Review: Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket

All-Season Shell Jacket
Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket
$249, 14 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

Whether hiking steep hills in steady rain in temps from the 40s to the 30s Fahrenheit or backcountry skiing in heavily falling, wet snow, OR’s Microgravity AscentShell Jacket keep me dry going both uphill and downhill, thanks to the solid waterproofing and exceptional breathability that have been the distinguishing attributes of this line of OR’s rain shells. But with the Microgravity, OR improved the durability—and dropped the price by 50 bucks.


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The Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket.
The Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket.

The Microgravity features OR’s latest iteration of its proprietary AscentShell three-layer waterproof-breathable fabric—the most breathable, fully waterproof membrane OR uses (found in other OR jackets, including a personal favorite for backcountry skiing, the Skyward). As anyone who’s spent hours in motion wearing a waterproof-breathable jacket understands, the “breathable” part of that term looms as critical to performance as the “waterproof” part. Even when hiking or skinning uphill at a pace that had me panting, in temps in the 40s with the hood up, I got damp inside but not very wet with sweat and my base layer would dry out often within about 10 minutes of dialing back my exertion level.

Fully seam-taped, the Microgravity easily shed steady rain and wet snow, cut wind, and can certainly handle the worst conditions most backpackers and dayhikers encounter. But the supple, 20×45-denier fabric with a 30-denier knit backer has the durability for harder use in the mountains, from peak bagging to winter backcountry tours.

At 14 ounces—three ounces heavier than OR’s predecessor four-season, three-layer, AscentShell jacket, the Interstellar Jacket (but also 50 bucks cheaper)—it’s not among the lightest fully featured rain shells. But that’s partly explained by the beefier fabric, which broadens its range of seasons and activities. The Microgravity stuffs into its left hand pocket (which has a carabiner clip), packing downto the size of a cantaloupe, comparable to rain shells with similar features, weight, and intended uses.

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The Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket.
The Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket.

As with other OR outerwear, the comfortable fit proved spacious enough for a couple of base layers and a midweight insulation piece underneath without ever feeling bulky, restrictive, or obtrusive. OR’s DynamicReach underarm panels and the inherent mechanical stretch in the fabric deliver very good freedom of movement—the jacket body barely rises up when raising my arms overhead.

The four zippered pockets—two each at chest and hand positions—have mesh linings and room for drying out warm gloves and keeping a phone out of the rain. The adjustable hem and hook-and-loop cuffs and waterproof zippers round out this fully weatherproof shell, and all zippers have pull tabs for easily grabbing with gloves.

The fully adjustable, helmet-compatible hood has a flexible brim that extends far enough to keep rain off your face, and the hood turns with your head and fits over a climbing or skiing helmet, though more snugly over the latter. I found the rear adjustment cordlock easy to manipulate wearing midweight gloves (an improvement over the Interstellar).

While the shell lacks pit zips, I didn’t miss them because of its superior breathability—and I sweat a fair bit. But people who sweat prodigiously may prefer a shell with underarm zippers.

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Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket

Weather Protection
Breathability
Weight-to-Performance
Comfort
Packability
Durability

Summary

The Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket delivers a versatile balance of breathability and weather protection for three-season hiking and backpacking as well as winter backcountry tours—all at a moderate weight and competitive price for an all-season shell.

4.4

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these affiliate links, at no cost to you, to purchase a men’s or women’s Outdoor Research Microgravity AscentShell Jacket at backcountry.com, outdoorresearch.com, Moosejaw.com, or rei.com.

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See “The 5 Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking,” “5 Pro Tips For Buying the Right Rain Jacket For the Backcountry,” and all of my reviews of rain jackets and outdoor apparel and that I like.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned backpacker, you’ll learn new tricks for making all of your trips go better in my “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking,” and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.” With a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read all of those three stories for free; if you don’t have a subscription, you can download the e-guide versions of “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” the lightweight and ultralight backpacking guide, and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.”

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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