The release of The North Face Ventrix has been well hyped and for good reason. This new synthetic jacket rivals the uber-popular Patagonia Nano-Air in both comfort and performance, yet comes in considerably cheaper ($79 less for the hooded version). For everything from cold-weather hiking and climbing to skiing, this can be your go-to insulated jacket. Below we break the down the Ventrix’s warmth, breathability, water resistance, weight and packability, fit and sizing, and more. To see how the Ventrix stacks up, see our articles on the best synthetic jackets and best midlayers.
No synthetic jacket rivals premium down in warmth for the weight, but The North Face Ventrix can help keep you cozy in a variety of conditions and will continue to insulate when wet. With 80g of Ventrix stretch synthetic insulation, we find it to be slightly warmer than the Patagonia Nano-Air, but not by a wide margin. It’s always difficult to put a temperature rating on a jacket as warmth is dependent on things like activity level, layering, wind, and how cold or hot you run. But as a standalone piece for non-aerobic activity (i.e. standing still), we think of the Ventrix as being ideal for temperatures down to about 40 Fahrenheit. If you’re working hard or add a long-sleeve baselayer, the jacket definitely can go colder.
For active use, the Ventrix is even more versatile. It’s a great option for cold-weather hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and skiing (as a midlayer for downhill or outer layer for the backcountry). As mentioned above, the jacket can keep you warm while standing still, but it breathes well enough to moderate your temperature while on the go (we cover this in more detail in the breathability section below). More, we even find that the Ventrix can be worn indoors fairly easily without overheating, while down certainly cannot.
One of the big advantages of modern synthetic insulation is breathability, and the Ventrix clearly is built with active use in mind. The proprietary Ventrix polyester fill is warm and thick, but its stretchy design releases hot air and The North Face added some interesting features to enhance this trait. Most notable are the tiny perforated holes called "micro vents" that are located under the arms of the exterior and along the back of the neck of the interior. The holes are intended to stay closed when inactive and open as you move and stretch the fabric, giving you maximum warmth while stopped and dumping heat on the go. We have to admit this claim feels like a bit of stretch (no pun intended), and we never could feel the system actively working. Nevertheless, breathability still is good overall considering the jacket’s level of warmth.
As we touched on above, the Ventrix’s primary competitor is Patagonia’s Nano-Air. In wearing the jackets in similar situations, we found ourselves getting warmer more quickly in the Ventrix. Part of the reason could be the extra insulation on The North Face—Ventrix is rated as 80g vs. the 60g FullRange on the Nano-Air (they are different insulation types so it’s not an exact comparison). Or it could be that the Ventrix breathes slightly worse than FullRange, which would make sense given that the jacket is considerably less expensive. We suspect that it’s a little of both, with the result being that the Ventrix can be worn in colder temperatures than the Nano-Air but isn’t quite as good when it (or you) heats up.
It’s worth noting that in addition to breathability, the Ventrix has a nice stretch to it. Despite the athletic cut, it’s easy to move your shoulders and arms (The North Face has a number of climbers and mountaineers among its athletes and the Ventrix is popular for those sports). Taken together, the breathability and stretchiness solidify the jacket as a solid option for active outdoor use.
The Ventrix repels light to moderate precipitation well. Starting with the shell fabric, The North Face added a DWR treatment, which now is standard among high-end outdoor gear and helps water to bead and roll off instead of soaking in. In terms of insulation, the synthetic Ventrix does a far better job than down at repelling moisture and continuing to insulate when wet. This is one of the big selling points of a synthetic jacket: you can wear it as an outer layer during anything but heavy rain or snow, and it won’t soak up your sweat from the interior either. We have pushed synthetic jackets beyond their limits on occasion, but they’re great for everything but extended exposure to the elements.
The hooded version of The North Face Ventrix weighs in at 15.5 ounces total, which is toward the heavier end of the synthetic pack. You certainly can go lighter with a superlight jacket like the new Patagonia Micro Puff, which weighs in at just 9.2 ounces but is more fragile and not designed for active use. Other top synthetic jackets like The North Face ThermoBall (13.8 ounces) and Arc’teryx Atom LT (12.7 ounces) weigh less as well. But the real competition comes from the high-output synthetic field, led by Patagonia’s Nano-Air Hoody, which comes in a bit lighter than the Ventrix at 14 ounces. We did mention above that the Ventrix feels a little warmer and thicker than the Nano-Air (and the insulation is 80g vs. 60g on the Patagonia, although that comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples).
Packability isn’t usually a strong point of synthetic jackets, and the Ventrix is no exception. We love the insulation and comfort, but it just doesn’t pack down nearly as small as a down jacket or even down-like alternatives such as the Micro Puff or ThermoBall. You can stuff the jacket into a pack without much thought, but it doesn’t zip into its own pocket or come with a stuff sack. When folded into its own hood, which is fairly easy to do, the Ventrix scrunches down roughly to the size of an American football, if not a bit smaller.
If there’s anything The North Face Ventrix excels at, it’s comfort. The inside of the jacket has a soft nylon liner with great next-to-skin feel, the insulation feels light and unobtrusive, and the exterior is cozy as well. From our experience, jackets like the Ventrix and Patagonia Nano-Air are more comfortable for long periods of wear than down-like alternatives such as the ThermoBall. In many ways, they feel more like your favorite cotton hoody, except even better due to the modern materials.
In terms of an overall softness comparison, it’s hard to replicate that pillow-y feel that the Nano-Air is known for. The North Face comes very close here and this jacket is ultra-soft and can be worn all day without thinking much of it, but the Patagonia still gets the nod in overall comfort by a small margin. It’s just slightly softer to the touch both in terms of the liner and shell.
The Ventrix is offered with or without a hood, but we prefer the versatility of the hoodie version for this piece. It’s a streamlined design that isn't helmet compatible, nor does it have any adjustments on the back or sides, but the scuba-style hood does fit snugly when the zipper is up to the collar. Perhaps most importantly, the hood has the same Ventrix insulation as the rest of the jacket, is comfortable, and shouldn’t come off in most situations. Some synthetic jackets like the Arc’teryx Atom LT have a rear cinch on the hood, but we aren’t going to lose sleep over the lack of this feature.
One of the more recognizable features on the Ventrix is the forearm panels, which come in contrasting colors on around half of the available models. The North Face’s climbing roots are evident here—they used a burlier 50D x 40D nylon on the forearms (vs. 30D x 20D on the torso) for preventing tears when brushing up against rocks or branches. We appreciate the thicker fabric and it certainly doesn’t have a much of a downside, although it does add to the techy look of the jacket.
The pockets on the Ventrix are fairly standard: two hand pockets with zippers and one tall chest pocket. You don’t get any internal pockets with this jacket, nor does it stuff into itself, but this hasn’t been much of a hindrance to us. The chest pocket in particular is larger than most—it’s extremely tall and has enough room for a smartphone (even a large one like an iPhone+ with a case), GPS, or a folded map.
The North Face Ventrix has a durable feel and the specs to back it up. The majority of the shell is 30D x 20D, which is similar to the Patagonia Nano-Air (30D), but thicker than the majority of our top synthetic jacket picks like the Arc’teryx Atom LT (20D), Rab Xenon X (20D), and The North Face ThermoBall (15D). In addition, the forearms of the Ventrix are beefed up with 50D x 40D panels, which is helpful for uses like rock climbing and skiing. Despite weighing a couple extra ounces more than much of the competition, the Ventrix makes up for some of that in toughness.
The North Face is known for boxy fits—including the very popular ThermoBall—but this is not the case with the Ventrix. This jacket has a slim, athletic cut that is similar to many of the pieces we’ve worn from Arc’teryx. We picked up a men’s medium, and have the Nano-Air in the same size, but the Ventrix surprisingly is even slimmer. Having said that, we like the fit: the Ventrix is great for wearing over a t-shirt or thin baselayer, yet still works well as a midlayer under a shell. Regardless of the use, you can move well with the jacket and it’s clearly built for high-output activities.
What We Like
- Warmer and cheaper than the Patagonia Nano-Air.
- Soft and very comfortable.
- A good option for performance use, including decent breathability and toughness.
- Fit is less boxy than most products from The North Face.
What We Don’t
- Limited packability. The Ventrix just can’t compete with down and down-like synthetics in this regard.
- With the forearm panels and other techy features, it has slightly less casual appeal than the Nano-Air.
|The North Face Ventrix Hoodie||$220||15.5 oz.||Ventrix (80g)||30D x 20D||No|
|Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody||$299||14 oz.||FullRange (60g)||30D||No|
|Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody||$259||12.7 oz.||Coreloft (60g)||20D||No|
|Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody||$215||13 oz.||Polartec Alpha Direct (95g)||20D||No|
|The North Face ThermoBall Hoodie||$220||13.8 oz.||PrimaLoft ThermoBall (33g)||15D||Yes|
In design and function, the most similar jacket to The North Face Ventrix is Patagonia’s Nano-Air. We’ve drawn numerous comparisons to the two jackets in this review above, and both are active insulation pieces that are soft, stretchy, and designed to breathe well for high-output activities. In fact, when first putting on the Ventrix, we were surprised at how similar it was to the Nano-Air, which certainly is a compliment. In terms of differences, the Ventrix is slightly warmer, has some nice technical features like the forearm panels, and costs a significant $79 less for the hooded version. On the flip side, it doesn’t keep you as cool while working hard, isn’t quite as soft as the Nano-Air, and doesn’t have the same everyday appeal due its design and fit. Independent of price, we still think the Patagonia is the better all-around option. But if you can give up a little in breathability and like the styling, we give the nod to the Ventrix due to its cost savings. In the end, both are excellent synthetic jackets and some of our favorites of their kind.
Our top-rated synthetic jacket overall is the Atom LT from Arc’teryx. With the Atom you get just about everything you need: excellent comfort, a complete feature set including things like a cinch on the back of the hood, and premium Arc’teryx styling that wears well both outdoors and in the city. However, the Atom LT is more of an all-around piece that is not as breathable or as stretchy as the Ventrix. If you’re looking for a jacket to wear everywhere, it’s the Atom LT. But purely from a performance perspective, the Ventrix is a better high-output option.
Before there was a Ventrix, The North Face put much of its marketing prowess into ThermoBall. We’ll start by saying that these are two totally different jackets: ThermoBall was designed to mimic the qualities of down, and it’s filled with clusters of synthetic insulation that actually look and feel similar to goose or duck down. The benefits of ThermoBall insulation are that it feels lofty and warm, and packs down impressively small for a synthetic jacket. Ventrix insulation, on the other end, was designed for active use and prioritizes breathability and stretch. Instead of square baffles like on the ThermoBall, the Ventrix has large panels of insulation. All things considered, the ThermoBall has its uses and is popular as an outerlayer during cool conditions or as a midlayer for skiing. But we don’t love the boxy fit or more fragile shell fabric, and instead prefer the slim, tough, and more performance-oriented Ventrix. Again, these are totally different jackets, but we the give the nod to the Ventrix.