Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket Review
The best technical jacket in this group — from backpacking all the way to mountaineering and climbing.
Amazingly Breathable & Durable | The Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket is likely the best combination of high breathability, durability, and low weight in a rain jacket. Usually, you have to sacrifice one of these desirable features in a rain jacket so having all three together is a rare thing. The key to making this work is Outdoor Research’s AscentShell fabric. It is a true vapor-permeable fabric, meaning that even though it’s waterproof air can move through it. You can actually put your mouth over the fabric and breathe through it — and that is high breathability. The AscentShell fabric is also supple and very comfortable since it’s 3-layer so has a nice soft inner liner. And for this year Outdoor Research’s AscentShell but uses a higher-density polyester material which makes the outer face stronger and the jacket more durable. And for 2021 it’s $100 dollars less. All these features make it our top pick for the Best Semi-Technical Jacket.
Overview | The Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket
We are big fans of Outdoor Research AscentShell Jackets. We’ve used these jackets (Realm and Interstellar, predecessors) all over the world in wet conditions where we end up wearing our rain jackets for long periods — sometimes for days and days. Places like Patagonia, Alaska, and Scotland that are continually cold and wet. The AscentShell fabric is comfortable and durable enough long periods of wear making long days in the wet and cold bearable.
The AscentShell Fabric
We excited about the even more durable 50D fabric for the 2021 Motive Jacket as well as slightly lower weight. And of course, we love its truly air permeable breathability a property not found in most well-known, name-brand WP/B fabrics used on the vast majority of rain jackets on the market.
We’ve been field testing Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket in late winter to early spring in the mountains of the Mid-Atlantic and along the California Coast. Conditions have been wet, damp, cold and humid. And we have extensive/years of field experience with its AscentShell predecessors the Realm, and Interstellar jackets in all sorts of dreadful conditions from Patagonia to Alaska to Scotland. All have kept us warm, dry and comfortable.
How it Compares
Be sure to check out our: Best Lightweight Rain Jackets For 2021 for a complete overview of the best rain jackets on the market including the competition for the Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket.
DESIGN: Hooded, lightweight rain jacket, fully featured with durable 3 layer fabric
WEIGHT: 11.0 oz (tested Men’s medium)
TECH: AscentShell 3-Layer, 100% polyester 50D mechanical stretch ripstop face with 100% Polyester 20D backer
FEATURES: The Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell is a new spin on their previous InterStellar model, which was a highly breathable and technical outer shell. This jacket is the exact same weight, but uses a higher-density polyester material which makes the outer face stronger. Better yet it is $100 less expensive. We really like the stretch in the fabric and that you can actually breathe air through it — yes, the fabric is air permeable — both make it super comfortable! It features fully sealed seams, two zippered hands and one zippered chest pockets, and a lifetime warranty via Outdoor Research. We love our old Outdoor Research shell for long trips in wet climates like Patagonia, and we expect this one to perform just as well. It closely competes with the Montbell Storm Cruiser which is an ounce lighter.
BEST FOR: Anyone looking for tough, highly breathable, full-featured rain jacket that works equally well for hiking, backpacking or climbing. Note that the Motive AscentShell does not have pit-zips or mesh-backed pockets for venting but rather relies on the excellent breathability of the AscentShell fabric.
What We Like
- Do-it-all Jacket. The Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket is up to just about any situation the weather can throw at you including technical climbing.
- Crazy Light for a Technical Jacket. 11 ounces is incredibly light for a durable and breathable jacket suitable for climbing.
- Value. At $100 less than the previous model, the Interstellar, the Motive is a steal for a technical jacket — costing hundreds less than competitors technical jackets that can run as high as $500.
- Highly Breathable. The AscentShell fabric is a true vapor permeable fabric, meaning that even though it’s waterproof air can move through it. You can actually put your mouth over the fabric and breathe through it — and that is high breathability. A breathability not found in most well known, name-brand WP/B fabrics used on the vast majority of rain jackets on the market.
- Comfortable for all day wear. The AscentShell fabric is supple and has a slight mechanical stretch make it quite and easy to move in all day. And the backer (soft liner on fabric) reduces that clammy, cold feeling that 2 layer jackets have.
- New 50D fabric. Increases durability.
- Nice helmet compatible hood. Good size and adjustability.
What Could Be Better
- Minimal Feature Set. 11 ounces is very light for a 3-layer, highly durable and breathable rain jacket. Like their Helium Rain Jacket, to save weight OR has opted for a minimal feature set. E.g. The hood is has only 1.5 adjustments, 1/2 for the non-adjustable front elastic, and 1 for the rear volume adjuster.
- No Venting Options. There are no venting options on the jacket other than the front zipper.
- Pockets. The pockets are not mesh backed for breathability and the chest pocket is only accessible from the inside. And we prefered the two chest high pockets (on the old Realm) that where backpack hip belt compatible vs. the lower handwarmer pockets on the Motive.
At only 11 ounces for a jacket that is up to almost everything including alpine climbing, it’s no wonder that the Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket is out Top Pick for a Semi-Technical Jacket. And it’s performed well for us in challenging trips to areas like the the Southern Patagonia Ice shelf. Outdoor Research’s new 50d AscentShell fabric is the key to to the Motive being exceptionally breathable, durabe, comfortable and lightweight — a rare combination of highly desirable features in a rain jacket.
The only downside is more limited feature set to hold the weight low, while still having a durable and highly breathable 3-layer fabric. As such, the Outdoor Research Motive AscentShell Jacket lacks some features like pit zips.
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