What: Outdoor Research Women’s Hemispheres Jacket
Where to buy: backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, outdoorresearch.com, rei.com, amazon.com, amazon.co.uk
Perfect for: outer shell for active pursuits (working your way up the skin track, snowy or windy winter hikes)
*Note: I’m part of Outdoor Research’s #ORInsightLab, a team of testers who voluntarily share their findings after testing product. The #ORInsightLab testers are not asked to publish positive reviews, and no financial compensation was received for this review. I was asked to record my findings, positive and negative, when testing this jacket.
At OWA, the aim is to only publish reviews on gear that, after testing, is found to be beneficial for women outdoors. If gear is received from a company but does not pass testing standards, OWA submits the tester’s feedback directly to the company to assist with improvements. It is OWA’s hope that this process will help improve women’s gear across the industry as well as assist women in finding gear that stands strong in its purpose.
OR Women’s Hemispheres Jacket: Construction
- Membrane/laminate: GORE-TEX® C-Knit® Technology 3L (3-layer)
- Face fabric: 100% nylon 70D
- Stretch panels: GORE-TEX® with Stretch Technology 2L (44% polyester, 37% nylon, 19% elastane)
- Three interior pockets; one zippered and two open
- Contrasting-color exterior zippered chest and hip pockets with pull tabs
- Contrasting-color hip-to-pit reverse zips with pull tabs; button-close tabs at bottom
- Contrasting-color reverse front zipper with pull tab
- Under-zip wind flap
- Five-way adjustable hood: two front adjustments for the face, rear adjustment for circumference, rear hook to lock back hood when helmetless, moldable brim
- Velcro-closure cuffs
- Interior and exterior hang tabs
- Small panel of brushed fabric for chin
January to mid-February in the mid-elevations in Canada’s West Kootenay Rockies; snowy days and clear, sub-zero (F) days — light to gusty wind
I gave up on fitting in a hardshell a long time ago. Though I want the protection a hardshell offers, there’s just not enough give around my hips and backside. Whether I was on the thin or heavier side of the spectrum, having a waist to hip ratio that defies fitting norms in every possible way meant finding outdoor wear has been an especially difficult struggle for me. If a piece didn’t stretch — if it didn’t sink into my waist and expand for my hips — then I was left with pieces that rode up, or swimming in men’s wear.
Either way, performance was affected.
Softshells vs. hardshells: Better fit but more weight + less technical features (generally…)
That’s why I felt stoked when stretchy “soft shells” became a thing. The fabrics protected you from the elements but were both giving and simultaneously trim.
There’s a problem with soft shells, though: they often weigh a good chunk more than a hardshell. Sometimes you just want to go light (well, most times). On top of that, it’s somewhat harder to find soft shells with the technical features you’d expect in higher-level hardshells.
Because of these drawbacks, I’ve been waiting for the day when the outdoor industry would figure out how to work with outdoor women who need the technical features of a hardshell but in way that fit their bodies like a softshell.
Compromise: Enter OR’s women’s Hemispheres Jacket
While we’re not quite there with the perfect hardshell-softshell hybrid, the women’s Hemispheres jacket from Outdoor Research is a huge step in the right direction.
This lightweight hardshell — which features stretchy GORE-TEX panels — is packed with tech, is trim on the fit, and allows room for hips or a fuller backside (or, if you’re like me, both) via the full, hip-to-pit zippers on each side of the jacket. This is obviously a secondary benefit for this feature, as the full zips are primarily put in place to improve breathability.
However, for women like me, we rejoice in having a technical hardshell that can be customized to our bodies.
The hood is a beauty. It happily fits over my helmet or a thick beanie and has three points of cinch-adjustment to make way for peripheral vision and weather protection, even when just sporting a ponytail and no headwear. The latter is great for spring days when the sun’s blazing, but winter’s trying to hold on with biting winds.
To further customize the fit on the hood, Outdoor Research topped it off with both a moldable brim and a hook on the cinch adjustment at the back of the hood. The latter, which