My dad has learned a lot in a lifetime of skiing, but if there’s one pearl of alpine wisdom he’s particularly fond of repeating: “Layer up.” On a recent ski trip to Vail, he must have asked me about my layers 20 times before our first day on the mountain (to be fair, we arrived in the middle of a blizzard). Having layers that you can throw on to ward off cold and snow, or peel off when you get hot, is essential for any extended visit to the mountains. But finding that happy medium between protection from the elements and overheating can be tricky. That’s where the new Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket shines: It offers plenty of protection but is still breathable enough for high-intensity activities like skiing or hiking.
What It Is: The Microgravity jacket is a waterproof, windproof shell designed to keep you comfortable through widely varying high-alpine conditions. It weighs 14.6 ounces and uses the company’s AscentShell fabric, which is “electrospun.” Put simply, that’s a process where nylon polymers are charged, stuck onto a grounded surface, then layered to create a web of fibers. The electric charge creates tiny spaces in between the fibers, making the resulting fabric stretchy, lightweight, and air-permeable.
The spaces between the fibers are too small to allow water in, but they’re big enough that warm, moist air can move out of the jacket before you get hot and sweaty. On top of that, fully taped seams add extra waterproofing, the jacket features a helmet-compatible hood, and comes with four front pockets for storage.
Why We Like It: A similar AscentShell jacket (the Skyward II) kept me warm and dry during that epic weekend in Vail, so I had a feeling I was going to like the Microgravity, too. After a few days of testing, I can say I was right: The Microgravity kept me dry in wet weather (even when I tried soaking it in the shower), and the high collar and generous hood provided extensive protection from precipitation and wind.
The electrospun fabric proved its worth during a rainy run in mild conditions. Even in weather when I normally would opt for something lighter or skip the jacket altogether, the Microgravity didn’t roast me. Although I was a little swampy toward the end, I was expecting much worse. In colder temps, I think the jacket would really excel.
Breathability aside, it flexes well and didn’t inhibit my movement, and the large front pockets kept my keys and phone stable—and could certainly swallow quite a bit more gear. And with its velcro cuffs and drawstrings on the hood, collar, and hem, it’s easy to cinch things down and make the jacket more airtight when the weather gets nasty.
Nitpick: Although the jacket breathed well overall, I wish it had some kind of zippered vents under the arms (my Skyward II jacket has these). It’s nice to be able to let in a breeze without taking the jacket off entirely.
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