Outdoor Research Men’s Interstellar Ascentshell Jacket
By Casey Potts
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Just the Facts:
The gear-of-the-year winning Interstellar is the most breathable waterproof jacket built for total comfort during fast and light alpine missions. Its technical design includes dynamic reach underarm panels that allow total mobility, above-the-harness pocket placements, and a fully adjustable helmet-compatible hood with HoodLock™ functionality. The Interstellar is guaranteed to let you work harder, and move faster, without sacrificing waterproof protection.
Since 2016, Outdoor Research’s proprietary AscentShell™ technology uses an electrospun process to create a 3L construction that breathes faster, weighs less, stretches more, and far surpasses the comfort of traditional waterproof membranes.
Fabric: Ascentshell 3L, 100% Nylon20D mechanical stretch Ripstop face with 100% Polyester 12D backer
Weight: 11.8 oz/335 g
Zippers: YKK AquaGuard Zippers
Notable Design Features:
-Fully Seam Taped throughout
-Adjustable Helmet Compatible hood
-Wire Brimmed Hood with Hood Lock
-Internal Front Storm flap
-Zippered Chest and hand pockets
-Elastic Draw cord hem
-Velcro Cuff closures
-Entire jacket stuffs into Left Hand Pocket
For five years, Outdoor Research has been equipping adventurers with one of the best waterproof breathable fabrics known to scientists; AscentShell™ technology. The electrospinning process behind Outdoor Research’s AscentShell has been tested, proven, and awarded – 20 times, to be exact – as the best way to protect yourself from wet weather when you’re working hard uphill.
With all of the new styles in our own AscentShell Collection, we thought this would be the perfect time to reeducate ourselves about the benefits of electrospinning and how this makes the best breathable waterproof jackets.
Electrospinning and nanospinning processes begin when charged polymers are affixed to a grounded surface. Those polymers are layered into an air-permeable breathable membrane that, under a microscope, you can see forming a web that allows sweat vapors to escape out but stops liquid water droplets from coming in.
Electrospinning (nanospinning) is a relatively new way of constructing waterproof breathable jackets. It breathes faster, weighs less, and is more stretchy than traditional membranes, and is all in all a fantastic value for its high performance. All of Outdoor Research’s AscentShell styles use a 3-layer construction for burly protection and reliability.
Breathability and Air Permeability
Breathability is a relative term. Everyone sweats at different rates, which makes it difficult for gear companies to create a one-size-fits-all solution for a waterproof jacket that won’t suffocate its wearer.
One important difference between electrospun (nanospun) waterproof jackets and traditional waterproof jackets is that electrospun products are air permeable. Air permeability is when a small amount of airflow allows moisture to move quickly and easily from the inside of the jacket to the outside, before building up to sweat levels that create discomfort and clamminess. As a result, air permeable jackets are going to make you a lot more comfortable when you’re active than “waterproof breathable” jackets.
For Outdoor Research, it’s comfort that matters most. Plenty of fabrics out there score well in controlled lab tests when it comes to breathability, but they wouldn’t actually be comfortable to wear outside. That’s because air permeability and breathability are two different things. Breathability describes the ability of a jacket to move moisture from the inside out, but it doesn’t describe how the moisture moves. This is important because in traditional waterproof jackets, that airflow doesn’t even start to work until you’ve already started to sweat uncomfortably.
That’s why we focus on comfort. And comfort means using an electrospun membrane for waterproof, breathable, air permeable, stretchy comfort outside.
Where They Excel
Outdoor Research AscentShell: Electrospinning excels at giving athletes, adventurers, and everyday outdoor lovers comfort during wet adventures. The best part is that it can be customized across a range of different weights and fabrications to make it perfect for any range of activity. To top it off, electrospun and nanospun membranes are some of the lightest weight types of waterproof protection.
Bottom line: AscentShell is best for people who want a stretchy, waterproof jacket that is extremely comfortable to wear during high-exertion activities, but it isn’t great for burly monsoon conditions or instances where you’re standing still in a downpour.
Shop AscentShell Collection.
GORE-TEX: GORE-TEX is one of the best-known experts for their durable waterproof dependability. GORE-TEX jackets are trusted by all-season athletes who need the most reliable, top-of-the-line insurance against inclement weather.
Bottom line: GORE-TEX is best for people who want durable waterproof protection for rugged outdoor excursions, but it won’t be as comfortable, breathable, or air permeable as other options.
Shop Gore-Tex Collection.
2 and 2.5 Layer Membranes: This type of membrane can be the lightest and sometimes most affordable option for a waterproof jacket, however, it won’t be as breathable as AscentShell or GORE-TEX. These make great commuter jackets or emergency rain layers because of their light weight, packability, and reliable waterproofness.
Bottom line: 2 and 2.5 Layer membranes are great solutions for the city or wet car camping, but wouldn’t be comfortable working out in for extended amounts of time.
I received this jacket and immediately was taken aback on how light and flexible it was. When compared to the multiple rain jackets that I have owned this one is best described as paper thin.
My first impression, when putting this jacket on is that the sizing might be on the small side. I ordered the largest jacket I could get, XX-Large. These jackets are trim fit, and trim fit they are. The torso and arm length are excellent, keeping me covered even in full stretch. This jacket is not ideal for layering, as it will only would only accept a regular wicking shirt underneath which is how I intend to wear it anyway so no harm there.
On a chilly January morning I pulled up to a local ski hill, as a wet snow fell. I knew that shortly the wintery mix would give way to full on rain and allow me to put this Outdoor Research Interstellar Ascentshell Jacket to the test. My prediction proved true, as I stood in the morning lift line and the rain started to slowly bead up on my sleeves, this would become the start of an 8 hour rain storm.
Throughout the morning and late into the afternoon water continued to bead up on the outside surface of this jacket, never wetting out and not a drop leaked through the taped seams.
The hood on this jacket was able to fit over the top of my ski helmet, allowing me to completely repel water throughout the entire day. Wearing mittens I was not able to easily manipulate the hood closer, but that would be asking a lot.
The zippers on this jacket operated smoothly allowing easy access to both front pockets, the chest pocket and zipping/unzipping the coat. Other rain jackets I’ve owned had an uncomfortable entry into the front pocket, this jacket has the pockets designed at the correct angle.
The following weekend I was again on a ski hill, this time on a snowboard, with conditions calling for gusty winds in the morning followed by a windy and rainy afternoon. Again, the Weatherman proved to be correct. I was battered by strong gusts of wind throughout the morning and my Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket beat back the wind, allowing me to remain warm with just the jacket and a thin long sleeve shirt. While riding the mountain I had full range of movement, never feeling constricted or confined by the Interstellar Jacket. Even in the cold weather the jackets Accentshell fabric remains soft, and flexible. Despite the lack of vents in this jacket I never felt over heated as it breathes well.
Shortly after noon, the weather changed, adding a down pour of rain. I pulled the hood up over my ski helmet and zipped up to the chin flap. Weather that had the masses heading into the lodge, allowed me to make several more runs while staying completely dry. Rain continued to bead up on top of my Outdoor Research Jacket for the next couple of hours until the rest of my group decided to call it a day. Once in the parking lot, I removed my jacket, threw it in the back of my truck and drove home just as dry as when I started my day.
While I survive the winters skiing and snowboarding I’d much rather be out hiking. During a short break in the weather, with unseasonably warm weather in the forecast, I made a quick plan to take the Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket for a quick trip out to the woods.
Walking with the Interstellar Jacket, a backpack and a thin wicking hiking tee, was comfortable as the jacket appeared to again breathe well. I was able to quickly adjust the hook and loop arm cuffs while walking adding to the air circulation. My Outdoor Research Jacket was comfortable, moved very well with my body and wasn’t noisy, as I climbed over obstacles, set up camp or did camp chores. Later in the afternoon, as the sun came out and tempters rose, it was quick and easy to pack it into itself and stick it into my backpack. While I didn’t encounter any extreme weather on my hike, this jacket did provide me with a little protection against the morning chill. I was even able to access and use the front pockets while wearing my backpack.
In my view, this Outdoor Research Interstellar jacket has proven its worth. It has taken some very nasty rain, snow and wind and beat it back. It is light, soft, comfortable, breathes well. It has taken over the number one spot as the “go to” jacket in my gear box.
When used within its intended use this jacket is an excellent choice for those seeking a cost effective water proof, windproof lightweight jacket that also breathes well. There are not many jackets this lightweight that can keep the water, and wind off of you and still allow for movement and ventilation. The Outdoor Research Interstellar jacket does all of this while remaining soft and quiet. Gone are the days of scaring away nature with the loud crinkles from a jacket. I would rather eat a bag of chips then sound like a bag of chips.
Find it Here:
What can be done better?
One minor detail that in my opinion, should have been added was a media access port in the chest pocket for headphones or other devices. While I personally don’t use these types of devices while doing outdoor activities, I know others do. Adding this feature would make the jacket that much better.