Outdoor Research San Juan Review
Cons: Heavy, less breathable
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Ryan Huetter
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