Gear of the Week: Outdoor Research Optimizer

Fend off moisture both inside and out with this uber-breathable shell.

Brand: Outdoor Research

Model: Optimizer

Overall Rating: 4

Our take: Working hard in wet conditions is tough enough without your shell adding to the problem. For rainy hikes with a lot of vert, our testers praised this jacket’s ability to withstand precip while breathing better than many similarly heavy-duty shells. “On a spring hike in Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, the Optimizer kept me from getting swamped as I huffed and puffed my way up a 9,000-foot pass in 60°F temps,” one tester reports. Three-layer Gore-Tex Active—Gore-Tex’s most breathable material—accounts for the sweat management, and the Optimizer shrugged off everything nature threw at it. One Arizona tester reported that the shell handled summer monsoons, hail, and 45-mph winds without letting in a drop.

The details: Despite its light weight, the Optimizer’s 20-denier polyester/nylon face fabric is resilient. “I’ve bushwhacked through willow thickets and scraped it against slickrock and there is zero abrasion. The shell still looks brand new,” says our Arizona tester. A chest pocket can hold an iPhone 7, and two hand pockets sit above a hipbelt. For the worst squalls, the Optimizer sports a fully adjustable hood with a wire brim (it fits over a helmet, too). Ding: price.

Trail cred: “Jackets this rugged usually take up too much pack space for day missions, but the Optimizer packs down to the size of a grapefruit. I take it with me if there’s any hint of rain, no matter how long the hike,” our tester says. 

m’s S – XL; w’s XS – L