Outdoor Research Aspire II - Women's Review
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Outdoor Research Aspire II - Women's
$225.00 at REI
|$80.00 at Backcountry|
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|$71.97 at Backcountry|
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|$89.25 at Amazon|
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|$64.97 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Excellent water resistance, whole size/pit vents, great range of motion||Comfortable, breathable, versatile, not crinkly, soft hand feel||Excellent breathability, great mobility, comfortable||Exceptionally packable, lightweight, breathable, good mobility||Simple but functional, hood packs away, good value|
|Cons||No stow pocket, heavy||Hood doesn't offer great coverage||Zipper catches storm flap, pit zips felt stiff at first, fabric took up water||No vents, no hand pockets||Small zipper pulls, internal fabric can stick to bare skin|
|Bottom Line||Built to withstand the elements while on the move, this jacket offers a great balance of water resistance and breathability||An exceptionally breathable and comfortable jacket for active adventures offering a full range of motion while repelling light moisture||This comfortable, breathable jacket has great mobility and is a good fit for those looking to explore in light to moderate precip||A great emergency layer that is feather-light, compresses into a tiny stow pocket and punches above its weight for breathability and water resistance||A solid rain jacket that offers decent performance at a price point that won't break the bank|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research As...||Mountain Hardwear S...||Rab Downpour - Women's||Outdoor Research He...||Marmot PreCip Eco -...|
|Water Resistance (25%)|
|Comfort and Mobility (20%)|
|Weight and Packability (15%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research As...||Mountain Hardwear S...||Rab Downpour - Women's||Outdoor Research He...||Marmot PreCip Eco -...|
|Measured Weight||10.5 oz||9.7 oz||10.6 oz||5.6 oz||9.2 oz|
|Number of Fabric Layers||2||2.5||2.5||2.5||2.5|
|Material||50D Polyester||50D Stretch Ripstop||50D Polyester||30D Ripstop Nylon||100% Ripstop Nylon|
|Pockets||2 hand, 1 chest||2 hand, 1 chest||2 hand||1 chest||2 hand|
|Pit Zip Length (in)||20||11||14||N/A||10|
|Helmet Compatible Hood||No||No||No||No||No|
|Stows into Pocket||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Carabiner Loop in Stow Pocket||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Outdoor Research Aspire II offers an intersection of water resistance and breathability that is hard to match. Though the price tag is on the higher end, this jacket is worth every penny for those looking to explore no matter how wet it is outside. In addition to its top-tier performance, it offers a full range of motion, is comfortable, and is built to withstand the elements and the abuse of outdoor adventures. The 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite fabric offered exceptional water resistance even in the heaviest downpours. Outdoor Research's TorsoFlo venting runs from the bicep all the way down to the hem, offering the best ventilation in the field, and with dual zippers, you can dial in the ventilation to exactly where you want it. Though heavier and bulkier than the most lightweight options, we think the extra weight is worth it so long as weight and space are not a top priority for you. This is truly an all-around excellent rain jacket.
The 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite fabric of the Aspire works really well at shedding water with a high level of water resistance infrequently seen. From a light drizzle to a heavy downpour, this jacket could keep up with the rainfall for an extended period of time. It excelled in the controlled shower tests, outlasting most of the field.
The sealed zippers excelled at keeping water from penetrating the center zipper and the pocket zippers, keeping essentials protected from the elements. We found that the Paclite fabric takes up water a little sooner than some other Gore-Tex fabrics, but even though the fabric appeared damp, moisture did not penetrate through to our base layers. The hood also offers great coverage for the head, face, and neck. All in all, we were very impressed with the water resistance of this rain jacket, and think it is a great choice for even the most intense squalls.
Outdoor Research has cleverly implemented TorsoFlo vents in the Aspire, extending from the bicep through the underarms and all the way down to the hem for maximum airflow. This is a step further than the pit vents offered by most technical rain jackets, as it vents not just the underarms but the whole core of the jacket. Dual zippers allow the wearer to partially open the vent from either direction to get airflow exactly where you want it depending on the conditions. This design worked great as we built up some heat on the uphill walk with vents closed — when we opened the vents fully, they immediately dumped all excess heat, and the breeze through the massive vents helped to quickly return the body to a comfortable temperature.
With the vents closed while hiking, we found that the 2-layer fabric does not breathe or vent internal excess water vapor as quickly as some of the most breathable options we tested. When it is not raining too heavily, we felt like this was okay with the full-length vents. But if it was raining pretty heavily, or raining and windy, having the full-length vents open exposed the bottom of the shirt to moisture, and it got damp.
Comfort and Mobility
The fabric of the Aspire is light, flexible, and moves well with the body without feeling stiff or restrictive. The cut offers plenty of room through the shoulders for a full range of motion, and it is long enough to offer ample coverage even when bending or reaching. The hood's drawcords are buried deep inside the neck, and you have to fish around or unzip the top section to adjust them.
The neck of this rain jacket is on the taller side, and some testers found it a bit scratchy unless the chin guard was moved into place. Besides this, the lining of the collar does feel quite nice against the neck. The hood adjusts from the back, and the double adjustment allows the wearer to really dial in the fit for a comfortable fit. We appreciate the useful chest pocket and loved the key clip in the hand pocket for securing car keys while out and about. All in all, the Aspire is a quite comfortable rain jacket that offers an excellent range of motion.
Weight and Packability
The Aspire weighs 11.5 ounces, which is on the heavier side of the test group. This may be a dealbreaker for those counting every ounce, but for anyone who plans to go on longer backcountry missions in rainy climates, we think the extra weight is well worth the excellent water resistance.
The Aspire does not have a designated stow pocket with a dual-sided zipper, and it's a tight squeeze to fit it into its large chest pocket, and because the zipper lacks a double-sided zipper pull, it's quite difficult to get zipped or unzipped, especially with cold hands or gloves on. However, it easily fits into its large hood if you just need to stash it into a quick bundle.
The Aspire's 50-denier plain weave Gore-Tex Paclite face fabric is smooth and flexible, but held up really well throughout the duration of testing without showing signs of abrasion.
The seams use small stitches and are seam-sealed for water resistance, and performed well in our seam stretch tests. All drawcords and toggles used quality components and were functional and durable. The sealed zipper ran a little slow from the resistance of the small teeth and seal but consistently ran smoothly without any issues. This rain jacket held up well through months of frequent use and testing and is a solid investment.
Should You Buy the Outdoor Research Aspire II?
This is one of our overall favorites, sporting excellent water resistance and great ventilation. On top of its technical performance, this rain jacket is comfortable to wear and boasts a full range of motion, whether running errands around town or getting deep into the backcountry. All in all, the Aspire is a great choice for the outdoor enthusiast looking to get moving no matter what the weather forecast holds.
What Other Rain Jackets Should You Consider?
For those getting out in the gnarliest conditions, the only jacket that we found topped the Aspire in performance for sustained wet weather was the Arc’teryx Beta LT. For a more affordable option, the Marmot PreCip Eco still features decent performance for exploring at a fraction of the price of the top premium rain jackets.
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