The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic is in a category of its own. Its ability to stretch, mixed with its compact size and breathability, made it a very close runner-up to our Editors' Choice winner the Outdoor Research Aspire.
The Stretch Ozonic was a favorite while out on hikes; its stretch fabric moved with us while keeping us protected from the elements.
The Ozonic comes equipped with a patent Dry.Q technology, offering durable waterproof protection without sacrificing breathability. It combines the protection of a hardshell with a lightweight and stretchy fabric to keep you dry and comfortable in all your active pursuits. Our only complaint comes not from issues of leakage, but feelings of clamminess; this stemmed from the suppleness of the stretch fabric, as the flexible material clung to our skin when it was raining (not our favorite feature).
The Stretch Ozonic is equipped with Dry.Q Active waterproof technology, which did an excellent job of repelling moisture.
The Stretch Ozonic's fabric breathes well enough for a rigorous bike ride in the rain; however, the pit zips could have performed better. They are half the size of standard pit zips, running along the inner arm and stopping short at the armpit. They were not the easiest to unzip and tended to snag on the soft fabric when in a hurry. Our favorite pit zip design came from the OR Aspire, as it introduced a novel solution that our reviewers largely appreciated : full side vents that zip open entirely and make the jacket into a poncho, which breathes and affords a broad flap of coverage when biking, hiking, or just running errands around town.
In our ongoing compulsion to minimize the items in our packs while attempting to keep weight down, the Stretch Ozonic is a crowd pleaser. In dry weather, the average breathability (combined with the stretchy fabric) allowed us to comfortably don this rain jacket as a wind layer when climbing, kayaking, hiking, you name it. And this takes us to our discussion on comfort…
The Stretch Ozonic is a great choice for aerobic activities such as mountain biking; it offers excellent breathability even without the use of the small pit zips and packs small so you can easily stow and go.
A stretchy rain jacket? For real? Yes, for real. And it's soft and breathable, too. The stretch of the Ozonic jacket vastly improved the fit of the jacket, which often translated to better coverage in a driving rain or while riding a bike in the drizzle. The REI Co-op Drypoint GTX is equipped with Gore-Tex Active which achieved high marks in water protection but lacked in comfort and was a little bulkier and not nearly as soft. The Ozonic achieves the same result with a stretchy fabric that moves with you rather than riding up any time you move your arms, exposing under-layers to the rain. The arms are also a bit longer than the Drypoint GTX, ensuring better coverage when you're out moving in the rain.
The stretch of the Ozonic, however, had a downside. The flexibility and suppleness of the fabric meant it would plaster itself close to the body when riding a bike or walking in the wind. This often made us feel colder and more exposed to the elements, even though it technically still kept us dry.
The half-sized pit zips also proved mildly uncomfortable: the zippers end in the armpits and tend to chafe when we found ourselves in motion and swinging our arms. Really, this jacket doesn't necessarily need pit zips, as it's breathable enough without them. We would like to see this jacket re-engineered as a technical, minimalist climbing jacket much like the Outdoor Research Helium II but with the added benefit of stretchy material.
The Stretch Ozonic is relatively lightweight and ranks as the heaviest of the ultralight rain jackets. At 9.8 ounces, it is still lighter than the next closest category of competition, which is just over 11 ounces. It is just under three ounces heavier than the award-winning Outdoor Research Helium II, and just over one ounce heavier than our Best Buy Winner, the Marmot PreCip.
The Stretch Ozonic boasts one of our favorite features in a jacket: a wide-toothed zipper. This type of zipper is less amenable to a waterproof tape finish to keep your midline dry, so they include a storm flap to keep out rogue droplets; this is a zipper that will keep zipping, fast and easy, through many rainy outdoor adventures. The stretch fabric also decreases the creasing tendency of the jacket (a common sign of wear in a rain jacket), and as such, improved the durability of the inner membrane.
Our only concern is of the long-term effect of sweating in this jacket. The suppleness of the jacket means it often rests against your skin, where it will pick up much more body oils. Our reviewers saw no decrease in waterproof/breathability over several months of testing, but over the lifetime of the jacket, we wonder if this could detract from the performance and durability of the two most important features of a rain jacket, clogging the pores that both breathe and block water.
It is not often that our reviewers climb with a rain jacket clipped to their harnesses; if the weather is looking dreary enough to want a rain jacket holstered for a quick draw, we're probably not doing anything too technical. So, is it essential to have a carabiner loop sewn into the pocket of a rain jacket? Not really. However, the Stretch Ozonic is a good example of a jacket that threatens to merge disciplines: it is so stretchy and breathable that we often took it along as both a wind and rain layer. We love being able to commandeer our gear for multiple, even if unintended, purposes. The Ozonic does not, however, have a clipable loop, which is a minor disappointment. The Outdoor Research Helium II, on the other hand, gives you no room to hesitate; it has a clipable loop, and it packs in a very neat and tidy pocket which makes it an obvious choice as a wind jacket or a rain jacket. With the Helium II in our quiver, our wind shirts often stayed behind.
This jacket is quite compact when stuffed into its pocket, and stuffs much easier than both of the Columbia jackets in our review. Even though the same parent company now owns the two, Columbia has not inherited the easy packing feature.
Um, rain. That's the point. This is a great rain jacket for athletic pursuits because it is so flexible and stretchy, but be wary of chaffing in the armpit from those ridiculous armpit vents. The Stretch Ozonic is also a good multi-tasking jacket; you might give it a try as your wind AND rain jacket. It is certainly tougher than your average wind jacket and much more supple than most rain jackets. However, the Stretch Ozonic is not your jacket for warm, wet climates. Why? The jacket clings like saran wrap to your bare skin if you're only wearing a t-shirt underneath, and that skin (and oil and sweat) contact is not the best for the long-term durability of a rain jacket.
Not exactly the bargain basement deal here, as it's more top-of-the-line, price wise. We'll let you decide if the jacket justifies the high price of almost $200, as the novelty of stretch basically doubles its worth. If Mountain Hardwear followed the design of the Outdoor Research Helium II, making the jacket a true minimalist rain-and-wind jacket but with STRETCH, we would be flabbergasted. Here's to hoping!
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic is a jacket to watch. This year's model, complete with its updates, will not disappoint; we are eager to see what next year's updates bring to the table as well. With a few comfort and design improvements, this jacket is likely to become a reviewer's favorite, and an industry trendsetter to boot.