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Outdoor Research Axiom Review

Hardshell Jacket

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Top Pick Award
Price:   $389 List | Sale $388.95 online  —  Compare prices at 6 resellers
Pros:  Athletic Fit, extremely mobile, great features, good weather protection, affordable
Cons:  Front zipper can be difficult, drawstring buckles hard to manipulate
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research


Whether you are lapping the powder in the trees in the backcountry, skinning up that alpine line you have had your eye on all season, or simply riding the lifts at your favorite resort, there is no better hardshell jacket than the Outdoor Research Axiom. For this reason we are happy to give it out Top Pick Award for Skiing. The Axiom was the best fitting and most mobile jacket in this review. We loved how the combination of a GORE-TEX Active waterproof/breathable membrane and stretchy ripstop 20 denier face fabric made for a quiet and supple fit that never constricted. The hood, sleeves, and low hemline all did a great job of keeping out snow and provided great weather protection. We also liked the specific features, like two-way zippers and a media pocket and port, that set it apart from the competition. It is worth saying that while we did give it an award for how functional it is as a ski jacket, we also think the Axiom is a great all-around option, whether you are climbing ice or alpine routes, or simply hanging out in the snow, or even backpacking.

Outdoor Research updated the Axiom for the winter of 2015-16. The newest version includes a handful of new features, like a different front zipper, wire-brimmed hood, media pocket, and longer sleeves. It still features GORE-TEX Active, a lighter and supposedly more breathable version than GORE-TEX Pro.

RELATED: Our complete review of hardshell jackets

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Andy Wellman
Senior Review Editor

Last Updated:
March 2, 2016
When we reviewed the old version of the Outdoor Research Axiom several years ago, we cited several design flaws that caused us to recommend it primarily for hiking or backpacking, instead of climbing and skiing. The handwarmer pockets were too low and resided under a hipbelt or harness, the hood was severely restricted while wearing a helmet, and the drawstrings buckles, especially on the hood, were hard to manipulate. Additionally, our reviewers simply didn't like the fit.

The newer Axiom has addressed many these problems and more. The hood fits great, even with a helmet on, and now includes a wire-lined brim that provides great weather protection and adjustable fit. The handwarmer pockets, while still residing a bit low, extend so high vertically that even if pinched by a waistbelt, provide plenty of room for hands and accessories. We still think that the drawstring buckles could be improved, especially the one on the back of the helmet.

What makes the Axiom such a great jacket for skiing is its mobility and fit. Like the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, the hemline is low enough to give good protection if you wipeout in the powder, and the sleeves are long and articulated. The handwarmer pockets and chest pocket with media port are handy features, comparable to the ones on the Patagonia Refugitive. It is also far lighter and more nimble than other affordable jackets like the Mountain Hardwear Torsun.

Performance Comparison

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Steep and deep powder day in the San Juan Mountains. We loved this jacket for skiing because it was supple and flexible, fit great, and always kept the snow out.

Weather Protection

We awarded the Outdoor Research Axiom 8 out of a possible 10 points for weather protection. We found the GORE-TEX Active to be perfectly waterproof and had no complaints with its performance. The wide brim of the hood was one of our favorites, although we wished that the moldable wire extended further around the edges of the face opening. In the shower test, the slightest splashes of water were able to dribble off the corners of the hood and into the neck, although nothing so egregious as what happened with the REI Shuksan II or Patagonia M10. The zippers showed no signs of leaking. After three months of steady testing by many different users, we will admit that the DWR coating had worn off on the front of the jacket, causing some wet out of the face fabric. This was a common phenomenon, though, occurring in 8 out of the 10 jackets that we tested in this review.

See our Buying Advice guide for tips on reapplying your DWR.

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To make sure that we didn't only test this jacket while skiing, we took it to the Ouray Ice Park and ran some laps on a snowy day. While it performed just fine, the pocket configuration isn't what we would prefer for alpine climbing.


Our men's size large Axiom weighed 14.7 ounces, which put it in the middle of the pack overall, but tied with the Patagonia Refugitive for the lightest of the "all-around" jackets. The combination of lightweight 20 denier face fabric and the GORE-TEX Active membrane also made the jacket extremely packable in comparison to many others. More importantly, the light weight meant that it was more than suitable as a backcountry skiing shell as well as a resort skiing option.

If you're really counting ounces, we recommending checking out our Editors' Choice winner, the Arc'teryx Alpha FL. This fast and light jacket offers exceptional performance in many activities.

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Tyler George drops into the wind-blown entrance to the Granddaddy couloir on Red Mountain Pass, chased by Galena the pup. Multiple people confirmed that they loved skiing in the Axiom, our Top Pick winner.

Mobility & Fit

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The sleeves are plenty long enough and the hem does not ride up above the waist, critical features for weather protection, as well as fit. You can also see that it comes with two large handwarmer pockets.
Mobility and Fit was the Axiom's strongest attribute, and thus we gave it a perfect 10 out of 10 possible points. No other jacket combined such a perfect fit with such great mobility. Let's start with the hood. Our testers agreed that the hood, when tightened down, gripped the helmet and head well and did a great job of turning with with the head, in no way obstructing our vision or comfort. We also absolutely loved the trim fit. In stark contrast to some far more bulky and baggy jackets, like the Arc'teryx Theta AR or Arc'teryx Beta AR, the Axiom fit our chest and torso perfectly, while including plenty of room for extra layers. Finally, we loved the fit of the sleeves and hem. Compared to the Marmot Nano AS, the other jacket in this review that had GORE-TEX Active as its membrane, the fit of the Axiom was perfect. Where the sleeves and hem on the Nano AS were much too short, the Axiom had those departments perfectly covered.

The exemplary fit and perfect mobility of the Axiom is the primary reason why this jacket earned our Top Pick for Skiing. Our testers loved wearing it whether they were heading to the backcountry or the resort.

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A high, protective collar with a huge moldable-brimmed hood and an athletic and trim fit are some of the advantages that we love about the Axiom in particular. It was also the best jacket that we tested that featured GORE-TEX Active.


While we thought that the Axiom was no doubt a breathable jacket, we couldn't include it in our grouping of jackets that we thought were "most" breathable in our treadmill test. In that test, we were perhaps a little hotter than while wearing the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, and after the time was up we found the slightest traces of moisture on the inside of the cuffs and neck. It was interesting that in this test the GORE-TEX Pro seemed to outperform the Active Shell, something that in theory should not have happened. However, it is worth noting that the conditions in the workout room where the test took place included no wind or moving air of any kind to aid in direct vapor transfer that may have favored the Active Shell jackets. So take the results with a grain of salt. Regardless, we awarded this hardshell a 7 out of a possible 10 points.

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The GORE-TEX Active membrane on the Axiom was plenty breathable and windproof for this long uphill skin in the cold wind. Its versatility and mobility is what led us to prefer it over any other for long ski days in the backcountry.


The Axiom included a number of features that we really liked and in general did not find on any other jackets, but also had some real annoyances. We will point out both. We loved the double front zipper that allows you to unzip it up from the bottom, handy for accessing garments underneath the jacket. Only the Mountain Hardwear Torsun also had this feature. We also loved the special pouch and headphone cord port found in the high chest pocket designed to hold your smartphone for listening to tunes while skinning or resort skiing. No other jacket had that feature, and it worked well and wasn't gimmicky. However, like many of the jackets we tried, we didn't like the drawstring cord buckles, especially the one on the back of the hood. We also found the main front zipper to be a bit hard to get started at times. With the quantity of cool features but difficulty using some of them, we awarded 7 points.

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Inside the chest pocket is a small mesh pocket designed to hold your smartphone, and the porthole where the headphone cord can run through. We found this system worked well, although on the coldest days we have to keep our phone inside one of our warmth layers as having it so close to the outside cold will kill the battery.

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While we absolutely love two-way zippers, like this jacket had, we found that the main front zipper of this jacket was the stickiest and hardest to get started of the entire bunch, an annoying drawback.

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The problem with the handwarmer pockets on the Axiom is that they get covered up by a harness when climbing. That's why we liked this jacket especially for skiing, and also why we tend to prefer chest pockets for climbing.

Best Applications

We believe that the best use for the Outdoor Research Axiom is highly mobile activities like skiing. It especially thrives in the backcountry environment, where lightness, breathability, and mobility are necessary attributes. We also believe that it is a perfectly adequate layer for all winter activities, including alpine and ice climbing. That said, with its lighter weight face fabrics and membrane, we would not choose to work in it, or put it in highly abusive situations intentionally. If you're looking for the most bombproof hardshells (and you're willing to shell out the big bucks), consider the Arc'teryx Alpha SV or Arc'teryx Theta AR.

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The Axiom was our Top Pick for skiing, and we used think it is a great jacket for the backcountry, or for cruising the slopes at Telluride.


The Axiom will run you $389.00. This makes it one of the more affordable jackets in our review; price-wise, it's second only to the Mountain Hardwear Torsun in the all-around category. Since it won our Top Pick Award, we certainly think that it represents a good value for your money.


The Outdoor Research Axiom is our Top Pick for Skiing of all sorts. We enjoyed this jacket while lapping the powder in our backyard playground the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and also used it for some bumps and groomers at nearby Telluride. We loved its mobility and fit and lightweight breathability for backcountry skiing. During our tests, we also put it through the ringer while out ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Park and it was one of our favorite jackets for climbing as well. This is a perfect all-around layer that really can protect you while you're winter adventuring.

Other Versions

Outdoor Research Clairvoyant $325.00
  • Women's version of the Axiom
Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: March 2, 2016
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