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Outdoor Research Clairvoyant Review

The Outdoor Research Clairvoyant Hardshell
Top Pick Award
Price:   $325 List | $259.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Most breathable shell, lightweight, inexpensive, bomber zipper, packs into its pocket
Cons:  Not very warm, short length, no pit zips, not good for terrible weather
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a hardshell you can put on and leave on, take a look at the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant. This is lightweight and ultra breathable women's hardshell that transcends the aerobic sports category. No wonder we awarded it a Top Pick for Lightweight Design! It has practical features like a great storm hood, ventilation system, and a durable zipper, but it threw out comfort features like suede chin warmers and insulated pockets to cut down the weight. The jacket hosts three mesh-backed pockets that serve as a ventilation system but lacks pit zips that would be helpful on warmer and windier days.

The Outdoor Research Clairvoyant was also a contender for the Best Buy Award with its low price of $325. It lost, however, because it was wasn't as all-purpose as the Mountain Hardwear Torsun Jacket - Women's, and had a more specific purpose for aerobic activities, instead of dealing with severe weather.

This jacket remains unchanged for 2016-17. You can still expect the same great jacket, from its lightweight construction to its sleek look.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hardshell Jacket for Women


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
December 23, 2014

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The Outdoor Research Clairvoyant earned our Top Pick for Lightweight design for its simple look, a low weight of 11.7 ounces, and its ability to pack into its pocket. This ultra-breathable hardshell is perfect for fast, quick missions in the mountains or on your favorite multi-pitch route as an emergency shell.

Performance Comparison


Brittany LOVED the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant. From the time of picking it up  slipping it one  and taking it out for a spin - it was like love at first ski. The soft polyester fabric makes the jacket mobile and comfortable  while the minimalist design keeps it breathable  light  and the most packable. As a result  it earned Top Pick for Lightweight Design.
Brittany LOVED the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant. From the time of picking it up, slipping it one, and taking it out for a spin - it was like love at first ski. The soft polyester fabric makes the jacket mobile and comfortable, while the minimalist design keeps it breathable, light, and the most packable. As a result, it earned Top Pick for Lightweight Design.

Weather Protection


The Outdoor Research Clairvoyant hosts a three-layer Gore-Tex Active shell that is highly breathable but somewhat lacking in weather protection. Of all the shells tested, it was our breeziest and least windproof jacket. Like most breathable shells, its face fabric wetted out after one minute under a continuous stream of water during our waterproof tests. However, true to the Gore-Tex guarantee, its membrane still kept us dry.

When the rain came out to play  the author stayed nice and dry.
When the rain came out to play, the author stayed nice and dry.

When getting caught in a sprinkle outside, we noted that the water beaded up until the rain became more continuous - not very different from the other shells tested. As a result of this lack of weatherproofing, the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant was also one of the coldest jackets tested. This is the perfect piece for cross-country skiing, but not getting caught in a storm.

On the left is the beading action of the Clairvoyant after just a small rainshower. The image on the right shows what happens to the fabric after prolonged rain exposure. This jacket wets out  but it does indeed keep you dry.
On the left is the beading action of the Clairvoyant after just a small rainshower. The image on the right shows what happens to the fabric after prolonged rain exposure. This jacket wets out, but it does indeed keep you dry.

Mobility & Fit


The Gore-Tex Active fabric differs from all the shells tested, simply because the polyester face fabric is surprisingly soft. Some folks even questioned whether it was still a hardshell because of its fantastic movement.

The author looks happy  but is secretly feeling quite constricted after stacking some layers underneath on a cool fall day hike up to Blue Lakes. If you purchase this jacket  size up if you will be wearing a bunch of layers underneath. The jacket has little room in the arms.
The author looks happy, but is secretly feeling quite constricted after stacking some layers underneath on a cool fall day hike up to Blue Lakes. If you purchase this jacket, size up if you will be wearing a bunch of layers underneath. The jacket has little room in the arms.

That said, because of its minimalist design, the Clairvoyant isn't the best for stacking layers underneath. There is not a whole lot of room in the arms and torso, and it is best accompanied by a thin insulating jacket like the Patagonia Nano Puff - Women's. Also, when raising our arms, the jacket rode up because of its short cut. As a result, it's not the best for activities like ice climbing. Aside from that, we loved the fabric mobility, and we hardly noticed it was there when cross-country skiing and running.

Breathability & Venting


This hardshell's fabric breathability was exceptional, and it was one of the reasons we awarded this product our Top Pick for Lightweight Design. While taking it for early morning runs and on uphill hikes through Silverton, Colorado, we noticed that it was the most breathable jacket tested. We could also feel the wind through the coat as its membrane allows air molecules to pass through better than other Gore-Tex varieties. This is a result of having larger and more fabric pores.

Although the Gore-Tex Active fabric is incredibly breathable  and the pockets have an integrated ventilation system  we were really hoping for pit zips on warmer days.
Although the Gore-Tex Active fabric is incredibly breathable, and the pockets have an integrated ventilation system, we were really hoping for pit zips on warmer days.

Even though fabric breathability was exceptional, we were a little disappointed that the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant didn't have any pit zips. Instead, it had a built-in ventilation system with mesh-backed chest and hand pockets like the Mountain Hardwear Torsun. When we opened up the pockets, more ventilation occurred, but we couldn't keep anything stashed. On really warm days, we wished for pit vents and eventually just had to take the shell off - even though it was windy outside.

Check out the mesh backed pockets. AKA the ventilation system.
Check out the mesh backed pockets. AKA the ventilation system.

Weight & Packed Size


Ahh…the another reason why this product won the Top Pick for Lightweight Design. It packs into its pocket (no other hardshells did this), and only weighs a measly 11.7 ounces. This makes it the lightest jacket tested (beating out the second lightest (Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket - Women's by almost 3 ounces).

On the left is the size of the Clairvoyant packed into its pocket  with an integrated clipping point for gloves. It also double as a clip point to the harness or backpack. Also - it's super light and perfect for fast missions.
On the left is the size of the Clairvoyant packed into its pocket, with an integrated clipping point for gloves. It also double as a clip point to the harness or backpack. Also - it's super light and perfect for fast missions.

Finally, even though it's not designed to fit into its pocket (the zipper is upside down), it has a clip point meant for your gloves that can also be used to clip to a harness or backpack if on long multi-pitch routes. This model is perfect for those long adventures and when you might need something more than a rain jacket or windshell.

Features


Even though it's a minimalist jacket in design, the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant still hosted a couple of surprising features, including a two-point adjustable hood that was helmet compatible with a bendable wire brim (i.e. Halo Hood Articulation). Most other hoods like the Torsun have three-point adjustments, but this is just another "minimalist" design feature. Like the Mountain Hardwear Torsun, it also had the cinch cords on the inside of the jacket - not an ideal place because you need to open the jacket and expose yourself to the elements to cinch the hood down. We would switch this to the outside.

For a minimalist jacket  the Clairvoyant still has a plethora of features. A bendy rim for the hood  hood adjustments  3 pockets that are mesh backed and can carry quite a bit. Also wrist closures that are glove compatible.
For a minimalist jacket, the Clairvoyant still has a plethora of features. A bendy rim for the hood, hood adjustments, 3 pockets that are mesh backed and can carry quite a bit. Also wrist closures that are glove compatible.

Another great feature was the three pockets, with the inner pocket having an iPod compatible slot that feeds up through the interior of the jacket. The two hand pockets are surprisingly large, and the chest pocket can fit a phone or energy bar. The collar did not sit up as high as all the other jackets tested, but it could still get your chin into it. On that note, there were no cozy chin warmers, but we did appreciate its cozy garaged zipper.

Durability


We anticipate that the fabrics used on this jacket will be quite durable, but not as durable as its competitors; it is a much thinner and lighter fabric that will be more exposed to abrasive surfaces. Also, the stitching patterns are a little wider and not as tight as the other jackets tested. That said, we did like the vitality of all the little parts - including the big burly zipper. We anticipate that these small parts will last through its lifetime. That said, if it does not, Outdoor Research backs its products with a lifetime warranty.

The zippers are burly with large teeth. We were psyched about this durability feature.
The zippers are burly with large teeth. We were psyched about this durability feature.

Versatility


Because this hardshell utilizes Gore-Tex Active and has eliminated many fancy features to keep it bare bones, it transcends into other "use" areas where other shells can't perform. Although any shell in this review can be used for cross-country or skinning, this is the ideal piece for anyone of those aerobic, all-in-a-day missions. Skinning up your favorite backcountry trail, cross-country skiing, skate skiing, hiking, or early morning runs are ideal uses for the Outdoor Research Clairvoyant. It can still be used for regular hardshell use, but you have to remember that it's not as warm and has a tighter fit. So wearing layers over top, or thin layers underneath, is necessary. Another option is to size up.

Best Applications


Best applications lie in active winter activities that don't involve sitting at belay or in a snow cave for long periods of time. Instead, reach for this shell when heading out to go cross-country skiing or for a morning run.

The author is shown on a skin trail in the San Juan mountains with her split board. The Clairvoyant is the perfect piece of outerwear on this sunny  windy day in Colorado.
The author is shown on a skin trail in the San Juan mountains with her split board. The Clairvoyant is the perfect piece of outerwear on this sunny, windy day in Colorado.

Value


You can't beat the price of $325! It's the second cheapest shell and does a great job with what it's built for. If you need a lightweight shell that can stuff down small, and that will protect you from rain and snow, then take a look here. If you're looking for a low-priced shell with more weather protection and versatility, check out the $350 Mountain Hardwear Torsun.

The Outdoor Research Clairvoyant was our Top Pick for Lightweight Design  and the only jacket in this review in the lightweight shell category. It also features Gore-Tex Active shell technology.
The Outdoor Research Clairvoyant was our Top Pick for Lightweight Design, and the only jacket in this review in the lightweight shell category. It also features Gore-Tex Active shell technology.

Conclusion


Our Top Pick for Lightweight Design shines with its low weight of 11.70 ounces, and the ability to pack into its pocket. Plan on taking this ultra-breathable shell on long multi-pitch climbs as a wind and emergency rain layer or through the snowy trails of your favorite skin track.
Amber King

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Most recent review: December 23, 2014
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