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Outdoor Research Interstellar Review

The best choice for highly aerobic activities where mobility and breathability are key but you still require a rain jacket.
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Price:  $299 List | $208.97 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stretchy, breathable, light and packable, versatile
Cons:  Hood is a bit shallow with a helmet on, hand pockets are so-so with a pack on
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Andy Wellman and Ian Nicholson  ⋅  Oct 18, 2018
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 17
  • Water Resistance - 30% 8
  • Breathability & Venting - 20% 8
  • Comfort and Mobility - 15% 7
  • Weight - 15% 6
  • Durability - 10% 7
  • Packed Size - 10% 7

The Skinny

The Outdoor Research Interstellar is constructed with Ascentshell, a proprietary fabric that is seriously stretchy, waterproof, and breathable. Ascentshell is just one of many new wave air permeable waterproof fabrics to offer superb breathability. Unlike most waterproof materials, it doesn't require a significant temperature difference between the inside and the outside of the jacket to function as intended. It's perfect for active trips like backpacking, hiking, ski-touring, and mountaineering, where its stretchy, mobility focused design and top-tier breathability are strongly valued. While more than adequate for most rainy day adventures, if you know you'll be pinned down in horrible weather and breathability is less critical for your outing, we'd recommend considering a burlier model that might not offer as good of breathability, but will be more stormworthy.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

A great across-the-board performer, the Outdoor Research Interstellar is one of those jackets that excels in every metric. It proved itself more stormworthy than average with a stretchy high-mobility design, which offered up decent breathability. The Interstellar struck a near-perfect balance of versatility; it is light and compact enough for backpacking or day hiking but tough and breathable enough for ski touring or mountaineering.

Performance Comparison


The Interstellar is an excellent  across the board performer and was very nearly a winner of our Top Pick award  as it's just one of those jackets that is good at everything and will excel at a wide range of activities. Photo: Tester Ian Nicholson putting the Interstellar through its paces at Luna Col in the Northern Pickets  WA.
The Interstellar is an excellent, across the board performer and was very nearly a winner of our Top Pick award, as it's just one of those jackets that is good at everything and will excel at a wide range of activities. Photo: Tester Ian Nicholson putting the Interstellar through its paces at Luna Col in the Northern Pickets, WA.

Water Resistance


The Interstellar uses Outdoor Research's 3-layer proprietary Ascentshell membrane inside a nylon exterior for its weather resistance. Ascentshell, similar to the waterproof fabrics used in the Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite and the Rab Kinetic Plus, is air permeable, meaning a slight amount of air will pass through the fabric, yet will remain waterproof.

We found this model to be slightly above average for its overall weather resistance and storm worthiness.
We found this model to be slightly above average for its overall weather resistance and storm worthiness.

The DWR treatment has been improved for 2018, with the hope it will be longer lasting and more environmentally friendly. The weather protection offered by this contender was more than adequate for most soggy hikes, wet backpacking trips, or other wintery weather situations. While this jacket performed above average, it isn't quite as stormworthy as the Outdoor Research Foray, Arc'teryx Beta SL, or Marmot Minimalist, which performed marginally better in the wettest situations for extended periods of time.

Hood Design

The Interstellar has a moderately deep helmet compatible hood that cinches in three ways around your head, to accommodate different headwear and sizes of heads. These adjustments are well-designed; in conjunction with the shape of the hood, this model provides excellent peripheral vision. When we turned side-to-side, the hood moved nicely with us, and we didn't end up with our face inside the hood.

The pull cords for tightening the hood reside on the inside of the collar. We prefer them to be on the outside of the collar so that we can adjust the hood without having to open up to the elements.
The pull cords for tightening the hood reside on the inside of the collar. We prefer them to be on the outside of the collar so that we can adjust the hood without having to open up to the elements.

While the hood was easy to tighten with one hand, we needed two (or one with a lot of jiggling) to loosen it. The hood fits over a climbing and bike helmet and offers decent protection in a downpour, in both our shower test and in our real-world testing. Once we added a climbing helmet to the mix, we found that the brim of the hood only barely covered our face, and we'd get a little more water on our cheeks than with other models. This small problem can be easily solved by wearing the hood underneath a helmet; the obvious advantage is that it's not as quick or as easy to take the hood on and off.

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.

Breathability & Venting


The Interstellar has some of the better breathability of models in our fleet and is in line with the best performing models we tested. The Ascentshell fabric is air permeable, unlike most waterproof fabrics, specifically ePTFEs (like more Gore-tex and eVent); this means you won't have to work up a big temperature differential to ensure optimal performance. Instead, its always functioning with a small amount of air, which is always passing through.

This model was among the most breathable models we tested and its air-permeable fabric means there doesn't have to be a big temperature differential to work. While it doesn't have any traditional vents  you can dump a little heat by unzipping its mesh-lined pockets.
This model was among the most breathable models we tested and its air-permeable fabric means there doesn't have to be a big temperature differential to work. While it doesn't have any traditional vents, you can dump a little heat by unzipping its mesh-lined pockets.

The Interstellar has to rely more on its ability to breathe, as it features almost no ventilation options. While ventilation options would be ideal, it's worth remembering that breathability, and layering appropriately, are far more important than vents. If it's pouring rain or you find yourself walking on a damp, overgrown trail, opening your vents simply isn't an option, as you may let in more water. With that said, this model sports mesh-lined pockets, which make it possible to dump heat and moisture by unzipping them; calling them a true vent would be a bit of a stretch.

We tested all the models in a series of side-by-side breathability tests and overall the Interstellar was one of the most breathable jackets in our review. Not only that  but its air-permeable design allows it to keep breathing even after you have cooled off.
We tested all the models in a series of side-by-side breathability tests and overall the Interstellar was one of the most breathable jackets in our review. Not only that, but its air-permeable design allows it to keep breathing even after you have cooled off.

Several of our testers were impressed with this jacket during our stationary bike test, where we tested the breathability of each jacket side-by-side. We were noticeably less hot and sweaty than the majority of models, which we verified by wearing this jacket for the full uphill on many skin track ascents. We can say without a doubt, that it did a great job of keeping us cool and dry, earning it a high score. The only other models that scored comparably were the Patagonia Storm Racer, Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite, REI Drypoint GTX, and the Rab Kinetic Plus.

You can see the awesome fit of this size large Interstellar jacket with a down warmth layer on beneath. The hem and sleeves stay nicely in place  offering great coverage when moving about.
You can see the awesome fit of this size large Interstellar jacket with a down warmth layer on beneath. The hem and sleeves stay nicely in place, offering great coverage when moving about.

Comfort, Mobility, and Fit


When it came to freedom-of-movement, it's clear that the Interstellar is a superb model that has been designed with mobility in mind. While it's not as stretchy as the Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite or Rab Kinetic Plus, the Interstellar offers more stretch than nearly all the others in our fleet. The fabric is soft and subtle and an excellent option for activities where mobility is key.

Fit

Our lead tester is 5'10", 170 lbs, with a slightly stocky build; he typically wears a medium, and this case, the fit was spot on. With the medium, he was able to layer a puffy, without the jacket being too baggy. Another tester is 6'0" tall, and weighs around 160 pounds, with fairly broad shoulders but a skinnier frame. We ordered a large for this tester, which fit him well. There was more than enough room for layers and the fit was still excellent if worn without. The Interstellar did not affect or impede movement or vision during testing. We would recommend sizing up if you have wide shoulders or a bigger torso.

The pocket design of this jacket was just so-so. It hand pockets were just a little too low and were hard to access while wearing a harness or waistbelt of a backpack. The zippers were small enough that they didn't dig into our hips much even with a heavy pack  but we preferred models with slightly higher pockets that were completely out of the way.
The pocket design of this jacket was just so-so. It hand pockets were just a little too low and were hard to access while wearing a harness or waistbelt of a backpack. The zippers were small enough that they didn't dig into our hips much even with a heavy pack, but we preferred models with slightly higher pockets that were completely out of the way.

Pocket Design

This jacket has two large handwarmer pockets with mesh backing and a single Napoleon-style pocket, which is also mesh backed. While the handwarmer pockets are accessible with a pack on, the waist strap of a pack still sits over the lower portion of the pockets, which is a tad annoying if you're carrying items inside. Unlike several other models, the zippers were low profile and didn't pinch our testers hips.

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.

Of interesting note, you'll find a hanging cell phone pouch made of mesh, which is located inside the single chest pocket. We found it difficult to stuff our iPhone 7 (with a moderately-sized Lifeproof case) inside, as it was a touch on the smaller size.

Weight


Our size medium weighed 11 ounces, which is average in our review. It does, however, pack in some of the best weather resistance for is weight and is geared toward lower weight hiking, backpacking, and climbing shells. When compared to hardshells on the market, this one is undoubted lighter and still offers up adequate performance (as both a rain jacket or hardshell).

Measuring the weight of the OR Interstellar on our independent scale.
Measuring the weight of the OR Interstellar on our independent scale.

Durability


Complete with 20D 100% nylon, the exterior is middle of the road for durability, longevity, and tear resistance. Its weather resistance proved longer lasting than coated waterproof insert models, like the Marmot PreCip and The North Face Venture, and is on par with most of the stretchy models we tested.

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.

It is worth noting that after extended downpours, where we were hiking or hanging out in the rain, this model would wet out slightly faster than the non-stretch Gore-Tex and eVent models. For example, this model is not as tough as the Outdoor Research Foray but is lighter and more breathable.

The Interstellar jacket stuffed into its own hand pocket  turned inside out. There is a clip-in loop on the upper right corner. While we love how packable this jacket is  it is a loose fit inside the pocket  and could stuff smaller if need be.
The Interstellar jacket stuffed into its own hand pocket, turned inside out. There is a clip-in loop on the upper right corner. While we love how packable this jacket is, it is a loose fit inside the pocket, and could stuff smaller if need be.

Packed Size


The Interstellar compresses smaller than average and stows conveniently away into a reversible handwarmer pocket. While we could imagine a smaller stuff sack for this purpose, we still appreciated the feature. This jacket packed down smaller than the Arc'teryx Beta SL, Patagonia Cloud Ridge or Outdoor Research Foray and was similar to the REI Drypoint GTX or Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite. For the smallest packed size, we recommend scoping out the Outdoor Research Helium 2 or the Patagonia Storm Racer.

Best Applications


With excellent breathability and mobility, coupled with fairly low weight and respectable storm-worthiness, there is almost no excuse for leaving this jacket at home, as it's incredibly versatile. It thrives in backpacking, climbing, and hiking pursuits, where its combination of low weight, fantastic breathability, and excellent mobility will be most appreciated. It's also optimal for snowy winter use in dry climates, especially for sweaty, aerobic activities where weather protection is still needed (think snowshoeing or ski touring).

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.

Due to its somewhat lighter materials, we wouldn't recommend it for someone who is looking for a workhorse jacket for downhill skiing or logging loads of time standing around in the rain, where its breathability won't be as much of a benefit. If this sounds like you, we'd recommend a jacket with an ePTFE membrane, which is the ultimate in rain protection.

Skiing some sunny low angle pow in the Interstellar jacket in the San Juan Mountains.
Skiing some sunny low angle pow in the Interstellar jacket in the San Juan Mountains.

Value


At $300, this is one of the more expensive models in our review; along with the Patagonia Cloud Ridge, they are the most expensive models to feature a proprietary fabric. While we don't believe a proprietary fabric is a negative, especially with the top-tier breathability and solid storm worthiness than this model provides, it just isn't a screaming deal. We'll leave it up to you to decide if the performance justifies the cost, as the Interstellar is more stormworthy than the similarly stretchy Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite and Rab Kinetic Plus, though the Quasar and Kinetic are $240, and still provide excellent storm-worthiness and mobility.

The Interstellar is a pretty sweet all-around rain jacket that will do very well at a number of outdoor actives. It only barely missed an award from us. It's light enough for backpacking and mountaineering and breathable enough for more aerobic activities like ski touring  while still being more stormworthy than average.
The Interstellar is a pretty sweet all-around rain jacket that will do very well at a number of outdoor actives. It only barely missed an award from us. It's light enough for backpacking and mountaineering and breathable enough for more aerobic activities like ski touring, while still being more stormworthy than average.

Conclusion


The Outdoor Research Interstellar is a reasonably light rain jacket, which has excellent breathability and fantastic mobility. While it isn't one of the most affordable hardshells that we have tested, it provides excellent versatility for most activities where breathability is paramount. If breathability is less important for your activities, we would recommend something burlier that will stand up to extended and extreme periods of rain and wetness.


Andy Wellman and Ian Nicholson