This minimal all-weather jacket sparks to life in unexpected conditions.
By Brandon Mathis
It was amazingly still at 3:30 a.m. in the Valley of the Gods outside Bluff, Utah. The stars dominated the night sky as dark sandstone spires towered above us. Somehow we were wide awake despite running a self-supported trail (really, almost a marathon) the day before. There was still Colorado mountain mud on our jacket sleeve from some wet and soppy alpine shenanigans a few days prior, and now we were fending off a sleepless clear night in the hatch of a Subaru. Giving up on rest, we cut our losses and ate chocolate chip cookies. The one thing that stuck out, other than how good those cookies were, was how awesome that coat was. There aren’t many four-season jackets you can climb ice in, ski-tour in, sleep in and then run desert canyons in two days later. But this one, you can.
The Interstellar Jacket is what Outdoor Research calls its “pinnacle piece,” sort of the flagship of their line. It’s not the most expensive, nor is it the least, but it’s an achievement of design and technology the company can be proud of.
The jacket is chock full of features like dynamic underarm motion panels that allow for unencumbered movement. But the icing on the cake with the Interstellar is OR’s award-winning AscentShell fabric, the result of a savvy technology application that uses an electric force to draw charged micro-polyester threads to a grounded surface material called electrospun. It is a three-piece system with a shell, a membrane and a backer that protects the membrane. What you get is an actual waterproof, windproof and pliable jacket that has incredible ventilation.
In many ways, the Interstellar offers a paradox of features for a lightweight package, and it had us baffled under the stars covered in chocolate chip cookie crumbs. It’s a hard shell, but it stretches. It’s a three-layer piece, but it’s only 11 ounces. It’s unquestionably waterproof (confirmed on pitch three of a Colorado classic ice climb that showered water on us for 35 feet on a late warm winter day), but it’s highly breathable so you don’t heat up when the going gets tough.
Bridging the gap between high-tech and minimalism, the Interstellar Jacket has a selection of nice details like harness-friendly pockets, a helmet-compatible hood, adjustable cuffs and waterproof zippers. Add the fact that it stashes into its own pocket with a carabiner loop for easy harness attachment and it all adds up to a jacket that performs far beyond its first impression.
AscentShell works well, but there are more durable fabrics out there, even within OR’s lineup. If you plan to wrestle up rock chimneys, ski tight trees and crawl around on your elbows, you might look at those. But for alpine climbing, mountain biking, trail running and cookies under the stars, we found this to be just right.
Men’s and women’s: $299