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Outdoor Research Interstellar Review

The best choice for highly aerobic activities where mobility and breathability are key.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $299 List | $164.98 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stretchy, light, very packable, affordable, quite breathable
Cons:  Hand pockets are a bit low, hood is a bit shallow with a helmet on, fragile
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jack Cramer & Matt Bento  ⋅  Oct 31, 2019
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RANKED
#5 of 9
  • Weather Protection - 30% 5
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Mobility and Fit - 20% 8
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 7
  • Features and Design - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Interstellar wins our Best Buy Award because it combines competition-beating performance with an affordable price tag. This is made possible by the proprietary AscentShell membrane, which doesn't cost Outdoor Research or the consumer nearly as much as licensed Gore-Tex fabrics. Besides this distinct advantage, the matrix of spun polyurethane fibers that make up the membrane are air-permeable, stretchy, and contribute to this jacket's super light overall weight.

We must point out that we don't think this fabric offers quite the same level of durability or nasty weather protection as some jackets that use Gore-Tex Pro, but the Interstellar provides superior breathability and significant cost savings. For these reasons, this jacket is an excellent choice for most hardshell shoppers. High abrasion activities like alpine climbing, however, might be better pursued in one of its sturdier competitors.


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Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award  
Price $164.98 at Backcountry
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$425.00 at REI
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$324.83 at REI$549.00 at REI
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Pros Stretchy, light, very packable, affordable, quite breathableLightweight, form fitting, great storm hood, superior construction quality, reasonable priceUnrivaled weather protection, decent venting options, perfect fitAwesome weather protection, fits great, very mobileOptimally designed pull-cords and buckles, recycled nylon face fabric, athletic fit, Patagonia guarantee
Cons Hand pockets are a bit low, hood is a bit shallow with a helmet on, fragileCrinkly and noisy, very little ventilation, few pockets, short front hemExpensive, not ultralight, mediocre breathabilitySkin pockets a bit too narrow, small ventilation zips, unreliable wrist cuffsExpensive, not super breathable, hood not as protective with a helmet on
Bottom Line The best choice for highly aerobic activities where mobility and breathability are key.This hardshell is an alpine climber’s dream, and is really great for skiing as well.A serious hardshell for serious adventures.A solid hardshell that thrives in bad weather.A versatile hardshell that can handle any mountain environment or activity.
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Interstellar Arc'teryx Alpha FL Mammut Nordwand Advanced Dynafit Radical Patagonia Pluma
Weather Protection (30%)
10
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5
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
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8
10
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7
Weight (20%)
10
0
9
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9
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6
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7
Mobility And Fit (20%)
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8
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7
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8
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8
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7
Venting And Breathability (20%)
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7
10
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6
Features And Design (10%)
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8
Specs Outdoor Research... Arc'teryx Alpha FL Mammut Nordwand... Dynafit Radical Patagonia Pluma
Pit Zips No No Yes Yes Yes
Measured Weight (Size) 11.2 oz (L) 11.8 oz (L) 16.0 oz (L) 15.4 oz (L) 14.2 oz (M)
Material AscentShell 3L 100% nylon 20D stretch ripstop with 100% polyester 12D backer Gore-Tex with N40p-X face fabric 3-layer 100% nylon Gore-Tex Pro Gore-Tex Pro with C-Knit backer 40D 3L 100% recycled nylon plain-weave Gore-Tex PRO shell, with a 15D GORE Micro Grid Backer Technology & a DWR finish
Pockets 2 handwarmer, 1 chest 1 external chest, 1 internal chest 2 front, 1 internal 2 side handwarmer, 1 sleeve, 2 internal stash 2 high handwarmer, 1 chest, 1 interior chest
Helmet Compatible Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hood Draw Cords 3 3 3 1 3
Adjustable Cuffs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Two-Way Front Zipper No No Yes Yes No
Stuff sack or pocket Yes Yes No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

In the spring of 2018, 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 the 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. More info on specifics can be found below. Also, by incorporating very light and thin face and backer fabrics, we question 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


The Interstellar jacket is a very lightweight and packable hardshell that is also affordable and very mobile. We loved it for laps in the backcountry on powder days.
The Interstellar jacket is a very lightweight and packable hardshell that is also affordable and very mobile. We loved it for laps in the backcountry on powder days.

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 also one of the first jackets to start wetting out, after roughly two months into testing.


The hood is deep enough sans helmet and offered enough protection from a downpour in our shower test. The latest version of the Interstellar also includes a "hood lock" on the back that can be clipped off to improve the fit when not wearing a helmet. This feature worked okay, but the tab it's supposed to clip to snapped early in our tests.

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.
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.

When wearing a helmet, however, our testers found that the brim didn't effectively cover their faces, 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.

At 11.2 oz for a size large  the OR Interstellar is a very lightweight hardshell.
At 11.2 oz for a size large, the OR Interstellar is a very lightweight hardshell.

Weight


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 hardly ever leaves your pack.


While 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 for securing the jacket while clipping to a climbing harness.

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.
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.

Mobility and Fit


Our head 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 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 would recommend 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 noises when you move. The fabric is soft and stretchy, giving no resistance when ice climbing or skiing, which allows the fit to more athletic without compromising movement at all. There is a moderate rise in the hem with arms overhead, but not enough to untuck it from a harness.

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.
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.

Venting and Breathability


When considering 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, in a pinch by opening any of the three pockets which are all lined with mesh. Just be sure there's nothing in them before leaving them open.


Typically, we find that the ability of a jacket 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 many skin tracks and can say without a doubt that it will do a great job of keeping you cool and dry.

The Interstellar's air permeable membrane breathes very well  as we tested here by skinning uphill fully zipped to the top.
The Interstellar's air permeable membrane breathes very well, as we tested here by skinning uphill fully zipped to the top.

Features & Design


Unfortunately, the OR Interstellar has a flaw, and that is the design and performance of its features. Don't get us wrong, 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 a single external cross-over chest pocket. While the handwarmer pockets are accessible with a pack on, the waist strap of a pack still 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 curiously 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 the phone into it.

This hanging pocket inside the chest pocket perfectly fits a smaller smart phone  but is quite difficult to get in and out in a small  cramped pocket.
This hanging pocket inside the chest pocket perfectly fits a smaller smart phone, but is quite difficult to get in and out in a small, cramped pocket.

The drawcord buckles used on the hood, as well as the single hem drawcord, are small and difficult to release if 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 used from the inside or outside. In addition to lacking pit zips, the Interstellar uses a one-way main zipper that reduces your venting options.

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.
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.

Value


The Interstellar's greatest attribute is probably its price. You could 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.

Storm cycle powder laps in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado were a great test for the mobility and weather protection of the Interstellar jacket. It performed great.
Storm cycle powder laps in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado were a great test for the mobility and weather protection of the Interstellar jacket. It performed great.

Conclusion


The Outdoor Research Interstellar is a very light hardshell jacket that combines fantastic mobility with great 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 weren't large enough to stop it from earning our Best Buy Award for yet another season.


Jack Cramer & Matt Bento