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

The svelte, versatile Arc’teryx Atom Vest is ideal for low-profile torso protection during a wide range of activities

Man wearing Arcteryx Atom Vest
(Image: © Pat Kinsella)

Advnture Verdict

The Arc’teryx Atom Vest is a super-versatile and very good-looking garment that performs well on the hillside and at the crag, so long as you realize and remember that it’s designed to be comfortable, breathable and windproof during energetic activities, rather than highly protective against severe cold. Highly functional and very fashionable (in outdoor circles) it’s a fantastic three-season gilet, ideal for hiking, biking and a range of other alfresco pursuits – including posing in the pub garden.


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    Lightweight and low profile

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    Very packable (stuffs into its own pocket)

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    Recycled fill used

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    Three zipped pockets

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    Good range of colors


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    Relatively low thermal protection

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    No reflective elements on the back

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You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

Meet the reviewer

best fleece jackets: Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover
Pat Kinsella

Pat has hiked all over the world, his adventures taking him to Mont Blanc, the roof of Western Europe; the Norwegian Alps; the highest peaks on Australia; and New Zealand’s Great Walks – among others. He’s an experienced tester of hiking footwear and gives each pair a thorough thrashing before reviewing.

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

Man wearing Arcteryx Atom Vest

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.

Arcteryx Atom Vest logo with water droplets

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

Man wearing Arcteryx Atom Vest - back view

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.

Arcteryx Atom Vest - packed

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).

Man wearing Arcteryx Atom Vest at beach

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)
Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and Instagram here.