteryx Equipment Inc. provided The Alpine Start with a sample of the Nuclei for review, however this in no way influences our opinion of the product.



7 thoughts on “Field Tested: Arc’teryx Nuclei Hoody Review

  1. Landon T says:

    Raf, can you comment on the difference between the Nuclei and the Atom LT? I love my Atom LT for many of the same reasons you list for the Nuclei, but I haven’t been able to tell if they are very similar or if there are some key differences. Thanks.

    • Raf says:

      I guess the biggest difference would be the lack of ventilated side-panels on the Nuclei, and also increased insulation: the Nuclei is 80g/m2 in the body, 60g/m2 in the arms and hood, whereas the Atom LT is 60g/m2 throughout. There is also a difference in the outer fabricL the Atom LT has a softer hand and I think is slightly stretchier; the Nuclei is more-nylony, if that makes any sense. (Hard to describe fabrics!)

      I had an Atom LT but got rid of it as I found the side panels let too much wind through. Good as a mid-layer under a hard shell, but in my experience not ideal as an outer shell. The Nuclei works as both, imo.

  2. Leigh says:

    Nice one Raf, I did a review of this jacket myself recently as well and had a very similar experience. Great as an outer, mid and belay jacket. The fit is phenomenal, no pinching or bunching of the material when moving or climbing, which is really amazing considering how little the fabric stretches.

    One thing I differ on though is the included stuff sack. I have a few jackets that stuff into a pocket and I’ve found the internal shape of a pocket does not make for a good stuff sack. It usually ends up in a weird oblong bag that does a less than stellar job at compressing the jacket down enough.

    The other issue with compressing the jacket into its pocket is that the inside of the pocket is now on the outside. Whatever dirt, chalk, sap gets onto that will now go back into the pocket when the jacket is unpacked. This won’t happen with a stuff sack.

    Anyway, as you said, minor quibble. Overall the hoody is awesome.

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    • Raf says:

      The usual for me: ultralight base layer, midweight mid layer, softshell. Nuclei over all this. But do keep in mind that I run quite warm.

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