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Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Review

This lightweight hardshell is great for days in the backcountry, but it lacks the refinement of other high-end models
outdoor research hemispheres ii ski jacket review
Credit: Outdoor Research
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Price:  $629 List
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 2, 2022
68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 17
  • Warmth - 20% 3.0
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 9.0
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8.0
  • Ventilation - 15% 9.0
  • Style - 15% 6.0
  • Features - 10% 5.0

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Hemispheres II is a well-designed and lightweight hardshell jacket that excels in the backcountry. It uses Gore-Tex, waterproof zippers, and a full-coverage hood to keep the elements out, and it has long side zips and a stretchy softshell panel in the center of the back to increase ventilation. The jacket is relatively comfortable but suffers from a slightly boxy fit. There are fewer pockets than some high-end jackets, though this didn't bother us too much. The style is decent, but not our favorite. Overall, this lightweight Gore-Tex shell is a good choice for backcountry skiing, but for a similar price, you can do better.
REASONS TO BUY
Weatherproof
Well-ventilated
Comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
Not warm
Minimally featured
Slightly boxy fit

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $629 List
$629.00 at REI
$539.95 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Weatherproof, well-ventilated, comfortableExcellent performance in every category, durableCompletely weather resistant, good ventilation, freeride styleWeather resistant, good vents, plenty of featuresInexpensive, moderately weather resistant, warm enough
Cons Not warm, minimally featured, slightly boxy fitMore snug fit than other optionsExpensive, too heavy and warm for most backcountry useHanging liner makes it a bit warm for a shell, fit isn't perfectBland style, poor ventilation, generic fit
Bottom Line This lightweight hardshell is great for days in the backcountry, but it lacks the refinement of other high-end modelsThis excellent resort ski jacket nails all performance aspects to deserve a spot at the top of your wish listA durable, weatherproof jacket that wins our favor among downhill ski shells on the marketA high-performance shell at a great priceAn average-performance ski jacket with decent features at an affordable price
Rating Categories Outdoor Research He... Helly Hansen Alpha... Arc'teryx Sabre Jacket REI Co-op First Cha... REI Co-op Powderbou...
Warmth (20%)
3.0
8.0
5.0
4.0
6.0
Weather Resistance (20%)
9.0
8.0
10.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort and Fit (20%)
8.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Ventilation (15%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Style (15%)
6.0
9.0
9.0
7.0
5.0
Features (10%)
5.0
10.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Outdoor Research He... Helly Hansen Alpha... Arc'teryx Sabre Jacket REI Co-op First Cha... REI Co-op Powderbou...
Main Fabric 70D nylon 2-layer stretch polyester N80p-X Gore-Tex 2-layer Gore-Tex Nylon
Insulation None LifaLoft synthetic Thin flannel backer Recycled polyester lining 60g polyester sleeves, 80g polyester body
Pockets 2 zippered side, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered internal, 1 internal stash 2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal chest, 1 internal mesh, 1 sleeve 2 hand, 1 sleeve, 1 internal 2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal chest, 1 sleeve 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 sleeve, 1 internal zippered chest, 1 internal mesh
Weight (size large) 1.26 lbs 2.56 lbs 1.60 lbs 1.76 lbs 1.81 lbs
Water Resistance Gore-Tex Helly Tech Professional Gore-Tex Gore-Tex 2-layer waterproof breathable laminate
Hood Adjustable Adjustable and removable Adjustable Adjustable Adjustable
Pit-Zips TorsoFLo Mesh-backed Open Yes Yes
Cuff construction Velcro Interior stretchy wrist gaiters and external velcro cuffs Velcro Velcro Interior wide hook-and-loop adjustments and external velcro
Powder skirt No Yes Yes Yes, removable Yes
RECCO No Yes Yes No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

This jacket stands out for its light weight, great weather protection, comfort, and high level of ventilation. It loses some points for style, features, and warmth.

Performance Comparison


outdoor research hemispheres ii ski jacket review - the or hemispheres ii during on-slope testing in colorado.
The OR Hemispheres II during on-slope testing in Colorado.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Warmth


The OR Hemispheres II has very little warming power. As a shell-only jacket, there is no insulation to keep body heat from escaping, and all warmth must be achieved by layering underneath. The cut of this jacket allows for both thick and thin layers of insulation underneath, and the hood can cinch down on both helmeted heads and beanies to add some warmth. That said, this jacket isn't designed for cold days on the chairlift, and it is more at home protecting the user from bad weather on the skin track or while bootpacking an exposed ridgeline.

outdoor research hemispheres ii ski jacket review - a thin hard shell is all you get; no insulation comes with this...
A thin hard shell is all you get; no insulation comes with this jacket.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Weather Protection


This jacket is a bomber Gore-Tex hardshell with waterproof seams and zippers. A full coverage hood seals out weather from above, a drawstring hem closes the jacket around the waist, and sturdy hook-and-loop straps seal the wrist openings. The only protective component this jacket lacks is a powder skirt, and it omits this feature in an effort to save weight in the backcountry. There is also a compromise in weather protection in the center of the back, where a stretchy panel allows better ventilation underneath a backpack, and when the backpack is removed, snow, rain, and wind can penetrate this area with relative ease.

outdoor research hemispheres ii ski jacket review - a large hood swallows a helmeted head, effectively sealing the...
A large hood swallows a helmeted head, effectively sealing the jacket from above.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Comfort and Fit


The OR Hemispheres II is pretty darn comfortable. The garment has a decent cut, just a tad on the boxy side, but it doesn't fight the user. There are better-cut jackets on the market, but they generally cost more. The fabric is relatively comfortable for a hardshell, and the stretch panel in the center of the back adds some mobility. The jacket is comfortable to wear with both thick and thin layers of insulation underneath.

outdoor research hemispheres ii ski jacket review - the cut of the hemispheres ii could be better, but in general, it's...
The cut of the Hemispheres II could be better, but in general, it's a comfortable jacket.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Ventilation


This jacket has tons of ventilation. The Gore-Tex fabric itself isn't super breathable, but the stretch panel in the center of the back allows perspiration to escape where it would normally be trapped against the back when wearing a backpack. We hate skinning in a hardshell, but in wet climates, this is a necessity at times, and if you are trail breaking through deep powder, it's a nice touch to have a vent in the middle of the back. The armpit vents don't extend from the ribs to the upper arm, like most pit vents, but rather they start at the armpit and run all the way down to the hem, giving you the option to unzip the hem itself. This vent configuration is certainly unique, but it's not preferable.

A stretchy back panel allows a break in the Gore-Tex shell in a...
A stretchy back panel allows a break in the Gore-Tex shell in a common area for perspiration on skin track ascents.
The Hemispheres II's unique side vents work pretty well, but we...
The Hemispheres II's unique side vents work pretty well, but we don't like how they continue all the way to the hem.
The Hemispheres II has several ventilation features, including a stretchy back panel and pit zips that extend to the hem.

Style


The Hemispheres II looks okay, but it doesn't stand out. The color options aren't awesome, and the straight cut doesn't scream "refinement." Instead, it blends into a crowd. We neither love nor hate its style.

outdoor research hemispheres ii ski jacket review - do you like the style of this jacket? our testers aren't convinced.
Do you like the style of this jacket? Our testers aren't convinced.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Features


The OR Hemispheres II has plenty of features for a day in the backcountry. With two handwarmer pockets, one external chest pocket, one internal chest pocket, and one internal mesh stash pocket, there is plenty of room to store trinkets while skiing in the backcountry or at the resort. We also really like the stretchy back panel that allows some perspiration to escape while skinning uphill with a backpack on days when it is actively snowing. There are stretchy panels on the outside of the sleeve cuffs, but we don't really understand their utility.

outdoor research hemispheres ii ski jacket review - one internal chest pocket and one mesh stash pocket are plenty for...
One internal chest pocket and one mesh stash pocket are plenty for most backcountry and inbounds days.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Should You Buy the Outdoor Research Hemispheres II?


This is a good hardshell jacket that should appeal to many backcountry skiers for its weather resistance. However, it's expensive, and if you are considering the investment in this jacket, you should at least consider the top-of-the-line shell jackets that cost slightly more. There are also lighter options in the market if you are deciding based on weight alone. In the end, we think this jacket could use some more refinement to justify such a high price tag.

outdoor research hemispheres ii ski jacket review - the hemispheres ii is a pretty good ski jacket, but there are better...
The Hemispheres II is a pretty good ski jacket, but there are better ones on the market.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

What Other Ski Jackets Should You Consider?


If you are in the market for a lightweight hard shell for backcountry skiing, we highly recommend the Arc'teryx Rush. It's slightly heavier and more expensive, but it offers the utmost weather protection and style, and feels great to wear while skiing. We also like the super light Mammut Aenergy Air, especially for milder weather and ski mountaineering days where every ounce counts. If you are looking for a more resort-specific shell, the Arc'teryx Sabre Jacket is our favorite inbounds hardshell, and the REI Co-op First Chair GTX is a bargain for the same use.

Jeff Dobronyi
 
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