"Outbound" Dan Human has been drinking out of streams, ponds, and puddles for several years on various backpacking and paddling trips.
The Verto Jacket Review
Have you ever wanted a versatile wind-blocking and water-resistant jacket that folded up to fit in the palm of your hand and weighed under four ounces? I know as a lightweight backpacker and a traveler, I've been looking for a long time and found my answer with the Verto jacket from The North Face.
The Verto jacket is made by The North Face as part of their Summit Series—equipment designed for extreme athletes in extreme conditions. At under four ounces, the lightweight Verto jacket folds into the size of an energy bar and still provides great protection from the elements. Backpackers, hikers, and climbers will appreciate the construction and packability of this jacket.
Unlike other ultralight tops, the Verto has a full-length snagless zipper; it is one of the few luxuries on this wind jacket. The bottom and hood edge are elasticized, but there are no drawstrings to save weight. The North Face eliminated the features found on most technical jackets to deliver this bare-bones minimalist shell.
The sole pocket, a Napoleon pocket, doubles as the stuff sack for the jacket. The jacket stuffs easily and quickly into the pocket without too much grunting and groaning. A double zipper on the pocket makes closure simple and a loop for attaching the stuffed jacket to a carabiner is provided.
Specifications of the North Face Verto Jacket
- Weight: 3.2 oz
- Center back: 28"
- Fabric: Pertex®H Quantum—100% nylon micro-ripstop
- MSRP: $99
- Hood: Elasticized Hood
- Pockets: 1 Napoleon / storage pocket
See the jacket and its specifications on The North Face's site.
Field Testing the Ultralight Verto Jacket
I torture all my outdoor equipment when it is new to see how far I can push it. When you know how far your equipment will go, you know you can go further. Many times during this testing process, the gear doesn't quite make it and is retired to the recesses of the gear closet or put on eBay.
To be honest, when I saw the thinness of the Verto jacket I expected that this would quickly be a shredded mess of wispy fabric once I put it to the test in the backcountry. I wrapped some extra duct tape around my Nalgene, to keep it handy for making make field repairs, but I haven't had to repair the jacket yet. Sometimes equipment surprises you, and this offering from the North Face has been a very pleasing surprise.
I'll just recount a few of the tests that this jacket has been through:
Peak Bagging in June: Heavy Rain / Wind / Ice
The first test of this jacket was a two-day peak bagging trip in the Adirondack High Peaks in early June. From the forecast I knew it was going to be rainy and colder than usual—the perfect weather for testing the Verto. It didn't start raining till I reached the summit of Big Slide on that first day, so I pulled the jacket out to walk across the summit ridge. It was a cold driving rain, but not very windy. The jacket was surprisingly keeping me dry, even in this downpour. Though eventually rain started soaking in through the seams at the shoulder; however, this jacket is not seam-sealed so I expected no less.
The next day was promising to be drizzly and cold as I started off with the jacket and kept it on all day to test the breathability. I hiked up the bushwhack herd path to Tabletop, descended a little then made the long climb up to Mt. Marcy. The summit steward was below tree line and bundled up with a winter jacket. I decided to put my long sleeve baselayer on underneath for warmth. It was an all out ice storm on top of the mountain as ice pellets hurled against me in winds powerful enough to knock you over.
In this extremely high wind, I felt the cold cut through me. This jacket surely wasn't as wind-proof as my heavier gore-tex shells or windstopper softshells. Also, the hood kept on catching the wind and popping off my head. The hood is elasticized but there is no drawstring to anchor it down. I didn't have a problem with the hood, till I met these gale force winds on the mountain and have had few problems since. I reached the summit of the mountain, then made the descent back to the lean-to for the night with the lightweight jacket still intact. Most importantly, I never felt like I was wearing a sauna suit while hiking all day; I found out that the jacket was very breathable.
I took this little jacket everywhere with me for more peak bagging, multi-day backpacking, kayaking, and canoeing. Heck, on one emergency bivy, I stuffed it with leaves for insulation and slept in it to keep me warm at night. Even when I was deployed to help victims of Tropical Storm Lee, I took this jacket with me as a backup jacket in my carry-on luggage.
The only test I didn't put this jacket through was the Search and Rescue mission test. Whenever I go on a search, rest assured that I will be crawling through the nastiest and thickest brush you can find. Though the Verto has held up well, I wouldn't expect it to hold up to that kind of abuse—hardly anything does.
The Verdict on the Verto
If you are looking for an ultralight highly water- and wind-resistant shell, I recommend trying the North Face Summit Series Verto jacket. I may even pick up an additional Verto jacket in XL to layer over my extra-puffy jacket in winter.
- Water and wind-resistant
- Not waterproof or windproof
- Lack of hood drawstring makes it tough to stay on in the wind
Suggestions for Redesign:
- Eliminate the full zip and go to a 1/3 zip pullover
- Add adjustments or drawstring in the hood to avoid hood flop
Verto Jacket in Action
Join Outbound Dan Human in his climb up the new Snow Princess Cascade slide in the High Adirondacks.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on January 15, 2012:
Thanks for this comment too CyclingFitness! Yes, the Verto jacket looks very similar to the Montane jacket as well as the Microlight jacket from Sierra Designs. I wouldn't want to depend on the Verto if I needed to stay dry, but awesome in an emergency.
Liam Hallam from Nottingham UK on January 15, 2012:
Great review. This seems to be a similar jacket to the montane featherlight jackets that my local outdoor store stocks. I have to admit I like to carry an extra full on light waterproof jacket in my rucksack so tend to steer away from something like this usually but you've given me ideas for a summer/ spring emergency jacket.
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on January 04, 2012:
@jpkl 1021, It sounds like you got an outstanding deal at REI. Most companies get pennies on the dollar for defective merchandise, so you can get a great scratch and dent deal.
That is pretty much my system all year around: a wind /rain shell, a fleece for a mid layer, then merino or synthetic baselayers.
Good luck fixing the zipper, it shouldn't be too hard.
Dan Human (author) from Niagara Falls, NY on January 04, 2012:
@John, I can sympathize we call the Adirondacks the AdiRAINdacks because the constant threat of rain. Generally I don't wear rain gear during the summer while it's raining - I just prefer to get wet, but I like to carry something like this when the mercury drops unexpectedly.
I thought about spraying the jacket with a seam sealer, but decided not too. If it is really raining, I'll wear my Gore-Tex Paclite jacket or my Mountain Hardware Conduit jacket. The nice thing about the Verto, is that it is about a 1/3 of the weight of those jackets - even if it doesn't keep you totally dry.
Sam Hammel on January 04, 2012:
I went to a scratch and dent sale at REI, and got a $200 dollar waterproof REI windbreaker for six bucks, but the zipper is broken, and should be an easy fix. I also bought a twenty dollar nylon fleece as a middle layer, is that a smart choice?
John J Gulley from Wisconsin on January 04, 2012:
Boy that jacket looks flimsy. But the way you describe it, easy to rip is not one of them. Out here in Wisconsin, rain when enjoying outdoor activities comes with the territory. You will get rained on when camping, no need to second guess what to pack. A raincoat or wind breaker is a must. Sounds like yours held up well. I wonder if spraying with Scotch Guard would help to reduce seepage through the seams?