Who can afford to have a ski jacket, ice climbing jacket, rain jacket and alpine jacket? Unless you’re sponsored, no one. With how niche climbing gear has become, it’s rare to find a piece that can do it all. Honestly, one or two jackets is all you really need, and Outdoor Research’s Interstellar jacket should be on your short list.
The details reveal why it’s a technical mountain piece. At 11.6 ounces, it weighs four or more ounces less than comparable lightweight hard shells, hence why it’s good for alpine or ice climbing. The jacket drops a bit below your waist, so it goes under your harness, and the pockets are kicked up a little higher so you won’t need to yank it up to get to your stash of GU or bars. The velcro cuffs are welcome, as is the high-chest pocket with an inner pouch for your smart phone. On each side the pockets are large, and at first I was disconcerted because it has no big pockets on the inside, which all alpinists and ice-climbers need to dry their gloves, and so I was happy to discover those pockets have mesh backings, so they function just the same. Helmet compatible hood and adjustable bottom drawcord, check.
One feature I always enjoy is being able to stuff the jacket into itself. OR has kindly indulged me with the ability to stuff the Interstellar into the left pocket (about the size of a half loaf of bread) and, courtesy of a sewn-in loop, clip it to the back of my harness. Why every alpine jacket on the market doesn’t have this feature is beyond me.
The Interstellar is a hard shell with stretch, which, if you were up on jacket technology, is a nice feature. It’s nice because jackets are typically divided into two categories—hardshell and softshell. The former can be like wearing five trash bags melted together, while the latter is, well, soft. While softshells have stretch, breathability and some insulation, rarely are they fully waterproof. This jacket is fully waterproof, does stretch (though obviously not as much as a softshell) and the leanness of the three-ply fabrics allow excellent arm and shoulder mobility. The jacket definitely has a minimalist feel, and is not overbuilt in any manner.
For all these reasons, OR has called the Interstellar their “pinnacle piece,” and they have used their proprietary AscentShell technology for the middle membrane, which is the lightest and most breathable fabric OR has in their back pocket. For a jacket that can do all this, $299 works just fine.
Rock and Ice vigorously tests all gear it reviews for either 50 days or 50 pitches. This is a time-consuming process and limits the amount of new equipment we can present to our readers. Every year hundreds of new products hit store shelves, and most of these aren’t reviewed due to our stringent selection and review process. To better keep you more up to date on what is new, we present First Look. Gear in First Look has not always been field tested, but is gear we think you’d like to know about as soon as it is available. Some of the gear will be reviewed using our 50 days/50 pitches criteria, in future print and online editions of Rock and Ice.