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.Editor's Note: We updated this review for the Outdoor Research Carbide on March 23, 2022, with our take on value versus performance and direct comparisons with similar jackets.
Outdoor Research Carbide - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 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
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Outdoor Research Carbide - Women's
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|Pros||Relatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilation||Breathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic look||Warm, three jackets in one, well-constructed with thoughtful features, versatile||Stylish, good hood and neckline, no frills, inexpensive||Inexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable|
|Cons||Non-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiers||No insulation||Slim fit, heavy, poor ventilation when both layers are worn||Feels cheap, not many ski-specific features, lacking in weather resistance||Not 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 backcountry||A sleek and technical backcountry shell with enough stretch, space, and breathability to be extremely versatile at a fair price||This jacket is versatile and has all the necessary ski features for a long day on the hill, all at a reasonable price||We got lots of compliments on this jacket's looks, but found it lacking in durability and full functionality on the slopes||A 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%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research Ca...||Black Diamond Recon...||The North Face Ther...||Burton Jet Set||Columbia Whirlibird...|
|Main Fabric||100% Nylon||84% nylon, 16% elastane||100% Nylon||Polyester, nylon||Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester.|
|Insulation||None||None||100% Postconsumer recycled polyester||80g Thermolite||Thermarator|
|Waterproofing||3-layer Pertex Shield||BD.dry||2-layer DryVent||DryRide 2L||Omni-Tech|
|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|
|Weight||1.2 lbs||1.5 lbs||2.0 lbs||1.6 lbs||2.4 lbs|
|Powder skirt?||Yes||Yes||Yes, behind insulating layer||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
It can be challenging to find a technically performing shell 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.
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 do 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 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 protected by an extra layer of 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 allows us to cinch it down to block out inclement weather.
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. In combination with elastic integrated into the shell material, these characteristics 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.
Being a thin shell, this jacket does not score high points in our warmth assessment, understandably. The material is very thin, breathable, and 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 helps 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.
The most unique and effective ventilation feature of the Carbide is its three-layer waterproof/breathable shell material. This jacket 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.
We like the color block and solid color options of this jacket. We tested the bright teal and dark teal combo, 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 more 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.
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 has 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 can be left behind on minimalist backcountry days.
That said, we 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 seamlessly take you from resort to backcountry.
Should You Buy the Carbide?
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, stretch, and very weather-resistant, lightweight, breathable material. This jacket combines the performance of a technical lightweight shell with the sturdiness and features of a resort jacket. The Carbide 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.
What Other Women's Ski Jackets Should You Consider?
We believe this Outdoor Research Carbide shell is an incredible value for someone looking for a one size fits all jacket. But as a shell, you have to figure out a layering system to add any warmth. The Helly Hansen Powderqueen 3.0 is our top choice for a single-layer, insulated jacket. But for the prudent shopper, it is worth checking out The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1, which offers a shell and an insulated jacket for the price of one.
— Jacqueline Kearney
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