Gear Test: Arc’teryx Psiphon

Right now in San Francisco it’s raining heavily, and has been consistently for the past few months. We definitely needed the water to break a drought in California. But it does put a damper on training. I’m preparing for a 1000 mile hike across Europe soon and trying to squeeze as many hikes with different gear loads as I can to help me decide what to bring. This morning, as the rain roared in, I thought it would be a great opportunity to test out my wet weather gear. If there is one thing I know from hiking, if you hike long enough you are bound to get wet.

Big blue on the top of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

I’ve been a huge advocate of Marmot gear for a very long time. My old faithful Marmot Pro Shell has never let me down, even in some of the most punishing conditions you could imagine. At times though it can get pretty humid if the weather is on the warmer side. Pro Shells are made of Gortex and fully waterproof. They don’t breath. The Pro Shell offers pit zips which help with airflow, but, in the end, it’s Gortex.


Lately I’ve been really impressed with Arc’teryx. They have some great breathable fabrics. Last year completed the Annapurna circuit with the Atom LT. The jacket performed fantastically well. I was warm and never overheated even on the brutal climb up to Thorong La Pass. For my upcoming hike, I thought I would purchase the Arc’teryx Psiphon  that it would have sufficient water resistance that I could use it for my primary outer layer. It’s light, super breathable. It’s worth a shot.

Toasting to a successful climb to Thorong La Pass


Over the past months I have taken the Psiphon on about a dozen hikes in the Bay Area. I have to say it is the perfect weight for Spring and Autumn hiking. The fit and finish are also top notch. The fabric breathes well and moves incredibly comfortably. Today with the rain, I thought I’d give it a real test hiking up to a nearby hill, Bernal Heights. I threw on the Psiphon and an Adahy Hoodie as a mid-layer and headed out. Round trip, it’s only about 4 miles. it should give me a good sense of how well the gear handles heavy rain.

The Tissues-In-The-Pocket Test

I was quietly confident as I headed out the door. I set up my patented, super technical tissues-in-the-pocket test to see how much, if any, water soaked through. The trick I have found is to wrap the tissue around a tennis ball to simulate some pressure against the outer layer of the jacket. Just putting a few tissues in your pocket can sometimes give you a false outcome if the tissues were protected in a crevice of the pocket. Using the tennis ball makes it much more likely to truly test any water.

After about an hour, and many odd stares are I stood under flowing waterspouts whenever I found them, I made it home to check out the results. Unfortunately they were not good. I guess I had expected the jacket to be something it wasn’t – waterproof. Taking the outer layer off, you can clearly see where the rain had soaked through into the mid-layer. The tissue test failed miserably too. It was soaked and completely smooshed to use the highly technical term.

top of the shoulder were quick to soak through

My mid-layer was soaked.

The Verdict

The Arc’teryx Psiphon isn’t waterproof. I knew that going in, but I guess since it had performed so well in my other trial hikes I had built up home that it could do it all. For brief showers and temperate conditions, it’s great and will continue to be my primary goto. I heat up quickly and the Psiphon fits perfectly into the sweet spot that I often struggle to find. Fit and finish is top notch with the hood being the right size and highly adjustable to my odd shaped head. Unfortunately however, it’s not going to cut it as my primary outer layer for my long hike.

I remember when I purchased my Marmot Pro Shell about 5 years ago. It sure wasn’t cheap. The assistant in the store commented that “it’s an investment”. I think that’s how you have to look at serious waterproof gear. I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth out it.  Arc’teryx also makes a range of equivalent waterproof jackets like the Theta which look pretty good. I may invest in one of those down the line to see if they have managed to work their magic on the breathability side. A lot can change in gear over 5 years! For now, however, I think I will stick to my old faithful for the long hike. I’d like to try out the Theta. I’ve checked them out in the store and whilst they look great, not that much seems different from my Pro Shell. Not enough to justify the expense anyway. (Arc’teryx, if you are reading and want me to test one for my 1000 mile hike, I up for that, of course.)  Thankfully the Psiphon is so light and such a wonderful jacket for those temperate days I can easily stuff it into my pack as well.


Marmot, or Arc’teryx you really can’t go wrong if you choose the right jacket for the condition. Just remember, water-resistant isn’t waterproof.