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Hands-on Gear Review
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Review
Cons: Limited weather protection, no hood
Bottom line: For summertime rock climbing where cool winds and rough surfaces are expected, the durable and stretchy Ferrosi is a good performer at an affordable price.
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is the lightest weight softshell jacket that we reviewed and is also one of the least expensive. While it does not compete with thicker jackets that offer more in the way of weather protection, its breathability and mobility performance made us reach for the Ferrosi when we were going to be seriously active. On mountain bike rides, trail runs and on rock climbs, the Ferrosi lets the wearer move unencumbered, and the thin softshell material lets perspiration quickly pass through.
Other jackets such as the Rab Torque performed nearly as well in these metrics, offering additional weather resistance thanks to the inclusion of a hoo. However, the price of these close competitors was at least double that of the Ferrosi. Pair the Ferrosi jacket with a lightweight base layer, and you have a capable wind shell that will shed very light moisture and let you focus on your activity.
RELATED REVIEW: The 11 Best Softshell Jackets for Men
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is the lightest of all the softshells we tested, and it held its own in a myriad of conditions. From rock climbing trips to Joshua Tree National Park and Indian Creek to mountain biking along the Eastern Sierra trails in California, the Ferrosi was a top performer. The key to its stellar performance is the combination of super breathable nylon/spandex used in the body and durable nylon on the sleeves. Further, it is uninsulated and works well over a t-shirt or lightweight fleece. Expect this jacket to breathe well enough to keep you dry on the inside and weather resistant enough to shed snow and the occasional sprinkle with ease. For us, this is what a softshell should do. If we expect genuinely nasty weather, we forego the softshell altogether and reach for a fully waterproof shell.
The Ferrosi is much less protective than shells with layered membranes like the Mountain Hardwear Dragon. The Ferrosi defends against the elements with a tight nylon/spandex weave and excellent DWR treatment rather than a membrane. That said, it is by no means windproof and scored much worse in this category than The North Face Apex Bionic 2, which has WindWall technology.
During heavy gusts, we certainly felt the breeze while wearing the Ferrosi, but it blocked enough wind to keep us from getting chilled. While cross-country skiing, it offered enough protection from light snow and spindrift to keep us dry. The hoodless version tested here did not provide as much weather protection as the slightly heavier Arcteryx Psiphon FL, but OR does offer a hooded version of the Ferrosi too.
We tested this jacket in the shower; we were surprised that it lasted for as long as it did before wetting through - a full 30 seconds in a downpour. It is not waterproof, only lightly resistant. But for cold, windy conditions, this contender is ideal to wear over a lightweight fleece, such as our award-winning favorite, the Patagonia R1 Hoody. What this model lacks in water resistance, it makes up for in breathability.
Breathability is what makes this jacket shine. Breathability and weather protection are inversely related, so given the Ferrosi's somewhat poor weather resistance, it makes sense that it would offer good breathability. In this case, we think that better breathability yields a more comfortable and versatile shell. This also means that you won't have to take the Ferrosi off when charging hard uphill and that you'll still benefit from some protection from wind, snow, and very light precipitation.
When the weather deteriorates, you can throw on a waterproof or puffy jacket depending on conditions. Finally, it's worth noting that after wetting out the shoulders in our waterfall test, the stretchy body and hood fabric breathed like a champ. Our tester was perfectly dry in less than 30 minutes of moderate activity. The jacket was worn over an R1 Hoody. If you don't need lots of breathability and prefer weather protection, we recommend the Mountain Hardwear Dragon, which is much more weather resistant and has better features.
The most mobile jacket in our review, our Best Buy winner held its own in this metric, and we think it's a great pick for rock climbers, cyclists, trail runners, and any other athletes who demand full range of motion from their garments. When reaching up with a harness on, the cuffs fall slightly; however, when wearing gloves, the wrist cuffs stayed in place and didn't fall thanks to the stretch of the material. There are good quality thumb loops that allow the wearer to keep the cuffs in place and gain a bit of protection; these perform better than the loops featured on the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody.
The Ferrosi pairs with a lightweight fleece such as the Patagonia R1 Hoody like a dream, but if you want to layer much more, consider sizing up as sizes seem to run a little small. Several of our reviewers in between a size Small and Medium found this jacket (in a size medium) was a perfect fit. Finally, the hem was longer than many of the softshells in the review, and more importantly, it stayed put under our climbing harnesses.
This jacket gets top position for its small size and weight. At only 0.7 pounds, it is the lightest we reviewed with the Psiphon FL and Ascendant coming in closely behind. Pairing the Ferrosi with an ultralight rain jacket, such as the Outdoor Research Helium II that weighs 6.4 ounces, yields a super versatile clothing system that weighs just ounces less than many of the other softshells that we reviewed! Because this softshell jacket weighs so little, it is easy to work into a wide range of clothing systems. You can pack this for an extended alpine trip or get a new PR on your local Strava circuit.
This jacket stows away into one of its hand warmer pockets with plenty of room to spare. It wasn't designed for it, but it's possible to stuff the Ferrosi into its more compact chest pocket, too.
This is a simple jacket that eschews rich features for clean lines, minimal extras, and light weight.
The zippered hand warmer pockets were our least favorite feature of the jacket. We prefer high pockets that can be used with a climbing harness or backpack hip belt. Because this jacket is too thin to be a good casual wear jacket, we think this was a poor design choice.
There is just one offset elastic cinch on the right side of the hem while most jackets have two. However, we found that the single cinch worked quite well. Finally, we love the simple elastic wrist closures that keep the cuffs secure. They fit easily over lightweight gloves but are not bulky when we used with larger, gauntlet style gloves. Another great feature this affords is that the cuffs stay put on your forearms if you pull the sleeves up. For lightweight softshells, the elastic wrist closures are an excellent design choice.
Absent from earlier versions of this jacket, the 2017 Ferrosi tested here features some of the highest quality thumb loops we've come across. Far from just a giant hole cut-out, these loops consist of two layers of fabric that overlap to prevent air from creeping in when your thumb isn't taking up that space. They are also comfortable, and with double-stitched seams, appear unlikely to break down quickly. We appreciate this attention to quality and detail from Outdoor Research in a world rife with uncomfortable and poorly-constructed thumb loops.
A Note on Durability
In 2014's iteration of this review, the Ferrosi won our Editors' Choice Award and was our favorite softshell. As such, one reviewer kept it and continued using and abusing it. After a year of tough use, a couple of small durability issues arose. First, the sheath of the hem cinch broke, revealing ratty looking rubber strands. This was easily fixed by isolating this section with a knot. Second, a couple of the stitches along the side of the jacket began coming apart (likely from scraping up brutal chimneys). We don't think these small issues significantly detract from the awesomeness of this jacket and consider them normal wear and tear for a lightweight piece.
Though the jacket isn't warm enough to be very useful around town, its mountain style points were quite high.
We probably took more pictures of this jacket than many of the others directly because it looked picturesque at every turn. The fit also contributed style points. It is very tailored and refined. If you plan on layering heavily under this jacket, be warned: it's snug.
This jacket excels at high-output adventures in 50 degree and colder environments. When the temperatures drop below freezing, however, we recommend seeking a jacket that offers more warmth and weather resistant. This jacket excels when worn rock climbing in the spring and fall, spring ski touring, cross-country skiing, spring snow climbing, or summer alpine climbing on windy ridges. It also works well for ice climbing in cold, dry environments, but we usually prefer ice climbing in hardshells or super protective softshells like the Mountain Hardwear Dragon for the added protection. Overall, the OR Ferrosi is one of the most versatile softshell jackets that we tested and has a home on our shoulders year round.
For the incredibly low price of $999, Outdoor Research created a high-scoring jacket. If you want this jacket with a hood, it costs a low $129 (still an incredible value). With this combination of low price and great performance, we couldn't help but give this jacket our Best Buy Award.
At its core, a softshell jacket is a hybrid piece that is meant to fill the gap between hardshell jackets and fleeces. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi fills this gap wonderfully and is a joy to wear over a base layer or light fleece. Several reviewers purchased jacket after the conclusion of our review. While other softshells might be a touch more breathable and others more weather resistant, this jacket strikes a fantastic real-world balance packed into a super lightweight piece. If you want excellent breathability coupled with some protection from snow and moisture, this jacket is an excellent addition to your kit.
— Ryan Huetter
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