Is the Cerium SL Hoody ultimate down mid layer, and what is it best used for?
One (of the many) nice things about reviewing climbing kit is you sometimes get to try stuff you wouldn’t normally use – and then find out it’s brilliant!. The Arc’teryx Cerium SL Hoody is very much in that mould. The Cerium SL Hoody is the lightest of Arc’teryx’s range of down jackets and forms part of their ‘essentials’ range so is intended as a multipurpose, all-round type of garment.
What do you get in this flyweight 200g hoody? Well the fill is top quality 850 fill power European goose down contained in narrow channels by a featherlight Arato ™ 7 nylon shell. The shell is so thin that it is actually translucent so you see the down through the shell – I like the ‘technical’ aesthetic of this but I have had some people comment negatively on it, each to their own. Key ‘wetting out’ points such as the cuffs, shoulders, armpit gussets and beard area have been augmented with either Coreloft™ 40 or Coreloft™ 100 to improve damp performance. It must be stressed though that like most down jackets this is not intended for wet weather performance, the shell has a light DWR coating but it is really only good for a light shower or a few minutes of heavier rain whilst you pull on your waterproof shell. Features wise there are two hand warmer pockets one of which contains a detachable stuff sac, a simple hood with a volume adjust and an elasticated draw cord at the hem. Simple is an apt description there is nothing superfluous with the Cerium SL hoody. Although apt ‘simple’ is also a little misleading with respect to the Cerium SL because you have the signature trim but unrestrictive cut which is anything but simple and turn this into such a standout piece. Looking at the detail you see armpit gussets that facilitate ease of movement and mean the jacket doesn’t ride up when reach high. The body is tailored so there is no excess material to bulk up or inhibit movement, or vision of your gear loops should you choose to climb in it. I didn’t expect the hood to fit over a helmet but it will certainly fit over lower profile models like the Petzl Sirroco without too much ado if the need arises and yet still has a trim fit to a bare head. Kev reviewed the original version a few years back and the hood fit has definitely improved from what I can tell.
I stated earlier that the Cerium SL is not the sort of jacket I would normally use but having had one on review it has become a staple of my cragging wardrobe this spring – adding a dash of style to bouldering and sports climbing trips whilst keeping the spring chill at bay. It packs an unbelievable amount of warmth for it’s weight and disappears to nothing in a pack or clipped to you harness. Whilst it’s not a dedicated belay jacket it makes a great jacket to wear for sport or trad climbing whilst belaying – a bit like having a super warm fleece. In many ways that’s how I think of the Cerium SL – a super warm, windproof, super compact fleece to keep me warm between routes, problems or on belays. It is brilliantly suited as a mid-layer in lower temperatures and works equally well as an outer layer as temperatures climb to just above freezing. In the Alps you could chuck it into your pack for a bit of added warmth for chilling at the hut in the evening and to give a bit of extra courage against a chilly alpine start the following morning. For spring and autumn sports climbing trips it makes an excellent warm layer to wear between red point attempts and for the evening around the tent/van (garden of your gite if you’re more affluent!). In the UK it works well for trad belays both at the base and on route being unnoticeable on a harness (no more than most No 3 cams). However there are limitations.
Tough though the Arato ™ 7 shell fabric is for its weight it is not going to survive harsh use and abrasion against rock for very long. The superb cut of the Cerium SL makes it great to climb in but beware of off-widths, chimneys or anything else that might bring your hoody into contact with the rock in an abrasive manner. Likewise the zips are very lightweight so though more than tough enough they are chosen for lightweight rather than abuse resistance. As Arc’teryx state SL stands for:
“Superlight materials and design, emphasising light weight and packability over durability.”
Also never forget this is a down jacket – there are some clever tweaks to mitigate wetting out in key areas but in wet or even prolonged damp conditions you will loose loft and so insulation.
So pay head to the forecast and think about its suitability if rain is in the offing – if you have a compact hard shell like the Alpha FL for protection with you it will fit easily underneath but still expect to loose loft if for prolonged periods. The Cerium SL is a very versatile jacket, smart enough for urban wear and with a great performance in dry cool-cold conditions. I sometimes found myself wishing for a small chest pocket to stash a phone or wallet but I there again that would add bulk and weight.
- Smart cut
- Super lightweight & compact
- Vulnerable to the wet
- Not built for durability (tough for it’s weight though!)
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!