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Outdoor Research Aspire - Women's Review

Waterproof, breathable, and comfortable, it's an all-in-one marvel.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $215 List | $139.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Water resistant, wind resistant and breathable, dual direction whole side/pit vents, dual direction main zipper
Cons:  Very difficult to pack into its pocket, sleeves a bit short, main zipper difficult to match up
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Maggie Brandenburg & Katherine Elliott  ⋅  Nov 13, 2019
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83
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 13
  • Water Resistance - 30% 9
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • Breathability - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Weight and Packability - 10% 6

Our Verdict

With its sleek design, smooth fabric, and variety of amenities, we immediately like this year's Outdoor Research Aspire. This jacket comes at a high price point for a reason; it is the Cadillac of women's rain jackets and backs up its boasts with true functionality. With the serious protection of GORE-TEX and the inventiveness of OR's breathable technologies and spot-on features, this impressive jacket balances extreme water resistance with breathability. Offering both a professional look and extreme functionality, this jacket will keep you dry and cool in any weather conditions, from your daily bike commute to a wilderness trek. While this shell is not for thrifty shoppers, it delivers on the price, offering comfortable weather resistance that will last you for years of adventures.


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Pros Water resistant, wind resistant and breathable, dual direction whole side/pit vents, dual direction main zipperExceedingly water resistant, great fit, comfortable fabric, good zipper design, very durableIncredibly stretchy, comfortable, breathable, long arms, not crinklyProtective hood, comfortable, great for dynamic movements, waterproofSimple but functional, can pack away hood, high pockets for waistbelt, inexpensive
Cons Very difficult to pack into its pocket, sleeves a bit short, main zipper difficult to match upNo pit zips for dumping excess heat in a pinch, doesn't pack into a pocket, expensiveThin, hood not great coverage, not windproofExpensive, zipper catches easily on storm flap, no pit zipsNot the most durable, hood not great protection, difficult to fit into pocket
Bottom Line Waterproof, breathable, and comfortable, it's an all-in-one marvel.A seriously protective jacket that's also impressively comfortable and could double as a lightweight hardshell in a pinch.Its status as a highly functioning stretchy rain jacket sets this model apart and will suit your active lifestyle be it rain or shine.If you are an avid climber who frequently encounters drizzly weather, this would make a great addition to your archive of must have gear.A solid, non-technical rain shell that will get the job done without making you broke.
Rating Categories Aspire Arc'teryx Zeta SL - Women's Stretch Ozonic Interstellar Marmot PreCip Eco - Women's
Water Resistance (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
Comfort (25%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
Breathability (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
7
Durability (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
7
Weight And Packability (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
4
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs Aspire Arc'teryx Zeta SL... Stretch Ozonic Interstellar Marmot PreCip Eco...
Measured Weight 11.4 oz 9.4 oz 9.4 oz 9.2 oz 8.7 oz
Number of Fabric Layers 2 2 2.5 3 2.5
Material GORE-TEX with PACLITE technology 2L, 100% polyester 50D plain weave 40D ripstop (N40r) GORE-TEX PACLITE Plus, DWR treatment Dry.Q Active Stretch 40D 2.5L (100% nylon) Ascentshell 3L 100% nylon 20D mechanical stretch ripstop with 12D backer NanoPro Eco 100% recycled nylon ripstop 24 oz/yd
Pockets 2 hand, 1 chest 2 hand 2 hand, 1 chest 2 hand, 1 chest 2 hand
Pit Zips Yes No Yes No Yes
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Helmet Compatible Hood Yes No Yes Yes No
Stows into Pocket Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Carabiner Loop in Stow Pocket Yes No No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

At OutdoorGearLab, we compel equipment manufacturers to put their money where their mouth is by purchasing equipment and putting it to the test. We used these jackets not only in the field but also tested them under more controlled circumstances to compare them equally, side by side. With a relatively high price tag and boasting several bold claims about its performance, we were skeptical that the Aspire could live up to its claims. After months of intensive testing, the Aspire backs up its claims by outperforming the competition. Constructed of GORE-TEX with PACLITE technology and a 50D, 100% polyester plain weave, the Aspire features not only three pockets and a helmet-compatible hood, but also full side-to-armpit zippers for ultimate ventilation.

Performance Comparison


The Aspire hit high marks in every category tested; it left us dry while maintaining its breathability and made the rainy days a little less bleak.
The Aspire hit high marks in every category tested; it left us dry while maintaining its breathability and made the rainy days a little less bleak.

Water Resistance


The Aspire performs once again this year at the top of its class in water resistance. With its trusted GORE-TEX with Paclite integrated fabric technology, this jacket also features an updated DWR coating that is free of PFCs for the environmentally conscious-minded buyer.


It comes equipped with double-taped sealed seams and a watertight chest pocket; as a result, zero water penetrated the smooth, comfortable fabric of this jacket. We did encounter a few rub points where the pack's straps rubbed away the DWR coating, but this was just superficial, and the water did not actually penetrate the shell. This jacket really has it all when it comes to a water-resistant barrier, from the design of the shell to the shape and stiffness of the hood, right down to the elastic and Velcro cuffs, which keep your wrists fully sealed. The Aspire ensured waterproofness, even in the most extreme weather conditions.

The Aspire's fabric is GORE-TEX with Paclite and the water literally just beads right off.
The Aspire's fabric is GORE-TEX with Paclite and the water literally just beads right off.

There are several pull tabs that tighten the access points of the jacket, further shielding you from precip. These include a tight elastic band around the wrists and a fully adjustable Velcro strap; there are also pull tabs for the hood and one for the crown of the head so you can establish a fit that is just right for you. They each have a tab to hold it in place once you've adjusted accordingly, which was helpful for when we were on the move.

Comfort


This jacket has some of the most comfortable fabric of all of the shells we tested. With the Aspire, it's clear that Outdoor Research put a lot of care into balancing performance with style and comfort. The smoothness of the fabric allows for easy on and off action, and there is enough room for a base layer or two without looking too bulky or unflattering, even with its generous pocket size.


With all of the added features this jacket offered, we figured it would have to sacrifice some comfort for this added functionality, but we were wrong. There were no chafing points, even while wearing a full backpacking pack for hours, and the front zip has a soft guard that, while useful for added waterproofing, also protects your torso and chin from rubbing against the zipper.

The double zipper and the full-length side zips featured on the Aspire gave our gear a little extra shelter when the rain started up and also made it a super comfortable option for climbing.
The double zipper and the full-length side zips featured on the Aspire gave our gear a little extra shelter when the rain started up and also made it a super comfortable option for climbing.

The hood is generous while wearing it loose, and it tightens down to a snug fit for more extreme weather conditions. However, despite being advertised as a helmet-compatible hood, we don't think there's quite enough give to house most helmets adequately. Finally, this shell offers a sleek, stylish look for a variety of body types, from athletic to curvy. And, with the cut and color options, it can pair well with more professional clothes. It's an excellent combination of performance and appearance.

Breathability


Breathability has become a primary focus of modern rain shell manufacturers, as they want to ensure the user's comfort while braving the rain and wind. In spite of its polyester fabric, the technology developed for the Aspire beats out all of the competitors. The developers did not sacrifice comfort for waterproofing. Though the fabric is thicker than most rain jackets that do well in this metric, it's still impressively breathable despite its added bulk.


The TorsoFlo design of this jacket includes pit zips with dual direction zippers that go all the way down, as well as a double zipper on the front. This unique configuration means you're able to essentially turn the shell into a 3-piece poncho when you start heating up and need the extra air circulation. Now, this design won't help you much if the rain is coming in sideways or in flurries, but as long as it is falling in a downward motion, you can keep your cool in even the most humid of conditions. Plus, the zippers are accessible while wearing a framed backpack, while riding your bike, or even wearing a climbing harness. This feature makes the conversion from shell to poncho (or anything in between) easy and quick. And, the insides of the pockets are made of mesh, so by opening all three pockets, you can add even more extra circulation when you need it most.

The Aspire is the only rain jacket to feature fully zippered sides for a poncho like ventilation when things get really muggy.
The Aspire is the only rain jacket to feature fully zippered sides for a poncho like ventilation when things get really muggy.

Durability


With its smooth surface to prevent snagging, double protected GORE-TEX coating with PACLITE technology, and fully sealed seams, this jacket will last you for years worth of adventures.


As long as you take good care of it between trips by following the manufacturer's care instructions, it should be well worth the investment, serving as the only rain shell you should need for a long time.

A lot of hours were logged while wearing a pack; we did start to notice surface soak through near the pack's straps although this does tend to happen with wear when the protective coating starts to wear off. With the Aspire  it was especially visible.
A lot of hours were logged while wearing a pack; we did start to notice surface soak through near the pack's straps although this does tend to happen with wear when the protective coating starts to wear off. With the Aspire, it was especially visible.

Weight and Packability


The Aspire ranks a little lower than others when it comes to weight. At 11.4 ounces, it's above-average weight for this category. However, given the number of added features, including large zippered pockets and two full-length ventilation zippers, we think the high performance of the jacket makes this forgivable. It's less than ideal for an ultralight adventurer, but for most, it's the cream of the crop.


While not the most compact of the jackets, this shell does offer some advanced storage features. It stuffs into its own left pocket to take up less space when not in use and living at the bottom of your bag.


Value


When it comes to the Aspire, you will be making a real investment, but you also get a lot of bang for your buck. From performance to durability, this jacket will be a trusty companion in all types of weather for years to come.

The Aspire measures roughly 10x5.5x4.5 inches when packed down and includes a carabiner drawstring to attach it to the outside of a pack.
The Aspire measures roughly 10x5.5x4.5 inches when packed down and includes a carabiner drawstring to attach it to the outside of a pack.

Conclusion


If you are looking to invest in a top-of-the-line rain jacket, and you need it to be a reliable, functional, and trustworthy option, then this is the jacket for you. Standing at the top of its field, the Outdoor Research Aspire certainly is the Cadillac of rain shells, and it will serve you well, no matter where you may run into a heavy downpour. Stylish, well-designed, and comfortable, we recommend this shell for the discerning adventurer with a few extra bucks to spend on a dependable piece of equipment.

The Aspire moves and flexes with you  even when the rain is pouring down.
The Aspire moves and flexes with you, even when the rain is pouring down.


Maggie Brandenburg & Katherine Elliott