Five years ago I reviewed the Arc’teryx Acto MX and summed it up thus: “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.”
Now, five years later, I am happy to report that it would appear as if someone at Arc’teryx read my review, made all the changes I wanted, and added a couple more excellent features on top of that.
The Acto FL is made of the same ultra-breathable Aerius Grid Loft fabric as the MX. With a 100% Nylon face, the fabric shrugs off scrapes, sharp rocks, and errant crampons. The smooth outer slides easily under layers, while the bonded, gridded, fleece backer wicks and breathes exceptionally well. I’ve been using the FL as both an approach and climbing layer and it breathes well enough that I can wear it to around +5C on an uphill hike without overheating.
It’s also quite stretchy and, thanks to the Hemlock harness retention system, I haven’t had it come out from underneath a harness even when upside down in a figure-4. The Hemlock system is comprised of foam inserts in the hem: lightweight and flexible but creating enough of a ‘bump’ in the hem to prevent it from sliding out from underneath the waist belt. Additionally, the Acto FL now comes with stretchy hem drawcords, solving the ‘flapping hem in the breeze’ issue I had with the Acto MX.
Another notable change from the MX to the FL is the hood. Whereas the MX used the same Aerius fabric in the hood, the FL swaps it for a lightweight, windproof, StormHood made of Tyono 30, a tightly-woven nylon fabric. The thin fabric makes for a hood that practically disappears when stowed, a nice touch when using the Acto as a layering piece. The hood fits over a helmet, though it is tighter than I am used to from Arc’teryx, but is also comfortable over just a bare head, or lightweight toque. It’s lightweight, breathing well when I’m working hard but also keeping the wind and weather out: as with other Arc’teryx products, the DWR finish is superb.
Aside from these changes, the FL is the same, pared-down, lightweight outer or mid-layer jacket that I loved all those years ago. There are two gigantic chest pockets… and that’s it. No hand pockets to get caught underneath a waist belt or harness, no tiny, unusable, music-player pockets: just the essential features for a climber, or hiker, on the move.
The Acto MX was a wonderful jacket and I’m delighted to say the Acto FL improves upon it in every single way, and is finally the superb climbing piece I always wanted it to be.
There is, however, one major issue, and one smaller niggle.
The biggest problem is overall fit. For the first time ever an Arc’teryx Men’s Medium doesn’t fit me. In fact, it is so tight that it feels like a size Small, and I had to go up to a size Large for it to be anywhere near what I’d expect in fit from Arc’teryx. This is highly unusual: I either own or have owned approximately thirty different models of Arc’teryx jackets and they are or were all Men’s Medium. That said, the size Large fits as I would expect: long sleeves, deep hem, roomy through the shoulders but tapered around the torso and waist.
In the interest of through reporting I have attempted to try on other colours of the Acto FL — perhaps the batch of ‘Everglade’ jackets somehow got mislabelled — but have been unable to find any in stock in a local retail store. Arc’teryx are also unaware of any sizing issues so I don’t have an explanation for this bizarre fit but be forewarned that the Acto FL seemingly fits one size smaller than other Arc’teryx jackets.
The small niggle concerns colour. On my colour-calibrated screen the ‘Everglade,’ as presented on the Arc’teryx website, appears as a rather bright yellowish-green, a lovely vibrant shade reminiscent of young Spring leaves. It has more or less the same hue on my phone, and my iPad. However, in person it looks more like a faded Autumn leaf, somewhat browned after a summer in the sun. It’s not an unattractive colour, but I find the discrepancy of what’s displayed on the official website versus the actual product unusual. I have never experienced this type of inaccuracy with any Arc’teryx product before.
Other than these two things which, in the end, don’t concern performance or usability, the Acto FL is faultless. It breathes exceptionally, stretches without binding, has excellent abrasion resistance, and a superb fit and design as a dedicated climbing jacket. Weight in a Men’s Large is 458 grams, which if you’re counting grams is on the heavier side of mid-layers but acceptable to me given the Acto FL’s versatility as both an approach and climbing jacket, and an insulating mid-layer once it gets colder. I suspect I’ll be wearing this jacket more than any other through the coming winter climbing season. Very highly recommended.
Pros: great design, excellent fit, durable, versatile
Cons: odd sizing, inconsistent colours, expensive ($450 CAD)
Overall: An amazing jacket that I absolutely love, from the approach to climbing, and either as an outer-layer or insulating mid layer.