Arc’teryx Norvan SL Insulated Hoody Review

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What’s the lightest-weight insulated GORE-TEX jacket you can think of that you’d actually take running? It might be hard to come up with since running in GORE-TEX isn’t perhaps the first option that comes to mind. But, do you remember a couple summers ago when Shakedry technology hit the market? I became enamored with the game-changing GORE-TEX Shakedry technology when I tested and reviewed trail running jackets utilizing the fabric in 2018. One of those, the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Hoody, is my constant companion for all mountain adventures and any travels outside of my Colorado home. I’m just as psyched now with the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Insulated Hoody ($399) which is ideal for winter adventures in adverse conditions.

The Arc’teryx Norvan SL Insulated Hoody. All photos: iRunFar/Kristin Zosel

There is no bad weather, just bad gear, right? This high-performance piece really extends the ‘bad weather’ comfort zone for high-output endurance forays in the great outdoors as temperatures plummet and winds swirl ground blizzards and freezing rain into a slurry of delight. As with the uninsulated version, this is not a low-budget item, but if you’re looking to streamline your nasty-weather gear into just one piece, it’s a pretty amazing option.

The Arc’teryx Norvan SL Insulated Hoody is a svelte 8.6 ounces/245 grams for the women’s jacket and 9.5 ounces/270 grams for the men’s (according to the Arc’teryx website with sizes not specified). The ‘SL’ stands for Arc’teryx’s Superlight line which emphasizes lightweight packability over durability. While I haven’t had the insulated hoody long enough to really attest to its long-term durability, my uninsulated Norvan SL Shakedry Hoody looks like new after almost two years of consistent packing and moderate wear (primarily in Colorado’s alpine weather patterns), but I’ve been lucky not to take any hard diggers in either jacket (yet) and use packs with minimal abrasiveness.

The insulated hoody has a relatively straight trim fit with a slightly dropped tail and comes in women’s sizes extra small to large and men’s sizes extra small to extra extra large. It’s disappointing that the women’s size range is so much less inclusive than the men’s, but the relative straightness of the cut does making crossing over to men’s sizing less glaring in how it actually fits. I did find the insulated jacket true to size per their chart, but I went up a size to allow for a slim-fitting hydration pack beneath the jacket which helps prevent freezing fluids and allows me to retreat within my ‘cocoon’ more easily when the winter weather really kicks up. The medium in this jacket is roomy for me with ample sleeve length for pulling my hands up inside and accommodates other layers beneath it perfectly. There’s a bit of stretchiness built into the jacket which allows a true freedom of movement in any and all direction while racing or slogging on the trails. Slightly elasticated wrist openings and on either side of the zipper keep the wind from rushing inside, and the WaterTight zipper has a panel behind it to keep any thing that might possibly make it through. I’ve found it to be a perfect option for fat biking as well with the high-output panic pedaling I often find myself employing on the uphills and the long periods of relatively static low-output positions as I navigate the windy (and windy) downhills.

Arc’teryx executes the body mapping of the Coreloft Compact 40 synthetic insulation expertly utilizing more fill density in the core and less beneath the arms and the bottom of the back of the garment. You don’t necessarily feel this when standing around, but once you’re working hard, the heat just evenly dissipates. The Dope Permeair 20 lining whisks moisture away from the skin or baselayer right out of the jacket keeping the inner climate from becoming clammy. One note about optimal temperatures for this jacket at least in my experiment of one: a strong breeze is the key to comfort if the temperatures are above the mid-20s Fahrenheit because it really helps to move the heat and moisture out of the jacket effectively. When the weather drops from the 20s through the teens and into the single digits or below, I’ve found just my running speed is plenty to keep the jacket breathing well. Thus far, I haven’t had any issue with ice build-up on the outside of the jacket with the exception of one ridiculous run in wind-driven freezing rain. But that’s where the Shakedry technology shines again. With a quick brush of the back of a glove across the surface of the jacket, the water/ice disappears. All in all, it’s a really comfortable jacket whether I have a short-sleeve shirt beneath on a milder stormy day or a wool midlayer on a particularly frigid and windy day.

The Arc’teryx Norvan SL Insulated Hoody.

Brilliantly, the Norvan SL Insulated Hoody extended the same insulation into the hood. I love this because of the extra protection provided when it’s imperative I stay warm and dry. I still need a brimmed hat or lined ear band for forehead protection because the brim is not substantial enough to really keep the weather off my forehead, but it’s a small complaint given the other excellent features. An external cinch toggle in the rear of the hood allows for some adjustment and keeps the field of view unobstructed even with full neck range of motion. And on a day where the hood isn’t necessary, it can be rolled up and snapped in place with a very discrete snap on the back of the hood and near the tag inside the neck of the jacket. It’s effective and stays in place.

The men’s and women’s jacket comes in a matte black with either a black or contrasting zipper with a bit of 3M black reflective trim added. To me, this makes it a really sharp-looking jacket as well. There’s nothing about the jacket that draws significant attention to itself besides its outstanding performance in the mountains and on the trails when your comfort and maybe your life depend on it. The one slight deviation from the minimalism of the uninsulated version is a simple low-profile chest pocket which contains a very lightweight stuff sack—it makes packing the jacket in your pack for a few thousand feet up a breeze. I hope they’ll go back and make this addition to the uninsulated version as well—that plus a substantial brim on the hood of each of these jackets would elevate them to pure perfection.

Overall, I absolutely love the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Insulated Hoody with Shakedry technology. It’s a serious piece of gear for the cold-weather kit particularly when the cold is combined with moisture in any form and driven by wind. The hoody is deceptively lightweight, packs down to the size of a can of seltzer water, and offers outstanding protection against whatever Mother Nature throws at you in winter conditions whether you’re in the Central prairies of the U.S. or the Alps of Europe. I pull it out when temperatures are in the mid-20s (Fahrenheit) and below, and I feel completely confident in the protection and comfort it provides even in swirling blizzard conditions whether on fat bike or in my trail shoes. Is it a luxury item? Yes. Can you layer what you have and be just fine? Yes. But if you’re in the market for such a garment, I know of nothing that compares in function, comfort, or performance.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you worn the Arc’teryx Norvan SL Insulated Hoody? If so, in what conditions have you used it and how did it perform?
  • What features of the hoody do you think work best? What details could use a little work in future editions?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Arc’teryx Norvan SL Insulated Hoody with the hood up.

Kristin Zosel

is a mom, wife, ultrarunner, physical therapist (on sabbatical), and transcriptionist for iRunFar.com. Her love of steep uphills, high mountain environments, and Swiss “lovely cows” keep alpine visions dancing in her head and strong cappuccinos in her mug.

There are 9 comments

  1. Nadine

    I couldn’t agree more. Last year I trained for a 100 k race in February with just the standard SL jacket. Living in Squamish, that meant training through a lot of 0˚C and freezing rain long runs. This year, I sprang for the Arc’Teryx Norvan SL IS. Can honestly say that it is a game changer. You can be out there for hours and everything is soaking wet and freezing except your core. I love this jacket.

    1. KristinZ

      ME, TOO! I’m so glad it’s working for you as well–your climate is perfect for reallllly putting it to the test on the external moisture management end of things! Happy new year!

  2. Tim

    Is this jacket using the newer more durable “shake-dry trail” fabric?

    The older fabric may seem OK to wear under a light backpack, but you will slowly wear down the waterproofness in those areas. I like the idea of the Dynafit one with the expandable back, however if you have a sweaty backpack I don’t feel like locking in all that moisture.

    1. KristinZ

      The Arcteryx website doesn’t specify that it’s the new Shakedry Trail fabric–it appears to be the same Shakedry as used in the uninsulated version. I do see that Gore has the Trail fabric in their new jackets (tho I didn’t find an insulated one). Perhaps someone from Arcteryx can write in and confirm.

    2. Bryon Powell

      So, Tim, here’s what I heard back from GORE’s US press agency:

      The Gore team has told us that while the membrane is the same (incl some limitations) that they have successfully tested and proven that light backpacks or hydropacks do not harm the integrity and waterproofness of the material. The tear strength of this laminate (about 20% heavier vs. the laminate for the running & cycling garments) is ~30% higher and supports the use in hiking end uses. Shakedry with this Tricot backer is approved for Light & Fast Hiking / Day Hiking. Another brand that has launched and positioned this variant of SHAKEDRY for this enduse, e.g. Montbell ( https://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?p_id=1128632 )

  3. GHarper

    My 2 cents is WOW $400. I own some Arcteryx gear, which I like, but I don’t think I could spend that much for a running jacket. A gore tex and insulated jacket would also be too hot for me and I run 0 to -15 deg C through out the winter. If it’s cold I add another layer under my BD Alpine Start or Patagonia Houdini and it’s 1/3 the cost. Maybe I might get a little damp on long runs if temps are near 0 deg C and it’s raining or snowing; however, I know I will be getting damp from the inside wearing a jacket like this. I need to see my bucks for these $200 shoes.

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