My niece Jenny models the Marmot Venus Jacket on a cold January day at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
The lightest ultralight down jacket from Marmot is the Venus (the Zeus is the men’s version). The Venus Jacket barely meets our criteria for a three-season ultralight jacket: its insulated with high-loft down, has a lightweight shell with a DWR finish, has a minimal feature set (see the feature list in the specifications table at the bottom of this review), and weighs less than 14 ounces. It certainly is stylish and warm, but is it suited for backpacking?
I tested only the Venus in size medium, and this review is restricted to that jacket. My jacket weighs 11.7 oz. I measured the jacket’s double-layer loft at 1.25 inches (single-layer 0.65 inch). Marmot does not specify the amount of down in the jacket. I looked at the men’s Zeus Jacket at a local outdoor store. It has wider horizontal quilting that doesn’t compress the down as much, and the men’s jacket clearly has more loft.
The Marmot Venus Jacket (left) is the women’s version; the Zeus (right) is the men’s version.
The Venus Jacket is insulated with 800 fill-power down and has sewn-through construction in a stylish pattern. The small down chambers prevent down shift but also compress the down more than the men’s version. The shell and lining fabrics are 1.2 and 1.8 oz/yd2 respectively. The center back length is 1.75 inches longer than the front. The sleeves have Marmot’s patented Angel-Wing construction that allows one’s arms to be raised without the jacket riding up (right).
The front zipper is reverse coil with a metal pull-tab and a cord/plastic tab extension. There is a 1.25-inch-wide storm flap that is folded over at the top to create a chin guard. The five lines of parallel stitching on the non-insulated flap give it some body and prevent it from getting caught in the zipper.
The cuffs have 0.5-inch elastic in the hem.
There are two inside drop pockets (left) that are very convenient for drying gloves, or for keeping a variety of smaller items warm and handy. The front of the jacket (right) has two zippered hand pockets that are situated between the quilted front and the interior drop pockets and are made of the same fabric that is used for the jacket lining. Both pocket zippers have a cord/plastic pull extension that is a smaller version of the one on the main zipper. The right pocket zipper is reverse coil (as with the main zipper). The left pocket zipper, however, is installed with the teeth to the outside and it has a double pull-tab to allow closing the pocket with the jacket stuffed in the pocket.
The jacket can be stuffed into the left hand warmer pocket where the zipper has an extra pull-tab on the inside. The stuffed size is approximately 8.0 x 5.0 x 3.5 inches. I doubt I’d ever use this feature because it stuffs quite tightly (compressing the down more than I’d like) and it takes a while to get the jacket in.
At the bottom hem, there is a 1/8-inch elastic drawcord. On each side, where the hem approaches the front opening, the cord exits from inside the hem through a grommet, passes through a cord lock, and then goes through another grommet in the inside corner of the handwarmer pocket, where it passes through a nylon washer and is tied off. I’m not sure what the purpose is for the nylon washers. They both developed a cut through the radius and will probably soon fall off. The left picture shows the left side of the jacket from the inside. The right picture shows the left hand warmer pocket turned inside out (as it would be when used to stuff the jacket). The arrangement shown in these pictures is duplicated on the right side of the jacket. The drawcord is about 6 inches longer than it needs to be, but it can be easily shortened.
I tested the Venus Jacket in late summer, fall, and winter while backpacking, day hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter camping and hiking.
Since I am short (5 ft 2 in) with large hips, I needed to get a medium jacket to fit over my hips. This jacket extends about 2 inches below the widest point of my hips. With the size medium, the arms are too long, but that doesn’t bother me because I like withdrawing my hands into the sleeves. For me, the jacket is generously sized throughout except at the hips, where it is snug. The generous sizing allows me to wear extra clothes underneath. I found it fits well over the Montbell Ex Light Down Jacket and the combination is very warm.
In my field trials I found the jacket to be quite warm in the following situations:
- when actively hiking on cold days
- when in camp with a thick base-layer or thin jacket under it
- when snow camping with it worn as a midlayer under another insulated jacket
- when worn in my sleeping bag to extend the sleeping bag’s warmth
I found the Venus Jacket to have good wind resistance. The collar is snug around my neck and seals well. I found the cuffs and hem (without using the drawcord) to be adequately snug around my wrists and hips. The shell fabric is quite durable and does not snag easily. It’s also quite downproof (only an occasional feather came through).
Being that the jacket is snug in the hip area, I have no use for the bottom drawcord. Were I to tighten it, the jacket would just ride up to my waist. I felt it was overkill and not at all needed; in fact, it was in the way.
I did not have an opportunity to test the Venus Jacket in a rain or snow storm, so I did a one-hour indoor “puddle test” (left) to test the shell’s water resistance. Some water leaked through the seams, collected on a tray that I had set underneath, and wetted the jacket lining (right). I dried off the water inside and out and re-weighed the jacket. The end weight was the same as at the start, so the water wasn’t absorbed into the chambers. As shown in my “puddle test,” the Venus Jacket’s DWR repelled water well, but water readily soaked through the seams.
The following table compares specifications of jackets similar to the Marmot Venus. All jackets have premium down insulation, sewn-through construction, and a full-length front zipper. Manufacturer data shown are for a women’s size Medium.
|Jacket||Shell Fabric||Insulation||Features||Weight oz (g)||Cost (US$)|
|Marmot Venus||1.2 oz/yd2 polyester||800 down||Two zippered hand pockets, two inside drop pockets, elastic cuffs, drawcord hem||12.0 (340)||150|
|Eddie Bauer First Ascent Downlight Sweater||1.06 oz/yd2 polyester||800 down||Two zippered hand pockets, two inside drop pockets, elastic binding on cuffs and hem||9.2 (261)||169|
|Mountain Hardwear Nitrous||1 oz/yd2 polyester||800 down||Two unzippered hand pockets with flap, zippered chest pocket, elastic cuffs, drawcord hem||10.0 (283)||220|
|Patagonia Down Sweater||1.4 oz/yd2 polyester||800 down||Two zippered hand pockets, one inside zippered mesh pocket, elastic cuffs, drawcord hem||11.3 (320)||200|
Compared to similar jackets, the Marmot Venus Jacket is mainly competitive in cost. The feature set of all four jackets is similar and down quality is the same. All of the jackets listed have stylish quilting and an anatomical fit. The women’s Eddie Bauer First Ascent Downlight Sweater has larger rectangular quilting and it’s also quite a bit lighter.
The shell and lining fabrics at 1.2 and 1.8 oz/yd2 are heavy compared to other three-season down jackets, not nearly as light as the 0.8 oz/yd2 fabrics in seriously lightweight jackets. Also, the feature set goes a little beyond minimal; the zippers have metal pull-tabs and the hem has a bulky elastic drawcord system typical of mountaineering jackets.
The Venus Jacket in size women’s Medium has a trim fit, as is typical of women’s jackets. It is clearly sized, styled, and fitted for women. In other words, it puts more emphasis on a trim fit and anatomical styling (women don’t want to look like a marshmallow!) than it does on warmth and performance. I have an issue with the women’s version of many lightweight down jackets. Because of their stylistic quilting, they are more about fashion than performance. The extensive quilting tends to compact the down more to make the jacket look trimmer, rather than let the down fully expand. The First Ascent Downlight Sweater is an exception, it’s styled and fitted but its larger down chambers do not suppress the down. My advice, if you want a jacket for warmth and performance in a backpacking situation, is to consider the men’s version first. Or look for a women’s jacket that puts function before fashion.
Bottom line, the Venus Jacket is a very nice jacket for day use, but I wouldn’t take it backpacking. Its heavier fabric, zippers, and hem drawcord simply make it weightier than other choices.
Specifications and Features
|Year/Model||2009 Venus Jacket (men’s model is the Zeus)|
|Sizes Available>||Women’s XS to XL, men’s S to XXL|
|Style||Hoodless jacket with full front zip|
|Fabrics||Shell is 1.2 oz/yd2 (41 g/m2) polyester ripstop with DWR
Lining is 1.8 oz/yd2 (61 g/m2) polyester with DWR
|Insulation||800 fill-power down|
|Construction||Sewn through with stylish quilting, Marmot’s patented Angel- Wing arm construction.|
|Loft||Measured double-layer loft is 1.25 in (3.2 cm)|
|Features||Down-filled stand up collar, full height #5CN YKK coil zipper with one slider and storm flap under zipper, two zippered side pockets, two interior drop pockets, elastic cuffs, elastic drawcord hem with two adjustors, 1.75 in (4.4 cm) dropped tail, chin guard, stuffs into left hand pocket|
|Weight||Size women’s Medium tested.
Measured weight: 11.7 oz (332 g)
Manufacturer specified average weight: 12 oz (340 g)