A super lightweight soft shell for all mountain use.
The Arc’teryx Acto FL jacket is a superb shell jacket that is well designed and suitable for use in all your mountain adventures. It is part of the Ascent range of products so designed specifically for climbing and mountaineering it has proved to be a versatile climbing jacket.
Although Arc’teryx state that it is a hard fleece it isn’t in the same vein as the Fortrez fleece that I wear so much – it isn’t as warm either and you’ll need to wear a baselayer for those colder days. It does, however make for a good mid layer jacket and the smooth outer makes it very easy to get a hard shell on and off as well as belay jackets. The design is very much the same as a soft shell jacket – it has a tightly woven air permeable outer and a laminated, gridded fleece lining, so similar to many woven soft shells you will see out on the hill. It is very air permeable so do not expect it to act as wind proof jacket. For dry, windy conditions it worked well with the Squamish or Nodin but the ventilated nature of the weave meant that it wetted out pretty quickly – so other than a showery descent or climb you’re going to need a hardshell over it.
The Acto FL is designed as a fast and light type of shell so I tested it as an all day jacket. Meaning that it went on straight out of the car and stayed on until I got back. The gridded, laminated fleece backing was great at wicking sweat (and I sweat a lot on approaches whatever the weather) out onto the outer and although the jacket got damp it dried out super quick. The materials are top class as you would expect from Arc’teryx and they all performed outstandingly in test conditions – which was a good variety of Autumnal conditions ranging from showery mountaineering days to cold, clear climbing days.
The outer layer is Nylon so worked well and will be durable. It’s not totally bombproof however so I don’t think it would stand up to sustained abrasion in a granite offwidth or chimney. For most climbing conditions though it worked fine and the DWR finished has lasted and performed well throughout the autumn test period. The unlined hood seems to be an anomaly for Arc’teryx – it worked fine as a stand alone hood. So, if it’s showery on the approach, you are using it on a hike or the rain sets in on an Alpine day you it will provide a little protection. It wasn’t very helmet compatible however, it worked well enough if you just popped it over your helmet on a belay or whilst having a rest. It only just about zipped up when wearing a helmet however and when zipped up it affected head mobility. Given that the Acto FL is part of the Ascent range it seems out of character. The hood was fully adjustable though with a rear cord lock and the newer Cohaesive cord locks that are super glove and mitten friendly and worked fine when worn under a helmet.
The Arc’teryx Acto FL has plenty of great features, all the seams are taped to help the water repellency and the pockets are well placed and harness friendly. The main body zip is the now iconic No Slip Zip that magically undoes as you pull the jacket apart. The pocket zips are more standard YKK Vislon but are generous in size and the pockets are easily big enough to fit anything you might want to put in them. The right hand pocket has a hole for earphone leads. There is no chest pocket so you’ll have to keep that phone or camera somewhere else!
The sleeves are elasticated and they were a little long on my 5’7” endomorphic and negative ape index arms so I would always have a preference for a tabbed sleeve closure. That said the sleeves worked well with gloves and it was nice to have the ability to pull them up over my forearms for those tricky climbing pitches. The hem has a neat design to help keep the jacket from riding out of a harness, Arc’teryx call it HemLocks (is that a nod to The Eiger Sanction?). These are foam inserts that are in the hem and add bulk to stop the jacket rising up. A good idea but for me the jacket was long enough for that not to be a problem. A word of warning, Arc’teryx designers have been clever and provided a slot so the foam inserts can be removed – but getting them back in proved next to impossible!
So, in conclusion the Arc’teryx Acto FL is a high quality, premium softshell jacket that would be perfect for all your mountain adventures. You’ll need a hardshell on those raining days and a windproof will keep you warmer on those breezy ones. It’s jammed packed with features and oozes the usual Arc’teryx refinements. The hood needs a little work to make it truly helmet compatible but it works OK when it needed.
The Arc’teryx Acto FL comes in 2 colours Pilot Grey and Cardinal Red and sizes from S – XL. There is no Women’s version and the excellent Psiphon jacket is a similar type of softshell.
Dave Sarkar has tested and reviewed climbing, mountaineering and outdoor equipment for over 10 years. He works as a qualified MIA both in the UK and Internationally: working as a mountaineering instructor and expedition leader for his company Wild Spaces. When he isn’t working in the mountains he’s playing in the mountains and enjoys all aspects climbing and mountain sports whether bouldering at his local crag or ice climbing; as long as he’s going upwards he’s happy!