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Hands-on Gear Review
Outdoor Research Axiom Review
Cons: Front zipper can be difficult, drawstring buckles hard to manipulate, no pit zips.
Bottom line: An affordable all-around jacket with stretchy breathability, but fewer venting options.
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. Best of all, this fantastic jacket will only set you back a reasonable $389, the second most affordable jacket in our review. For this reason, we are happy to award it our Best Bang for the Buck.
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 the two-way zippers and a media pocket and port, that set it apart from the competition. The Axiom is a great all-around option, whether you are climbing ice or alpine routes, skiing laps at the resort, or simply hanging out in the snow.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The OR Axiom remains unchanged for the winter of 2016-17, and this is a good thing. The hood fits great, even with a helmet on, and includes a wire-lined brim that provides great weather protection and adjustable fit. The handwarmer pockets, while residing a bit low on the body, extend so high vertically that even if pinched by a waistbelt, provide plenty of room for hands and accessories. The drawstring buckles could be improved, especially the one on the back of the helmet.
What makes the Axiom such a great jacket for climbing, skiing, and other active pursuits 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 Outdoor Research Furio.
One of the unique design features of the Axiom is that it eschews the use of pit zips in favor of letting the ultra-breathable GORE-TEX Active membrane work as it should. However, if you are looking for a super affordable jacket that has a plethora of venting options, take a look at the OR Furio. A more traditional hardshell offering from Outdoor Research, complete with hem to pit zips and made completely of 70D GORE-TEX Pro is the Outdoor Research Men's Maximus Jacket.
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 North Face Free Thinker Jacket or Patagonia Triolet. 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 most jackets that we tested in this review.
See our Buying Advice guide for tips on reapplying your DWR.
Weight and Packability
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. 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. While the 20D face fabric and lack of pit zips certainly helped cut some ounces from this jacket, a few were added back on by the use of hand pockets as well as a chest pocket. Regardless, this was a light and packable jacket that received 8 out of 10 points for weight.
Mobility and Fit
Marmot Cerro Torre 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.
The exemplary fit and perfect mobility of the Axiom is the primary reason (well, that and the cost) why this jacket earned our Best Bang for the Buck. Our testers loved wearing this jacket for skiing, whether they were heading to the backcountry or the resort.
Venting and Breathability
While we thought that the Axiom was no doubt a breathable jacket, we couldn't rate it super highly in this metric because it didn't include the full-length side zips prevalent in many of the other OR jackets, such as the Furio or Outdoor Research Foray, a 2.5 layer rain jacket. We found it to be perhaps a little hotter than while wearing the Arc'teryx Alpha FL while sweating it out on big uphills. It does have a two-way front zipper that allows for easier venting at the front, but certainly seems to be more comfortable on cold days rather than warm ones. Regardless, we awarded this hardshell a 7 out of a possible 10 points.
The Axiom included a number of features that we really liked and in general did not find on any other jacket, 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. 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; 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, and wished that it was an easy to release buckle like those found on the Patagonia Refugitive or Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell. The main front zipper is a bit hard to get started at times, which is also a small issue with the Furio. With a quantity of cool features but difficulty using some of them, we awarded 7 points.
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.
The Axiom will run you $389. This makes it one of the more affordable jackets in our review; price-wise, it's second only to the OR Furio. Since it was the second highest rated jacket in our review, and comes at such a great price, it is a no brainer as our pick for the Best Bang for your Buck.
The Outdoor Research Axiom is one of our favorite jackets for skiing in. 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.
— Andy Wellman
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