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Can anyone actually beat Arc’Teryx? While there are a lot of formidable competitors out there in recent years, one has caught my eye big time.
Artilect is a budding new company out of Boulder, Colorado, and they’re bringing some true innovations to the field – in the case of the Formation jacket they use literal NASA-developed thermoregulating ‘Trizar’ material in this waterproof hardshell, which impossively has the stretch and comfort of a softshell.
The Artilect Formation jacket brings remarkable tech like that Trizar lining, a replaceable YKK Touchlink LifeKey zipper, RECCO reflector, 30k/30k water column/air permeability membrane, and more interesting features.
Is it better than Arc’Teryx’s top offerings though? Lets stop the preamble and hop right in!
Table of Contents
In my opinion, any gear you’re using for an extended amount of time – comfort reigns king if performance is top notch.
And I’m very happy with how the Formation jacket feels: NOT like a hardshell!
No, the entire jacket has stretch like a softshell, which is remarkable for a waterproof 3L jacket. Of course your range of motion is very good as a result. It’s not cold, clammy, crinkly, and loud like a Gore-Tex layer either – which IMO is a big win.
With any Gore-Tex jackets without a soft lining they’re awful to wear without a long sleeve on due to damp clamminess. Not the Formation jacket – totally comfortable even with no shirt on underneath.
Too, the chin area is soft felted to keep your face away from annoying abrasive zipper and seams. The helmet-compatible hood is anatomically correct and allows for maximum FOV while keeping your head entirely covered. The small details really add up.
But the real star of the show is that Trizar lining – a remarkable tech which basically improved thermoregulation drastically through emissivity – basically as it heats up, it spreads that out to cool down rapidly. It also keeps you warm better too.
New Balance is using this Trizar tech in their basketball and lacrosse jerseys and many companies are hopping on board quickly.
So this comes back to comfort – with outstanding thermoregulation, softshell stretch, full range of motion, and thoughtful details – the Artilect Formation jacket scores maximum points in the comfort department.
So with thermal performance at the best of any hardshell jacket I’ve ever come across, what about protections against the elements?
This too has been outstanding so far. The jacket uses an Empel DWR ‘permanent’ treatment which supposedly never washes out. However in a couple months of use water no longer beads off. With that being said – I stay 100% dry even without beading so perhaps there’s more to it that I don’t know.
Excellent protection against snow, wind, and rain while doing great with humidity and temperature management – this jacket performs like a hardshell with the fabric traits of a thick softshell and the thermal traits of a merino layer. I am seriously impressed.
So far I’ve only been able to put a few months of use on this jacket at the time of this review – most of which bikepacking, hiking, and paragliding. The real test will be when I put it to more strenuous mountain use while climbing which unfortunately will come next year.
As it is, there is almost no discernible wear on the jacket so far, though water no longer beads which makes me question how well it’ll breathe when wet.
I do think the face fabric will stand a long time due to its 70D thickness, but we’ll have to see.
So, this section will be updated when I put it through its paces more.
Materials & build quality
There are a ton of features and tech embedded in this jacket:
The shell itself is composed of a 70D, 88% nylon, 12% Spandex blend with 4-way stretch, which covers a layer of a PFA-free membrane with 30,000mm water column and 30,000 g/m2 breathability – well above the 20,000mm industry-standard for waterproof attire.
The Trizar membrane lines the entirety of the inside with its unique hexagonal-grid design. I highly recommend reading more about Trizar because there’s a lot about the fabric which I can’t explain in a single blog post!
A YKK Revive repairable main zipper is great to see because, well, zippers do fail and being able to replace it is great! YKK Aquaguard armpit zips work fine but are tough to zip-unzip with one hand and smaller than I’d like them to be. Very discreet though!
The YKK Touchlink LifeKey zipper is a good idea in concept – as emergency responders locate you with the RECCO reflector, anyone can NFC-tap your zipper with their phone to bring up your medical information… if they have the Lifekey app…
And that app needs to be downloaded, and the person needs to be approved to view your medical info. Which is redundant because if you’re in an emergency in the backcountry – no one has time (or service) to download an app.
To add to that, even getting the tap to connect on the zipper is extremely irritating. Will your rescuer even know your zipper can be tapped to access your medical info? Probably not. Better keep your vital medical info on a piece of paper in your pocket. Cool idea, doesn’t work at all. Would be better if that Lifekey was instead a tracker to find your jacket if misplaced – like when I left it at an airport..!
In the end for build quality I’m so far quite impressed with the durability – though I’m only on month 3 of owning this jacket so I will have to update this after a year of rigorous use.
Technical but not overblown. These days Arc’Teryx is all the hype and the modern-future aesthetic is in. Eye-piercing primary colours which beg for attention is found on most brands these days. Not here.
The Formation jackets style is actually what drew me in more – I wanted a jacket which does its job, looks relatively discreet, and doesn’t feature overt branding. The Dusk Blue/Dark Slate colorway I have is excellent and doesn’t reveal the tasteful petrol blue hue as well on screen as it does the eyes
My friend mentioned I look more like a special forces agent than a hiker – which I kind of prefer. With petty crime rising and Arc’Vuitton, North Fendi, or Patagucci pieces being targeted for theft and being a fashion icon – I wanted to blend in a bit more. Hell, that’s why I made my whole Arc’Teryx Alternatives article!
I am 6’3″ or 190cm and 183/82kg and went for the size M. The fit is looser, but as its intended to contain many baselayers like it’s better that it’s not tight fitting. The Arc’Teryx Alpha SV is the same way.
So, I quite like the discrete, ‘normal’ yet technical style. It doesn’t scream ‘target’ or fashion icon, keeps branding to a minimal, and focuses on what’s important: performance.
Zippers! I really would like to talk more about the excellent zipper configuration they used here. With 4 front pockets and one large internal elasticated pocket there is good space for storing documents, snacks, or even a full 1.5L water bottle. Too they’re well positioned for easy access when wearing a harness and backpack and easy to pull when wearing thick gloves.
The velcro wrist cuffs are shaped and well-done. An adjustable elasticated waist to prevent wind entry works great and the well-designed hood with shaped brim does great to keep water, wind, and snow out of the eyes with one-handed adjustment while retaining 100% visibility.
It also neatly stuffs into its own hood and occupies aprox. 2-3L of volume. It weighs in at a heftt 653 grams in size M, which is heavier than the Arc’Teryx Alpha SV at 485 grams – something worth considering for the ultralight weenies out there.
With that being said – I happily take the weight penalty because it replaces my rain layer, softshell, hardshell, and merino longsleeve in one piece – equalling out in the end.
After searching for the better part of a half decade for the king of hardshell jackets, I think I’ve found it!
Comfort of a softshell, performance of a hardshell, and thermoregulation which I can best liken to Merino wool – the remarkable Artilect Formation jacket is my favourite hardshell, no contest.
I however do wish the pit zips were easier to open/close and longer, and the YKK Touchlink Lifekey system is unfortuantely entirely useless. Those are my only complaints as I happily take the weight penalty for such a robust piece.
It’s my go-to piece now for hiking, climbing, biking, or flying. The thermoregulation from the Trizar membrane is an absolute winner and the rain has had 0% success so far – though it’ll take another year or abuse to really see what this jacket’s made of.
So far, Artilect is impressing me and I’m very interested to try some of their merino ‘Nuyarn’ pieces – maybe those will replace my trusty Icebreaker layers.
Overall, the Artilect Formation is a fantastic jacket which has the greatest performance I’ve experienced so far, replaces a softshell, hardshell, and merino baselayer all in one. There is a weight penalty you take, though in my eyes it’s well justified. One of the leading Arc’Teryx alternatives no doubt!
Read my Alternatives to Arc’Teryx guide for more!
Review: Artilect Formation 3L Jacket – Watch out, Arc’Teryx!
review: Arc’Teryx Atom jacket – what OutdoorGearLab doesn’t tell you…
DIY Arc’Teryx repairs – how to fix your Arc’Teryx gear!
Artilect Formation 3L Jacket
A 3L waterproof thermoregulating jacket intended for the harshest of conditions on the mountains. Embedded with NASAs Trizar technology, YKK LifeKey, and other unique features, it's a very worthy contender at the $600+ price point.
Product Brand: Artilect
- Outstanding thermoregulation
- Hardshell performance
- Softshell comfort
- Difficult pit zips