Ultralight is as ultralight does – to sacrifice grams you have to cut out some features. It’s a delicate balance but The North Face met it head-on with their Verto Storm ultralight jacket.
The North Face Verto Storm Jacket Features:
- Weight: 7.0oz
- Ultra-lightweight HyVent® fabric is waterproof, windproof and very compressible
- Harness- and pack-friendly alpine hand warmer pockets
- Elastic-bound hem, cuff and hood
- Stows into its own zippered pocket
- MSRP: $199
Verto delivers fast-and-light performance
The Verto Storm packs a whole lot of punch into a tiny little package. The North Face’s well-known HyVent fabric gets a 2.5L iteration to form the foundation of the jacket; throw in alpine-style pockets and a low drop tail and we’ve got a jacket that offers a lot of protection at a fairly scant weight.
The jacket traverses a very tight ridge across the gap between minimalism and functionality; it’s definitely a gram counter but there are some big-mountain features here too. For example, the Verto Storm doesn’t have a single centimeter of shock cord – most fully-featured alpine jackets have feet and feet of the stuff around the hood and the hems. In stark contrast, TNF chose to carefully elasticize the hem, hood and cuff openings; the solution certainly cuts weight but there’s no doubt that some user customization is gone from the jacket. For example, the size Medium that I’m testing (I’m 5’11” and 180 lbs) fits great at the waist and face opening, but I personally find the cuffs too baggy; they don’t stay secured around my wrists.
We’ve already seen that the minimalist side of the Verto Storm is well-represented – but what about some of those big-mountain features I mentioned? Case one: the alpine-style pockets. TNF built the Verto with high-set mesh-lined front pockets that stay out of the way of a backpack or harness and act as supplemental ventilation. The right pocket has a sewn-in stuff sack and the 2.5L HyVent packs down incredibly small – the whole jacket gets down to around the size of a Rubix Cube when squished.
The jacket doesn’t have any sealed zippers since they’re both heavy and don’t compress well. Instead, the main zip has an internal storm flap that fends off light rain but, in a real downpour, definitely isn’t adequate. The pockets don’t have any water protection so water can enter through the pocket zippers and leak through the light mesh and into your baselayer. TNF’s only real concession to comfort is a tiny little patch of microfleece at the chin.
2.5L HyVent should be more breathable
The foundation of the Verto Storm is its 2.5L laminate. It’s basically a light 2 layer laminate with a polyurethane coating that helps it feel drier to the touch and maintain its performance longer. I had mixed overall feelings about the fabric; on one hand, it’s very lightweight and packable despite being quite durable. For instance, Sierra Design’s ethereal Cloud Airshell weighs less than half of the Verto Storm, but it’s also a very delicate fabric whereas the HyVent can take substantial abuse.
On the other hand (perhaps more important), it doesn’t vent moisture very well. As a matter of fact, the moisture buildup inside the Verto Storm is substantial when pushed hard. Sealed up during a mountain bike ride, this jacket completely soaked my baselayer while comparable fabric like Pertex Shield+ left me with just a few trouble spots. If I were to assign the 2.5L HyVent a letter grade, I’d give it a C-; it’s below average for the field of 2.5L laminates as far as breathability is concerned. Fortunately, it earns A’s in waterproofness, packability and durability.
It seems strange to me that The North Face advertised this jacket as built for ‘climbing.’ You could certainly wear it climbing, but it’s not ideal. In my mind, a good climbing rain jacket will have a stretchy base fabric and careful seam construction to provide great range of motion. The Verto Storm’s HyVent has virtually no inherent stretch and the fit of the jacket isn’t conducive to climbing. What’s more, since the cuffs are only elasticized and lack a dedicated Velcro closure, the sleeves ride up your arms when you reach for a hold. I only used the Verto Storm for climbing on one outing because I found it so unsuitable. It’s ideal function is really a lightweight, durable backup shell for inclement weather.
- Lightweight and highly packable HyVent
- 2.5L laminate does indeed feel dry to the touch during moderate exertion
- Alpine-style pockets are a great technical touch
- Mesh venting in the pockets is an added plus
- Elasticized hood maintains good peripheral vision
- HyVent’s breathability is below par
- Lack of sealed pockets coupled with mesh liner lets water leak in
- Elasticized hem, cuff and hood don’t offer any adjustments
The Bottom Line: Verto Storm Jacket
The Verto Storm is a great lightweight option for when ounce-counting takes precedent over all else. The fabric is highly durable and should take several seasons of abuse, but I found the jacket to be unsuitable for climbing (though that’s how it’s billed). Still, the Verto remains a great emergency shell and performs well in moderate-exertion activities with excellent packability.
Buy Now: Available at REI