Words and Pics: Rich Norman
I have to admit that this particular jacket was an impulse buy, based on a great price and my familiarity with Arc’teryx mainline, LEAF and Veilance. Aside from ripping a Delta LT grid fleece crawling through a jagged hole in a brick wall which wasn’t really big enough for me (i.e. my own fault), the brand has never let me down. If I’m not wearing at least one Arc’teryx item every day, I probably won’t make it out of the house.
The use case I wanted to satisfy was one of staying warm whilst remaining inactive; particularly during cool down periods, between intensive aerobic activity. So, basically, a belay jacket was on the cards. There’s a huge range of options for belay jackets at any number of price points, but the field narrowed considerably when I made Multicam a requirement. At that point I was left with familiar and unfamiliar brands and with fit so important to me, I went for familiar and at a price point which was a steal (well, as much as discounted LEAF can ever be a steal).
Unlike the Crye Precision Field Shell 2 which I reviewed recently, this jacket is not meant for the kind of hard use which would very quickly rip it to shreds. If you’re familiar with the Arc’teryx Atom LT or AR, the Cold WX is made of tougher stuff – but not by much. Think Goretex shell and you’re on the right lines, because the Cold WX is made of Gore Windstopper – which is basically a Goretex membrane without being seam-sealed for waterproofness. However, it’s incredibly water resistant and extremely windproof. It’s more breathable than a waterproof, because it isn’t seam-sealed, but since I am not going to be moving fast in it, breathability isn’t even a secondary requirement so remains untested.
As for warmth, I’ll again benchmark with the well known Atom LT and AR. Using Coreloft 3.0oz (approximately 85g), the Cold WX sits somewhere between the two. The LT uses 60g Coreloft and the AR uses 120g (80g under the arms). However, the Cold WX feels considerably warmer than the AR when facing a biting wind, because the Windstopper does a really great job.
The Cold WX also feels less Michelin Man than the AR, although it’s not as trim as the LT. It’s cut longer, like the AR, and this is a really valuable feature for my needs.
Needless to say, because the materials used are easily compressible, stowing the jacket is effortless. Coreloft also recovers from compression faster than, say, down.
With the big picture out of the way, let’s have a look at the feature set.
Starting up top, the Cold WX features a high stand-up collar which is soft lined. The Arc’teryx logo on the breast is colour-matched and is of the printed variety. It’s the same logo which is used on the mainline range, not the usual minimalist LEAF version (which I’m not keen on anyway). I know some people complain that LEAF logos are getting bigger and bigger, so it’s worth pointing out.
The interior of the jacket is again colour-matched and is of the ripstop polyester variety.
The full YKK zip is an excellent Vislon one – that type being a favourite of mine. Vislon zips are invariably free-flowing and I’m yet to damage one.
Just inside the zip, we find a baffle, which helps keep out the elements.
Both arms feature a low-knap Multicam Velcro field, a VLite hard point and a discrete zip pocket – which contains a snap hook.
Like the Atom LT and AR, the cuffs of this jacket are extremely well done – they are the same cut and stretch fabric and allow the arms to be pushed up out of the way for close work.
That’s also useful for washing stuff in a stream or under a tap, although the beauty of Coreloft insulation is that it stays warm when wet and dries fast. However, you don’t want to get it wet if you have the choice – particularly if you’re just washing the dishes.
The jacket also exhibits hand warmer pockets which include media ports – a feature which LEAF is mad about, but which is absent from much of Arc’teryx’s mainline, concentrating as it does on the ‘light is right’ approach to expedition kit where every ounce counts.
The Cold WX is snivel gear, let’s not forget, so tunes are a must. You could also pretend the routing is for clandestine secret service comms, but in a Multicam jacket you may look a bit odd in a crowd. So best avoided for ‘grey man’ work.
So, with your Sony Walkman (or whatever the kids use nowadays) squared away, let’s have a look at the jacket’s interior.
Looks great inside out, doesn’t it? It’s a pity Arc’teryx didn’t make it reversible for the aforementioned grey man work, or escape and evasion in urban areas. Just add a Stone Island patch to the arm and blend in at the football.
The salient features on the inside of the jacket are the media ports (dark grey), fleece armpit ventilation (light grey) and the interesting vertical hem cinch cords.
The fleece armpit swatches I liken to the Atom LT’s Powerstretch panels: large areas at the sides of the LT which extend to the armpits, meant for ventilation (although you’ll rue the day you wore the LT with a cold wind cutting in from the side).
The Cold WX’s hem cinch cords are orientated vertically so as not to conflict with belt kit, according to Arc’teryx.
There’s also an inside pocket.
There’s a slight drop to the tail of the jacket, although it isn’t hugely pronounced as the cut falls below the hips anyway.
Do I need to talk about quality? There are certain brands (and certain price points) where quality isn’t up for discussion – but I still like to check. As would be expected of any Arc’teryx product, the quality of the Cold WX is excellent – a tribute to El Salvador.
Read more Arc’teryx LEAF reviews on The Reptile House: