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Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip - Women's Review

This high performance synthetic layer is ready for pretty much any adventure you dream up
Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip - Women's
Photo: Arc'teryx
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $125 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Cozy fleece interior, easy to layer, warm, versatile, stash pocket, tight fit
Cons:  More expensive, not super breathable
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
By Amber King and Trish Matheny  ⋅  Nov 3, 2021
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 14
  • Warmth - 25% 8
  • Breathability - 25% 6
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 9
  • Layering Ability - 20% 8
  • Durability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip is our favorite synthetic base layer. As an ultra-versatile and cozy top, we found ourselves comfortable and happy on outdoor adventures ranging from campfire singing to hiking peaks above 14,000 ft. The fleece interior sits close to the skin generating warmth and thermoregulating over a wide range of temperatures. It's easy to layer with great features, like the zip-neck and a handy stash pocket. While it's a warmer base layer and not suited for hi-octane pursuits in shoulder seasons, it takes home a prize because of its incredible durability, performance, and fantastic versatility. Take it with you on your next big adventure, whatever that might be.

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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
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Pros Cozy fleece interior, easy to layer, warm, versatile, stash pocket, tight fitWide range of thermoregulation, cozy materials, no odor after long wear, longer fit through torso and arms, versatileWarm, durable, breathable, thumb loops, 1/4 zip design vents well, excellent value, no odorAffordable, durable, great drying speed and breathability, wind-resistantUltralight fabric, great ventilation, snug fit easy to layer over
Cons More expensive, not super breathableStretches after wearing for several days, thick construction isn't ideal for warmer daysNeed to size up on fit, shorter torso and arm lengthNot as cozy or warm as merino woolNot as durable as midweight options, stretches out between washings
Bottom Line This high performance synthetic layer is ready for pretty much any adventure you dream upThis top provides cozy comfort, top-notch thermoregulation, and resists odor build-up better than any model we testedA good looking blended polyester and merino wool top that outperforms its price tagAn affordable, durable, and highly breathable synthetic base layerThis top delivers lightweight breathability and wicking capabilities needed for high-output activity in cool to cold weather
Rating Categories Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip Smartwool Merino 25... Carhartt Force Heav... Patagonia Capilene... Odlo Kinship Light...
Warmth (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Breathability (25%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
9.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Layering Ability (20%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Durability (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Specs Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip Smartwool Merino 25... Carhartt Force Heav... Patagonia Capilene... Odlo Kinship Light...
Fabric Weight Midweight Midweight (250 g/m²) Midweight Midweight (147 g/m²) Lightweight
Measured Weight (size) 7.1 oz (small) 8.3 oz (small) 6.8 oz (med) 5.2 oz (small) 3.0 oz (medium)
Material Torrent 190 with Polygiene (84% polyester/16% elastane) 100% merino wool 80% polyester, 20% wool 100% recycled polyester diamond-grid double knit 84% tencel lyocell /16% polyamide
Cuts avaliable 1/4 zip Crew, 1/4 zip 1/4 zip Crew, 1/4 zip neck T-shirt, crew
Odor Control Fabric Polygiene Naturally odor resistant Naturally odor resistant Polygiene permanent odor control Naturally odor resistant
Thumb Loops? No No Yes Yes No
UPF (Sun Protection) No No N/A N/A Yes
Length (short, medium, long) Medium Medium Medium Long Medium
Fit (Based on 5'7, 140-lb woman wearing size small) Trim fit Fitted (not tight), true to fit. Fit is small, size up Fitted at top, loose around hips Trim fit
Accessory Pocket? Yes No No No No
Flat-lock seams (prevents chaffing) Yes Yes Yes Yes No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip features a half-zip collar with a convenient stash pocket above the left hip. The top regulates body temperature very well, competing with the merino wool tops despite being a synthetic layer.

Performance Comparison


The Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip top gave us reason to celebrate during this...
The Arc'teryx Rho LT Zip top gave us reason to celebrate during this rest day in Indian Creek.
Photo: Toby Swimmer

Warmth


From the tops of mountains to the canyons of the desert, this roasty, toasty midweight base layer will keep you warm in frigid conditions. Built with 84% polyester and 16% elastane, it provides a long and tight fit that locks in warmth. The fleece-lined interior and zip-up collar retain heat that will keep you warm during those cold days. It's a perfect layer for backcountry or resort skiing or even running on cooler days.


While the face fabric isn't windproof by any means, it cuts the wind to a certain degree. As a result, it's a perfect stand-alone piece that will regulate body temperature on the move and keep you warm while standing still. While it's one of our favorite go-to base layers, there are other warmer options out there. Overall, this is the warmest synthetic base layer tested and one of the warmest overall. It's perfect as a wear-alone piece during highly aerobic activities in the winter or while engaging in less-aerobic sports during warmer months. Feel free to wear it under a jacket or mid-layer on the coldest days of the year or as a stand-alone piece on warmer days.

The trim fit of the Rho LT moves with us throughout all-day...
The trim fit of the Rho LT moves with us throughout all-day activity, which we love.
Photo: Toby Swimmer

Breathability


While warmth is a strong suit for this contender, breathability is not in comparison to other options out. While the fabric is relatively breathable (it is a base layer of course!), it didn't perform as well as other contenders. It features a zip-up collar that allows the easy release of heat from the body, but even with this feature, it doesn't compensate for the warmth generated by the super cozy fleece that lines the interior of the shirt in addition to the tightly woven fabric. These two construction features make this shirt a little less breathable on warmer days or while breaking a sweat.


The fleece-lined interior not only provides additional comfort but does an excellent job wicking away moisture from the skin. While running, skiing, rafting, and generally playing in this top, we noticed that moisture easily transfers from the skin to the outside of the fabric.

While wicking power is great, the fabric itself is tightly woven and the shirt doesn't have additional venting. The tightly woven fabric, in turn, doesn't breathe as well as other more porous options. However, it does cut the wind and ultimately contribute to overall warmth. All that said, it's been our favorite for running in cold weather and skiing when it's nippy outside. It functions well on its own (and looks cute too!) or in a layered system.

The fleece-lined material is a double-edged sword, while we love it...
The fleece-lined material is a double-edged sword, while we love it for overall comfort and a cozy material next to our skin, it also prevents this layer from breathing as well as other synthetics.
Photo: Toby Swimmer

Comfort & Fit


Do you love the soft, luxurious feeling of microfleece against your skin? We sure do! The majority of our testers agreed that wearing the Rho LT Zip is like being wrapped in a soft fleece blanket all day long. The Elastine in the fabric makes the fit tight but not claustrophobic while the fleece lining is comfortable. The fit is flattering, providing enough length in both the arms and torso for those with longer limbs. Comfort? Yes! Fit? Fantastic!


The shirt is constructed with flat seams that don't itch or chafe the skin while in motion. The material isn't super thin which also adds a touch of comfort. In addition, there are a few stand-out features that include a handy-dandy stash pocket that's perfect to stash a key, credit card, or small iPod.

While we love the comforts of this top, it doesn't compare to Merino wool that is ridiculously soft and cozy. However, for a synthetic, the fit, stretch, and fabric feel are top-notch. Wear it for days in the worst weather out there.

One of the only base layers that we tested to feature a tiny zipper...
One of the only base layers that we tested to feature a tiny zipper pocket, we love that we can easily store a car key or energy gel without even noticing it's there.
Photo: Toby Swimmer

Layering Ability


Featuring a slippery face fabric and a stretchy construct, this top is super easy to layer. Its face fabric is nice and silky smooth that doesn't generate static cling like the wool contenders in this review. What's more is the fabric is thin, and the fit is tight, so it doesn't catch fleecy mid-layers.


In addition to being easy to layer over, it's simple to add a shirt underneath. The stretchiness of the fabric easily accommodates a little tank top. However, the arms are quite fitted, and a t-shirt with a sleeve may bunch. Overall, this is a super layer-able base layer top.

The Arc'teryx Rho LT easily layers over the Ortovox Rock'n'Wool top...
The Arc'teryx Rho LT easily layers over the Ortovox Rock'n'Wool top creating a thicker layering system to protect you from the wind. Notice the unfortunate seams of the Ortovox being visible beneath the second layer.
Photo: Toby Swimmer

Durability


The Arc'teryx Rho LT is amazingly durable. After five years of use, our main tester hasn't noticed any issues with this top's longevity. This is after wearing while groveling up wide crack systems and stemming it out of box canyons. Regarding odor, like most synthetic shirts, the odor sticks after a few years of use. During our initial testing period (only three months) we noticed that the "odor-resistant" fabric did a pretty good job, though the odor now lingers after a few years.


Arc'teryx, in general, is renowned for its fantastic construction. The craftsmanship of the seams and stitching doesn't compare to other brands. In this regard, this base layer top fits the bill exactly. Even though the initial price is high, so is the durability. Use it for many years on a plethora of adventures.

The construction of the Arc'teryx Rho LT is holding up in the desert...
The construction of the Arc'teryx Rho LT is holding up in the desert better than our favorite pair of jeans, sporting flat lock seams, fitted cuffs that hold the layer against your wrists, and an overall thicker material that lasts.
Photo: Toby Swimmer

Value


While the price tag is a little steep, the price is worth it. This top offers many performance attributes and durability that you wouldn't be able to find in another shirt. Given that a previous iteration of this top lasted us over six years, we can attest to the fact that despite the high price, the value is there. You will get what you pay for in this awesome base layer top. Best for those seeking a layer that can really do anything in cool to cold weather.

Conclusion


This top is fitted, comfortable, and durable. Its tight-to-the-skin fit and fleecy inner provide all-day comfort while the stretchy fabric accommodates most body types. Its top-notch craftsmanship and on-skin comfort are above and beyond for a synthetic base layer top. A favorite of our testing team for years, it will perform well for a range of adventures.

We know the Arcteryx Rho LT will keep us warm and dry during our...
We know the Arcteryx Rho LT will keep us warm and dry during our fall training runs.
Photo: Toby Swimmer

Amber King and Trish Matheny

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