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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