The Arcteryx Psiphon FL is an incredibly capable jacket that combines well-designed features with lightweight materials. Blurring the lines between a windshirt and a softshell jacket, the Psiphon FL is a trimmed down, technically oriented outer layer for fast and light alpinism and other high-intensity mountain sports. Its lightweight and packable size make it an easy choice to bring into the backcountry, and in almost all of our test metrics the Psiphon earned top scores, making it our Editors' Choice award winner for the second year in a row. The Psiphon FL is not lined in any way and is a light enough material that it feels much more like a windshirt than a softshell. Other models such as the Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody or the Outdoor Research Ascendent have a fleece lining that makes them inherently warmer if you are seeking a layer for cold weather exploits.
Arc'teryx Psiphon FL Hoody Review
Cons: Small pockets, too long in the arms.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Psiphon FL Hoody is a technical softshell jacket that serves the demanding needs of the most cutting-edge ascents in difficult alpine conditions, though is versatile enough to be appreciated by climbers, hikers, and skiers who want a highly weatherproof and breathable jacket that does not weight them down. Excelling in nearly all of our review metrics, we awarded the Psiphon FL Hoody our Editors' Choice award for overall performance.
The Psiphon FL uses two different fabrics to seal out the weather, TerraTex and Fortius 1.0, both proprietary nylon/elastane blends.
The main body uses TerraTex, while areas of high wear receive the Fortius 1.0 fabric. Although it is the lightest jacket we reviewed, it scored exceptionally well in the shower test, earning a 9 out of 10. The only other jacket to score this high was the much heavier-duty Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody. During an extended downpour, the Psiphon FL shed liquid water with ease, and even after the fabric eventually wetted through, it was exceptionally fast in drying out. The stretch-woven fabric blocks much of the wind from coming through the jacket, allowing the wearer to retain heat in cold and gusty conditions. The Marmot ROM has Gore-Tex Windstopper fabric, and it did a slightly better job of repelling the wind, though it weighs several ounces more.
The Psiphon has a storm hood with an enclosed three-way adjustment, its helmet-compatible (with both climbing and ski helmets), and the hip length hem keeps the waist covered in poor weather. The cuffs are sealable with gloves and bare hands alike, using a Velcro closure that makes it more useful than the Arcteryx Gamma MX. Overall, the weather protection offered by this model is top-notch. Any more weather resistance comes with a high weight penalty.
The Psiphon FL Hoody earned an impressive score of 10 in this metric, thanks to its thin, unlined material that easily let perspiration pass through. The TerraTex fabric does a great job of regulating the moisture buildup on the inside of the jacket, an important task when layering this over a fleece base layer and exerting in cold climates. We found this to be the best model for aerobic activity due to its enhances breathability along with the OR Ferrosi, though this has more capability in poor weather conditions. We found that it was breathable enough to wear during cool fall morning trail runs.
There is no inner lining in the jacket, as found in The North Face Apex Bionic 2 or the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody. While it isn't as warm, the lack of an inner liner allows it to function better as a softshell. Unlined, mesh-backed pockets give an opportunity for additional heat dumping by opening them up as vents, as did the OR Ferrosi.
This jacket is similar to most of the Arcteryx line. It's crafted to allow for the movements that skiers and mountain athletes require. Gusseted arms allow for ease of arm movement and patterned panels give a functional fit around the torso that is a far cry from the uninspired, square-cut fits of lesser quality softshells. We did find that the Psiphon had a noticeably different cut that the Gamma line, with a longer arm length it felt more akin to the Alpha series of hard shells. This might be a benefit to tall and skinny users who have a hard time finding a slim fitting torso with long enough arms, though we suggest trying a size down to achieve a trim fit.
During mobility tests, we were not able to get the cuffs to drop at all during overhead movements, and the longer hip-length hem resisted being pulled up. An innovative feature of the Psiphon FL that makes it appealing to climbers is a HemLock insert on each side of the hem; this is a thin piece of foam that resists being pulled out once tucked into a climbing harness. The HemLock is removable, though we did not find any reason to pull it out when not on a climbing trip, as it is unobtrusive.
Arcteryx's FL line stands for Fast & Light, and the Psiphon FL certainly lives up to that moniker. As the lightest jacket in our review, it is also one of the most water resistant, earning it our top accolades in this metric. While only .05 ounces heavier than the Outdoor Research Ferrosi, it is dramatically more weatherproof and feature-laden, making it an excellent choice for missions where shaving weight is crucial.
Fast and Light is a description that often does not leave much room for additional features, and Arcteryx has left out major bells and whistles, like interior pockets and brim stiffeners in designing the Psiphon FL.
What they have done is best described as functional minimalism. There are, however, many useful features in this award winner that do not add much weight or bulk. A small snap allows the hood to be stowed away, gaining the protection of a hood when it is needed, but securing it from flapping around when not required such as bouncing on a trail run.
An innovative No Slip Zip keeps the zipper from sliding down by inserting a small bump on every twelfth tooth. There are only three pockets, two handwarmer pockets, and a little chest pocket, large enough for a pair of gloves or some energy bars but not meant to hold a large item like a water bottle. The Mountain Hardwear Dragon is feature-laden and scored high in this metric, though it weighs twice as much as the Psiphon.
Arcteryx combines clean-cut, trim patterning with function in making the Psiphon FL. It comes in an athletic cut, is hip-length, and is available in colors ranging from subtle to loud. This is a stylish jacket that is at home at basecamp as well as on errands around town. With solid colors and an offset zipper color, the Psiphon FL looks like a simple, basic jacket while performing like the mountain ready softshell that it is.
In awarding the Psiphon FL our Editors' Choice award, we want to highlight how incredibly versatile this softshell jacket it. From summertime backpacking trips to wintertime ski tours, this outer layer is a purpose-built performer. With exceptional weather protection and mobility we feel that this jacket best suits those seeking a jacket for athletic activity, but with subtle styling, it can easily be used around town too.
With a price of $239, the Psiphon FL is not inexpensive and is pricier than the average jackets in our review. However, for its high performance, low weight, and excellent fit, it's a good value for those demanding the best.
The Psiphon FL is a well-crafted softshell that is built to withstand the rigors of alpine climbing while remaining lightweight and functional. We struggled to find an area that this jacket did not succeed in. Its light fabric may have long-term durability issues if used and abused in rough environments, but we feel that the benefit of having such a versatile jacket in your arsenal is well worth it.
— Ryan Huetter