Hands-on Gear Review
Compare softshell jacket ratings side-by-side >
Street Price: Varies from $140 - $260 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros: Inner hood, looks good, well designed.
Cons: Bad vents, restrictive with helmet.
Best Uses: Everything.
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
The Outdoor Research Alibi is a well-designed, innovative, and top performing all-purpose softshell. Three different fabrics are placed strategically to maximize water resistance, stretch, and breathability. The result is a well-rounded jacket that's good for everything from ice climbing to alpine skiing, and light duty snowshoeing. The Alibi incorporates two unique features into its design. First, it has an inner liner hood that tucks into a snap closure pouch at the back of the neck. This fits underneath a helmet or acts as a substitute for a hat. Second, the Alibi has double-sliding side zippers that open from the waist to armpits. When fully open, the jacket turns into a poncho style cover. While we appreciate that OR is trying something new, we think the side vents are far inferior to traditional pit zips because theyre harder to open (two snaps), not compatible with a hip belt, and not as effective as pit zips. This is the only blemish on a top-performing jacket. It has many other well-designed features and a very good blend of fabrics that make it suitable for a wide range of activities.
Check out our full Softshell Jacket Review to compare all of the models we've tested.
Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Outdoor Research Alibi is an innovative all-purpose softshell. Its design is well thought out and different than all other jackets. Instead of placing vents underneath the armpits, the Alibi lowers them from the waist to armpit so that when opened the jacket splits into two pieces, creating a poncho. Two zippers and a snap at the bottom allow for customized venting. OR calls this TorsoFlo. Another unique feature is the Alibis inner hood, made in a lightweight material that hides in a snap pocket at the back of the neck. The inner hood can make a hat unnecessary in warmer temperatures. It also fits perfectly underneath a helmet, making it great for ice climbing.
Beyond its unique features, the Alibi is a solid performer. Three different materials with varying water resistance, stretch, and breathability create a remarkably versatile jacket. Waterproof Ventia fabric covers the shoulders and hood, a water-resistant and more breathable material covers the lower body, and a very stretchy and highly breathable Cordura Thermolite covers the back and underarms. This design is very good because it puts the right materials in the right places. For example, the Themolite material is perfect for the back because it provides the flexibility and breathability needed for mobile activities without the extra weight of a waterproof material (youll likely be wearing a pack anyway).
The Alibi incorporates some of our favorite features into its design. Two high hand pockets accommodate a hip belt, a chest pocket allows for quick access to a camera, lib balm, etc., and an internal zip pocket with headphone port creates a safe space for a key or iPod. All of the Alibis external zippers are watertight. The jacket also includes thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place when swinging ice tools. The cuffs are non-adjustable, but well sized. We like them.
While the Alibi is equipped with innovative features, some people may not find them useful. We believe the TorsoFlo side vents are inferior to traditional pit zips because they dont vent the hottest part of your body, the armpits. Opening them fully also requires dealing with the snap at the waist. This is time consuming and often requires stopping. Wearing a waist belt makes the vents only moderately effective because the bottom zipper and snap are covered and you cant open them up fully. We also find the vents dual zippers and snaps to be clunky and jingly. We appreciate that OR is trying something new, but think that pit zips perform better.
The inner hood may not be the most useful either. We love the idea and find it to be well placed and comfortable, but question its practicality. Yes, it covers the back of the neck and is therefore warmer than a thin hat, but if its very cold and youre wearing a thin fleece with a hood (such as our favorite Patagonia R1 Hoody), the Alibis hood becomes unnecessary. The good news is that the inner hood is tiny and tucks out of the way. Except for adding an extra ounce, it shouldnt be a burden. Unfortunately, thats not the case with the jackets primary waterproof hood, which is restrictive when worn over a helmet. Turning your head side to side is fine, but looking up and down (with the zipper fully closed) is restrictive and tight at the chin. Keep this in mind if you plan on doing a lot of ice climbing.
The Alibi is a very good softshell (our fourth favorite out of 16). Its a solid bet for any winter activity.
Ice and alpine climbing.
The Alibi is a good value.
The Alibi is available in a womens version.
— Max Neale
Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 17, 2013
Where's the Best Price?
*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
Helpful Buying Tips
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Related Gear Reviews
Other Gear by Outdoor Research
Recent Best-in-Class Reviews