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Outdoor Research San Juan Review

This jacket is a great option for colder weather sports thanks to its excellent weather protection
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Price:  $169 List | $67.73 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Good weather protection, wind resistant
Cons:  Heavy, less breathable
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 30, 2020
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 11
  • Weather Protection - 30% 8
  • Breathability - 30% 7
  • Mobility - 25% 6
  • Weight - 10% 5
  • Versatility - 5% 6

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research San Juan is inspired by the world-class skiing and climbing offered in its namesake range, and for this reason, it feels at home in the skin track as well as on challenging ice climbs. With an athletic fit that still leaves some room for layering, it offers great mobility for its weight. While we found this jacket to be adequately breathable, it is best when engaging in less aerobic activities such as mid-winter ski touring and alpine climbing. When the RPMs are high, the double-weave material that provides so much weather resistance impedes its ability to dump heat as well as other lighter options. However, this is a great choice for cooler temps, funky weather conditions, and applications that ask for added durability.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The San Juan is heavy, but if you need some solid weather protection for colder days, it's one of our preferred options.

Performance Comparison


Cold smoke powder turns! The OR San Juan jacket is at home in these conditions.
Cold smoke powder turns! The OR San Juan jacket is at home in these conditions.

Weather Protection


The weather protection offered by the San Juan comes from double-weave polyester throughout the entire shell. The exterior of this fabric has a tight weave that allows snow and light precipitation to fall off easily, even without an additional DWR (durable water repellent) finish. With a hood that fits easily around a helmet, this is a good choice for days that may see a range of precipitation falling.

Skinning into a backcountry hut with snow showers  we never felt the need to put on a hardshell while wearing the San Juan.
Skinning into a backcountry hut with snow showers, we never felt the need to put on a hardshell while wearing the San Juan.

We wore this jacket in light rain, sleet and snow, and found that the fabric adequately kept from wetting all the way through, though the exterior definitely got wet. In regards to wind protection, which is more within the realm of a softshell jacket specifically, the San Juan does an admirable job, even with skis strapped to our packs climbing to the summit of Winter Alta in a brisk north wind.

The skies cleared but the winds were cold and gusty - the San Juan effectively blocked these winds from cooling us down.
The skies cleared but the winds were cold and gusty - the San Juan effectively blocked these winds from cooling us down.

Breathability


The San Juan provides a reasonable amount of breathability, especially for its weight and weather protection, though it does much better when you can keep your heart rate low. The heavier double-weave of the fabric does not move perspiration and moisture through as well as thinner jackets, and the softer brushed interior traps some moisture, leaving the base layers damper during high-output activity than other jackets we tested.

The double weave fabric is durable and feels warm  but it does not breathe as well as other lighter fabrics.
The double weave fabric is durable and feels warm, but it does not breathe as well as other lighter fabrics.

In the colder months of winter, when you are able to keep a nice, even rhythm while skinning uphill en route to some hidden powder stashes, carefully picking your way up a frozen waterfall, or backpacking through a high alpine basin, the exertion is matched to the weight of the San Juan's fabric. However, for aerobic adventures, we might suggest something with more ability to dump heat. The handwarmer and chest pockets have mesh backing, making them great places to do this as long as you don't have anything in the pockets that could fall out!

As long as you keep a nice  even pace  the San Juan will not overheat.
As long as you keep a nice, even pace, the San Juan will not overheat.

Mobility


The San Juan fits quite well, and while slightly boxy, it does not feel baggy to the point of being cumbersome in the mountains. The fit allows for base layers underneath, and it is not so bulky as to disallow putting an insulated down jacket over the top when reaching a transition point or belay station. While ski touring in the Sierra Nevada mountains, carrying both an overnight pack as well as a lighter day pack, we appreciated the slightly larger fit to accommodate these layers and athletic movement.

No worries that this jacket will keep you from enjoying those turns you worked so hard to earn.
No worries that this jacket will keep you from enjoying those turns you worked so hard to earn.

Weight


This jacket weighs in at just under 19 ounces for a size medium. This is certainly not as heavy as many of the jackets we reviewed, though it is bested by some that weigh half — or less. While weight is an important metric, it is worthwhile to consider it in relation to weather protection and versatility — two metrics in which the San Juan performs very well. Providing great weather protection as an all-day layer, we did not find the need to take this jacket off much during ski touring trips, so its weight and bulk did not feel like a negative.

A bit heavier than some  the San Juan is a nice option for the days that it will stay on your back rather than have to get carried in the pack.
A bit heavier than some, the San Juan is a nice option for the days that it will stay on your back rather than have to get carried in the pack.

Versatility


The San Juan has a number of useful features, such as a helmet-compatible hood with a 3-way adjustment and a Hood Lock wire in the brim. We love the fact that it fits well over big ski helmets. There are six pockets: two hand warmers, two chest pockets, and two drop-in pockets providing numerous places to stash bars, extra gloves and to expel extra heat. It has a nice trim fit, making it stylish enough to walk around town without feeling like you are going to stick out as a mountain climber while you are just running errands.

We love this jacket for backcountry skiing!
We love this jacket for backcountry skiing!

Value


This shell is in the middle of the road when it comes to cost. It is not inexpensive, but it is still well below many other options and has a lot of weather protection, providing good value for the price.

Conclusion


The Outdoor Research San Juan jacket is a great option for cold weather adventures that require weather protection as well as mobility. We find this to be a perfect ski touring layer, as it sheds snow and blocks wind, and it also does quite well in other applications such as climbing and hiking.

Solid construction  weather protection  and mobility make this jacket one of our favorites for winter backcountry sports.
Solid construction, weather protection, and mobility make this jacket one of our favorites for winter backcountry sports.

Ryan Huetter