A lightweight 3 season pullover pared down to the basics – does the Arc’teryx Psiphon SL have a place in the modern climber’s wardrobe?
Looking like a typical lightweight windshirt the Arc’teryx Psiphon SL is deceptive. The main body fabric is Nylaz, a lightweight densely woven nylon/elastane blend which is far more robust than the typical ripstop nylon/pertex windshirts beloved of runners. The Nylaz fabric also has a good level of stretch that allows the Psiphon to maintain a trim fit without impacting on freedom of movement. Its textured nature also means that it doesn’t feel clammy or sticky against the skin so you can wear it over a short sleeved base layer in warm conditions quite comfortably.
The Psiphon has obviously been designed specifically with climbing in mind, it is not a general purpose windshirt that also does climbing. First up the fabric is very durable given its lightweight nature, I’ve scraped it up Alpine granite, Yorkshire grit and Lakeland volcanics and it has come out unscathed. The cut is sufficiently trim that there is no billowing out and obscuring your feet yet with the stretch there is no restriction of movement. The hood is actually a lighter weight of nylon and is cut to accommodate a helmet. A clever single handed draw cord snugs it down and reduces the volume but doesn’t quite allow you to seal it up ‘Kenny’ style around your face without a helmet if you’re heading into a hoolie (but you’d probably be donning a full hard shell at that point). A concealed press stud tab allows you to secure the hood as a collar if it’s not needed. The sleeves are a good length and have been designed so that they can be pushed up on the forearms but not rolled up past the elbows. I liked the idea of this cuff/sleeve design but in practice there were several times when I wished I could just roll them up past my elbows either to fine tune ventilation or to get them away from the muck/rock.
The hem includes Arcterx’s Hemlock™ inserts to keep it tucked into a harness which seem to do the job well. A deep front zip allows easy venting and access to midlayer chest pockets to get your phone (for that all important summit shot) or compass (to confirm you’re not lost and the snow cover really has retreated that much – it’s a long story!). The breathability of the Psiphon SL is exceptionally good which aids its versatility, there is less need to take it off as temperature or exertion levels increase which in turn reduces faffing and speeds up your day. Though not as compact as a ripstop/Pertex type windshirt it still packs impressively small and can easily be tucked into a rucksac lid pocket but surprisingly it has not been equipped with the near ubiquitous ‘stuffs into its own pocket’ feature. This is a shame as it makes an ideal top to take on long summer rock routes clipped to your harness to give a little wind protection for belays and summit walk offs, a small stuff sac solved the problem but having the facility built in would be better. I’ve yet to try the Psiphon in winter and though I can’t foresee a role for it in Scotland it would make a great action layer for sunny Euro cascades (think Cogne) without the fear of it getting shredded by the first ice screw it sees.