Weight (Manufacturer): 569 g / 1 lb., 4.1 oz
User: 5’3”, 120 lbs.
- Moisture-resistant outer fabric with DWR finish
- Highly breathable
- Lightly insulated with microfleece
- No-lift gusseted underarms with YKK Vislon coil pit zips
- Helmet Compatible Drop Hood™
- Molded zipper garages and full front YKK zip with wind flap
- Laminated die-cut Velcro® cuff straps
- Drop back laminated hem with adjustable drawcord and full seat coverage
- 2 outer hand pockets and internal chest pocket with laminated zippers; 3 total pockets
- 3 different types of Gore Windstopper® windproof fabric, strategically placed to provide combinations of durability and warmth where they are most needed.
Test Locations: Backpacking and ski touring in the Wasatch Backcountry; Alta Ski Area; Snowbird; Biking and running near Grand Targhee resort.
Days Skied: 14
Days Worn: 18
I previously owned a lightweight Arc’teryx Gamma MX softshell (circa 2009) that did not sport pit zips or a hood, so I was looking for something that would provide a bit more versatility in harsher weather conditions. The Arc’teryx Venta SV lured me in with its sizable helmet-friendly hood and lengthy pit zips. To decode Arc’teryx’s fancy (and sometimes confusing) nomenclature, the SV stands for “severe,” and Arc’teryx claims that the Venta SV provides the highest degree of wind resistance and warmth within their lineup of softshell jackets.
Fit / Style
I tried on both sizes XS and S in the Venta, and the XS was clearly the incorrect size, as I could barely lift my arms above my head. At 5’3” and 120 pounds, the size small (which is my typical size for most brands, like Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, or Marmot) fit perfectly with enough room to layer a fleece or down jacket underneath in frigid temperatures.
This jacket has beautiful, elegant lines to it, and when worn, a womanly shape doesn’t completely disappear. I actually feel—gasp—sexy when I wear this jacket! I love the drop hem in the back, which is both flattering and functional in that it helps keep snow at bay if you don’t happen to wear bibs. The jacket also hits at a nice length (6 inches below my hip bone), which I find comfortable and aesthetic. I also really enjoy the two-tone color options, and had a difficult time choosing between the pink or purple colorways (i.e. “Magenta” or “Bumbleberry,” as Arc’teryx calls them). This jacket is also available in black.
In my opinion, the clean, simple styling of this jacket makes a flawless transition to city use. The Venta is equally at home in a squalling backcountry storm as it is strolling about downtown.
My first test of the Venta came on a last-minute backpacking trip to summit the Little Pfeifferhorn in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It was mid-October, and we were enjoying an Indian summer here in Salt Lake City. A warm day backpacking up to Red Pine Lake was followed by a chilly evening with temperatures plunging into the high 30s. As we attempted to entertain ourselves with a mismatched deck of playing cards, I was surprised to find that the SV kept me sufficiently warm. I was wearing a midweight baselayer, and the thin layer of microfleece insulation incorporated in the Venta SV was enough to keep me warm without adding my down jacket. Even in a non-active state, the SV kept me comfortable, and the Gore Windstopper fabric locked out the windchill. But I was concerned it might be too insulated for aerobic activities.
Fabric / Venting / Breathability
The huge pit zips on this jacket slide quickly and easily without catching, and only require one hand to adjust, which is one of my favorite features of the Venta SV. I realize that lengthy zips add quite a bit of weight for people looking for an ultralight softhshell for backcountry tours, but I find them to be indispensable. Plus, the pit zips are narrower than the front zipper, which helps reduce the amount of added weight. They measure 14.5 inches in length and can dump some serious heat while skinning in the backcountry or after a particularly epic powder experience in Catherine’s Area at Alta Ski Resort.
The breathability of the fabric is just swell. I’ve worn this jacket comfortably while skinning with just a thin baselayer, which I have not been able to do with any other jacket (my Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Active Shell, the Stoic Bombshell jacket, or the Arc’terx Gamma MX softshell). I’ve always had to ditch my shells after about 10 minutes into a tour, and this was the first jacket I could comfortably wear during an ascent in temps of mid-30s to mid-40s Fahrenheit.
I also took this jacket on a particularly invigorating four-mile run when the mercury was hovering around 35 degrees F. The microfleece provided an ample amount of insulation until I warmed up, at which point I opened the gaping maws of the pit zips. The jacket with open pit zips kept my core at a very comfortable temperature during the run. I could feel the Windstopper material protecting my core from the gnawing breeze. My legs, clad in compression tights, were noticeably colder, and I could feel the biting wind nipping through the fabric.
The Winststopper fabric simply works, especially with the insulation it provides compared to other Gore-Tex fabrics. I’ve used this jacket in 50+ mile per hour wind gusts with a temperature of 17 degrees Fahrenheit and the windchill registering at -12. Skiing in some of the toughest conditions I’ve seen, the Venta SV thrilled me with its ability to deflect the horrid gusts. Huddling on the chairlift, I secured the hood, hunkered down, and skied from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. My core, protected by the Venta, was significantly more comfortable than my legs, clad in plain Gore-Tex pants without Windstopper.
The Windstopper technology does somewhat negatively impact the breathability of the fabric, however I think the long pit zips are a simple solution. The fabric in itself is significantly more breathable than any of the hard shells I’ve owned (like Stoic Bombshell or the Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Active Shell), making this jacket suitable for resort skiing, backcountry touring, or even cold weather running.
The two different types of Windstopper on the exterior of the Venta SV are each sleek and smooth to the touch with very little stretch or give, though they feel slightly different. The darker magenta fabric on the upper sleeves is a plain weave that has very little stretch or give to it. The lighter pink color fabric on the lower sleeves and main jacket front features a stretch weave that has slightly more give to it to allow for better movement.
The jacket does make a slight rustling sound with movement, however it is significantly quieter than other jackets I’ve used, such as the Lofoten or the Arc’teryx Sarissa Insulated shell. The fabric is soft and supple to the touch and did not seem to stiffen up when used during 50+ mph winds or colder temperatures (9 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact).