Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell Review

Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell Review

The Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell is a gossamer-thin wind shell jacket that weighs 1.6 oz in a size medium. It’s a perfect garment to wear over a fleece sweater on windy mountain hikes or cold mornings to stay warm without the bulk of a warmer insulated jacket which will make you overheat and sweat. The Ventum Wind Shell also has a high degree of air permeability with a 39.5 CFM rating, so you can wear it when you’re working hard on a steep climb or mountain run and not drown in your own perspiration.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 1.6 oz (actual tested 2.1 oz / 60 g; size XL)
  • Material: 7d calendered ripstop nylon with a PFC-free DWR
  • Air permeability: 39.5 CFM (ASTM D-737)
  • Features: elastic hood, wrists, hem, full-length zipper (not YKK), stuff pocket

The Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell is a very thin ripstop nylon wind shell that is designed to prevent the wind or cold from stripping away body heat and chilling you. It’s very effective when worn over a mid-layer like a fleece hoodie or pullover but can also serve as a thin bug-proof jacket when worn over a base layer in warmer weather.

The Ventum Wind Whell is extremely lightweight, weighing in at 2.1 oz/ 60 grams in a men’s XL. That weight is achieved by using a super thin 7d ripstop nylon, by eliminating many of the features that you find on slightly heavier wind shirts and shells, and by taking shortcuts in the construction and sewing of the jacket.

Features

For example, the elastic face opening on the hood of the Ventum Wind Shell is not adjustable in terms of volume or in the size of the face opening, resulting in flapping fabric (very loud and irritating) when worn over your naked head or a fleece cap. You can mitigate that somewhat by wearing a billed cap inside the hood to fill it out, but that limits its utility in colder conditions or winter when a warm hat is required.

  • The hem of the jacket is also non-adjustable and held in place with lightweight elastic.
  • The wrists also have sewn-in elastic, although they are large enough that they can be pulled up your forearms to vent more heat.
  • The jacket has a full-length center zipper which is very lightweight. It is a KKF zipper and not YKK.
  • The jacket stuffs into a small stuff pocket sewn above the hem so you can never lose it.

In use

I’ve worn the Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell on windy above-treeline hikes with mixed results. First off, it is very difficult to put on in the wind because the fabric is so thin and lightweight. I now keep the jacket partially zipped up so I can slip it on like a wind shirt and not have to wrestle with the zipper. The hood flaps noisily when worn over a fleece hat because the hood is too large for my head and the face opening is not adjustable.

Unfortunately, the only way to corral the flapping hood on windy Mt Monroe was to put my hat over it.
Unfortunately, the only way to corral the flapping hood on windy Mt Monroe was to put my hat over it.

When hiking in the Ventum wind shell, it always feels damp on the exterior. While air permeability is related to breakability and water vapor transport, it’s not quite the same thing. Still, the shell’s high air permeability rating appears to be venting water vapor quite well, although I do still feel damp inside a mid-layer fleece or sun hoodie when wearing one.

Comparison with the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield

The closest comparable wind jacket on our list of recommended windbreakers and wind shells is the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield Jacket. The Copperfield (see our review) is made with a 10d nylon ripstop but has a lower 10CFM air permeability rating. While it is only 6 grams more than the Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell in a size XL, it is much more fully featured, including a hood with an adjustable face opening and an adjustable elasticated hem. The quality of the sewing on the Copperfield is also vastly superior to that of the Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell which has many loose threads, uncaptured and uneven seams.

The Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell Packs up really small - show here next to a Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
The Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell Packs up really small – show here next to a Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

Assessment

The Zpacks Ventum Wind Shell is an ultralight windbreaker made with a 7d nylon ripstop fabric that has minimal features that limit its utility across a wider temperature range. While it has a high air permeability rating, I think you’d be much better off getting a wind shell that has an adjustable hood, like the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield, which is better made and a few grams heavier. While the Copperfield has a lower air permeability rating and literally weighs a few grams more, you can easily vent it by cracking open the zipper to release any pent up moisture.

Disclosure: Zpacks donated a garment for this review.

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10 comments

  1. Super lightweight, great CFM rating, no features. Could have been a great garment but it sounds stupid light. Your reviews always cut to the chase.

  2. A negative review of a zpacks product….thank you for your honesty. In an era when everyone is for sale, your reviews are the gold standard against which other sites are judged.

  3. Definitely light, but with zero adjustability (other than the zipper) and with a price point of $100 – it seems with the willingness to carry a little bit more weight, one can find a much better alternative.

  4. There is often a trade off when the end goal is shaving grams. This said you could cut off the non adjustable oversized hood and save some additional weight.

  5. You mention the Montbell Tachyon Parka in your “10 Best” gear guide. It also has an adjustable hood. My extra large weighs 2.84oz. Would you recommend it as much as the Copperfield?

    • Yes, the only reason I didn’t is that I can’t find it in my closet. I wanted to check it again before I recommended it. Caught me! I’ll just add…Enlightened equipment is a little bit more transparent in their specs.

  6. Hi Philip,
    I guess you have to go with what works for you. I have had a ventum M for 3 years now and I have been happy as pie. Granted the material tears easily, but the breathability is important for me. I use it for ski touring, and just about anything else. I have one stashed in a (bike) saddle bag, just in case. On my ski traverses, this thing only comes off when it is above 5°C. I live in it, and frankly can’t imagine going without it. The hood is one of my favorite features: it buttons down nicely when it is blowing hard, it goes perfectly under a helmet, and is breathable enough. I am only missing a chest pocket for a phone or avy beacon.

    My system is that I have a patty capilene air long sleeve under it, and put on a patty das light jacket at the peak, sometimes.

    I am moving to a patty houdini, but have anxiety that the hood won’t be as suitable, and it will weigh more, and be less breathable. I may just sew on a zippered pocket to the ventum.

    So in contrary to the review and commenters, I have to say, it’s a pretty sweet wind shirt made in America and is great for alpine fast and light adventures. It has worked really well for me.

    • I also use a wind shirt over a fleece for most of the winter. But I like having much better features even if it adds a few ounces. I find it really improves the flexibility when it comes with micro-layering adjustments. But heck. If it works for you, it’s good.

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