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Outdoor Research Alibi Review

   

Softshell Jackets - Men's

  • Currently 2.8/5
Overall avg rating 2.8 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: March 22, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $100 - $156 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Looks good.
Cons:  Many unnecessary features reduce performance, hood is restrictive with helmet, heavy.
Best Uses:  Around town, general use.
User Rating:     
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 (2.0 of 5) based on 3 reviews
Recommendations:  50% of reviewers (1/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 22, 2014  
Overview
The Outdoor Research Alibi is a climbing softshell that scores below average in our ratings. Two different fabrics are placed strategically to optimize resistance, durability, and breathability. The result is a well-rounded jacket that's good for general winter use, around town, and (if you don't mind the weight and a variety of unnecessary features) climbing. For several reasons, this jackets scores relatively low in our evaluation of 20 top-tier jackets.

Check out our full Softshell Jacket Review to compare all of the models we've tested.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Performance Comparison
Weather Protection
The Alibi is a heavy duty windproof softshell that's much more wind and water resistant than it is breathable. This makes the jacket best for outdoor activities in cold and windy weather.

Breathability
The jacket scores low in this area. It is one of the least breathable softshells we've tested and it's poorly suited to aerobic use in all but cold and windy conditions.

Mobility
Just below average here. We found that the arms were slightly more restrictive than other climbing softshells like the Patagonia Knifeblade and much more so than the Arc'teryx Venta MX.

Weight
24 oz. is a lot!! Many three-season down sleeping bags weigh the same amount. The implication is: it's harder for you climb because you're carrying more. If weight matters you could use a warm fleece like the Patagonia R3 and a waterproof hardshell like the Patagonia M10, which when combined weigh less than the Alibi and are warmer and more versatile.

Features
We've never been impressed by the design of any Outdoor Research softshell features and the Alibi has perhaps our least favorite assembly of features. The philosophy appears to be: the more complex the better, rather than the minimalist philosophy that climbing gear usually holds to.

OR adds a "helmet liner" which is a funky little hood that you could use if you didn't have a hat or a hooded fleece, and wanted some insulation between you and your helmet. If we were to keep this jacket we would immediately cut this feature off because it's annoying (extra bulk in the hood area when not in use) in addition to unnecessary.

The TorsoFlo side vents are inferior to traditional pit zips because they don't vent the hottest part of your body-- the armpits. Opening them fully requires dealing with a snap at the waist, which is annoying. This is time consuming and often requires stopping moving. Wearing a waist belt makes the vents only moderately effective because the bottom zipper and snap are covered and you can't open them up fully. We also find the vents' dual zippers and snaps to be clunky and jingly. Overall, this is a very poor design and we're surprised that OR didn't ditch it several years ago.

This is the only softshell we've ever tested that has a two-way zipper. Again, this is unnecessary because a shell goes under your harness, not over it!!

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The OR Alibi is the only softshell with a "helmet liner" (lightweight hood). This is an unnecessary feature that we wish was not included with the jacket.
Credit: Jeff Smith
Style
The jacket looks great.

Best Applications
Around town, general winter use.

Value
The Alibi is relatively cheap, but we think it's worth spending more money on a better jacket, or perhaps even less money on a better jacket; see the Patagonia Simple Guide Hoody.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: March 22, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (2.0)

50% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 50%  (1)
2 star: 50%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Mar 17, 2013 - 08:19pm
spidey · Climber · Berkeley CA
OK, I gave up on this jacket. I sold it and now have a Patagonia Adze and Knifeblade. The adze is much better for casual use and anytime you need something windproof, and the knifeblade is a much better technical softshell than the Alibi. The fabric zoning is a good idea, but other than that the features need a lot of work. The hood is restrictive, the fit is not as good as others, etc.

The Alibi was a good try but there are much better options out there.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 11, 2012 - 05:19pm
spidey · Climber · Berkeley CA
Update on my review below:

I got a brand new one under warranty - one of the hood adjustment cords came out and they sent me a new jacket for free. There have been a couple improvements over the last one:

1) the helmet liner can now be zipped out if you don't want it.
2) the cuffs have been improved - better material, not as tight (but still snug enough) and no more thumb holes. Much better IMO.

Still not too psyched on the torsoflow thing though.
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   Apr 3, 2011 - 02:54am
spidey · Climber · Berkeley CA
I agree with the review overall. I got the Alibi jacket this year (after checking out bunch of options including jackets from Marmot, Arcteryx, and Mountain Hardwear) and used it for a few days of ice climbing at lee vining and one day of backcountry skiing (so far). It performed very well and I'm quite happy with it. It was warm, did a good job of keeping the wind and water out, looks good, and fits well (slim performance fit, roomt to layer but not baggy, and the arms that are plenty long). It is long enough that it stays put under a harness or hipbelt.

The Torsoflow zips are just OK - They are easier to open than pitzips but they don't open all that far if you are wearing a pack with a hipbelt - maybe halfway. Minor issue. I have mixed feelings about the helmet liner - I did use it but it's very thin so not all that warm, so most of the time I just used a thin powerstretch hat under my helmet (or nothing at all when climbing). I think an R1 hoodie or the coomparable OR hoodie would be a great combo with this. The thumb loop wrist thingies work well but make it hard to read a watch, I think I'd prefer a standard wrist closure like the Gamma MX has, as they are more comfortable and less fussy.

The jacket itself was waterproof where it needed to be - I got stuck belaying under some dripping water and it just shed it right off - the DWR coating works. I really like the breathable back panel/underarms - that was what really sold me on this jacket. It is really nice as it helps with venting, especially when wearing a pack on the approach. The hood is OK - not perfect but totally adequate - it is a bit tight and does restrict mobility somewhat when fully zipped up with a helmet underneath, but works really well without a helmet. The shoulder panels are waterproof and burly, so you can switch tools by placing them on your shoulders without worrying about damaging the fabric. Nice touch. The pockets are great, chest pocket is a good size, hand pockets are large enough for gloves and high enough to work with a pack/harness.

Having said all that, this jacket is a lot less expensive than the Arcteryx Gamma MX, a bit heavier, and was a lot easier to find, and offers a few more features - venting side zips, fabric zoning, thumb loops, and the helmet liner. If I was redesigning this jacket I'd keep the fabric zoning, add pit zips and ditch the other "features", and it would be just about perfect.

I also checked out the MH Dragon and found it seemed a bit flimsy, didn't like the colors and the aesthetics. The Alibi is more substantial and seems like it will be more durable, more weatherproof, warmer, better vented, and more versatile. The hood adjustments on the Alibi are better too. I found the pit zips on the Dragon to be hard to operate with one hand, while the OR side zips are easy to open with one hand, but only open halfway with a pack on. Opening the pockets does provide more venting though, and I found the venting was adequate on the Alibi. The fabric on the back and arpits vents really well.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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OR Alibi
Credit: Outdoor Research
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