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Hands-on Gear Review
The North Face Venture 2 Review
Cons: Relatively bulky fit, not the most breathable (but less clammy than the previous generation), hood doesn't fit over a helmet
Bottom line: The Venture 2 is one of the better all-around jackets in the $100 price range. It isn't as breathable as the Precip and is cut a little looser, but is slightly more durable and tough enough for the occasional downhill ski day.
The Venture 2 performs reasonably well, especially when you take into account its sub-100 dollar price tag. While we found it was comparable to the Best Buy Award winning Marmot PreCip and the Patagonia Torrentshell it didn't win an award primarily because it just wasn't quite as breathable. What the Venture 2 did have going for is its' durability; which was likely the best among in its price range. The other thing that impressed our review team about this relatively few-frills jacket is how well its' DWR (its ability bead and shed water) held over time. Overall, the Venture is a very reasonably priced rain jacket for folks who will occasionally take a hiking, backpacking, bike, or downhill ski trip but mostly need a rain jacket for around-town use.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The North Face Venture 2 is an excellent value for the average hiker, backpacker, skier, or someone who might merely need a rain jacket for running around town. Costing only $99, this model indeed competed for our Best Bang for Buck Award; it offered excellent weather resistance and a DWR that we found lasted longer the most models in its price range. The Venture is also light and packable enough to make it a very reasonable option to go into the bottom of your pack for a day (or a week) on the trail and sturdy enough for occasionally downhill skiing. The primary factor that kept this otherwise solid model from winning our Best Buy award was the identically priced and similarly designed Marmot Precip offered superior breathability.
The North Face uses their own 2.5 layer propitiatory Dryvent fabric for weather resistance. This face fabric's DWR held up decently well after several weeks of field use and several more days of rainy around-town action. Long-term, we found this model's DWR held up similarly to the Patagonia Torrentshell, Outdoor Research Helium II, and Marmot Precip but not as well as the Marmot Minimalist or Outdoor Research Foray.
Overall, this rain jacket performed well at the task of keeping us dry and especially well considering its $100 price tag. There's nothing particularly special about its' hood; it doesn't have a stiffened brim, but the when the elastic is cinched at the back of the hood the Venture 2 did a better-than-average job of keeping the elements out and this task is easily accomplished with gloves on. The Venture 2's hood was also easily among the best at maintaining a respectable amount of peripheral vision, even when cinched down tightly.
Overall our review team found this jacket above average in our side-by-side hose and shower tests, as well as in real-world use. We were also impressed by how well this model held its water resistance over time, especially considering its $100 price tag. Overall, we found this contender to offer slightly higher performance than the super light Outdoor Research Helium II or the Columbia Watertight II. As far as comparable performance goes, it was equally as water resistant as the Best Buy winning Marmot PreCip and the Patagonia Torrentshell but didn't perform quite as well in our tests as the Arc'teryx Beta SL, The North Face Dryzzle, or Marmot Minimalist.
Breathability & Ventilation
We found that the proprietary DryVent 2.5 layer coating used for this rain jacket was not as breathable as other fabrics found on jackets in a similar price range. While we think the newest version of the Venture 2 might be marginally more breathable, it's worth noting that we found the new Venture to feel notable less clammy than the older version. Overall it was close but didn't breathe quite as well as the Marmot PreCip or Patagonia Torrentshell but it did breathe better than the Columbia Watertight II and marginally better than the Outdoor Research Helium II.
What the Venture does bring to the table is a good set of ventilation features for a budget-friendly rain jacket. The Venture no longer features the larger-than-average pit zips; however, the pit zips are moved slightly forward when compared to most contenders we tested, and our testers found this design not only created more effective ventilation but was also more comfortable across the board as the zipper wasn't right in your arm-pit. The hand pockets are lined with a tightly woven, but not waterproof fabric meaning you get a little bonus venting when you leave them open.
Although the Venture isn't as breathable as several of its competitors, it does provide good ventilation with its' design of pit-zips that are moved slightly forward compared to most that allowing them to dump heat and excess moisture more effectively.
Comfort & Mobility
This model is something of a mixed bag here. The hood fits quite well, and a micro-fleece patch on the chin is quite comfortable. The zipper pulls are easy enough to use, but the cord locks for hood and hem adjustment are small. Overall, while these features are not the easiest to operate with gloves on, they weren't terrible, either. This jacket moves with you pretty well, but it pulls up slightly more than others near your waist can with arms overhead (but is improved from the previous Venture 1).
The Venture's overall mobility is slightly below average; it's not that we felt it was restrictive, but when compared side-by-side to other models like the Marmot PreCip or Patagonia Torrentshell, the Venture bunched up or exposed our wrists slightly more at the maximum ranges of mobility.
The North Face has improved the Venture's hood and we think it's among the nicest in its price range. We like it slightly better than the Marmot PreCip, primarily because of a cinching elastic drawstring at the back of the hood. This allows the hood to move with us more effectively when we turned side to side. That said, the Venture's hood is NOT an over the top helmet design and climbers may want to look elsewhere. It fits great over a beanie or a baseball cap, but it will have to be worn under a helmet unlike the Torrentshell or the Outdoor Research Helium II, which both fit respectably well over a climbing or big helmet.
Another nice improvement besides a general overall better performance is the Venture 2 lost just a touch over 2 ounces from its predecessor. Our size medium test model weighed in at 11.9 ounces, slightly lighter than its closest $100-range competition the PreCip (13 ounces)and Columbia Watertight II (13 ounces) but was more or less the same as the Patagonia Torrentshell (12 ounces). When comparing these three jackets, the weight is close enough that it shouldn't be a major factor. If you are looking for a lighter and more packable jacket, we recommend you take a look at the 6.5 ounce Outdoor Research Helium II.
This jacket's 40D ripstop nylon should stand up to some wear and tear, and it earned a middle of the pack durability score, proving a little tougher than the PreCip or Watertight and felt this model was pretty dang close to as durable as the Patagonia Torrentshell. With that said none of these jackets aren't quite as tough as the Marmot Minimalist, Outdoor Research Foray, or Arc'teryx Beta SL.
This model compresses slightly smaller than average among comparable jackets on the market. A nice, though increasingly common feature, is that the Venture stuffs into its left-hand pocket and features a clip-in loop when stuffed. Its packed size is smaller than the Patagonia Torrentshell, but not as small as the Marmot PreCip or Outdoor Research Helium II.
This rain jacket has a nice hood with a medium-sized brim, as well as two elastic cinch cords. The cord locks are external on the sides and at the rear of the hood. The cord that runs across the brow goes through a unique sleeve, which creates a little comfy airspace above it. This model comes complete with a comfy micro-fleece chin flap and a hang loop at the back of the collar.
This jacket has pit zips with strings on the zipper pull tabs and storm flaps cover the zippers. It also has hand pockets that can add just a little more ventilation if left open. The jacket stuffs into the left front pocket. The wrist cuffs tighten down with a Velcro tab, and the elastic hem cinch has cord locks on both hips.
This is an entry-level 2.5 layer shell. It will keep you dry around town, and even though the breathability isn't quite there, the ventilation features extend its usefulness to light hiking and backpacking. Its lightweight and durable enough that we'd also recommend it for some climbing and mountaineering or even the occasional downhill skiing. That said, for $50-$100 more, you can find something that offers lighter weight, as well as better packability, durability, and breathability.
At $99, this is one of the least expensive 2.5 layer rain jackets we tested. For the truly budget conscious, it will get the job done. But the added performance and small details of the award-winning Marmot PreCip and the climbing-specific Patagonia Torrentshell are a better value for most. However, if you want this jacket to also pull double duty as a ski jacket, we think this is the best of the three for that application because of its durability.
As one of the most affordable 2.5 layer shell we tested, the Venture is a good entry-level shell for the budget sensitive or occasional hiker or backpacker that will impress more urban-focused users.
— Ian Nicholson
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