Mack Weldon WARMKNIT Waffle Long Sleeve Crew

Mack Weldon is known for their underwear, but offers a wide range of Men’s basics. We’ve previously taken a look at their 37.5 Oxford (our review) and SILVERKNIT Polo (our review), and I’ve been giving their WARMKNIT Waffle Long Sleeve Crew a test this winter.

Material

The fabric here is a micro-waffle knit blend consisting of 43% modal, 38% Thermolite polyester, 14% wool, and 5% spandex. The modal makes the shirt soft, the wool some enhanced odor resistance and moisture wicking, and of course the spandex for stretch. Thermolite is a hollow-core fiber that traps more heat than traditional fibers, allowing the shirt to be warmer than it’s weight gives away.

Fit & Style

Based on the sizing chart, I chose an XL, and that gave me a nice, close to the body fit that is great for layering. While I mostly wore this shirt as a layer, it works well on its own as well.

The shirt has a raglan sleeve, which, along with the stretch, makes it extremely comfortable. The ribbed wrist cuffs make for a nice finished look.

While overall I’d say this is a quite casual piece if worn other than as a layer, overall the cut and finish helps it look more polished.

Performance

With the 14% wool content, I didn’t expect much in the way of odor resistance, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’m able to get a few wears out of this shirt before it needs to be washed. The shirt also wicks moisture well, but I’m not sure the wool adds anything in this department (I would compare it to other polyester/modal/lyocell blends I have).

The stretch here adds to the comfort of the shirt. Even though it is 5% spandex, it’s not overly stretchy, so there is no bagging or weird draping.

And finally, the Thermolite. This hollow core polyester fiber does make a difference in the warmth to weight ratio. The shirt is quite light and thin, but it is nice and warm, making it a great layering piece. In addition to just being warm, it also regulates temperature well. I found it to be not too hot indoors, while still being warm when needed.

Overall

I was quite impressed with the WARMKNIT Waffle. It is very soft and comfortable, is warm without being bulky, and resists odor well enough to give a couple of wears.

The price is right at $68 but it is a great deal when you get it at the typically found 20% markdown (either a coupon or their loyalty program).

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Mack Weldon WARMKNIT Waffle Long Sleeve Crew

Winter Shirt Round-up

Note: Some of these shirts were provided free of charge for review; see original review for more details.

Now that winter is getting close to being over, I’ve had a good chance to wear many of my warmer button-ups, including some new ones added this year. So let’s jump into a round up of what I’ve been wearing and some of my favorites.

Wool & Wool Blends

Wool&Prince Button-Down Oxford 210 (our review): This was my first merino button-down and is still a favorite when I want to dress business casual and up. Made from a 2-ply, 17.5 micron, 210 gsm fabric, it has a traditional oxford look. It has a substantial feel, but regulates temperature well since it is 100% merino. While I usually pair it with a pair of Outlier Futureworks (our review)) or Wool&Prince Slim Chinos (newer versions), it looks equally at home with a dark pair of jeans. The burgundy color is amazing.

Patagonia Long-Sleeved Recycled Wool Shirt (our review): This is a great, casual, heavy wool shirt. It keeps you warm, without overheating, but it’s definitely not a shirt for the warmer months (other than maybe as an overshirt). The one caveat here is that the wool is a little scratchy, but I still love the shirt. One benefit is that I always wear this with an undershirt so it can go a long while between washes.

Western Rise TechWool Flannel Shirt (our review): Another great casual shirt, with by far the least amount of wool (only 5%), but it still maintains odor resistance. I’d compare the warmth here to a heavier oxford, but with more breathability.

Cotton

Taylor Stitch The Crater Shirt in Navy Plaid (Huckberry): This shirt is made from a heavy, 9-oz. 100% organic cotton twill flannel, heavily brushed on both sides. If I had one word to describe this flannel, it’s classic. Taylor Stitch did put their typical extra attention to detail though, with substantial and classy cat eye buttons. Overall this is casual, but with a little up scale look. I think the Navy Plaid is a nice subtle twist on a classic flannel pattern.

Taylor Stitch The Jack in Maroon Brushed Oxford (Huckberry): The fabric here is a 6-oz. 100% organic cotton heavily brushed on both sides. This shirt is a nice cross between a flannel and an oxford, similar to the style of the Western Rise TechWool Flannel. The color here is what drew my eye, but it is also a solid, warmer oxford that works well with chinos or jeans.

Patagonia Long-Sleeved Lightweight Fjord Flannel: I just picked up this shirt in the Patagonia end of season sale, but it’s worth a mention if you are looking for a reliable lightweight flannel or are looking for some unique flannel patterns (you also can’t beat the price). I got the “Unbroken: Piki Green” for something different, and I really like it. The fabric is an unbrushed twill, so it has a nice texture. While Patagonia doesn’t list a weight, it is definitely the lightest of the three cotton shirts.

Picks

For business casual wear that can be dressed down, you can’t get any better than the Wool&Prince 210. For casual wear, I have to go with two: Taylor Stitch Crater for the coldest months, and Western Rise TechWool for more versatile wear.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Winter Shirt Round-up

What We Are Looking For in 2020

Note: We received some of these items for review purposes. See our original review posts for details.

With 2019 in the books, we look forward into what we need to round out our performance wardrobes. Those items we have yet to find, buy, or like.

Ben

There’s only three things I am really looking for:

  • Casual pants for warm weather: my go to pants for the hot Houston summers has been the Olivers Passage Pant (our review), but they are not quite ideal for me. So I am trying to find something else, and I’m not sure the Diversion Pant from Western Rise (our review) can be them or not, only time will tell. But I’d like something very passable as “normal” which handles hot and humid reasonably well. Why pants over shorts: the AC here is strong.
  • Versatile blazer to match my stuff: I have the Kinetic from Ministry (our review), and the Gramercy from Bluffworks (our review). Both are amazing, neither works as a versatile piece that looks good with jeans, or with my more technically derived pants. I’m thinking I need to go back to classic materials, or swing over to a performance cotton/linen. Either way it should be unstructured, and light weight. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see who releases what this summer.
  • Polo: I don’t understand why the performance wear market sucks so much at making a good polo shirt. But we’ve struggled here, and my go to Wool&Prince 100% Merino Wool Polo (our review) will need an upgrade this summer, likely with the Merino blend version (our review) unless something else comes along.

And that’s really all I am currently looking for, I finally got most of my wardrobe figured out, such that I probably need to shed a few items.

Steve

There are only two things I am really looking for:

  • Work pants: when I’m working around the house and need a pair of sturdy pants, I typically go with an old pair of jeans — not too comfortable. I really need something with more comfort for when you find yourself in a weird position. I have v1 of the Livsn Flex Canvas Pants (our preview), and am awaiting v2. I wore v1 for a few months in the wood shop, but the fit is off on them for me. The thighs are about as tight as I would like, yet the waist was too big and I had to hold them on with a belt. I’m hoping v2 will solve this fit issue, but if not, I will be on the hunt for something better. Likely I will go to the Patagonia Iron Forge Hemp Pants next.
  • Spring jacket, lightweight and breathable with style: when the weather warms up and I need just a light layer I’ve been grabbing my Myles Elements Jacket (our review) or my Patagonia Houdini Snap-T Pullover. While both great jackets, they don’t fill this niche. I just picked up the new Proof Elements Jacket, and am looking forward to giving it a try once the spring weather comes.

And that’s it for me, also mostly have my wardrobe figured out and could shed a few items as well, especially t-shirts.

Brand to Watch in 2020

Ben: Western Rise is poised for a big year, I’ll go on record with that one. (Note: they give us free stuff in exchange for review.) Outlier has been my perennial favorite but their style direction is veering away from wearable for me, and their staples are still good, but they don’t feel like they are pushing the bounds. The last three Western Rise products I have gotten seem like magic to me, a feeling I used to only get with Outlier. The AirLight (our review), insanely cool wearing and worry free care. The Diversion Pant is truly a modern and comfortable take on pants, and the Limitless Merino Wool Shirt (our review) actually lives up to its name. And it feels like they are just getting started.

My only complaint is that their styling lends more casual, but if they start to smarten that up with an eye towards the office, they are going to take off. And the other thing: their prices are fantastic, which is to say, they are pretty low prices relatively speaking.

Steve: I also will be watching Western Rise in 2020, but to not be boring, I am going to pick a fabric trend to watch in 2020 — hemp and hemp heavy blends.

Keeping cool this summer with my Outlier Ramielust T-Shirt (our review) turned me to other, non-merino fabrics. While merino will always be king for odor resistance, it does have weakness in that it can be delicate, and that in a t-shirt, it has a soft drape. In my search for other non-merino but still performant fabrics, I came across hemp. While on it’s own, it can be quite rough, it makes for a substantial but comfortable fabric when blended with cotton. So far, I’ve found a button-down (our review), sweatshirt (our review), and t-shirt in 55% hemp/45% cotton blends that work well for me.

I’m hoping to see some more fabric innovations in hemp (and other interesting natural plant fibers) this year.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

What We Are Looking For in 2020

Our Most Worn in 2019

Note: We received some of these items for review purposes. See our original review posts for details.

Looking back at 2019, we tested a ton of new stuff, and settled into some new habits. Here’s our most worn stuff, and some of our favorites from 2019.

Ben

Two things happened this year, which really caused a shift in what I wear: I moved from Seattle to Houston, and I started working in an office full time again. This meant both my weekend and weekday outfits had to change.

Weekend and Casual

For the most part I stuck to shorts and a shirt, but the AC is strong here in the summer so pants are sometimes a necessary evil. Here’s where I landed:

  • Olivers Passage Pant (our review): I wore these a ton. They were the only casual looking pant I owned that could remotely handle the hot and humid weather of Houston. I still felt too warm in them though. While I wore them a ton, I can also say that the olive green color I have is not a great color long term for me. Solid pants though, and they show no wear which is a plus.
  • Outlier New Way Shorts (our review): These have long been my go to shorts, and still are. I love them, and wear them basically all the time here in Houston.
  • Wool&Prince 100% Merino Polo (our review): This was my go to, and it was fine. I love the comfort and I feel great wearing it. But I think it looks crappy, and the bottom hem is a nightmare to keep flat after washing it. This needs a replacement.
  • Outlier Ramienorth Pivot (our review): If we were going out to eat, this was the shirt I wanted to be wearing in the evenings. Keeps you cool outside in the sauna, and keeps you from freezing out in the AC. This was a winner for me all year.
  • Western Rise AirLight Short Sleeve (our review): If this shirt was clean, I wore it. Dang, love this shirt. It’s like magic for when it is hot out, and it looks really nice too. I should get a long sleeved one for this summer.

Office Wear

Big changes here. I started the year mostly with my go to Futureworks, and while I still absolutely love these pants, a new player hit my closet that took over the majority of the wear time at the office.

  • Ministry of Supply Kinetic Pant (our review): If I had to pick one item which was the biggest game changer for me, it would be these pants. They look great, breath really well, and stretch like crazy. I wear them all day at work and never am bothered. These are really good office pants. So glad I found these, and I usually have to force myself to grab different pants to change things up, otherwise I would just keep wearing these. And some weeks I only wear these.
  • Outlier Futureworks (our review)): Still a far more versatile and tough pant, and if I weren’t between sizes with these, like they would be just as worn as the Kinetic. The biggest upside is they hide pocket bulges better and repel lint. The downside: the waist isn’t elastic like on the Kinetic.
  • Ministry of Supply Aero Shirt (our review): I don’t think there is a better office shirt to wear. They keep you cool, look sharp, fit well, and have tons of patterns to choose from. And while they don’t travel well, they do everything else fantastically well.
  • Bluffworks Horizon Vest (our review): I love this vest, and wore it everyday the weather allowed me to. I even took it with me to Washington State so that I could stay warm. This is a great, versatile, piece that I will likely be wearing for a long time to come.

Workout and Miscellany

A few odds and ends to wrap up 2019:

  • ExOfficio Give-n-Go Boxers: I know not everyone loves these, but I do. Still the only underwear that I wear.
  • GORUCK Simple Pants: I wear these to work out, and to wash cars in. They are light, so they keep me cool, but protect my legs from mosquitoes. Importantly they also dry really fast. I am always impressed with these.
  • YAthletics SilverAir Merino Shirt (our review): This is my go to for working out, and they prove themselves over and over again. Great shirts.

Steve

With no big moves for me, some things solidified in my wardrobe as well as a few new favorites.

Weekend and Casual

This year, I dressed up my casual wear a bit, so there are some new and old favorites here.

Outlier New Way Longs (our review): These are still the king of shorts. They may seem pricey for shorts, but they are worth it. They look sharp with a button-down or polo, don’t look out of place with a tee, and perform no matter what you are doing while wearing them.
Western Rise Evolution Pant (our review): These are a 5-pocket cut that can be dressed up if needed. They are lightweight, fast drying, and comfortable. Favored over my Outlier Slim Dungarees.
Bluffworks Threshold T-Shirt (our review): Bluffworks hit a sweet spot here, finding a synthetic blend that looks normal, performs well, and has almost merino-like odor resistance.
Outlier Ramielust T-Shirt (our review): Nothing beats ramie on a hot and humid summer day. Hard to even describe how good this is.
Taylor Stitch The California in Olive Hemp Poplin: This hemp-cotton blend from Taylor Stitch has been working really well for me. I’ve found that hemp blend fabrics to have a great casual look while having some good moisture management and odor resistance.
Western Rise TechWool Flannel Shirt (our review): This has been my favorite for cooler weather. It’s not too heavy, is cut well, and is odor resistant.
The North Face Ventrix Jacket (our review): This active insulation jacket is perfect for many temperatures and became my main jacket this year.

Office Wear

After testing a bunch of polos for my guide, I finally had some polos in my wardrobe that I could depend on.

Bluffworks Piton Polo (our review): This became the polo I grab first, as it is light enough to keep me cool, wicks very well, and resists wrinkles. The only caveat is that it needs a rinse to be able to get more than one wear out of it when traveling.
Wool&Prince Button-Downs (our review): These button-downs are still my favorite for everyday and travel wear. I have them in both the 130 and 210gsm fabric — this allows me to wear them no matter what the weather. Being 100% merino, their odor resistance is superb, and if they get wrinkled, they look sharp again with just a little steam.
Outlier Futureworks (our review)): Another long-time favorite. They fit me well and are versatile in the office environment, looking sharp dressed up or down. No issues with durability, and they still look great after a few years.
Western Rise AirLoft Quilted Jacket (our review): Great technical insulation and fabric package in a classic silhouette. Works really well for me when I want a jacket that looks nice.

Workout and Miscellany

YAthletics SilverAir Merino Shirt (our review): These are still the best workout shirts that I’ve found and are proving themselves every day for me.
Patagonia Essential Boxer Briefs: Grabbed a pair of these on sale from REI and they have become my favorite. Soft lyocell material that holds up and doesn’t get stretched out over time. I haven’t bought more because I still have pairs from numerous other brands, but as I need to replace, I plan to get more of these.
Darn Tough Socks: Haven’t tried a lot of other brands because these work, have them for workout, dress, and hiking socks.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Our Most Worn in 2019

Western Rise AT Slim Pant

Note: These pants were provided by Western Rise for review purposes.

With the Western Rise The Evolution Pant (our review) as a pair of pants that I wear quite frequently, I decided to take the opportunity to take a look at the AT Slim Pant.

I’ve been wearing them for a few weeks now, including traveling with six flights in three days.

Material

These pants are made from Western Rise’s AT Cloth, a 97% nylon, 3% spandex fabric with air-texturized fibers and a canvas structure. The weight comes in at 280 gsm and they are coated with a nano-scale C6 DWR.

The spandex gives the fabric 2-way weft stretch, this is not very noticeable to the hand, but the fabric does move decently while wearing.

The canvas structure gives the fabric a nice texture and the weight helps the fabric break, like a good pair of jeans, rather than the drape of a lighter nylon fabric.

Unfortunately, there is some “nylon swish” while walking. The fabric was quite stiff out of the box, but it has softened some with washing. So far, the noise hasn’t been reduced, but it may as the fabric softens further.

Fit & Style

The fit here is very similar to The Evolution Pant — the listed measurements are exactly the same. The only difference I noticed was that the rise feels a little lower. They fit slim but not overly so, and are more of a straight than tapered fit.

Being five-pocket, they stand in well for jeans, especially with the break, rather than drape of the fabric. The texture also adds to the more casual look, although I think they sit in the same “dressiness” category as a nice pair of dark jeans.

Performance

In order to increase the durability and give the pants structure, there are some trade offs to performance. While there is a little stretch, the gusset is definitely needed here to make the pants move comfortably. I never felt any restriction while wearing the pants, but they certainly aren’t “sweat pants comfortable”, like some pants with a high level of 4-way stretch.

With a fairly heavy 280 gsm weight, they wear cooler than expected — I never felt too warm or sweaty.

While the nylon here does give the pants some noise while walking, it does allow the pants to dry extremely fast if they get wet (the C6 DWR does repel a light rain) or after washing.

A few other nice additions to the pants are a phone pocket in the right pocket in place of the coin pocket. It comfortably fits my iPhone XS and keeps it in a more comfortable location than the main pocket.

There is also a hidden zipper pocket inside the right back pocket.

All the pockets are also made of a nylon fabric, so they don’t hold moisture.

Durability-wise, I can’t comment for sure as I’ve only been wearing the pants for a few weeks, but they certainly seem like they will hold up well to any abrasions and resist pulls.

Overall

Overall, the AT Slim Pant is a nice entry into the more durable synthetic pant market and sit as a nice denim substitute. While they don’t have a ton of stretch, they still are comfortable and perform well, except for the noise while walking. They will definitely remain in my rotation for times when I need a more durable and abrasions resistant pant.

If you are looking for a pant that has much more stretch, while still claiming high durability, the just-launched Diversion Pant is worth a look (look for a review in the coming weeks). These also come with a slimmer, more tapered fit (they are cut 0.5-1” smaller in all measurements).

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Western Rise AT Slim Pant

Western Rise X Cotton Everyday Tee

 Note: This shirt was provided by Western Rise for review purposes.

The performance t-shirt is incredibly saturated with merino and synthetic options. Recently, performance cotton blends have been showing up, and Western Rise has a worthy contender in their X Cotton Everyday Tee.

Material

Western Rise created a 220 gsm, 4-way stretch, 60% cotton, 35% polyester, 5% elastane blend treated with Polygiene anti-microbial technology for this shirt.

The 4-way stretch is surprisingly noticeable, with slightly more stretch in the vertical than horizontal direction.

Despite the 40% synthetic content, the heavy weight combined with the cotton brings a completely cotton-like drape and look to this fabric while being extremely soft.

Fit & Style

Western rise describes the cut as “slightly lean and tailored”, and I think that is a good description. The shirt is lean through the chest and body. The body is cut slightly slimmer and longer, and the sleeves more tailored than the StrongCore Merino Tee (our review).

This extra length and more tailored sleeves give the tee a more athletic cut, making it more suited to active pursuits, while still keeping it stylish for any situation.

Performance

This tee performs above and beyond expectations.

The Polygiene treatment really does help bring the odor-resistant performance of the shirt towards the realm of merino. I was able to wear the shirt for a couple of days with no odor, and when I wore it for a really sweaty workout after those few days, it only had a slight odor after airing out overnight. One caveat however, since this is a treatment, it could wash out slowly over time.

The shirt also is surprisingly wicking and quick-drying. With the high cotton content, the moisture tends to stay in the fabric longer (like merino), but it never felt uncomfortable to me. For typical everyday wear, the performance was good enough that I never felt wetness in my armpits. When it comes time to wash the shirt, it dries more quickly than a cotton tee and hangs dry with minimal wrinkles.

Finally, it is great to have 4-way stretch in a cotton tee. It moves with you no matter what the situation, lending to its ability to seamlessly go from everyday to a workout.

Overall

Overall, I was quite surprised by the X Cotton Everyday Tee. I typically don’t get great odor-resistance out of shirts treated with Polygiene, but in this case, it performed — maybe it adheres better or has better performance on cotton then synthetics. Combined with the great weight, cotton drape, and extremely soft feel, this shirt is a great option for your wardrobe.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Western Rise X Cotton Everyday Tee

Outerknown Sur Sweatshirt

Outerknown has been on my radar for a while due to their front and center sustainability mission, but their style is quite casual and they use mainly cotton, so I didn’t see anything that caught my eye right away.

In my search for a new sweatshirt, I was looking for a hemp-cotton blend, and in the process of purchasing and returning a few others, I found the Sur Sweatshirt.

For me, this is the ultimate sweatshirt for around the house.

Material

This sweatshirt is a French terry 55% hemp, 45% organic cotton blend.

The fabric has a substantial feel/weight to it from the hemp content, while still feeling soft — just what I was looking for from this fabric blend in a sweatshirt. It’s a hard feel to describe if you haven’t handled heavier hemp blend fabrics.

The hemp also imparts a great texture to the fabric. Combined with the washed color, this fabric is strictly casual for me.

Fit & Style

The cut here is quite unique for a casual sweatshirt. The body is cut on the slim side while still keeping plenty of length in the body and arms. Something different from the usual boxy casual sweatshirt cut. It looks a little more put together while still remaining extremely comfortable.

The neck here is quite open, and when combined with the causal fabric and longer arms, this makes it wear quite casual. I wouldn’t have a problem wearing it out to the store, but I probably wouldn’t take it much further than that.

Performance

The high hemp content in this blend serves a few purposes — weight (which I already covered), breathability, and durability.

Since hemp fibers are more absorptive, they do a great job removing moisture from your skin. They also make a more airy weave, therefor making a more breathable fabric. This makes for a sweatshirt that is comfortable in more temperatures than with traditional pure cotton French terry.

We will see how it plays out over time, but the durability of hemp and its tendency to just keep getting softer over time also could change the game here for the better. While cotton does also get softer with wear, it breaks down more quickly than hemp.

Overall

Overall, I really like the Sur Sweatshirt from Outerknown. I look forward to putting it on after work and love the weight, texture, and breathability of the fabric.

At $69, I think you get a great value, especially if it proves to benefit from the long term durability of hemp.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Outerknown Sur Sweatshirt

Pistol Lake Minimalist Joggers

 Note: These pants were provided by Pistol Lake for review purposes.

We’ve taken a look at many of Pistol Lake’s performance clothing, including their Minimalist Pullover Hoodie last year. They recently released their Minimalist Joggers, made out of the same Eclon fabric.

I’ve been wearing these for a few weeks now, so let’s take a look at how they perform.

Material

The Eclon material is one of Pistol Lake’s custom fabric blends, consisting of 46% nylon, 42% polyester, and 12% spandex.

The fabric is extremely soft and spans the line of having a substantial feeling while still being light. While it doesn’t have any technical sheen to give it away, the high amount of stretch does give it a little different drape.

Fit & Style

These pants are styled in the classic jogger look and are described as having an athletic fit. I think that’s spot on. For me, they have room in the seat/hips, with a close fit through the thigh and calves. They fall above the ankle, as joggers should.

Two nice additions to the classic jogger include a back pocket and an internal snap pocket (inside the right front pocket) to secure your phone or wallet.

Performance

The close fit through the thigh and ankle, along with the stretch of the fabric keep these pants out of your way. The legs don’t seem to ride up when doing exercises like squats, which can get annoying with pants with looser legs.

These pants dry much more quickly than I’d expect for the weight, which seems odd compared to how they perform in practice while exercising. When sweaty, I get almost a clammy feeling — not cold-clammy, but a feeling that the moisture is being trapped between my skin and the pants. Taking both observations into account, maybe the fabric just isn’t great at absorbing moisture at all, helping it to dry quickly, but also causing that sensation when sweaty.

Overall

The Minimalist Joggers are a great athletic cut in an interesting, lightweight synthetic material. If you are looking for a pair of soft pants to lounge in, these work well. Since the fabric doesn’t feel great to me when sweaty, I can’t recommend them 100%, but may be worth a look if you just want them for lounging or have a different feeling about the Eclon fabric.

NOTE: where possible all product links on this site may earn the site money when you buy using those links.

Pistol Lake Minimalist Joggers

The North Face Ventrix Jacket

When it comes to active insulation layers, The North Face Ventrix Jacket (also available in a hooded version) is one that is quite often mentioned as a top contender. I picked one up at the end of the winter season last year, so I’ve been able to give it a try in a wide range of weather conditions.

Material

The body of the jacket is a 30D X 20D 64 gsm 92% nylon, 8% elastase ripstop blend and the forearms are reinforced with a 50D X 40D 106 gsm fabric. It is all coated with a DWR finish. The jacket is then lined with a lighter weight (57 gsm) version of the body fabric.

A few notes about the fabric here, the two denier numbers indicate the thickness of the threads used to make the fabric differ between sides. The higher denier fabric on the forearms gives some extra durability in a common wear point (I’m guessing for climbing). The biggest difference between the body and forearms is that while you can see the ripstop in both fabrics, it actually gives the forearm fabric a raised texture.

The jacket is insulated with 80 g 100% polyester Ventrix Stretch insulation. This insulation comes in a solid piece (like a piece of fabric), rather than a filament or fill, so it stays in place without any baffles. The magic of the insulation comes from laser cut slits that open and close with movement, allowing more moisture and heat to escape while you are moving (see an article from GearJunkie with some photos and video).

Fit & Style

The jacket is listed as having a slim fit, and that is the experience I had. I ended up having to size up to an XL, because the chest was too tight. This makes the sleeves a touch too long, but it isn’t a dealbreaker. If I were strictly wearing this as a midlayer, a L would have been good, but I wanted to have more flexibility.

When it comes to looks, I think this jacket is a lot better looking than a lot of other active insulation pieces. One thing that always ruins a piece for me is when the face fabric is overly shiny, and that is not the case here. In black, the jacket has a matte look. While it still looks like a technical jacket, it is subdued enough that you won’t stick out wearing it to work or around town.

Performance

This jacket met my expectations from all the hype I’ve seen around it since it won Editors’ Choice in Backpacker in 2017.

I found the Ventrix insulation to do a great job holding heat while at rest and dumping heat when moving. Not only do the perforations in the insulation help, but the lining is perforated on the back and the face fabric is perforated under the arms.

This has become my go-to active insulation layer for all but the coldest weather. My down jacket previously served this purpose, but I find myself getting clammy when active while wearing it. I never get that feeling with this jacket (except for sometimes when wearing a backpack).

I would compare the face fabric to a soft shell jacket, and with the DWR, it does a good job of fending off a decent drizzle. It will of course eventually wet out, but that is a benefit of synthetic insulation vs. down — if the insulation gets wet from the weather or sweat, it doesn’t loose its insulating powers.

Comfort wise, the soft lining makes the jacket feel great against your skin. The stretch isn’t extreme, but it keeps the jacket out of your way.

Now for the pockets — there are two pretty standard zippered hand pockets and one very tall zippered chest pocket. Typically I don’t find chest pockets very useful because they hold things too high, but I love this one. It works great for holding things like your phone or wallet and keeps them out of the way.

Overall

Overall, The North Face Ventrix Jacket lives up to the hype. The insulation really does adapt and change depending on if you are still or in motion, and the face and lining fabrics don’t hinder breathability. While it’s no Western Rise AirLoft (our review) in the looks department, it isn’t your shiny technical jacket fabric.

At a list price of $220, it’s on the cheaper end of the popular active insulation jackets, and it often can be found on deep discount at the end of the season. At full price it is a great jacket, but if you find it for a lower price, it’s a steal.

If you want one active insulation piece to cover almost all situations, this is a great one to take a look at.

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The North Face Ventrix Jacket