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Hands-on Gear Review
Outdoor Research Foray Review
Cons: On the heavier side, slightly more expensive than average
Bottom line: A fantastic all-around shell with some of the best ventalation features out there in a fairly light but durable package
The Outdoor Research Foray Jacket is likely the most versatile jacket in our review - thanks to its Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, a bomber construction, and a fairly uniquely and effective venting design. This design might appear gimmicky at first, but after real world testing, all of our testers grew to love its functionality. The Foray features two VERY large side vents (they aren't really "pit-zips" in the traditional sense because they are much bigger) that did a fanastic job dumping heat and moving moisture.
This award winner kept us as dry as any other jacket when getting a spray down with the garden hose; both the hood and adjustable wrist cuffs sealed out any driving rain. While we have found Paclite fabric to be one of the more breathable fabrics, the Foray's huge separating pit vents ventilate the jacket like no other. This "TorsoFlo ventilation system" can be unzipped completely down to the waist hem, and can even be separated poncho style for maximum air flow. We awarded the Outdoor Research Foray a Top Pick due to its ventilation, excellent features, and overall versatility.
While we love the Foray's combo of great features and durability, it is slightly heavier in comparison to our other rain jacket award winners. Our Editors' Choice winner, the ultralight Arc'teryx Beta SL, forgoes underarm ventalation and delivers exceptional breathability at a third of the weight. Our Best Buy winner, the Marmot PreCip delivers decent performance and versatility at half the price.
RELATED: Our complete review of rain jackets - men's
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
This award winner is an excellent and exceptionally versatile rain jacket; it's more durable than most contenders tested and offers better ventilation than almost any other option out there. Indeed, the Foray earned the second highest score of our overall evaluation metrics, providing the user fantastic water-resistance, breathability, ventilation, comfort, and durability for this award winning jacket. If it was only slightly lighter, it would likely be our Editors' Choice; however, at 16 ounces, to say it's heavy would be a stretch.
Check out the chart below to see where our Top Pick for Ventilation winner landed in the Overall Performance metric.
Getting sprayed in the face with a garden hose in near freezing temperatures is never fun; the Foray kept us almost completely dry and was among the very best performers overall in our review. A stiffened front brim does a great job of shielding your face from rain pouring straight down, and the three-way hood adjustment seals around the face well.
Only the Marmot Minimalist, REI Rhyolite, and Arc'teryx Beta SL earned higher water resistance scores, providing more weather protection. The Minimalist and Beta SL's design offer fewer seams in the shell along the shoulders, and its waterproof hand pockets and traditional pit zips provide fewer potential leak points down low. The Foray's wrist cuffs, with elastic on the inside of the wrist and a Velcro cinch on the back, sealed out water as well as any cuff. All said, the Foray kept us bone dry every time we wore it, and we expect it to continue to do so for a long time.
The DWR treatment on this award winner beaded water well, and was just beginning to wet out in some high wear spots a couple months into testing. We haven't laundered our jacket yet, but we expect a wash and dry will restore the original DWR. Read more about laundering' and DWR maintenance and restoration, in our Buying Advice article accompanying this review. We love the Foray but don't think its DWR has held up quite as well as the Marmot Minimalist, The North Face Dryzzle or Arc'teryx Beta SL.
Breathability & Ventilation
The Foray earned the second highest score in this metric. This jacket pairs a Gore-Tex Paclite (a fabric with far better than average breathability) with class leading ventilation features. We have observed that in cool to cold weather, Gore-Tex Paclite fabric does a great job moving sweat from the inside of a jacket to the outside. All waterproof and breathable fabrics work best in cool weather, where the larger temperature gradient from inside to outside promotes the movement of moisture. Rain jackets, which are generally designed for warmer weather use than hardshells, incorporate more ventilation features for use in warm weather. And this is where the Foray excels.
The Foray uses "TorsoFlo", the name for their full-length vents, under the arm and down the sides of the jacket; this technology create the largest pit vents of any rain jacket we tested. But that's not all; they separate into poncho style if you need complete ventilation. Rain storms are rarely here and then gone for good, meaning that you often continue wearing your rain jacket after the bulk of the storm has passed. Thanks to its stellar ventilation, the Foray is still comfortable to wear even during the dry time between intermittent rain showers.
Although we rarely wore this jacket poncho style, unzipping the side vents all the way down to the waist hem provides amazing air flow. Then add three mesh-lined pockets that can also be used to vent your core, and no other rain jacket we tested comes close to matching the Foray's breathability and ventilation for warm wet weather.
Comfort & Mobility
Our testing team found the Foray to be one of the most comfortable models we tested. Outdoor Research did not shave off weight by eliminating comfort features, and we appreciate the small touches like the micro-fleece hood for the main zipper at the chin. In addition, all of the zipper pulls have attached plastic fobs that are easy to operate either bare handed or with gloves. We also really like the cord lock adjustments for the hood; one handed operation snugs them up from the inside, but the unique design also allows exterior adjustment once fully zipped up.
The Foray's overall mobility and range of motion was certainly above average. The torso generally stayed put as we lifted arms overhead, and we never felt restricted in our movement in this jacket. The hood fits over a helmet, but like most other jackets, it restricts side to side movement a little.
Our size large test jacket tipped our digital scale at just a hair under 16 ounces, just a fraction heavier than the Marmot Minimalist (15 ounces). The Minimalist uses a little heavier polyester face fabric, but makes up for the heavier fabric by incorporating fewer features. The long zippers that create the Foray's separating TorsoFlo core vents certainly add some weight, as does the roll away hood feature. All in all, we're quite happy with the compromises Outdoor Research makes in relation to this model's weight. In our testing, we've found that 2.5 layer models that pair light nylon ripstop fabrics (with proprietary waterproofing) are generally lighter, if less durable. The Best Buy winning Marmot PreCip weighs in at 13 ounces and the similar Arc'teryx Beta SL at 11 ounces.
The Foray was easily among the most durable jackets we tested with the only other comparable model being the Marmot Minimalist, which is likely a smidge tougher yet. While both of these jackets use a burly polyester face fabric with the Gore-Tex Paclite laminate, the Foray simply has more zippers that could lead to trouble over time.
Both of these jackets are backed by a lifetime guarantee. If multi-year durability is your focus when choosing a rain jacket, we feel these two are the most durable of the bunch. The Marmot Minimalist is the best rain jacket if you seek a model that functions like a lightweight hardshell for cold weather adventures, while the Foray is the best choice if you want the ventilation ability of a rain jacket, paired with burly Gore-Tex Paclite fabric for rough cool and warm weather adventures.
Somewhat of a surprise considering its relatively heavy weight, the Foray packs away nice and small when stuffed into its hand pocket. A clip-in loop is a convenient feature for technical use; clip it to your harness or secure it to your backpack for quick access. Due to its features, it doesn't pack down quite as small as the similarly designed and priced Marmot Minimalist, The North Face Dryzzle, or Arc'teyx Beta SL; it only packs down to around 10-20% less compressed size.
Fitting for the price point, this is one of the most featured products we tested. The hood of the 2.5 layer Gore-Tex Paclite jacket sports multiple adjustments. The large stiffened brim has a sleeve of soft fabric on the underside and the elastic cord (for cinching up the face opening) is sewn into the center of this sleeve, creating independent adjustment for each side of your face. Soft fabric lines the inside of the face opening all the way around, and the cord locks can be adjusted from either the inside or outside - a brilliant feature. A second elastic cord is sewn in at the temples and adjusts at the back of your head. In addition, a Velcro tab on the back inside of the collar serves to hold the hood in a rolled away position, should you choose to do so.
This jacket has a small, comfortable micro-fleece patch on the chin and a fabric hood for the zipper, which protects your chin. A hang loop is sewn into the back of the neck, or you can choose to use the exterior loop on the outside back of the neck (used for securing the rolled hood) for hanging.
This model has pit zips on steroids; they extend all the way to the bottom hem of the jacket, and separate creating a poncho-style jacket. While we rarely do this, opening the pit zips nearly down to the hem is awesome. These zippers are protected by a small storm flap; the large zippered hand pockets are lined with mesh for additional ventilation, as is the Napoleon pocket on the left chest. The jacket easily stuffs away into the left hand pocket, and there's a clip-in loop when stuffed. Both the main zipper and the chest pocket zipper are of the waterproof type, and all the zipper pulls on this jacket have awesome ergonomic shaped plastic pulls.
The wrist cuffs seal nicely on this jacket with a velcro tab. They also have elastic on the inside of the wrist, and are lined with a soft fabric for comfort. Due to the separating pit-zips at the hem, the elastic adjust cord only passed through the rear of the hem; note that there are cord locks on both sides, just behind the separating zippers.
If you want a do-everything rain jacket than can stand up to abuse, this is a great choice. We found it comfortable in both freezing temperatures and in warm weather. It breathes well enough when fully zipped up in the cold, and vents better than any other jacket for warm and wet weather. We might prefer an ultralight model for most fast and light missions, but this requires sacrificing durability. The Foray is a perfect hiking, backpacking, or climbing rain jacket that will even work for occasional downhill ski days or kayaking trips. If durability and ventilation are more important to you than weight and price, this might be the jacket for you.
At $215, the Outdoor Research Foray is on the spendier side for a rain jacket; however, it offers numerous features and durability that we feel justify the price. If you like the Foray but don't feel like you need the full-length ventilation zippers, check out the Marmot Minimalist, which is $15 less and has more standard-style pit-zips.
Conclusion and the Bottom Line
If you're seeking a durable rain jacket with great ventilation, the Foray is the obvious choice. It will keep you dry through all kinds of pouring and blowing rain, and offers more ventilation than any other jacket. It is fantastically versatile; if you feel like you want the full-length ventilation zippers, save some weight and check out the Marmot Minimalist or Arc'teryx Beta SL.
The Outdoor Research Aspire - Women's is a very similar women's Gore-Tex Paclite rain jacket with TorsoFlo venting. It won the Editors' Choice award in our review of the Best Women's Rain Jackets.
Outdoor Research Helium II and Outdoor Research Helium II - Women's
— Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 21, 2016
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