The Arcteryx Acto MX Hoody is a jacket that inspires both love and hate. It is a confounding mix of brilliant, climber-friendly features while at the same time boasting some of the biggest what-were-they-thinking design traits I have seen.
The Acto is what Arcteryx calls ‘hardfleece;’ it is neither softshell, or hardshell, nor outright fleece. Whatever it is, it’s very breathable, quick-drying and well insulating while being relatively light, somewhat windproof and moderately moisture resistant.
It doesn’t block wind as well as Polartec Power Stretch Pro, but it does provide enough reprieve from gusts to remain comfortable both on the approach and while climbing. At the same time it breathes well enough that you don’t need to mess around with the zipper to maintain a comfortable temperature. It repels water and snow well, though it does ‘wet out’ more easily than ‘traditional’ softshells. As a mid-layer insulating piece it pairs wonderfully with the newest Gore-Tex Active Shell jackets, which allow the hardfleece to breathe to its full capacity.
It’s a wonderful fabric: warm, soft, breathable, quick-drying and as water-resistant as I’ve ever needed while mid-winter climbing (i.e. fairly dry conditions). It’s also a great piece to bring along on summer climbs, as the warm fleece interior provides a cozy refuge on blustery ridges.
I also love it’s stripped-down design. The jacket features just two Napoleon-style chest pockets, with big zippers and deep, mesh lining. Each will swallow a pair of climbing gloves without feeling awkwardly bulky.
Being a Hoody, this Acto also features Arcteryx’s unmatched helmet-compatible Storm Hood, offering unrestricted movement and visibility, even with the hood up and zipper cinched up. Nobody does helmet-friendly hoods better than Arcteryx. (Though, conversely, they are much too big and loose without a helmet on!)
However, as much as I love the versatility of the fabric, the simple-yet-effective design, its dual pockets and wonderful hood, there are a few things that absolutely drive me nuts every time I wear it climbing.
The hem ‘waist-size’ is absolutely massive. I’m not sure who Arcteryx used as a model for this design, but while the shoulders, chest and arms fit perfectly, the hem is a giant mess of extraneous fabric. To make matters worse, there isn’t a hem drawcord!
Yup – that’s all the extra fabric around the hem. The jacket is a Men’s size Medium, with a typical Arcteryx 40″ chest. Like many other climbers, I have a 30″ waist, and there is just way too much fabric around the hips.
The length of the hem is another issue. While the fabric stretches a bit, it has nowhere near the stretch needed for it to stay tucked-in underneath a harness. An extra inch or two of hem length would help keep the Acto from riding up every time I lift my arms.
The third area I have an issue with again concerns sizing — the sleeves aren’t long enough, either. While they’re fine when using gloves with a long over-the-cuff gauntlet, they quickly pull out of the cuff when using short-gauntlet gloves, and at the same time the elastic in the cuff is too tight to easily pull over the gloves. A velcro, or hybrid velcro-elastic, sleeve would solve this issue, as would an extra inch of sleeve length.
Despite these drawbacks, I’ve been using the Acto on-and-off for over a year. It’s been up rock and ice, down long approaches and across alpine meadows, and it still looks as new as it did when I first got it. The fabric doesn’t show a scratch, and performs flawlessly.
The Acto is one of those confounding pieces that have so much brilliance in them — the fabric, the simple design, the outstanding hood and pockets — that make you wonder why the details of the design are so lacking. I love (parts of) this jacket, and if I spent more time hiking or scrambling rather than hanging around in a harness, it would be at the top of my go-to clothing list.
Pros: great fabric, simple and efficient design, typical amazing Arcteryx hood
Cons: hem is too big, lack of hem drawcord, hem and sleeves are too short
Overall: An amazing jacket that I absolutely love — until I climb in it. Great for approaches, hiking, etc., but any time I put it under a harness, its drawbacks outweigh the advantages.