So that is pretty much how the text conversation went leading up to doing the Skye Trail this October with my pal Paul.
The Skye trail, an 80 mile trek from Rubha Hunish to Broadford on the Isle of Skye. It’s unwaymarked and heads across some pretty wild parts of Skye. Having heard what I was doing on my holiday this year, Taunton Leisure asked if I would like to test out a new Arcteryx Proton LT jacket, which I happily obliged as it sounded like an ideal garment for the cold and wet.
It’s described on the Arcteryx website as an extremely durable and breathable, synthetically insulated lightweight hoody for high output activities. So this would be a good test for it.
So my first thoughts are that this is basically a much nicer alternative to the classic mid weight fleece, its built to do the same thing, be breathable and regulate your temperature when worn as an outer layer, and trap lots of warmth when worn under a shell. So how does it justify that high price tag? Well hopefully I can convince you!
The jacket feels really nice in hand, very soft and plush, this fabric is not like the shiny fabrics associated with this type of jacket, its face fabric is more like a softshell. When trying the jacket on, you will notice how well fitted this piece is. It's amazing, no baggy parts, room across the shoulders, sleeves which don't ride up when you stretch out and a hem which also stays in place when reaching, ensuring your back doesn’t become exposed to the cold . The Coreloft filling is quite light weight, but feels fluffy. It looks very nice on, maybe even stylish?
The face fabric is made of something called Fortius™ Air 20, this has been developed by Arcteryx, but what you need to know is that it's really abrasion resistant, so you can wear this climbing and scrambling and it will stand up to the rock, and the fabric is air permeable, this is really important, it means it lets the wind through a bit and this makes the jacket very breathable, perfect for high output activities in the cold.
"It looks very nice on, maybe even stylish?"
"I was impressed with how small I could stuff the jacket down and it's lighter than a fleece of the same warmth would be."
So back to last month and the Skye trail.
When we arrived in Skye it was unseasonably warm and dry! Considering October is meant to be the wettest month we were feeling lucky it was too warm to wear anything more than 200 weight merino base layer when trekking with a large pack, so the jacket was kept to cold lunch breaks and evening use, when worn under a shell the Proton certainly kept me warm enough when the temperature dropped close to 0 in the evenings, however as a stand alone piece, the wind would go straight through it, which its meant to, so would be quite cold. I wore the jacket in the tent a lot and out of the wind it's warm enough, and because the fit is so good it does not feel bulky when cooking or reading.
Since returning I have worn the Proton pretty much every day. It is honestly so comfortable, it just keeps your temperature so well regulated. I wear it to work, I have worn it to social events and the Pub, it’s out twice a day on dog walks, and on a couple of Moorland walks. The proton just seems to work. And I hardly notice it, a sign that kit is good is that your not distracted by it!
So is it worth the upgrade to a fleece? I think so, it's going to last longer than a fleece if you are rough with it, it will outperform a fleece for warmth to weight and its less sweaty than a fleece when you are doing something with a higher output.
pros & cons
Pros: the fit and feel, breathability, durability, low weight and small packsize.
Cons: not a stand alone insulator (though it looks like one), can feel cool in high wind.
This review was written by Stu, assistant manager of the Exeter Shop. As well as several other treks in Scotland, Stu has also been backpacking in New Zealand and twice taken part in the Hilleberg Outdoor academy in Sweden. He is often out wild camping with his German Short-haired Pointer, Hunter by his side.