Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Review
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Outdoor Research Hemispheres II
|Price||Check Price at REI|
Compare at 4 sellers
|$330.00 at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$700 List||$300 List|
$178.83 at REI
$138.93 at REI
|Pros||Weatherproof, well-ventilated, comfortable||Excellent performance in every category, durable||Completely weather resistant, good ventilation, freeride style||Weather resistant, good vents, plenty of features||Inexpensive, moderately weather resistant, warm enough|
|Cons||Not warm, minimally featured, slightly boxy fit||More snug fit than other options||Expensive, too heavy and warm for most backcountry use||Hanging liner makes it a bit warm for a shell, fit isn't perfect||Bland 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 models||This excellent resort ski jacket nails all performance aspects to deserve a spot at the top of your wish list||A durable, weatherproof jacket that wins our favor among downhill ski shells on the market||A high-performance shell at a great price||An 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...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|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|
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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