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Outdoor Research Interstellar Review

The best choice for highly aerobic activities where mobility and breathability are key
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $299 List | $224.21 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Stretchy, excellent mobility, breathable, light and packable, versatile, good storm protection
Cons:  Hood is a bit shallow with a helmet on, hand pockets, can feel cold if standing around in the rain for extended periods
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 6, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 12
  • Water Resistance - 30% 8
  • Breathability & Venting - 25% 8
  • Comfort & Mobility - 18% 7
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Durability - 5% 7
  • Packed Size - 7% 7

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Interstellar is constructed with Ascentshell, a proprietary fabric that is seriously stretchy, waterproof, and breathable. Ascentshell fabric is just one of the new wave air-permeable waterproof materials that offer a flexible feel and superb breathability under a wider range of conditions. This makes the Interstellar perfect for any aerobic oriented activity where you still need the weather protection of a rain jacket but not necessarily want that to slow you down. What they don't all offer is fantastic stormworthiness, and that is where we found the Interstellar to prove itself as our favorite and Top Pick winner for the best air-permeable jacket.

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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 offers some of the better freedom of movement with its stretchy fabric, excellent breathability, and average stormworthiness. All of our testers found the Interstellar to be one of the more versatile jackets as well; it is light and compact enough for backpacking or day hiking but sturdy and breathable enough for multi-day ski touring and mountaineering.

Performance Comparison


The Interstellar is an excellent  across the board performer and winner of our Top Pick Award. Simply put  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 winner of our Top Pick Award. Simply put, 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


For its weather resistance, the Interstellar uses Outdoor Research's 3-layer proprietary Ascentshell membrane inside a nylon exterior. Ascentshell, similar to other waterproof but air-permeable fabrics, offers a design where a slight amount of air can pass through the fabric at all times, yet will remain waterproof.


The DWR treatment has been improved for 2019, with the hope it will be longer-lasting and more environmentally friendly. The weather protection is more than adequate for soggy hikes, wet backpacking trips, or other wintery weather situations.

One of our favorite hood designs; when ciniched  it maintained excellent peripheral vision and we could turn our heads all the way to either side  without our facing turning into the hood.
One of our favorite hood designs; when ciniched, it maintained excellent peripheral vision and we could turn our heads all the way to either side, without our facing turning into the hood.

Hood Design

The Interstellar has a moderately deep helmet-compatible hood that cinches in three ways around your head; this accommodates different headwear and head sizes. These cinches are easy to tighten with one hand and loosen with two (or one with a lot of jiggling).

This model's three hood cinch points sealed out the elements and accommodated a wide range of headwear and head sizes.
This model's three hood cinch points sealed out the elements and accommodated a wide range of headwear and head sizes.

The hood cinch adjustments are well-designed, and when tightened, do a great job of sealing out the elements while moving with you as you turn your head, helping to maintain excellent peripheral vision.

This hood is big enough to fit over a helmet but just barely. Depending on how bulky your climbing or bike helmet is  you may want to consider wearing your hood underneath your helmet. In the photo here  tester Ian Nicholson is wearing a Petzl Sirocco.
This hood is big enough to fit over a helmet but just barely. Depending on how bulky your climbing or bike helmet is, you may want to consider wearing your hood underneath your helmet. In the photo here, tester Ian Nicholson is wearing a Petzl Sirocco.

Breathability & Venting


The Interstellar has great breathabulity and is in line with the best performing models we tested. The Ascentshell fabric is air permeable, meaning unlike most waterproof fabrics, specifically ePTFE (like more Gore-tex and eVent), that you won't have to work up a large amount of heat to create a big temperature differential. This temperature differential is what ensures optimal performance (warmer on the inside than the outside). Instead, this model is always functioning with a small amount of air, which is consistently passing through.

The Interstellar is a breathable model. 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 is a breathable model. 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 offers almost no features to help move moisture and offers no proper ventilation options. While ventilation options are great, it's worth noting that breathabilit 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 than the vents allow to escape. This concept is generally why we consider breathability more important that dedicated ventilation features. With that said, this model sports mesh-lined pockets, which make it possible to dump heat and moisture by unzipping them; however, 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. 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. 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, which we verified by wearing this jacket for the full uphill on many skin track ascents. We can say without a doubt that the Interstellar does a great job of keeping us cool and dry, which earned it a high score.

All of our testers loved the stretchy fabric  which helped its freedom of movement in what was already a nicely articulated and mobility-focused design.
All of our testers loved the stretchy fabric, which helped its freedom of movement in what was already a nicely articulated and mobility-focused design.

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 Rab Kinetic Plus, it isn't far off, and 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.

When we reached forward or above our heads  the sleeves didn't pull back. When we reached upwards  the hem (the bottom of the jacket) hardly moved.
When we reached forward or above our heads, the sleeves didn't pull back. When we reached upwards, the hem (the bottom of the jacket) hardly moved.

Fit

Our lead tester is 5'10", 170 pounds, with a slightly stocky build; he typically wears a medium, and in this case, the fit was spot on or maybe just a tough on the slimmer fitting side. With the medium, he was able to layer a thin puffy, but with nothing but a base layer underneath, the jacket wasn't 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 handwarmer pockets are low  which is comfortable for walking around town but they are useless with a pack or harness on. For such an outdoor-oriented jacket  this is one of the few things we were disappointed in. At least Outdoor Research used very low gauge zippers on this model  which didn't pinch our hips  even with the weight of a six-day pack on (not in this photo).
The handwarmer pockets are low, which is comfortable for walking around town but they are useless with a pack or harness on. For such an outdoor-oriented jacket, this is one of the few things we were disappointed in. At least Outdoor Research used very low gauge zippers on this model, which didn't pinch our hips, even with the weight of a six-day pack on (not in this photo).

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 and zip from the top-down (ideal), 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 them. Unlike several other models, the zippers were low profile and didn't pinch our tester's hips. We prefer higher handwarmer pockets for their functionality, especially if you are buying this jacket for hiking, backpacking, or climbing.

You'll find a hanging cell phone pouch made of mesh, which is located inside the single chest pocket. We found it challenging to stuff our iPhone 7 (with a moderately-sized Lifeproof case) inside, as it was a touch on the smaller size. We aren't sure what OR was thinking, but it does keep your phone more secure, particularly if you don't have a case on it.

Weight


Our size medium weighed 10.5 ounces, which is slightly below average among products in our review. It does, however, pack in some of the best weather resistance for is weight and is geared toward hiking, backpacking, and climbing. 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).

At 10.5 ounces  this model offers a respectable weight  which is something that any outdoor enthusiast can appreciate for people-powered endeavors.
At 10.5 ounces, this model offers a respectable weight, which is something that any outdoor enthusiast can appreciate for people-powered endeavors.

Durability


Complete with 20D 100% nylon, the exterior is middle of the road for durability, longevity, and tear resistance. Its DWR held up respectably well and lasted longer than coated waterproof insert models, like the Marmot PreCip, and is on par with most of the stretchy models we tested. It isn't as tear or abrasion resistant as other similarly priced models, like the Arc'teryx Zeta, but this model doesn't offer any stretch.

This model stows into a reversible pocket. It is pictured here next to a 1-liter Nalgene bottle.
This model stows into a reversible pocket. It is pictured here next to a 1-liter Nalgene bottle.

Packed Size


The Interstellar compresses well and stows conveniently away into a reversible handwarmer pocket. While we wouldn't mind if Outdoor Research made this pocket just a little smaller to minimize the volume this jacket took up, we still appreciate the feature.

The Interstellar is one of the pricier jackets to feature a proprietary fabric. However  we feel this model fabric shows enough performance that it is worth the price for folks looking for a mobility-focused air-permeable jacket.
The Interstellar is one of the pricier jackets to feature a proprietary fabric. However, we feel this model fabric shows enough performance that it is worth the price for folks looking for a mobility-focused air-permeable jacket.

Value


It's one of the more expensive models in our review and is one of the costliest products to feature a proprietary fabric (and not a name-brand one like Gore-tex or eVent). While we don't believe that proprietary material is a negative, especially one like Ascentshell with the top-tier breathability and solid storm worthiness, it just isn't a screaming deal. We do think for the function-focused crowd this is a sweet jacket who will find the performance justifies the cost. It is more expensive than the stretcher Rab Kinetic Plus but provides better stormworthiness and is more versatile.

The Interstellar is a sweet all-arounder that will do very well at a number of outdoor actives. It's light enough for backpacking and mountaineering  and breathable enough for more aerobic activities like ski touring.
The Interstellar is a sweet all-arounder that will do very well at a number of outdoor actives. It's light enough for backpacking and mountaineering, and breathable enough for more aerobic activities like ski touring.

Conclusion


If you're looking for a rain jacket for more aerobic outdoor-oriented activities, an air-permeable one might be just the ticket, thanks to their stretchy feel and top-tier breathability. If you want the best all-around performing air-permeable jacket, look no further than the Outdoor Research Interstellar. The Interstellar offers an adequate level of stretch and durability, and provides breathability and stormworthiness. We think these attributes, plus its lower weight and minimal packed volume, make it one of the best options for the action-focused outdoors person. This versatile jacket will protect its user on short day hikes or week long backpacking trips or mountaineering adventures.

Ian Nicholson