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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.
Measured Weight (Size): 13.7 oz. (L)
Material: GORE-TEX Active 3L, 100% nylon 30D mechanical stretch ripstop face with 100% polyester backer
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
The Outdoor Research Axiom is an athletically fitting, lightweight hardshell that uses the Gore-Tex Active air-permeable membrane to keep one dry while working hard in the mountains. In the past, we recognized it as a top pick for skiing, and while we chose to give that award to a different jacket this year (the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker), we still think it's a perfect fit for active pursuits. To stay light, it relies on the breathability of its membrane and eschews the use of pit zips for ventilation, which we felt worked just fine. It uses stretchy 30D face fabric that is light, packable, and supremely supple to provide excellent mobility. That said, this jacket has one of the more disappointing feature sets we found on a hardshell. If you are looking for a reasonably priced, lightweight and mobile hardshell for you skiing or climbing adventures, the Axiom is a great place to start your search.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Hardshell Jackets of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Outdoor Research Axiom is a solid hardshell jacket that shines in situations where breathability is necessary, like skinning uphill. While we liked it for both climbing and skiing, we think that it does a bit better for backcountry skiing in general. Much like the Outdoor Research Realm, the jacket fits reasonably trim, but with plenty of room for layering underneath, and its stretchy face fabric means that it has unparalleled mobility. It was updated this year (see below for details) but ended up falling in our comparative rankings. While we like the new 30D face fabric better than the older 20D version, issues with the location of pockets and other features were unfortunately not fixed. Besides its fantastic breathability and supple mobility, the best attribute of this jacket may very well be its price; at $399, it's about as affordable as a Gore-Tex membrane comes these days.
We awarded the OR Axiom 6 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 adequate to keep us dry without a helmet on, although we wished that the moldable wire brim 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.
This unfortunate occurrence was more of an issue while wearing a helmet. The zippers showed no signs of leaking. After three months of constant 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. At the end of the day, we feel this jacket is more than capable of protecting one from inclement weather. However, it was nowhere near as solid as the performance of our two top jackets in this category, the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, and The North Face Summit L5 FuseForm GTX.
Our men's size large Axiom weighed 13.7 ounces, which was roughly an ounce lighter than previous versions of the jacket, despite using a heavier denier face fabric. The combination of lightweight 30 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 30D 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. Only the Outdoor Research Realm and Arc'teryx Alpha FL were lighter, and for reference, neither of those jackets included pit zips either.
Mobility and Fit
Our head tester for this review is 6'0" tall and weighs around 160 lbs. He has broad shoulders but an otherwise skinny frame, and we ordered him a size large for testing based on the recommendation of OR's website, as well as our experience with the fit of this jacket. We felt the fit was spacious enough to wear layers on beneath it comfortably, while also maintaining a sleekness that we prefer for outdoor sports. The sleeves and hem are plenty long and don't ride up at all, and the hood is also nice and large. The stretch nylon shell fabric, as well as the fit, mean that this jacket is ridiculously mobile, and we experienced no constrictions of any sort when moving, climbing, or skiing. If we are being honest (and of course we are!), only the very similar fitting OR Realm could match this jacket for fit and mobility, although the Dynafit Radical also came close. We gave it 9 out of 10.
Venting and Breathability
The Axiom was one of the best performing jackets in our controlled stationary bike test meant to test the breathability and venting of a jacket, and this was backed up by our experiences out in the field. However, unlike the Mountain Hardwear CloudSeeker, the Axiom garners a high score based on its breathability rather than its venting capabilities. It has no pit zips, but does have dual front hand pockets and a chest pocket that are mesh lined on the inside to aid with ventilation, and has a two-way front zipper that gives one more option when the going gets sweaty. The Gore-Tex Active membrane is air-permeable, and while our stationary bike test was impossible to quantify, we could certainly tell that we felt cooler in this jacket than those made out of Gore-Tex Pro, like the Patagonia Pluma. We gave it 9 out of 10 points, and feel it makes an excellent choice for especially hot and sweaty hardshell conditions.
Of all the jackets in this review, the feature set found on the Axiom was the most disappointing. Not only does it have fewer features than most, but they also didn't perform well. In particular, we were bummed to find that despite having a dedicated hanging cell phone pouch inside the chest pocket, there was no media port that allowed headphones to travel inside the jacket up to your ears, as there was in the last version of this jacket. Of course, you could cut your own holes, but should you have to? This seems like a feature that was intended to be included but was somehow overlooked during production. We were also disappointed that despite the revision, the handwarmer pockets still rest very low on the jacket, where they will be under either a harness or pack belt, rendering them useless in most situations.
We also found the drawcord buckles to be among the most difficult to squeeze and release, especially with gloves on, which is in stark contrast to the many jackets, like the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, that upgraded to the super easy to use Cohaesive cord locks this year. Additionally, the hood drawcords live inside the collar and rest against the cheek, not our favorite, or the most convenient, location for these drawcords. In a way, it felt like this jacket got almost nothing right when it came to features, and so perhaps we were being generous giving it 4 out of 10 points. This is one of the very few blemishes on an otherwise pretty rad jacket.
The best use for the OR 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 $399, which makes it one of the more affordable jackets in our review, and the most affordable one that uses any Gore-Tex membrane. For this price, we think it presents a good value, although if you are looking for the Best Bang for the Buck, we recommend checking out the Outdoor Research Realm, which we ranked higher and which costs a mere $279.
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 extensively on a skiing trip we took to British Columbia. 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 found it to be a solid option for climbing as well. While it had one of the poorest feature sets, this shouldn't mar the positive qualities of this jacket, and we feel it is a solid choice, regardless of outdoor sport.
— Andy Wellman
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