Arcteryx Venta SV Jacket ReviewJune 15, 2012
- Exceptional, athletic fit
- Incredibly smooth zippers
- Water- and wind-resistance is excellent
- Hood is very comfortable and adjustable
- Features and finish are best in the category
- Not as breathable as some other soft-shells
The Venta SV works really well as a shell for alpine climbing in full-on conditions. While it lacks the elasticity and breathability of many soft-shells, the Venta SV offers a combination of fit, mobility, and good looks that is unmatched for jackets meant to balance aerobic exertion and weather protection—though it’s about as pricey as a softshell hybrid gets.
The Venta SV utilizes some of the best fabrics, zippers and construction technologies available. It’s safe to assume a jacket like this will prove highly mobile, durably weather-resistant and ergonomically superior; even so, I found its performance to be quite impressive. It even earned a couple of bonus points by shrugging off ice-screw incursions and remaining totally adjustable while I was wearing thick belay gloves.
The Venta SV seems to blur the line between hard-shell and soft-shell—it features three different weights of Gore Windstopper fabric, and mostly-taped seams. I tested it in a variety of conditions to discover exactly what it could and couldn’t do:
Impressive wet-weather performance for a soft-shell: After two hours of continuous exposure in steady rain, the Venta SV leaked slightly at the embroidered and un-taped logos on the left breast and shoulder; the jacket seemed otherwise functionally waterproof.
Snow and Wind
Serious alpine-armor for hard knocks in full conditions: This jacket was my primary shell on a January ice-climbing trip to Lee Vining Canyon in the eastern Sierra. I waded through deep snow for over 2 hours on the approach, climbed pitches of near-vertical ice coated with rime while being blasted by spindrift, hooked an elbow around a dripping ice-pillar, and lived constantly in the Venta SV over a couple of windy days in the mid 20s (F). In combination with a mid-weight merino wool baselayer, and with an occasional opening of pit-zips, the Venta SV kept me warm, dry and comfortable.
Complete weather protection still comes at a certain price: The Venta SV is only slightly more breathable than a thin modern hard-shell jacket, and is much less breathable than non-windproof soft-shells I have worn.
Arcteryx is famous for its attention to detail, and this jacket is no different. (3 bonus points for for perfecting the little stuff you only notice over time.)