We regularly divide even the most specialized OutdoorGearLab reviews into sub sections. In the case of men's ski jackets, it is logical to parse out the shell jackets on their own. In this review, we assessed four different shell jackets. In comparing the OR White Room to the Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Pro Shell, the Arc'teryx Sabre, and the FlyLow Genius, we found that the OR is the burliest and stiffest. The Sabre is also stiff and protective, with fewer ski-specific features. The Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Pro Shell is made of lighter fabric for greater comfort but compromised weather protection. Overall, the White Room is a specialized ski resort shell that will appeal to the dedicated, hardcore user. It is at least roughly similar to the Editors Choice Arc'teryx Sabre, with a lower cost. For this reason, we label it our shell jacket Best Buy.
Outdoor Research White Room Review
Cons: Stiff fabric and fleece lining inhibit comfort
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Our Analysis and Test Results
The White Room is the beefiest shell jacket we tested this time around.
For our overall scoring comparison we stack up all twelve tested jackets against one another. For ski jackets, this includes insulated as well as uninsulated products. Consumers, though will narrow their search to one or the other of these sub categories. As compared to the masses, the Outdoor Research is second from the bottom, second only to a budget insulated piece. Narrow the assessment to ski specific shell jackets, and the OR is tied for third place. Additionally, of the four shell jackets we tested, the OR is the least expensive. It works well, at a reasonable price. This earns it our Best Buy award for the subset of shell-only jackets we evaluated.
We have to comment on the insulating value of any piece of equipment intended to be used in cold conditions. That said, no one should expect a shell jacket to provide any appreciable insulating value. People choose a shell jacket like the White Room as part of a layering system, relying on a separate inner layer or layers for the actual insulation. The shell keeps the wind and precipitation off. As compared to any insulating jacket in our test, the White Room is nowhere close to as warm.
Even the least insulating jacket is far warmer than the White Room. The other Best Buy Armada Carson Insulated is many times more insulating than the White Room. When comparing to something like the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Macai, the White Room seems in an entirely different category. Now, stepping past these ineffective comparisons, we have to look at the other shell jackets in our test. In terms of warmth, the White Room's fuzzy lining and thick fabric outperforms both the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell and the FlyLow Gear Genius. Now, it isn't a significant difference, but it is there nonetheless. This fuzzy lining is similar to that on the Editors Choice Arc'teryx Sabre.
This is what shell jackets do best. For no-holds-barred, burly weather, a system that includes a dedicated shell like the White Room and carefully chosen inner layer(s), is the best system. A dedicated shell is stiff, protective, seam-sealed, and made with the best possible waterproof/breathable membrane. All these attributes combine to maximize the weather protection attributes. The White Room from Outdoor Research is such a shell.
The user can then tailor the under layers to the exact temperatures and exertion levels. In comparing the shells we tested, we found little to no difference in weather protection. All are burly and comprehensive. Little details like the hood adjustments and cuff construction mark the primary differences. On the OR White Room, for instance, the hood is huge, but the rear adjustment cord is too small to readily work with gloves on. Once it's cinched down, it is protective and sheltering.
Both the Arc'teryx Sabre and the Norrona Lofoten have weather protection attributes that exceed those of the White Room, but both are much much more expensive than the Outdoor Research.
With no insulation, shell jackets are inherently better at ventilating. In the hottest of conditions, the user can take it off entirely and still have his layers underneath for protection. The OR augments this inherent ventilation with a two-way main zipper and long, mesh-free pit-zips that start on the chest. Other than the three-in-one jackets that offer even more options for tailoring your outfit, the OR has the best venting in our test. The Norrona Lofoten and FlyLow Gear Quantum Pro shells both have wide open pit zips, but they don't start on the chest like those on the White Room.
It seems that shell ski jackets are generally constructed more like alpine climbing jackets with minimal features than like the user-friendly insulated ski jackets we compare them to. In this review, generally, we found that to be true. The Norrona Lofoten and FlyLow Gear Genius jackets have precious few of the niceties. However, Outdoor Research equips the White Room with many bells and whistles. The set of pockets is comprehensive and useful, while the goggle wipe and Recco reflector are simple, but oh so appreciated. If matched with Outdoor Research pants, the snaps on the powder skirt seal out the weather.
As compared to the entire review roster, the White Room has almost as many features as our category-leading Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0. It has decidedly more features even than the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Macai.
Fit and Comfort
On its own, in warm and wet or windy conditions with minimal clothing underneath, this contender is plenty comfortable. It fits loosely, and the fabric is stiff. When bundled up with insulating layers underneath, the fleecy lining of the White Room binds and restricts movement. Make sure that the insulating layer immediately beneath is shelled with slippery smooth nylon and the adverse affects of this attribute will be minimized. For a given amount of warmth, a dedicated insulated jacket like the Spyder Leader will always be more comfortable and allow greater freedom of motion than a layered system involving a shell like the White Room.
The White Room jacket, though, is more comfortable than the 3-in-1 style jackets, that seem to bind more. Additionally, the fleecy lining of the White Room that contributes to binding is shared by the Editors Choice Arc'teryx Sabre.
Perhaps it was the bright red color, but our testing team loved the look of this competitor.
The cut is flattering, and the stiff fabric maintains a structure that saves the wearer the draped look that shells can impart. Of the shells, the structured White Room and Sabre jackets were the most desirable - fashion wise. We also like the svelte and polished look of the Arc'teryx Macai or the high-end appearance of the Spyder Leader.
The White Room is a great ski resort shell jacket. As part of a layering system that includes a slippery faced insulated jacket beneath, this contender will give the user extensive options to match the conditions and exertion.
Value hunters generally do best to avoid dedicated ski resort layering systems. For half the price, an occasional skier or snowboarder can choose the Top Pick Columbia Whirlibird Interchange and get shell and insulation together. Further, the integrated insulation of the Best Buy Armada Carson can be had for a little more than half the price. For absolute versatility though, when price is less important, a shell jacket has its place. If you will build a layering system starting with a shell jacket, the beefy White Room shell is a good place to start your budget shopping. It is the least expensive shell jacket we tested and therefore earns another Best Buy award.
In choosing a ski resort shell, look for stiffness, ski features, and weather protection. In these regards, this ski jacket is solid. In terms of weather protection, versatility, and outright comfort, the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell edged out the OR contender for a Top Pick award. However, for hard-charging resort use, you won't go wrong with the White Room. The Editors Choice Arc'teryx Sabre has all this, with even greater performance attributes.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: February 14, 2018
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