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Arcteryx Fission SV Review

Arcteryx Fission SV 2017
Top Pick Award
Price:   $689 List | $546.24 at Oregon Mountain Community
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Wet-weather ready, the best hand warmer pockets in the review.
Cons:  Synthetic insulation breaks down over time.
Bottom line:  A moderately insulated, wet weather thoroughbred. The Fission SV is purpose built for wet and cold climates.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Arcteryx
By Jed Porter
Tuesday October 10, 2017

Our Verdict

The Fission SV is a niche jacket built for wet weather. You can see why this is true based on its feature list: a full Gore-Tex shell, carefully crafted and engineered wrist, waist, and hood closures, and synthetic insulation. In the deep field of winter jackets, testers felt strongly that this piece earned the Top Pick honor. Read on for more detail on how the Fission stacks up, and read our entire Men's Winter Jacket review for a comprehensive comparison.

Product Update
The new Fission SV, pictured above, is updated for 2017-2018. The extensive changes are detailed in the paragraphs below.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Winter Jackets of 2017

Our Analysis and Test Results

The New Fission SV vs. its Predecessor


The latest iteration of the Arc'teryx Fission SV comes with a plethora of upgrades and fresh colors to boot. The award winner newly features an internal mesh dump pocket and a zippered security pocket. The chest pockets are also redesigned with no-show zippers. The fabric is N80p-x 2L Gore-Tex (compared with N40p-x 2L), doubling the denier and increasing the durability and protection (in theory). The insulation is also updated from Coreloft to Coreloft "Continuous" which is more permeable and doesn't pack out as quickly. The jacket is available in two new colors and the price increases by $40.

Check out the two jackets below. The new model is on the left and the prior version to the right.
Arcteryx Fission SV 2017
Arcteryx Men's Fission SV

Here's a full summary of the changes:
  • New Dump Pocket — The internal mesh dump pocket is a new feature of this jacket, great for stuffing bulky gloves.
  • Zippered Security Pocket — On the opposite side of the mesh pocket is a zippered pocket for valuables etc.
  • Redesigned Chest Pockets — As you can see in the comparison photos above, the chest pocket zippers are now hidden behind a fabric flap. The stitching design, which outlines the pocket, is also new.
  • Increased Price — They say, you can't get something for nothing. Well, this is true for the Fission SV which has increased by $40.
  • Colors - While Black carries through from past seasons, the other two color options are brand new. Triton and Dark Moss are the latest hues.
  • N80p-x 2L GORE-TEX — The Gore-Tex material is updated to be fully N80p-x 2L which means they've packed double the count of fibers into the same amount of fabric. This should increase both durability and protection, though we can't say for sure until we've tested it ourselves.
  • Updated Insulation — Hydrophobic Coreloft™ Continuous insulation is the updated insulation material used in this jacket. According to Arc'teryx, it doesn't pack out as quickly and is more air permeable.
  • Weight Decrease — The new Fission SV weighs 890 g (versus 935 g).

With all of the new features, mentioned above, we're excited to get our hands on the latest iteration of the Fission SV. For now, the review pertains to the original Fission SV that we hands-on tested.

Hands-on Review of the Original Fission SV


The Arc'Teryx Fission SV on a ranch in rural Wyoming. For "shoulder season" cold and dreary rain  the Fission is perfect.
The Arc'Teryx Fission SV on a ranch in rural Wyoming. For "shoulder season" cold and dreary rain, the Fission is perfect.

Warmth


In comparison to the entirety of our tested field, the Fission sits squarely near the bottom of the middle. The design is svelte and the insulation is synthetic. These attributes combine to limit the overall warmth, but enhance other attributes. It is similar in warmth to The North Face Gotham II or the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka and warmer than the Helly Hansen Dubliner. In most ways, this jacket is best compared to the Helly Hansen.


Both are waterproof from companies highly regarded for their rain gear, and both are insulated with synthetic fill. The Helly Hansen fits closer and has less insulation. We granted the Fission our Top Pick Award for its wet weather performance. If you need something warmer, check out our Top Pick for Extreme Cold, the Canada Goose Expedition Parka or the Best Buy for Cold Conditions The North Face McMurdo. In short, the Fission is not the jacket you pick for absolute warmth.

Across the back of the user's neck is a stretchy  soft "gasket" of sorts that has real value in slowing drafts.
Across the back of the user's neck is a stretchy, soft "gasket" of sorts that has real value in slowing drafts.

Weather Resistance


If the Fission compromises on warmth, it pulls no punches for weather resistance. The full GoreTex shell, engineered hood, and the clean, welded and seam-taped construction make for the most weatherproof design in our test. In this way it is similar to the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun and three-in-one Patagonia Tres. However, Arc'teryx goes a step further by equipping the Fission with synthetic insulation.


If the inside gets wet, either through sloppy use (zipper left open, jacket left out in the weather inside-out) or from perspiration due to exertion, the synthetic insulation performs better when wet than does down, and dries more readily. In the end, the beefy shell and synthetic insulation combine to make the Fission lead the pack in wet and relatively warm winter conditions. For this we grant it our Top Pick Award.

Comfort


Arc'teryx is generally regarded as making excellent fitting garments. Across categories and for years now, OutdoorGearLab has lauded the comfort of their products. The fit is careful, generous, and accommodating. The cut is close enough to stay out of the wearer's way. The materials are carefully chosen to optimize both protection and comfort. In these ways, the Fission is no different. The one comfort compromise the Fission makes is in the shell fabric.


In order to make it as weatherproof as possible, the shell fabric is thick and stiff. This is good for weather resistance, but makes for a "louder" and more crinkly wear. In contrast, our Editors' Choice Men's Ski Jacket, the Arc'teryx Macai is also quite weatherproof but uses a softer, "quieter" shell material. This softer material absorbs water and stains sooner than the stiff material of the Fission. Similarly, the Camosun is made with a crinkly shell material that compromises some comfort for weather protection.

Just how we like it  the Fission zips up from the bottom for greater range of motion. Also  the bottom of the zipper is guarded with a snapped flap.
Just how we like it, the Fission zips up from the bottom for greater range of motion. Also, the bottom of the zipper is guarded with a snapped flap.

Features


There are jackets with more features, and there are jackets with fewer. As is seeming to become a theme with our review of the Fission (except for in terms of Weather Resistance), it comes out right in the middle. The Mountain Hardwear Therminator leads the features category with all the right pockets, hood and wrist seals, and even a ski specific powder skirt. The Fission SV has a carefully tailored selection of pockets, Velcro wrists, and an excellent hood. With nothing else, we can't grant a high score in terms of features to the Fission. However, we must make special mention of the hand-warmer pockets. It is easiest for manufacturers to create hand warmer pockets that sit outside the jacket's insulation and are made of the same fabric as the jacket's shell. While easy, these pockets are not that useful.


Next, in terms of convenience of manufacturing, are hand warmers created with a zipper through the insulation to put the users hands against his body, inside the insulation. Ideally, these are generous in size and lined with some sort of fleece. For our reviewers, hand warmer pockets like these set the standard. That is, they set the standard until we used the hand warmers of the Arc'teryx Fission SV. The only drawback of the aforementioned pocket design is that it leaves a drafty spot when the pockets are open with no hand in them. The pockets on the SV are fully insulated, front and back, and the lining is soft and fleecy on the back of the hand and smooth and soft on the palm. Your hand gets its own insulated envelope, and the jacket has no draft if the pocket is open without a hand in it. Perfection.

The large  stretchy  mesh internal pocket holds any of a variety of sized and shaped items.
The large, stretchy, mesh internal pocket holds any of a variety of sized and shaped items.

The hand warmers of the Fission SV are very nice. The dual sets of hand warmers of The North Face McMurdo II aren't insulated, but they do give the wearer the option of two different places. The Camosun jacket has fuzzy lined hand warmers, but they aren't insulated on both sides like those on the Fission. In comparing hoods of various jackets, the technical hoods of the Fission, the Patagonia Tres 3-in-1, the Mountain Hardwear Therminator, and the Camosun reveal the climbing and skiing background of these manufacturers. None of the casual jacket makers have hoods as nice as those on the parkas from these companies.

Style


Very few dislike the look of any tested Arc'teryx clothing; some pieces are truly inspirational. With the Fission, the look is neutral and athletic, with a slightly longer cut than a sport-specific jacket.


Most telling was the opinion of one tester, who asserted that the appearance was so neutral that no one would know how much you had spent on the jacket. Now, for some that will be a good thing, while others will want to send a stronger message. We will leave that up to you. All of the jackets we tested are relatively neutral in appearance. Your choice will depend on which way you lean. The clean, modern design of the Fission will appeal to the same people that dig the Camosun or the Patagonia Tres. For a more "throwback" look, check out the Fjallraven Greenland. For a younger, more modern look, the Therminator or Rab Neutrino Endurance might be appropriate.

The Arc Teryx Fission's hood is among the best in the class. With drawcords to keep it out of your view  and a stiff brim  the weather stays out while your visibility remains intact.
The Arc Teryx Fission's hood is among the best in the class. With drawcords to keep it out of your view, and a stiff brim, the weather stays out while your visibility remains intact.

Durability


There are pros and cons of the Fission in terms of durability. We know that the beefy construction and proven shell materials will last a long time. We also know that the synthetic insulation will steadily lose its insulating effectiveness over time. There is no way around this latter fact. Down insulation, like that in the Marmot Fordham and many other jackets we tested, will last longer than the synthetic Coreloft insulation of the Fission SV. The Helly Hansen Dubliner and the Therminator are also both fully synthetic insulated, and will suffer similar durability issues as the Fission SV.


Best Applications


We do not hesitate to recommend this jacket for the warm and wet winters of Great Britain, the mid-Atlantic coast, and the NW United States. For the far Northeast of the U.S., and the coasts of Canada, the Fission could be an appropriate spring and fall jacket or one to complement a warmer piece. Choose the SV when it's wet and sloppy, and chose something like the Canada Goose when its super cold and dry.

For cold weather outdoor action  you need a warm jacket. If your outdoor time involves wet or windy weather at a reasonable temperature  something like the Arc'Teryx Fission SV is especially well prepared. Just be careful around the fire with sparks!
For cold weather outdoor action, you need a warm jacket. If your outdoor time involves wet or windy weather at a reasonable temperature, something like the Arc'Teryx Fission SV is especially well prepared. Just be careful around the fire with sparks!

Value


There are better values in our test. With a high sticker price, and relatively short-lived synthetic insulation (in heavy use and repeated packing/unpacking, our testers have seen the insulation value of synthetic jackets cut to 50-60 percent in a year of action), the Fission SV is a specialty piece for those for whom price is less of a concern. For absolute best value, look at inexpensive, down-insulated jackets like The North Face Gotham II or the pile insulated Fjallraven Greenland.

Conclusion


We love Arc'teryx products because they work well and look good doing it. The Fission SV is a specialized piece in a strong field. The Top Pick Award the Fission now holds describes a piece of clothing that will serve a narrow slice of the population very, very well.

Jed Porter
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