For a long time I saw wind shirts (or jackets) as a novelty or an indulgence, something that is not at all necessary, especially since I always carry some sort of waterproof jacket. In 2011 I had a chance to buy a North Face Verto jacket for about 60% off, so I opted in and was surprised by how much I liked it and how useful it was. It was a Pertex GL hooded jacket aimed at fast climbers and runners. Since then the North Face have “updated” (read: made heavy and over designed) the Verto, but I fell in love with the Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody while still working on the shop floor. Fast forward 4 years when I stumbled upon a great deal on a previous season Squamish hoody and it was time to upgrade: I got it.
The idea behind a wind shirt is that it is, well, windproof while being much more breathable than a waterproof shell. But not only are they more breathable, wind shirts are more minimal in design, much lighter and tend to have a bit of water resistance as well. Most wind shirts use some form of coated nylon such as Pertex fabrics or proprietary nylon fabric that is very thin, breathable and surprisingly robust. I have had my Verto working hard for 4 years and it is still doing the job, though it looks very tired as the Pertex stretches slightly over time. Despite being slightly heavier than the Vetro, the Squamish hoody fits better, has a more robust fabric and is brilliantly designed. I used my Squamish for day to day use for a while, too, until I got a Rab Alpine Windproof jacket as a present that is now what I use as my day to day jacket.
At this point I keep the Squamish hoody for hiking, backpacking etc only and it has been on every single outdoors outing I have gone on since I bought it; I just find no reason to keep it at home. It is light, easy to layer or wear straight over a t-shirt, windproof but not too suffocating and so comfortable to wear thanks to the excellent fit by Arc’teryx. I went for the grass (slightly bright) green to adhere more to the Leave No Trace principles.
Arc’teryx is one of the biggest names in the outdoors market, selling high end premium clothing and gear focused (originally) on backcountry skiing and ice climbing. Founded in 1989 in Vancouver, Canada, Arc’teryx became one of the industry leaders in terms of highly technical, and very expensive, gear and apparel. For a long time Arc’teryx was famous for manufacturing exclusively in their Vancouver factory, but after an influx of demand they have started also manufacturing in China, Bangladesh and other Asian countries. Now, the “Canada Made” products are high in demand, despite not showing any better quality compared to the Asian counter parts.
I’ll summarise the Arc’teryx story by saying that for a very long time Arc’teryx was very much a core product company, using high-end fabrics, membranes and insulations to cater to the winter, off piste athlete. Lately they have been offering more and more products (they even do footwear now!) that cater to other sports. This trend is very similar to what happened with The North Face back in the 90’s when they diluted their range, which has led to some concerns about the future of Arc’teryx’s products.
Arc’teryx have 7 product categories at the moment (they change it often I’m afraid) with the core and most permanent collection called “Essentials,” which is where the Squamish hoody sits. The Essentials range is meant to be used for a variety of activities and when browsing you really see how you can do pretty much anything outdoors with those products. I am personally a great fan of Arc’teryx despite the high price point and somewhat elitist self image they have; the cuts, finish and design of their products is truly superb and so far I have not been disappointed by any of their products, made in China or in Canada.
The Squamish is a true wind top that comes in a hooded or non hooded (no anorak cut, sadly), made out of 100% nylon “Tyono™ 30 denier shell with DWR treatment”. The Squamish hoody first came out in 2011 (from what I recall) and has been part of an on going debate between the Patagonia Houdini lovers and the Squamish lovers as to which is best; many a forum thread has been wasted on it.
The Squamish used to have a cut issue (it was too big for a wind shirt) but was updated in 2014 to have an Athletic fit. Arc’teryx’s athletic cut is truly for the slim and active: roomy shoulders and chest with a narrow gut and waist. I’m 178cm, 38in chest and 30in waist and wear size Medium – it is a great fit that allows me to wear it with a light midlayer (powerstretch fleece top) comfortably while still also being fine with only a t-shirt.
The hood is superb with a stiffened (not wired) beak and tight fit with a 3 point drawcord; it is not helmet compatible. The jacket easily fits into its own chest pocket and is about a big fist size when compressed. To make it simpler, here is the specifications list from Arc’teryx (with some of my notes in green):
- Articulated elbows
- Gusseted underarms
- Athletic fit for a slimmer more flattering profile
- Adjustable hood drawcords
- Soft hood brim
- Full front zip (not locked when closed for easy opening, especially when young kids pull on them!)
- Micro corded zipper pulls
- Laminated die-cut Velcro® cuff adjusters reduce bulk, and won’t catch or tear off (very strong but very aggressive Velcro that can damage soft fabrics like wool and fleece)
- Adjustable hem drawcord
- Drop back hem (good bum cover…)
- Stows away in its own pocket
- Chest stow pocket with attachment point (this is also the only pocket in the jacket, no hand warmers here)
- Reflective logo
This is an impressive list of features but despite all that, the Squamish hoody is very much a minimalist garment with only one pocket, slim cut and very little flair.
The fabric is very soft to touch and despite being only 30 denier, feels very robust. My jacket has snagged on brambles, scraped on rocks and branches and I still have no tears in it. The fabric is also reinforced with rip-stop so fixing it, if it tears, is very easy.
- Arc’teryx weight: 155 g (5.5 oz)
- Real weight: 159g (5.6oz)
- Centre Back Length: 71cm (28″)
- Sleeve length (neck to cuff): 86cm (4″)
- Torso diameter: 124cc (49″)
- Hips diameter: 106cm (42″)
How I use it
The Squamish hoody is by far my favourite jacket for any kind of low impact activity (I still use the Verto for running) and has suffered gale force winds, pouring rain (in combination with a poncho), sunny days and backpacks of all sizes. The Squamish is a natural part of my regular hiking top layering system: a Merino t-shirt with or without a Merino hoodie and the Squamish on top are all I need for full day comfort in the British hills and mountains.
Arc’teryx say that the Squamish is: “Super lightweight, durable and compressible hooded jacket; ideal as a wind resistant layer for warm weather activities” but I find that it works amazingly well for ultrapacking trips in the winter as well. Most of the time I move fast and get pretty warm, especially if it is very cold outside, so it makes more sense to use a wind shirt over a long sleeve top than a rain jacket – it is usually pretty dry.
The only time that I choose not to use a wind shirt is when I know it will be raining pretty much the whole trip, but even on rainy trips I find that the Squamish, combined with a rain poncho, provide better protection and a more comfortable option than just a rain jacket. This is not a perfect system – I think it will require an addition of waterproof sleeves to be everything I need.
- Superb fit, cut and design
- Great finish and you can feel the quality of materials
- Truly wind protective while being very breathable
- Light and compact
- Robust fabric
- Comfortable hood
- Did I say fit already?
- Probably one of the priciest wind tops in the market
- Fast opening zip can be useful but most of the time it is just annoying
- There are lighter options on the market (like the Patagonia Houdini)
First: if you are outdoors more than 3-4 times a year, get a wind shirt – it doesn’t matter which, it is a great item for comfort, especially if you enjoy faster activities like ultrapacking.
Second, for athletic and slim people, cut is such a big issue since so many companies sell to the “average Joe” (who is chubby?), so having a company like Arc’teryx that stays true to active and fit people is great. Beyond the fit, the Squamish hoody really looks and feels great and can easily be functional on and off the trail, so it can be a good solution for an overall wind breaker if you tend to use one in your daily life.