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Hands-on Gear Review
Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody Review
Cons: Expensive, no hand pockets, DWR coating not very durable, less wind protection than others.
Bottom line: A real jacket that protects against wind, light rain, and cool temps.
It may come as a surprise that we are recommending a wind breaker as a Top Pick for Backcountry Skiing, but that's exactly what we are doing. The Squamish Hoody is like a super lightweight version of their awesome Arc'teryx Alpha FL jacket, providing a viable skiing option for warm days and good weather. While it won't keep you dry in a blizzard, its gusseted athletic fit and superlative features, including a storm hood and Velcro wrist enclosures, are the best in this review. We love how its stretchy material and sleek fit move with your body, while there is still plenty of room underneath for laying up with warmth layers for those cold days. As it is so much lighter than a hardshell, we would happily recommend saving some weight and space by throwing it in the pack on sunny days and in the spring when ultra protection is simply not needed.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody is a little different than most of the wind breakers in our review in that it looks and feels like a real jacket. While most of the products we tested feel like minimalist offerings, the Squamish Hoody could easily be confused for a rain or hard shell. Considering its obvious inspiration, perhaps it is worth pointing out what you don't get with this jacket, compared to a more expensive Arc'teryx jacket. You don't get much in the way of rain protection. While initially the DWR coating does a decent job of shedding water, we found it wore off quickly and the face fabric itself is quick to absorb water in that case. You also don't get quite as much wind protection as other jackets in this review, as the stretchy fabric is highly breathable and certainly allows air transfer to take place. This isn't an issue if you have a layer on beneath this fine shell, and the incredible breathability of the fabric is worth the price.
We liked this jacket for activities like backcountry skiing, hiking, peak bagging, and backpacking when you know that super gnarly weather is not on its way. Since it breathes really well, working up a sweat inside of it is not a big deal. However, due to its "mountain jacket fit" we didn't enjoy it as much for activities such as running or mountain biking, as we did the Patagonia Houdini or the Outdoor Research Tantrum. For those highly aerobic, warm weather activities we liked something a little sleeker and less bulky, and didn't need the same kind of storm resistant hood or layering underneath fit that the Squamish Hoody provides. Overall this was one of the higher rated jackets in our test, and one we would happily recommend for the correct purposes.
The Squamish Hoody is made of a very lightweight 30d shell fabric that is very stretchy and super breathable. Unfortunately, compared to the competition, it was one of the least wind resistant fabrics used for wind breakers that we tested. Don't let that dissuade you, as we must still emphasize that this jacket without doubt does a great job at breaking the wind. It's only when compared to the permeability of the other fabrics in this test that it has a low rating. For this reason, we think it is best used in warmer weather situations, or for highly aerobic scenarios where breathability is valued over wind resistance — like skinning uphill. Comparatively, we found this shell to break the wind similarly to the Outdoor Research Tantrum, another highly breathable jacket, or the Sierra Designs Exhale Windshell.
Breathability and Venting
Where the Squamish Hoody's fairly permeable stretch fabric ranked it near the bottom in terms of wind resistance, it ranked near the top of breathability. In fact, we think it may have been the single most breathable fabric in this test. However, an equally important component is venting. In our experience, venting is at least, if not more important, than breathability, because for most people and in most situations, getting sweaty and hot enough inside of a jacket to allow it to properly breathe is an uncomfortable experience. Due to laws of physics, a person must build up a considerable amount of heat and moisture inside a jacket in order for the fabric to effectively breathe. The greater the difference between the atmospheric conditions inside the jacket and outside, the easier heat and moisture will be pulled through the fabric. But, in most cases, the point is to avoid getting too hot and sweaty in the first place, which is where venting comes in. While the Squamish Hoody had possibly the most breathable material, it had virtually no features designed to help venting, like what we found on the Marmot Ether DriClime or the Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie. For that reason we gave it 8 out of a possible 10 points for this metric.
Fit and Functionality
It is hard for us to conceive of a better fit for a jacket than the Squamish Hoody. It is simultaneously sleek and not baggy at all, while also allowing room underneath for warmth layers. Our head tester generally wears a men's size large, with a tall torso and broad shoulders, but generally skinny chest and upper body. While he needs the large for the sleeve lengths and height, he often finds that jackets of this size are just too bulky and baggy around the midsection. He found that this jacket fit just about as perfectly as one could expect.
In terms of features, the Squamish Hoody does not have as many as some of the other wind breakers that we tested. It does not have a way to stow away the hood, or hand pockets, or mesh lining on its single chest pocket, nor underarm vents. However, it does feature a helmet-compatible storm hood (works, but is a little tight with a helmet), and Velcro wrist enclosures, a very nice customizable feature that we wish more jackets had. What features it does have all seem to work as perfectly as could be imagined, so we can't really knock it for design considerations. Overall we thought this was the best fitting and functioning jacket in the review, so we gave it 10 out of 10 points.
If there was one weakness to this jacket that we really wish wasn't the case, it was the poor showing in our water resistance test. After one single quick revolution through the shower, we found water running down the inside of the jacket against our skin. While it does come with a DWR coating applied, it seemed to wear off much quicker than some of the other coatings. The fabric itself was quite absorptive and allowed water to quickly pass through if the coating was not in place. All-in-all this jacket performed about the same as the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite Jacket, but nowhere near as good as the Patagonia Houdini or Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie, two other jackets the relied on DWR coatings for their water resistance, but kept us immaculately dry. Five points.
Weight and Packability
Our scale had the men's size large Squamish Hoody weighing 6.0 ounces, which was a bit higher than the advertised weight. This weight was a little bit below average for the review, and prompted us to award 6 out of 10 points. The entire jacket stuffs very easily into its chest pocket and zips closed. It has a reinforced clip-in loop, and although it is not quite as small as some of the packed down jackets, it is a neat enough little package to give it a bonus for packability.
In our opinion this jacket is best used as a mountain jacket during warmer seasons and when the forecast calls for nice weather. We think it would make a great choice for backcountry skiing, which is why we awarded it our Top Pick for that purpose. (This year's testing period did not coincide with backcountry skiing season, but in previous years we have used it considerably for that purpose.) Other good uses are hiking, rock climbing, peak bagging, and backpacking. Due to its bulkier construction in general, about twice as much material as the lightest jacket in our review, we didn't enjoy it as much for running or mountain biking, and we wouldn't recommend it for rain or wet snow.
This jacket retails for $159, making it the second most expensive in the review, and quite a bit higher than the average cost of about $125. While we think it is certainly a very quality piece of clothing, we would only consider buying it for very select purposes, and think that you can find a better wind breaker for less money if you choose one of the jackets in our review that rates higher.
The Squamish Hoody is a quality wind breaker that has some great strengths to recommend it on, but also some glaring weaknesses. Like most Arc'teryx garments, it is pretty expensive compared to the competition, but its quality of construction is worth the price. For backcountry skiing or other dry weather mountain pursuits, we think this is a much cheaper and lighter option over a full rain or hard shell jacket. However, there are better wind breakers available for less money.
Other Versions and Accessories
Arc'teryx Squamish Jacket Version
Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody - Women's
Arc'teryx Nu Water Repellent Treatment
— Andy Wellman
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Most recent review: October 20, 2016
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