REVIEW: Arc'teryx Nuclei FL - lightweight insulated jacket

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 UKC/UKH Gear 22 Dec 2020
A perfect chuck-on warm layer for a chilly pizza break

At £250, the Nuclei FL comes in at the top end of the lightweight synthetic hoody price spectrum, but it is very warm for its weight, very light, and made to a high quality. Rebecca Ting has been practically living in hers for the last nine months. Now if only it had a two-way zip…

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 HHay 31 Dec 2020
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Awesome review, as usual on UKC. I take it upon myself to start the ball of silly questions.

Arcteryx Nuclei FL or Montane FLux ? The Nuclei FL is lighter and has probably a better quality of insulation. But the Flux has more of it, a two-way zip and is cheaper. Which one would you recommend?
I've got a ME Citadel, which I love and has saved my cold self several times, but at 800g it's definitely not a "fast and light" piece.

 wbo2 31 Dec 2020
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear: isn't the flux almost twice the weight? So more comparable to an Atom? 

 I wondered how this compared to a nanopuff. Weight wise they're similar, but use wise they appear very different. 

 Doug 01 Jan 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

"a hero piece" what does that mean ? or it it just meaningless PR talk

In reply to Doug:

You are correct. It's a marketing thing, for when a brand picks a few items for showcasing for a particular season ie targeted ads, in use shots, montages.

 HHay 01 Jan 2021
In reply to wbo2:

Yes, but the atom, albeit heavier than the nuclei FL, is marketed as a mid-to-outer layer. And, to be honest, the entire Atome series sits in an odd place in the arcteryx line, to the point where I don't really see it's intended use. The Flux and Nuclei FL seem to both target the same audience of "lightish belay jacket" users. But I agree the Nanopuff could also be added to the list.

 wbo2 01 Jan 2021
In reply to HHay:  I think the Atom is the most useful jacket Arcteryx make!  - for general outdoors duties . I have an AR and an LT - they're ok insulated , ok windproof, doesn't matter if it's a bit damp.  

I suppose the Atom overlaps with a Proton, but I think the proton is more breathable (?), so more comparable to Nuclei/Nanopuff - the Atom AR (I tihnk ) is more comparable to the flux in insulation/weight

In reply to wbo2:

This one I can roughly compare, though with different generations of jacket. My beloved and well-patched Patagonia nanopuff is c.2014 so uses primaloft ONE (predecessor of gold) and it may well be that the upgraded model is more durable, though it still uses similar insulation and design. It was my go-to everything insulation for 4 years. I will also add the Rab Xenon X as my other lightweight synthetic. 

Disclaimer: I am female, tend to run cold and am really bad in wind. Therefore apply that overlay to comments below!

Personally (and apparently inexplicably from what I read elsewhere on the internet) I have found the nuclei (65g Coreloft) significantly warmer than either my nanopuff (60g primaloft ONE) or my Rab Xenon X c.2017 (60g primaloft Gold). Both are similar weight (no more than 12g heavier) hooded jackets in my size.

I also think the face fabric and construction has a big impact in this department - the brick stitching on the nanopuffalways made that less windproof and provided weak points for insulation for me. I have grown to appreciate the benefits of a continuous panel for keeping me warm, though obviously harder to patch and repair. Otherwise the nanopuff retained warmth when when soaking wet and packed small and light. I have never really got on with the Xenon X in the outdoors. It is better keeping wind out than the nanopuff (which I attribute to being a continuous layer of fabric) but I just can't seem to heat it from the inside. It packs small and the outer repels water well but when wetting out gets quite sticky against any skin. 

The inflatability/loft of the nuclei is hard to describe (I tried in the review!) but it is also complemented by the outer's windproofness and this means that you get the windsock (see review) qualities when forcing air through which makes it loft more. Even sticking an arm in and displacing air means it gets all fluffed up. (In terms of insulation feel I'd call the nuclei 'fluffy', the xenon 'ethereal' and the nanopuff 'denser'). The flip side of this is that the nuclei is definitely the least breathable of the three I'm talking about though still better in this department compared to tech of 3-4 years ago.

It's worth saying my husband has both nanopuff (smock, c.2011) and Xenon X (c.2017). He runs warm and finds them both warm. In terms of use he usually uses the nanopuff as a climbing in jacket, and the Xenon as a belay jacket. 

Use-wise I would (and have) climbed happily in both, but tend to use both as a chuck on layer. The stitched panels in the nanopuff (and shorter arms) mean the arms are nicer to climb in as there is less material in the way. 

The more tube-like stuff sack for the nuclei was fine racked and being light didn't throw my weight off, but the more flat packety pocket stuff of the nanopuff is my preference for racking, possibly because I am used to it! Both are a fight to stuff as they pack tight. The xenon x is an easy stuff into a packety pocket shape and one feels it could have been a little denser to rack better. 

For me the nanopuff outer shell has always been a bit snaggy when worn - so far the Arc'teryx outer hasn't. My nanopuff outer also wore through over time (ice climbing, grit rash etc) and I haven't managed to give the nuclei that kind of traffic yet. I'll update the review if I manage to smash it! The Xenon X outer is tougher than it looks, but as I don't feel as warm in it as either of the other two, I don't wear it as much for activities and therefore it hasn't been tested properly in this context. 

Again, that's just me, but hope it helps...

In reply to HHay:

Hard to compare as though some stated use overlap, the weight, insulation and price are so different so probably need to compare elsewhere in the range as suggested. Hopefully my reply above helps with some other comparisons.

Definitely not as warm or light, and for me I can't see primaloft silver doing anything! Plus there's no such thing as a women's flux so I can't directly compare - the women's fluxmatic has different tech spec as well as features so is definitely a different beast! ;p

Post edited at 11:50

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