Reviews You Can Rely On

Outdoor Research Interstellar Review

The best choice for highly aerobic activities where mobility and breathability are key
gearlab tested logo
outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review
Credit: Outdoor Research
Price:  $299 List
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 8, 2020
  • Weather Protection - 30% 5.0
  • Weight - 20% 9.0
  • Mobility and Fit - 20% 7.0
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 7.0
  • Features and Design - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Interstellar delivers outstanding hardshell performance at an affordable price. This is made possible by the proprietary AscentShell fabric, which doesn't cost Outdoor Research or you nearly as much as licensed Gore-Tex. Besides this price advantage, the matrix of spun polyurethane fibers that make up the membrane is air-permeable, stretchy, and contributes to this jacket's minimal overall weight. We should point out that this fabric doesn't offer quite the same level of durability or nasty weather protection as some jackets that use Gore-Tex Pro, but the Interstellar boasts superior breathability. For these reasons, this jacket is worth considering for many hardshell shoppers. However, it's probably better to pursue high abrasion activities, such as alpine climbing, in one of its sturdier competitors.
Very packable
Quite breathable
Hand pockets are a bit low
Hood is a bit shallow with a helmet on

Our Analysis and Test Results

A few years ago, Outdoor Research introduced the Interstellar to replace the Realm jacket, which had previously won our Best Bang for the Buck Award. The Interstellar uses the same AscentShell membrane paired with a stretchy and light 20-denier ripstop nylon face fabric in an almost identical design. In fact, the only noticeable differences between the two are that the Interstellar added double zippered handwarmer pockets while downsizing to a single chest pocket.

While the Interstellar excels at breathability, it also has a few flaws. Most notably, the features on this jacket, taken as a whole, are not quite as fine-tuned in terms of design and performance as some of the other hardshells in this review. The Interstellar also uses very light fabrics for the face and backer, and we worry about the ability of this jacket to hold up to years of intense abuse as well as heavier jackets made with Gore-Tex Pro.

Performance Comparison

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - the interstellar's best attribute might be the awesome breathability...
The Interstellar's best attribute might be the awesome breathability of its AscentShell fabric, which makes hiking in it a pleasant experience.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Weather Protection

On most wintry occasions, the weather protection offered by this contender is plenty, but we don't feel like its AscentShell fabric does as well as Gore-Tex Pro during sustained rain or wet snow. The DWR coating seemed to wear off pretty quickly, especially in areas of wear, such as on the shoulders and waist where backpack straps rub. It was one of the first jackets to start wetting out, after roughly two months into testing.

The hood is plenty deep without a helmet and seemed to offer enough protection from a downpour in our shower test. The latest version of the Interstellar also includes a "hood lock" on the back that you can clip to improve the fit when you're wearing it helmet-less. This feature worked okay, but the tab it's supposed to clip to snapped early in our tests.

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - with the "hood lock" you ordinarily connect the clip on the right to...
With the "hood lock" you ordinarily connect the clip on the right to the fabric tab on left to fold up excess hood fabric when you're sans helmet. As you can see, our tab broke.
Credit: Jack Cramer

When wearing a helmet, however, our testers found that the brim didn't effectively cover their faces, instead allowing water to flow off the top and, at times, down the collar. On the other hand, the length and fit of the hem, sleeves, and even the collar are pretty much ideal for keeping you protected from blowing snow on stormy ski missions.

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - at 11.2 oz for a size large, the or interstellar is a very...
At 11.2 oz for a size large, the OR Interstellar is a very lightweight hardshell.
Credit: Jack Cramer


A men's size large weighed in at a mere 11.2 ounces, making it one of the lightest three-layer hardshells in this review. This is ideal if you live in a dry climate, and your hardshell rarely leaves your pack.

Although the Interstellar weighed in about 0.2 ounces heavier than its predecessor, this is a minor detail considering it added two handwarmer pockets and the associated material. We appreciate that the Interstellar can stuff into one of these hand pockets and has a clip-in loop hidden inside. The clip-in loop, however, feels weak, and the mesh pocket lining composes half of this improvised stuff sack. We wouldn't trust either to properly secure the jacket while clipping them to a climbing harness.

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - we like that you can stuff the interstellar into the left hand...
We like that you can stuff the Interstellar into the left hand pocket. Unfortunately, this design idea isn't executed well because the clip-in look is fragile and half of this improvised stuff sack is mesh.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Mobility and Fit

Our lead tester is 6'2" tall, 175 pounds, with fairly broad shoulders but a skinnier frame. We ordered him a men's size large, and it was a good call because the jacket fits him perfectly. There was plenty of room for a couple of layers underneath, but it didn't feel too baggy when worn with a single base layer. In no way did we feel like this jacket impeded our vision or movement while wearing it. That said, for those on the cusp between sizes, we suggest sizing up to be on the safe side.

When it comes to mobility, the Interstellar is close to perfect. In direct contrast to any jacket that uses a Gore-Tex Pro membrane, such as the Arc'teryx Alpha FL, this jacket is supple and quiet, without any crinkly noise when you move. The fabric is soft and stretchy, providing zero resistance when ice climbing or skiing, which allows the fit to more athletic without compromising movement. There is a moderate rise in the hem with arms overhead, but not enough for it to untuck from a harness.

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - the lead author is 175 lbs and 6'2". a size large fit him well. we...
The lead author is 175 lbs and 6'2". A size large fit him well. We are particularly happy about the length of the sleeves and hem, but the hood could be a little deeper.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Venting and Breathability

When examining venting and breathability, it's clear that the Interstellar needs to rely more on its ability to breathe than on its ability to vent. It doesn't have any pit or underarm vents. It's possible to create some airflow, however, by opening any of the three mesh-lined pockets. Just be sure there's nothing in them before you leave them open.

Typically, we find that a jacket's ability to vent is more critical to the wearer's comfort level than its ability to breathe. On our stationary bike test, however, we got noticeably less hot and sweaty in this jacket than with almost any other. We aren't entirely sure if this has to do with the air-permeability of the AscentShell membrane or the thinness of the 20-denier face fabric, but whatever the reason, we were impressed. We verified this finding by wearing this jacket for the full uphill on a few skin tracks and can say without a doubt that it will do a great job keeping you cool and dry.

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - the wrist cuffs on the interstellar are pretty basic and not all...
The wrist cuffs on the Interstellar are pretty basic and not all that good at keeping the sleeves in place during any movements with arms overhead.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Features & Design

The features on this jacket certainly perform as advertised, but compared to some of its top-shelf rivals, they're not quite up to par.

This jacket has two large handwarmer pockets with mesh backing, as well as one exterior cross-over chest pocket. While the handwarmer pockets are accessible with a pack on, the waist strap of a pack sits over the lower part of the pockets, which can cause irritation if you're carrying anything hard or sharp inside. The single chest pocket features a nice cell phone pouch made of mesh, but there is no media port or hole for your headphone cord to run inside the jacket up to your ears. We also wonder about the purpose of this hanging cell phone pocket at all because it is pretty hard to get a phone into it.

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - the drawcords on the back and edges of the hood are kind of tricky...
The drawcords on the back and edges of the hood are kind of tricky to operate with gloves on.
Credit: Jack Cramer

The drawcord buckles used on the hood, as well as the single hem drawcord, are small and difficult to release when wearing thick warm gloves. The two hood drawcords on the chest are also challenging to cinch with gloves on, and it's not clear to us whether they're designed to be operated from inside or outside the jacket. Besides lacking pit zips, the Interstellar also uses a one-way main zipper that reduces your venting options.

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - the instellar occupies a sort of hybrid category between hardshell...
The Instellar occupies a sort of hybrid category between hardshell and rain jacket. You can trust it to keep you dry while skiing, but it's not tough enough for alpine climbing. The perfect activity, however, might be rainy hiking.
Credit: Jack Cramer


The Interstellar's greatest attribute is probably its price. You can easily spend twice as much on a heavier hardshell that won't breathe as well. For this reason, we consider it an exceptional value. Keep in mind, however, that this jacket isn't as burly as many others, so if you really abuse it, you might have to buy two.

outdoor research interstellar hardshell jacket review - although our testers loved the interstellar for backcountry skiing...
Although our testers loved the Interstellar for backcountry skiing, they weren't huge fans while ice climbing. That's because the fabric is delicate and the sleeves didn't stay in place while swinging arms overhead.
Credit: Jack Cramer


The Outdoor Research Interstellar is a very light hardshell jacket that combines fantastic mobility with outstanding breathability. It is also one of the most affordable hardshells that we have tested. We have some concerns about its durability and weather protection in harsh conditions, but these concerns shouldn't be too much for many hardshell shoppers.

Jack Cramer

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More