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Outdoor Research Carbide - Women's Review

An excellent value for a high performing technical shell that serves inbounds or in the backcountry
Outdoor Research Carbide - Women's
Photo: Outdoor Research
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $299 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Relatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilation
Cons:  Non-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiers
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jacqueline Kearney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 7, 2021
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 16
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 9
  • Warmth - 20% 2
  • Ventilation - 20% 9
  • Style - 10% 8
  • Features - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Outdoor Research has been around the block a few times when it comes to creating high-performance outerwear at a reasonable price point. The Carbide is no different. It’s a shell designed to flow from the resort to your out-of-bounds missions, and it does not disappoint. We love the 3L Pertex shield for its breathability, weather resistance, and stretch. We also like how this shell material is comfortable right out of the box, providing the stretch and performance for hard-charging downhill and uphill days alike. If you’re looking to purchase one jacket to fulfill your need for a shell jacket without breaking the bank, we recommend the Carbide.

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Awards Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award   
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Check Price at REI
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Relatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilationBreathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic lookWarm, three jackets in one, well-constructed with thoughtful features, versatileStylish, good hood and neckline, no frills, inexpensiveInexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable
Cons Non-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiersNo insulationSlim fit, heavy, poor ventilation when both layers are wornFeels cheap, not many ski-specific features, lacking in weather resistanceNot very stylish, hood not helmet compatible, two layers don't work well when zipped together
Bottom Line An excellent value for a high performing technical shell that serves inbounds or in the backcountryA sleek and technical backcountry shell with enough stretch, space, and breathability to be extremely versatile at a fair priceThis jacket is versatile and has all the necessary ski features for a long day on the hill, all at a reasonable priceWe got lots of compliments on this jacket's looks, but found it lacking in durability and full functionality on the slopesA decent deal for two jackets that can be worn in three combinations, this is a great intro ski jacket
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Ca... Black Diamond Recon... The North Face Ther... Burton Jet Set Columbia Whirlibird...
Weather Resistance (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
9.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
6.0
Warmth (20%)
2.0
3.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
Ventilation (20%)
9.0
8.0
4.0
5.0
4.0
Style (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Features (10%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Specs Outdoor Research Ca... Black Diamond Recon... The North Face Ther... Burton Jet Set Columbia Whirlibird...
Insulation None None 100% Postconsumer recycled polyester 80g Thermolite Thermarator
Waterproofing 3-layer Pertex Shield BD.dry 2-layer DryVent DryRide 2L Omni-Tech
Weight (in pounds) 1.2 lbs 1.5 lbs 2.0 lbs 1.6 lbs 2.4 lbs
# of Pockets 2 zippered chest, 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered arm, 1 internal mesh, 1 internal zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered pass, 1 zippered chest, 2 internal mesh 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve, 1 internal goggle Liner: 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand, 1 mesh, 1 media Shell: 5, Liner: 3
Main Fabric 100% Nylon 84% nylon, 16% elastane 100% Nylon Polyester, nylon Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester.
Hood Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pit Zips? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuff construction Velcro Velcro Velcro Velcro Velcro
Powder skirt? Yes Yes Yes, behind insulating layer Yes Yes
RECCO? No No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

It can be challenging to find a shell that is both technically performing and within your budget. Fortunately, the Carbide excels at both. The 40D 3L Pertex Shield membrane used in this jacket can compete with the best technical shells on the market. Additionally, the added stretch creates a shell that moves with you. All of this combined with a stylish cut that leaves room for layers makes this one of our favorite options for an all-around performer at a great value.

Performance Comparison


The Carbide is so much jacket for how inexpensive it is, it performs...
The Carbide is so much jacket for how inexpensive it is, it performs as well as jackets that cost multitudes more than it does.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Weather Resistance


The Carbide uses the Outdoor Research waterproof/breathable 40D fabric for its shell construction, treated with Pertex Shield DWR. This fabric is thin yet holds up to heavy precipitation very well. Water beads up and runs off this jacket in a hurry. The thinness and stretch of this fabric does allow mild permeation of cold winds; however, the addition of an insulating layer makes this wind permeation negligible.


Water-resistant zippers on center and hand pocket zippers help to keep pocket contents drier longer. The chest pockets and pit zips do lack water resistant zippers, which is a weak point in this jacket’s weather resistance. These pockets are both protected by an extra layer of the shell fabric that fits snugly over the zippers to compensate. Additionally, this shell is equipped with a wire-brimmed hood and a dual elastic adjustment that allowed us to tightly cinch it down to block out inclement weather.

Taped water resistant zippers for the hand pockets are a key...
Taped water resistant zippers for the hand pockets are a key additional layer of protection against wet and snowy climates, while the chest pockets have extra fabric to protect the zippers from precipitation.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Comfort and Fit


We love the fit of the Carbide. It strikes a balance between a technical shell and a resort-specific fit; no extra bulky fabric, but enough room for several layers on those frigid lift-accessed days. It fits true to size for this purpose.


Additionally, there is ample length in the arms, which can be an area of suspicion in women’s specific fits. Similarly, this jacket incorporates plenty of room in the chest and shoulders for hiking or hard-charging skiing. These characteristics, in combination with elastic integrated into the shell material, allow for great mobility. A final touch is a soft fleece lining on the collar that prevents chafing when you’re all bundled up. We find this to be a very comfortable shell.

The Carbide falls somewhere between a looser, freeride style and a...
The Carbide falls somewhere between a looser, freeride style and a technical shell in its fit, and the stretch in the material allows great comfort and mobility.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Warmth


Being a thin shell, this jacket does not score high points in our warmth assessment, understandably. The material is very thin and breathable, and therefore not very insulating. This 3L shell is bonded to a tricot backer that adds stretch, but no additional insulation.


On the other hand, the breathability of this material helped keep us warm as it allows most moisture to escape. Appropriate layering combined with adequate breathability to wick sweat is key to staying warm all day.

Here you can see the thin stretch of the Carbide, excellent for...
Here you can see the thin stretch of the Carbide, excellent for breathability, but not great for insulation.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Ventilation


The most unique and effective ventilation feature of the Carbide is its three-layer waterproof/breathable shell material. This is one of the top-performing shells regarding breathability and ventilation.


We pushed it on the uphills and felt dry even though we were working up a sweat. The large pit zips add a large amount of airflow when you begin to max out your output. The mesh backing of the chest and hand pockets allow for even greater potential ventilation, so long as you don't have items in these pockets.

Another photo of the powder skirt to show the mesh connection the...
Another photo of the powder skirt to show the mesh connection the the jacket, we love this for extra protection and ventilation when skiing hard in deep snow.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Style


We really like the color block and solid color options of this jacket. The bright teal and dark teal combo we tested, or the more understated navy and maroon combo both have bright taped zippers, more than enough to make you stand out effortlessly. If you prefer to be the most understated, this jacket comes in an all-black option.


Also, this jacket strikes a perfect balance between the look of a technical shell and a resort freeride shell. What we mean is that the Carbide has a long enough hemline for a relaxed look and room for layers, but enough taper that it’s just as at home on the skin track. Overall, we feel that this jacket has one of the most versatile styles in this review, and will suit you well in many environments.

The bright teal color of this iteration of the Carbide stands out on...
The bright teal color of this iteration of the Carbide stands out on the slopes effortlessly.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Ski Features


In line with its role as a combination resort and backcountry shell, the Carbide is well equipped with ski-specific features, but not too many additional bells and whistles. This jacket is well equipped with four external zip pockets, one internal mesh, and one internal zip pocket. The internal zip pocket is also compatible with headphones. As far as resort-specific features go, this jacket also has a pass pocket on the arm to ensure you don't find yourself stuck at an RFID gate.

For its backcountry specificity, we do wish that the hip pockets on this jacket were located a little higher on the waist. Their location makes them difficult to access while wearing a backpack with a hip strap. Additionally, we wish the powder skirt was removable, as this feature is something that can be left behind on minimalist backcountry days.


This being said, we really like how the powder skirt can snap away into the shell so it doesn’t pull on you or flop around when not in use. We also love the hood on this jacket, it is perfectly sized for a helmet, but is not so large you can’t pull it over a hat when skinning or hiking in stormy weather. The Carbide is featured to take you from resort to backcountry seamlessly.

A pass pocket is a small feature that helps transition from...
A pass pocket is a small feature that helps transition from backcountry to resort use.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Value


We believe this Outdoor Research Carbide shell is an incredible value for someone who is looking for a one size fits all jacket. The high-level waterproof/breathable Pertex 3L membrane performs similarly to many shells at a much higher price point. Additionally, the weight of this shell is comparable to many options for minimalist backcountry use, while still performing in the resort. This option combines the performance of a technical lightweight shell with the sturdiness and features of a resort jacket. Especially if you are someone who prefers to be able to control their own insulation and want a one quiver shell jacket, this is an excellent option.

Applicable for many uses the Carbide shell can be your go-to without...
Applicable for many uses the Carbide shell can be your go-to without emptying your wallet.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Conclusion


For the skier on a budget who doesn’t want to compromise performance and versatility, the Outdoor Research Carbide is one of the best options on the market. We love its cut, its stretch, and the very weather-resistant lightweight, breathable material. This jacket can keep you dry all day whether you are enduring the storm on the lifts, the hike-to terrain, or the skin track. This stylish option comes astonishingly close to matching the performance of other high-performance shells at a fraction of the price.

Jacqueline Kearney

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