Fall is such a wonderful time of year. The days are still relatively warm, with clear blue skies and the warm glow of the sun ever-lower on the horizon, while the nights cool off rapidly as shadows fade from mountain tops and the warmth of summer is replaced with the chill of winter. It is the perfect time of year for mid-warmth layers, and there’s nothing better than sitting by a campfire, snuggled into a cozy down jacket.
The Thorium AR, as part of Arc’teryx’s All-aRound line, uses more durable fabrics than their specialist alpine designs. The increased durability makes these much better multi-activity pieces, equally at home on a mountain ledge as at they are at a picnic table.
The face fabric is Arato 30, a tightly woven taffeta made of fine-denier fibres, perfect for ensuring no down escapes from inside (and none has!). It’s smooth-faced for easy layering and remarkably tear-resistant — I received a sample almost nine months ago (in January 2018) and its been in regular rotation ever since, and has yet to show a scratch. It’s also got Arc’teryx’s typically excellent DWR finish, which sheds water almost as well as a dedicated hardshell.
Adding to the everyday nature of the Thorium is the combination of 750 fill down and Coreloft synthetic insulation. This is typical construction for Arc’teryx down garments (dubbed Down Composite Mapping), meant to minimize the exposure of down to moisture-prone areas. The synthetic fill, here Coreloft 80, is typically found in the cuffs, hood brim and under the arms, but additionally in the Thorium AR the entire hood is insulated with Coreloft 140 for additional warmth and even better moisture-resistance on those damp days.
This jacket has been in Arc’teryx’s lineup for a few years but the Fall 2018 revamp adds a much needed feature: an interior zippered chest pocket. I could abide with just the two, zippered, hand pockets but the addition of the chest pocket adds a very welcome storage option, especially for the included stuff sack: my Cerium LT Hoody’s stuff sack ‘lives’ in the left hand pocket and it absolutely drives me nuts, as I keep thinking I’m pulling out the lining every time I remove my hand. Long live the chest pocket!
Another welcome change from the Cerium LT (reviewed here) that emphasizes the Thorium AR’s more everyday nature are the larger zippers. The main zipper is a #5 YKK, as opposed to the #3 on the Cerium, and it slides much more easily, is easier to zip/unzip with one hand and, most importantly, never seems to snag. It also stays at whichever position you leave it in, an annoyance I’ve experienced on other jackets and am happy to report the Thorium AR doesn’t exhibit. The hand pocket zippers are also relatively large (for a fairly lightweight jacket) and I’ve had no issues with them snagging, either.
The fit is spot-on Arc’teryx Men’s Medium. I’m a Men’s Medium in everything Arc’teryx I own — base layers, T-shirts, pants, shells, belay jackets, etc. — and the Thorium AR fits as expected. The sleeves are long enough to keep my wrists covered, the shoulders are roomy enough to move around in and the torso has enough space to zip it up over a harness and some climbing kit. The hem isn’t belay-parka length but will cover my butt as long as my harness isn’t too full. The hood is comfortable over a bare head, but a bit tight over a helmet (though it is not meant to go over a helmet). Hood articulation is exemplary: cinched down it feels like a toque, moving with your head instead of pulling against it.
The Thorium AR is filled with 130-grams of 750 fill goose down, distributed in the sleeves and torso (as mentioned, the hood is all-synthetic) so this is quite a warm jacket. It’s not quite enough for a mid-winter belay in an ice cave, but it’s versatile enough to take along on a summer day in the alpine or a cool day of cragging in the fall. I’ve worn it over just a thin base layer at around +5C and stayed warm, and I’ve also thrown it over climbing layers in -15C and remained comfortable.
My Men’s Medium weighs in at 476 grams, including the stuff-sack and an extra bit of cord for the inside pocket’s zipper pull. It’s not the lightest down jacket out there, but the combination of durable outer shell and effective down insulation is a compelling combination. Canadian retail is $400 which is very reasonable for a jacket you are likely to bring on trips year-round.
Pros: great fit, warm for its weight, durable outer fabrics, zippered chest pocket, reasonable price
Cons: a bit heavier but much more durable than comparable ultra-light down jackets
Overall: A great do-it-all jacket that transitions seamlessly from the city into the alpine. Recommended.