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Outdoor Research Enchainment - Women's Review

Outdoor Research Enchainment - Women's
Photo: Outdoor Research
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Price:  $219 List
Pros:  Stretchy, breathable panels underneath arms, extremely water resistant, beefy zipper
Cons:  Not the most breathable or flexible
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By McKenzie Long ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 16, 2016
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Our Verdict

If you have every enjoyed a tasty tangelo, which is a hybrid between a tangerine and a grapefruit, you can begin to appreciate how hybrids can form a beneficial arrangement. The same is true of the Outdoor Research Enchainment. This jacket combines a tightly woven, weather-resistant polyester shell material with stretchy, breathable Shoeller fabric under the arms. This combination allows for more weather resistance than in a typical softshell, but doesn't sacrifice breathability. In our tests, we have found it to be less breathable than other softshells, but more water resistant than average. Though this combination limits the jacket's performance in both weather resistance and breathability categories, we find the combination to be quite functional overall. Topped off with attentive features such as thick zippers that are easy to operate with gloves, and the result is an excellent layer for stop-and-start, high-exposure winter activities.

Discontinued - November 2016
This product has been discontinued. Check out the other jackets featured in The Best Softshell Jacket for Women Review.

Our Analysis and Test Results

A hybrid softshell combining a highly weather resistant shell material with thin, breathable underarm panels, the OR Enchainment is a specialized piece most conducive to ice climbing and backcountry skiing.

Performance Comparison

With its very weather resistant polyester exterior combined with...
With its very weather resistant polyester exterior combined with breathable Shoeller underarm panels, the Enchainment is an excellent jacket for high exertion and sometimes wet activities such as ice climbing or backcountry skiing.
Photo: Luke Lydiard


The Enchainment has a hybrid design similar to that of the Marmot ROM - Women's, with a primary material that is weather resistant used in tandem with breathable panels under the arms. The Enchainment's underarm panel is much smaller than on the ROM. It reaches from about 3 inches above the hem, runs underneath the whole arm, and stops about 3 inches from the sleeve cuffs. It also winds thinly across the back of the neck and has small patches on the hood and on the front by the chin. On the ROM, which is a much more breathable jacket overall, these panels form a wider swath under the arms and go all the way down the sleeve and completely around the wrist forming the cuff itself. The Enchainment feels stuffier than many of the other softshells we tested.

A comparison of the hybrid designs of the OR Enchainment (top) and...
A comparison of the hybrid designs of the OR Enchainment (top) and the Marmot ROM. Both jackets use a less breathable/more weather resistant main material and a thin, highly breathable secondary fabric underneath the arms. On the ROM this material wraps all the way around the wrist.
Photo: McKenzie Long

Weather Protection

This piece has a more hard shell-esque, tightly woven polyester shell material that does an excellent job of repelling rain and snow. The most important seams, such as those along the shoulders and hood, are welded, ensuring that moisture won't creep through the stitching. This jacket provides more weather protection than many of the softshells we tested, even more so than our Editors' Choice, the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody - Women's. The trade off for this weather resistance is that it lacks in breathability.

The tightly woven polyester shell material that makes up most of the...
The tightly woven polyester shell material that makes up most of the Enchainment is highly weather resistant. We tested this jacket on a miserable day of rainy ice climbing and the wearer stayed dry for most of the day. (Note: this piece is not designed to be a rain jacket.)
Photo: Luke Lydiard


The Enchainment has the hard, crunchy feel of a hard shell jacket rather than the supple feel we have come to love with softshells. It still moves adequately with the wearer, but doesn't disappear during movement like the Gamma MX.

Though this soft shell feels more like a hard shell, the thin...
Though this soft shell feels more like a hard shell, the thin Shoeller underarm panels do add a degree of breathability and also stretch easily for enhanced mobility.
Photo: Luke Lydiard


At under a pound for a size medium (when all the others we tested were a size small) the Enchainment is impressive in its weight savings. The lightweight fabrics keep the jacket slim, and allow for the inclusion of a useful, thick zipper without making the jacket heavy.


The Enchainment can be adapted to fit the wearer in all the right ways: adjustable hem, adjustable hood with a wire brim, and adjustable cuffs. It has the perfect amount of storage: two mesh-lined hand pockets, one exterior chest pocket, and one mesh interior chest pocket. Lastly, our favorite feature is the zipper. It is burly, easy to pull up and down while wearing gloves, and is unlikely to snag or break. Our pet peeve is when manufacturers skimp on zippers and use flimsy versions that come apart after even short usage. Not so on the Enchainment, kudos OR.

The OR Enchainment uses burly zippers that are easy to pull and...
The OR Enchainment uses burly zippers that are easy to pull and unlikely to get snagged. We love this. All shells should have beefy zippers that are easy to operate with gloves.
Photo: Luke Lydiard


The style of the Enchainment is simple and technical. It is available in common yet attractive colors such as red, blue, green, and black. Nothing about it screams for attention, yet it isn't unappealing either.

Best Application

Since this jacket's forte is protection from the elements, we find that it works best during stop-and-start activities where you exert a lot of energy and heat, and then stand still for a bit, and also are exposed to wet and windy conditions, such as during ice climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering.


At $219, the Enchainment falls right in the middle of the price field. It is almost half the price of jackets that push the $400 mark, but still more than budget models such as the Columbia Kruser Ridge - Women's or the Patagonia Adze Hoody - Women's. At this price, it offers outstanding weather protection and features. We think this piece is a good buy.


This piece does offer more weather protection than the average softshell, but less breathability and flexibility.

McKenzie Long