Earning high scores in almost every one of our review metrics, the Arcteryx Psiphon FL is a jacket that we were continuously impressed by, performing well in a range of conditions. With a blend of quality traits that are vital to an excellent softshell model, it was easy to award our Editors' Choice Award to the Psiphon FL.
Heading into the mountains where ounces matter and performance is critical? The Psiphon FL is a sure bet for climbing, hiking and skiing endeavors.
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. Despite being the second lightest model in our review, it also scored an impressive 9 of 10 in weather protection, behind the much heavier Mountain Hardwear Dragon. 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 Terretex and Fortius fabrics do a great job of repelling water and snow, without soaking the fabric at all.
The Psiphon has a storm hood with an enclosed 3-way adjustment; it's helmet compatible, 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; more protection can be found in other jackets in the review, but it does come with a high weight penalty.
We awarded the Psiphon FL jacket a 9 for breathability. It tied as the second most breathable jacket, along with the Rab Torque, finishing behind the Outdoor Research Ferrosi. This high degree of breathability is a result of the TerraTex fabric in the main body of the jacket, which allows moisture to easily pass through while engaging in high output activity.
There is no inner lining in the jacket, as found in The North Face Apex Bionic 2 or the Arc'teryx Gamma MX. 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.
Working hard to ski a 5,000' run in the Eastern Sierra , the Psiphon breathed well, only needing to unzip the front zipper halfway to let out heat.
Arcteryx products tend to be tailored, trim and athletically cut, and the Psiphon FL is no exception. Its functional patterning allows the jacket to conform to the body and move unencumbered by additional bulk. It's apparent that this softshell was designed with a range of motion in mind. Gusseted underarms and articulated elbows give the wearer a higher degree of anatomical comfort, and the stretch woven fabric easily adapts to extreme movements, like climbing. Earning another high score of 9, the Psiphon tied for first place with the articulated Rab Torque.
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.
The tailored fit and stretchy panels allowed this shell to move effortlessly on a hidden Yosemite scramble
Arcteryx's FL line stands for Fast & Light, and the Psiphon FL certainly lives up to that moniker. The second lightest jacket in our review, it's only .05 ounces heavier than the hoodless Outdoor Research Ferrosi jacket. Simply put, this model is an incredible achievement for its low weight and bulk. It is more weather resistant than jackets twice its weight, and the light fabric adds to its mobility. Since we scored this metric by weight alone, we awarded the Ferrosi a slightly better score, though can attest that despite coming in second with a score of 9, the Psiphon offers the best weight to function ratio of our entire review line up.
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.
The roll-down hood option weighs nothing, but gives athletes like runners and XC skiers the ability to stow the hood when they don't want it flapping around
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.
The thick HemLock inserts keep the jacket from pulling out from a harness when fully extended
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.
The cut of the Psiphon is athletic, but allows for layering underneath, and has a trim and clean cut look.
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.
A top performer in almost every situation we put it in, the Arcteryx Psiphon FL was a reviewer favorite, and handily won our Editors' Choice Award. It is lightweight, offers great mobility and weather protection, and has well thought out features that do not add unnecessary weight or bulk. For alpine and rock climbers, ski tourers, backpackers, and other adventurers who want top-notch performance with the minimum weight, the Psiphon FL is a great choice.
Fast and Light alpine pursuits require clothing that will not slow you down. The Psiphon FL is our Editors' Choice for overall outstanding softshell jacket.