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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Outdoor Research Mens Contour Windshirt > Test Report by Andrew Henrichs
Outdoor Research Contour Windshirt
Test Series by Andy Henrichs
September 27, 2009
This windshirt isn't exactly what I was expecting; it seems better. When I saw that it was made out of Cordura, I was expecting a stiff and rough fabric. Instead, the material is thin, light, flexible, stretchy, and soft. It has a very minimalist design with no bells or whistles. I like this design strategy quite a bit; I always prefer lighter weight and good function over fancy accessories I rarely use. When deciding what size to order, my measurements were just above the measurements given for a medium windshirt. As such, I went with a large. It fits a little looser than I was expecting, but is not baggy. When wearing the Contour, my motion is not restricted at all.
The front zipper is quite deep and makes it easy to don and doff the windshirt. I was initially very skeptical of the side zipper. I didn't have any problems getting the windshirt on or off and the side zipper seemed a little unnecessary. After using it a few times, I'm starting to really like it. It makes donning or doffing the windshirt very quick and easy. While this zipper is not necessary given the fact that the windshirt is a little large on me, I can see how nice it would be if the windshirt fit a little more snug.
The DWR coating on the Contour Windshirt is very impressive. When placed under a running faucet, the water beads up and runs right off. I was a little surprised to see that there is no elastic around the cuffs and I'm anxious to see if this affects its function as a windshirt.
I have used this windshirt many times since I received it. I have used it while on two overnight backpacking trips, five day hikes, a week-long whitewater rafting trip, several times while walking around town, and dozens of times while on my bike commute. The overnight backpacking trips took place in the Sawatch Range of central Colorado. The first trip was in the vicinity of East Cross Creek and I covered approximately 12 mi (19 km) during this weekend. The second outing took me up the Pine Creek drainage to Missouri Basin. From here, I hiked three high peaks and covered approximately 26 mi (42 km) over two days. Elevations on these trips ranged from 9,000 ft (2,700 m) to slightly over 14,000 ft (4,300 m). Temperatures ranged from a low of 40° F (4° C) at night to a high of 80° F (27° C) during the day. On these trips I experienced very strong winds and occasional light rain. The day hikes I went on ranged from 4 mi (6 km) to 15 mi (24 km). Four of these hikes took place in the foothills along the Front Range in Colorado. The elevation of these hikes range from 5,600 ft (1700 m) to 8,000 ft (2,400 m). All of these hikes featured generally mild conditions with an average temperature of 65° F (18° C), light winds, and plenty of sun. The fifth hike was a climb of Pacific and Atlantic Peaks, two high peaks near Copper Mountain, Colorado. The elevation on this hike ranged from 11,000 ft (3,400 m) to nearly 14,000 ft (4,300 m). This hike was quite cold; the average temperature never climbed above 35° F (2° C). I experienced strong wind, light snow, and very little sun on this hike.
In late June, I was fortunate enough to raft the Selway River in Idaho. Elevation on the river averaged about 2,000 ft (610 m). We had excellent weather with almost no precipitation, mild temperatures, and light winds. The rest of my use has been around the cities of Colorado Springs and Golden, Colorado. My daily bike commute was approximately 2 mi (3 km) one-way in Colorado Springs and is now 5 mi (8 km) one-way in Golden.
So far, I have been very pleased with the performance of the Outdoor Research Contour Windshirt. As I mentioned in my Initial Report, I was right on the sizing border between a medium and large windshirt so I elected to size up; I have been very happy with that choice. It has allowed me to layer more comfortably under the windshirt, although it does not leave enough room to wear my down jacket under the windshirt. This has only been an issue once when it was very cold and raining. Keeping my activity level high helped to keep me warm in this instance. While I initially brushed off the side zipper as silly, it actually makes life much easier when putting the windshirt on and taking it off. It has also proven useful as additional venting.
The Contour Windshirt has done an excellent job of blocking wind and precipitation. I have worn the windshirt in winds approaching 40 mph (64 kph) and it has performed admirably. While a gust will occasionally sneak in below the waist or up a sleeve, the fabric itself seems nearly impenetrable to wind. I was initially concerned about the lack of elastic in the cuffs, but it actually hasn't been much of an issue. The DWR treatment has proven to be moderately durable. When I first started testing the windshirt, any type of precipitation would bead up on the surface and roll right off. Even muddy water would bead up and brush off easily. If the muddy water was left to dry, it was more difficult to remove the dirt stain. After significant use and two washings (to remove the aforementioned dirt) I have noticed that precipitation doesn't bead up quite as well as it once did. It seems to absorb more moisture than it initially did, but I have yet to see the fabric soaked through.
I have found that the windshirt does not provide much additional warmth. Specifically, I have found that it is comfortable to wear while hiking in the shade until the temperature reaches 70° F (21° C). When it is sunny, the black fabric makes it too warm in temperatures over 50° F (10° C). This lack of warmth should be unsurprising given that it is constructed with a fairly thin Cordura fabric. This has, however, challenged my typical clothing system. The relatively heavy weight of the Contour Windshirt combined with its lack of insulation doesn't fit into my lightweight backpacking and hiking clothing system that well. Throwing a lightweight fleece into my pack would solve the insulation problem but would add even more weight. That said, the weight of the Contour Windshirt has justified itself by ensuring it is incredibly durable. Even after getting scraped along rocks, covered in mud, and brushed against trees, it looks like new.
During the Long Term Report phase, I have used the Contour Windshirt several times around town as well as during a 7-day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. Elevations in the Winds ranged from 9,000 ft (2,700 m) to slightly over 13,000 ft (4,000 m). We experienced a wide variety of weather on this trip including snow, rain, sleet, sun, and wind. Temperatures ranged from a low of 20 F (-7 C) to a high of 75 F (24 C). The snow we experienced early on killed most of the bugs, but they made a resurgence during our last three days in the mountains. While on this trip, we spent a couple of days getting to a high camp. Once there, we stayed at that site for several days while exploring on long dayhikes. The second to last day in the mountains was spent on an alpine rock climb up Overhanging Tower.
Very little has changed in my overall impression of the Outdoor Research Contour Windshirt during the Long Term Report phase. I continue to be very impressed with the protection from wind and light precipitation afforded by this windshirt. My trip into the Wind River Range gave me an opportunity to discover another use for this windshirt; it makes a very good lightweight and breathable insect shield. Mosquitoes and small biting black flies were an incredible nuisance towards the end of our trip and the Contour Windshirt fended off their bites without forcing me to don my raincoat. It did have its limits, as the open wrist cuffs let the more persistent bugs find their way to my skin. Despite this newfound use, I still feel like this garment isn't as versatile as I would like. I have found it more useful on alpine day hikes than backpacking trips. When carrying a heavier pack, it just seems to be too much. Again, it provides great protection, but I feel like it either adds too much warmth or not enough. It's too much warmth for those days that have a light breeze but are still fairly warm. In these situations, I want another layer but it needs to be very light. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I feel as though it doesn't add enough warmth for backpacking. I have a hard time justifying carrying the extra weight when it really doesn't provide much warmth at night. I think the color of the windshirt (the one I tested is black) may play a significant role in this dilemma. In situations when I desire a light layer, it's generally more sunny than cloudy. I put the windshirt on and the black absorbs a significant amount of solar heat. When I want more warmth (very cloudy days or at night), there is no sunlight for the windshirt to absorb and warm me with.
This presents a conundrum for me, given the outstanding performance of the windshirt when it comes to repelling wind and precipitation. In my mind, the optimum use for this windshirt is single-day alpine climbing, scrambling, or hiking in a more arid climate. Here, its purpose is to block the wind that I am almost certain to encounter, shed light rain from afternoon thunderstorms that so often occur, and resist any abrasions from contact with rock. The construction has proved to be quite durable and it still looks great. Many of the miles we covered involved significant bushwhacking through thickets and squeezing by rocks and trees. Despite this rough use, the Contour doesn't show any significant signs of wear. I feel that it excels at this focused pursuit. I will continue to use this windshirt on trips that fit the aforementioned description but will rarely bring it on backpacking trips.
Thank you to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test this windshirt.
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