As one of today’s top brands, the name Outdoor Research packs a big punch. Their product line is filled with Gore-Tex jackets running into the hundreds and hundreds of dollars, like the Axiom we tested last Spring. These elite shells are wonderful but no one denies that they can be crazily expensive – where does that leave college students and budget-minders who need to stay dry? Enter the Horizon.
Outdoor Research Horizon Jacket Features:
- TorsoFlo hem-to-pit vents with storm flap
- “Halo” hood closure
- Ventia Dry™, 2.5 L, 100% nylon, 70D ripstop
- Avg. Weight (oz./g): 14.5oz / 411g (L)
- Available in Black; Hops; Hydro (tested); Pewter; Supernova
- Dual internal and external storm flaps
- Standard fit
- MSRP: $129
Horizon is full-featured, priced friendly
When Outdoor Research sets out to make an affordable shell, they approach it with the same level of thoughtfulness and design that goes into their $600 mountaineering pieces. At just $129 MSRP, the Horizon aims to offer big performance to explorers with a modest budget. Outdoor Research’s offering is impressively fully featured for a jacket at this price.
What allows Outdoor Research to offer the Horizon at this price point is their Ventia 2.5L laminate fabric. It’s a 70D bombproof nylon weave that’s taken the abuse of alpine granite and thornbushes for several weeks now. 70D is a really strong weave and I have no doubt that the jacket is up for years of service. The Ventia’s only real downside is that it doesn’t breathe well.
The interior of the jacket is coated with a hydrophilic treatment that aims to get rid of the clammy feeling that often accompanies this sort of material. Rather than your sweat just condensing and sitting on the inside of the fabric, the hydrophilic compound draws moisture into the fabric where it can be evaporated by conditions outside. In practice, I found the Ventia fabric’s performance to be completely lackluster. It’s such a durable weave that it breathes very little and the hydrophilic coating can only go so far to reduce clamminess.
Breathability is what people pay the big bucks for, so Outdoor Research’s solution to using an affordable (but not breathable) fabric is to incorporate some epic poncho style vents. Just behind the pockets there’s a two-way zipper that opens up 3/4 of the way up the torso. The idea is that these vents can be opened up and then the back pack’s hip belt goes underneath the front of the jacket. This effectively blocks most of the rain while facilitating tons of airflow. I really like the design and, in practice, it can actually be quite a bit better than the expensive breathable membranes when traveling in warmer climates. I did have a struggle with the zippers snagging on their storm flaps, but overall they are easier to manipulate than pit zips.
Continuing in the ‘fully featured’ vein of things, the Horizon’s hood designs is on par with what we’d expect from an expensive mountaineering shell. The brim is wired for excellent strength in high winds and when the two-way adjustments are pulled the hood offers great peripheral vision. I did find that the neck of the jacket was somewhat constrictive – I like to pull my chin inside of the jacket but the Horizon is cut too small for that.
Outdoor Research rounds of the rest of the Horizon with the usual slate of features – an adjustable hem with just one toggle to save weight and wrists that are half shock cord/half Velcro. I wasn’t a fan of the cuff design – the bunched-up shock cord portion is tough to seal against rain.
It’s worth noting, too, that the Horizon sits very well beneath a pack. The offset shoulder seams prevent irritation and the enormous poncho-style vent coupled with mesh-lined pockets combine for a surprisingly comfortable experience. Remember, though, that the 70D fabric feels akin to wearing a tarp; something like range of motion is not even a consideration with the Horizon. The pockets are pack compatible in theory, but in reality I found them set a touch too low to be able to use comfortably beneath a backpack.
- 70D fabric is tougher than Godzilla’s hide
- Hood design is comparable to top-shelf models
- Poncho-style vent and mesh pockets excel at providing airflow
- Cuff design doesn’t seal well
- Fit through the neck is a bit off
- Hand pockets ought to be placed higher
The Bottom Line
Outdoor Research’s careful approach to the Horizon really pays off. It’s an affordable jacket that won’t let you get steamed up, thanks to the prodigious airflow provided by the poncho-style venting. The hood design stands out particularly and I like the overall durability with which the Horizon is built. It’s easy to recommend this jacket for anyone on a budget who needs excellent water resistance but doesn’t want to skimp on features.
Buy now: Available from Moosejaw.com