Here we are, readers, the Geargals alive and kicking after a massive hack that took down the site and left me despondent, unable to repair it on my own. But, thanks to Codeable we were back up and running in two days. Well, three months and two days, because it took me three months to find Codeable. But you know, whatevs. Oh, by the way, you might think we’ve been gone longer, as the nature of the hack made our posts visible to only us since last April. NEAT! So, go buy some Chinese Viagra to support your local hacker, cuz they do a damn good job.
Anyway, so, gear, yeah. I sat down to write about the Ventrix but it’s pretty clear to me that this needs to be a battleground review, because if you’re looking at one you’re also looking at the other. I’ve owned the Nano Air for a few years now and got the Ventrix about two months ago. And it isn’t even a contest. The Ventrix wins hands down.
Here are the contenders:
Patagonia Nano Air
The North Face Ventrix
The gist of these jackets is that they are (allegedly) insulation for exertion. I’m one that does not combine the two. If you need vents, you don’t need a puffy, so I say. Wearing the Nano Air, I was firm in my belief. If I’m going to sweat, I’m not wearing anything puffy. But the Nano Air did work OK in those types of climates that are sort of on the cusp. Not cold-cold, but like autumn chilly (and I mean Alaska autumn chilly, not Lower 48 autumn chilly) or sort of misty rainyish. I’d usually wear it in the summer, and where I live we typically have cool summers or at least cool evenings (Alaska evenings, that is, which means like 10pm to midnight, when you start to get a little sleepy even though it’s broad daylight). I never took it backpacking because it doesn’t compress, but I did take it hiking quite a bit. It was OK. I didn’t dislike it.
But I didn’t love it. Part of the reason for that was the fit. Patagonia switched up their fit in the last couple years and the switch wasn’t in my favor. Everything is weird for my body shape now. Tight arms, tight hips, too-slim everything, just not my thing. The Nano Air was like that. I probably would have liked it better if I’d sized up, but I wears what they sends me. It was just not a flattering jacket. Also not flattering was the way it quickly pilled and looked “worn.” The fabric caught on everything, the stitching pulled, it pretty quickly became a work jacket. I sort of stopped wearing it except when it wasn’t cold enough for the ultralight down, or was slightly too cold for just a shell (read: I wasn’t exerting). It is great for taking on airplanes, I’ll give it that, it got a lot of trips hither and yon on such ventures. But as a piece to throw on over things like light shells, fleece, etc., nope. It just doesn’t have enough room. Once I got a few other jackets in the mix, I hardly ever wore the Nano Air.
The Ventrix was admittedly a sleeper. It showed up in a color that didn’t grab me (above). I tried it on, put it back in the closet, left it there. I don’t remember what made me take it out again and start wearing it for real, but once I did it has not been on a hanger since. So here’s the break down:
Where the Ventrix wins: (Yo, I would totally underline this to make the organization of my post more obvious but WordPress took away the UL button. Strunk and White are spinning in their graves)
The fit is better. Longer, roomier. Way more comfortable. I love that it is decent looking while giving me some damn room in the waist and hips. It still has the too-tight arm problem. WOMEN HAVE MUSCLES, PEOPLE. Make the arms bigger. My jacket fits me OK but the roominess is notably diminished in the arms. Why is this still a problem?
The pockets on the Ventrix are great. Huge, in fact. There is a roomy chest pocket that seems like it has endless room. And the zippered handwarmer pockets are also oversized. Very nice.
So I haven’t had the Ventrix as long as the Nano Air. But I do have a Belgian Malinois puppy right now and the jacket is still going strong despite some close calls with puppy shark teeth. And I did some ill-advised bushwhacking last week wearing the Ventrix, worrying the whole while I was going to ruin my new fave jacket, and it still looks great. The Nano Air, on the other hand, was pilled within a week or two, just from backpack straps.
The Ventrix is $50 cheaper via MSRP.
The crux, I guess. It’s hard to quantify, but the thing is, I reach for the Ventrix a hell of a lot more than I ever reached for the Nano Air. It’s way more warm than the Nano Air (I lent it to a friend in single digit temps and, after an initial getting-to-know-you period in which she tried to put it on as an anorak [I don’t know either], she commented, “that jacket is super warm!”) and seems useful in a broader range of temperatures. Or, perhaps I just think that because I wear it more. I have worn it in single digits with a vest over and been comfortable. Today I wore it on an uphill hike in 36ish degree weather and got a tad warm but I was also wearing a warm hat and a down skirt. In 20 degree ranges I keep it zipped up and am perfect. I wear it every day until it grows too cold for real and then I reach for some legit insulation like the DAS Parka (still a favorite).
Where the Nano Air wins:
This pains me as I’m a big Patagonia fan. I love everything they do, except, apparently, this. This was okay. Just not great.
Where they tie:
None of the colors are good. The Ventrix has a red one in the current lineup which would win over the current Patagonia colorways, though at one point Patagonia had a chartreuse option which was excellent. So, it’s a draw in this one category.
So yeah this pains me, really it does. Patagonia is one of my favorite companies in large part because of their social responsibility and willingness to tell Donald Trump where to shove it. But, The North Face wins this bout.