Arcteryx Proton LT Insulated Hoodie Review

Arcteryx Proton LT Insulated Hoodie Review

The Arcteryx Proton LT Insulated Hoodie is a synthetic insulated jacket that can be used as an active outer layer in cold weather. It’s designed as a self-regulating insulation layer that vents excess heat and moisture through a combination of air-permeable fabrics and insulation. The goal is to eliminate the need for active layering so you don’t need to stop to delayer or add layers when you overheat or feel chilled. If this sounds like magic, it would be if it worked. But it doesn’t even get close. You’d be a lot more comfortable actively layering with a fleece hoody and a windbreaker and you’d spend less money too.

Specs at a Glance

  • Fit: Athletic
  • Size tested: XL
  • Weight: 13.2 oz (medium)
  • Pockets – 1 chest, 2 sides, all zippered
  • Helmet-compatible hood: Yes
  • Hem-adjusters: 2
  • Insulation
    • Coreloft (polyester) 80 in the torso
    • Coreloft (polyester) 60 in the hood
  • Water-resistant: Yes

Fabrics and Features

The Arcteryx Proton LT is a medium-weight multi-sport jacket that is insulated with Coreloft, a non-woven, synthetic insulation that dries quickly, retains warmth when wet and is easy to care for. The insulation is made with mixed length polyester fibers that are crimped to trap warm air but resist compaction allowing the use of looser weave face and lining fabrics for increased air permeability. In other words, so moisture can escape more readily instead of being trapped in the insulation or the liner and make you wet.

The hood is designed for use with a helmet
The hood is designed for use with a helmet and really too large to use without one.

Feature-wise, the Proton LT  has an adjustable, helmet-compatible hood for skiing or climbing, elastic wrist cuffs, and dual hem controls. Three large zippered pockets provide convenient external storage, while an external DWR coating helps shed light rain. The factory DWR is fantastic on this jacket, but of course, it will wear off the more you wear it and stuff and unstuff it.

Helmet Adjustable Hood

The hood is helmet-compatible which usually means it’s oversized and primarily designed for climbers and skiers who wear helmets. While there is a rear volume adjuster, there’s no effective way to shrink the size of the face opening to prevent cold wind from blowing in the sides.

Elastic Wrist Cuffs

The Proton LT has spandex wrist cuffs that prevent cold air from blowing up your arms and chilling the blood the flows near your wrists. The tension with which they encircle your wrist is not adjustable though, so you can’t vent body heat from your wrists where the blood flows close to your skin. The arms are also cut quite narrow, even for skinny hiker arms, so you can’t pull the sleeves up your arms to cool off either. The sleeves are so narrow that it can be difficult to wear the Proton LT with a thick baselayer.

While elastic cuffs prevent wind from chilling your arms, they make it hard to vent the bloodflow in your wrist that can help cool you off.
While elastic cuffs prevent wind from chilling your arms, they make it hard to vent the blood flow in your wrist that can help cool you off.

Pockets

The Proton LT has 3 pockets, all quite large and capable of holding bulky gloves and electronics. The chest pocket has ample space to hold a large smartphone, GPS, or snacks, while the side pockets are large enough to fit gloves. All of the pockets close with zippers, but the side pockets are not hip belt compatible, so you need to undo your backpack hip belt if you want to access them. There are no pockets on the inside of the jacket, which you really want in autumn or winter to keep electronics and food bars warm and to prevent gloves or hats from freezing.

The Arcteryx Proton LT Hoodies is not wind resistent and doesn’t trap heat very well, especially when its damp with perspiration
The Arcteryx Proton LT Hoodie is not wind-resistant and insulates poorly when damp with perspiration.

Performance: Breathability and Warmth

The Proton LT doesn’t have any pit zips, torso zips, adjustable wrist cuffs or mesh-backed pockets where excess warmth and moisture can escape but relies on the structure of its insulation to dump excess heat and vent perspiration. This it does very poorly. Its wind resistance is also very poor and you can feel wind cut right through it.

When I’m active and hiking up a mountain or snowshoeing up a hill, my back is drenched with sweat which soaks into the back of the jacket and chills me. Once wet, the jacket stays wet. I’ve used the jacket layered over just a baselayer in temperatures ranging from 45 degrees down to 10 degrees from August through December and the result is always the same. I sweat copiously when I wear it for hiking, backpacking, or snowshoeing, moisture accumulates in the jacket, and chills me.

Comparable Hooded Synthetic Jackets

Make / ModelPriceWeightInsulation
Arc'terxy Atom LT Hoody$25912.7 ozCoreloft
Acr'teryx Proton LT Hoody$29913.2 ozCoreloft
LL Bean Primaloft Packaway Hooded Jacket$19914.0 ozPrimaloft Gold
Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata Hooded Jacket$22014.1 ozPrimaloft Gold
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow Hoodie$25011.5 ozPrimaloft
Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody$2999.3 ozPlumaFill Polyester
Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody$24911.6 ozFullRange Polyester
The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie$22015.9 ozThermoball
The North Face Ventrix Hoodie$22015.5 ozVentrix
Rab Xeon X Hooded Jacket$23512 ozPrimaloft Gold
Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody$24913 ozPolartec Alpha
Outdoor Research Refuge Air Hooded Jacket$22916.8 ozVerticalX

Assessment

The Arcteryx Proton LT Insulated Hoodie is missing all of the standard thermo-regulation and convenience features I look for in serious hiking and backpacking jackets or mid-layer garments, such as a fully adjustable hood, flexible wrist venting, thumb loops, pit zips, hip belt compatible pockets, and interior pockets. Some or all of these would make the Proton LT much more flexible for use by hikers and snowshoers while improving the hoodie’s ability to vent excess moisture.

The Acteryx Proton LT would probably be a whol elot more breathable if you didn’t wear a backpack
The Arcteryx Proton LT would probably be a whole lot more breathable if you didn’t wear a backpack with it. So much for hiking with it though.

The bottom line: I believe that the Arcteryx Proton LT is primarily designed for climbers, skiers, and casual use, and not for hikers and backpackers who need a more dynamic layering system that can be constantly adjusted throughout the day. My advice: You’d be better of buying a good fleece hoodie and a breathable nylon wind shirt or rain jacket for autumn or winter hiking and backpacking. They’re much easier to layer than an all-in-one synthetic-insulated hoodie and you can usually find reasonably priced ones with the required features.

Disclosure: REI and Arc’teryx provided the author with a sample hoodie for this review.

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15 comments

  1. This looks similar to the Patagonia nano air light that got such a gushing review here. https://bedrockandparadox.com/2017/09/22/patagonia-nano-air-light-hoody-the-fleece-killer/

    Are these similar garments?

    • That’s also an attempt to replace a fleece mid layer, but according to Dave it actually does dry when you sweat.

      • The Nano Air Light has half the insulation of most other active insulating jackets, which makes it fit into standard backpacking/hiking layering approaches more easily.

        Seems like from your experience Philip A’Tx muffed the fabrics combos.

      • That would definitely explain my experience. Like I said, it’s not designed for hikers where constant active layering is the norm since you’re generating so much body heat.

  2. Perhaps you should add the hoodie/ wind-shirt combo to the “Comparable… Jackets” table since you mention it in your review.

  3. I’ve tried this one and the FL, which is significantly more breathable. Have you gotten your hands on that one? If not, I’d suggest it.

    • I’m quite happy with my Montane Featherlite wind shirt and a powerstretch hoodie and found the experience of testing this Arcteryx jacket so disappointing that I’m not that eager to test another of the same.

      • Philip, do you have any recommendations for breathable wind jackets (full zip) that have good pocket features (pref 2 hands and 1 chest)?

      • Most wind shirts don’t have pockets. It sounds like you want a very thin rain jacket. Try the Montbell Versalite.

    • I agree, the FL rocks. I just used it today for a 17 mile hike in 35-40 degree weather. It is was perfect. The LT was the wrong tool for the job in this case. The Arcteryx website clearly says the Proton LT is for: Activity: Rock Climbing / Ice Climbing / Alpine Climbing. No wonder you got the results that you did. Arcteryx has a somewhat complicated product structure. For example, Alpha, Beta, and Zeta. Alpha for vertical, Beta for mixed vertical/horizontal, and Zeta more horizontal i.e. hiking. Within those categories, there are subcategories: AR (All Around), MX (Mixed Weather), LT (Lightweight), FL (Fast and Light), SL etc. You have to make sure you select the right piece for the task at hand. Having said that, not every piece is perfect but Arcteryx is rock solid.

      • They sent it to me knowing full well I’d review it as a hiker and backpacker. But the reality is that very few companies make gear designed for sustained exertion like hiking and backpacking. We have to pick and choose clothing designed for other sports. Only now are companies like Enlightened Equipment and Lightheart Gear designing clothing made exclusively for hiking and backpacking. It’s not eanough but its a start.

  4. I recently bought this jacket primarily for day-use – winter hiking, snowshoeing and as a mid-layer for alpine skiing. I had been using a Rab Xenon Hoody but the Rab fabric does not seem to take DWR well and the breathability is not good.
    I live in Northern MT in a forest around 4,200′. When traveling on foot, my base layer has been the Arcteryx Satoro, SW 250 LS Crew, Icebreaker 200, Pata R1 or Kuhl Alloy (Poly). This winter so far, temps have ranged from high teens to mid 30s. The Satoro works the best, the others are too warm since the insulative quality of the Proton is really good. Unzipping the front provides enough ventilation for me with the Satoro. If I need something more breathable, I use my Gamma MX or Gamma LT softshell with the same baselayers or if colder, I use my Icebreaker 200 or Patagonia R1 or the Satoro with a wool or synthetic vest (depends on how the expected humidity)

    For day-use, I normally wear a Osprey Trip 20 (super LW summit daypack) or my 2006 Atmos 25.

    For the winter backpacking temperatures I encounter in MT, I use fleece as a mid-layer (more breathable) and since the Proton Hoody weighs about 13oz, I take it to stay warm during rest-stops and in the evening.

  5. You neglected to mention this is a different version on coreloft, it’s long strand continuous version, expected to be more durable.
    I’d like to see you review some jackets that just have light fleece in the back and insulation in the front and sleeves because that’s the only design to work with a sweaty back.

  6. I’m rocking a Montbell UL Thermawrap Parka and while it uses a ridiculously thin layer of insulation (40g/m2) it’s surprisingly warm, cozy, and wind resistant while doing a decent job of dumping moisture. I wear it as an active outer layer over a base and over-base, and I am concerned about its durability — enough to stop and throw on a shell before pushing through a thicket. But can’t do much about wear from the pack straps. However, if I do wear it out, all that means is I got to use it a ton, so it’s a win-win. It’s also pretty bare-bones feature-wise, in keeping with the “UL” designation I suppose.

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