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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Outdoor Research Mens Contour Windshirt > Test Report by Tim Tessier

OUTDOOR RESEARCH CONTOUR WINDSHIRT
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
INITIAL REPORT
May 03, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Tim Tessier
EMAIL: timothy_tessier@yahoo.com
AGE: 52
LOCATION: Greensboro NC
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 2" (1.88 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 17 year old son 9 years ago. We now routinely take 20 mile weekend hikes (2 nights) approximately once a month year round. Additionally, we take one, 5 - 7 day extended trip each summer. Most of our hiking is done in NC, southern VA, TN, KY, and WV. We go regardless of weather so we have experience in all types of conditions. We do not tend to travel very light, with a typical pack weight of 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.outdoorresearch.com
MSRP: US$110.00
Listed Weight: 9.9 oz (281 g)
Measured Weight: 13.2 oz (374 g) (size XL)
Other details:

The Contour Windshirt is a simple pullover soft shell with a number of attractive features. The shell is made of 88% Cordura fabric with 12% Lycra to provide some stretch. The outer shell is treated with DWR to provide a water repellent finish. The Cordura fabric is designed to be breathable yet provide protection against wind and unexpected wet weather.

IMAGE 1

The shell is a pullover design with a 15" (38 cm) front zipper. The shell also features an 11" (28 cm) side zipper, extending up from the bottom cuff, to assist in getting the pullover shell on and off. The front panel of the shell features a 5" X 7" (13 X 18 cm) "Napoleon pocket" accessed by a 6" (15 cm) zipper.

The bottom of the shell features a 1" (2.5 cm) wide cuff that feels somewhat stretchy but does not offer any sort of elastic or hook and loop tabs for tightening or adjusting. The collar also features a cuff approximately 2" (5 cm) wide. There is a tab across the back and around the top of the zipper, made of a soft fabric. This is a thoughtful touch designed to prevent the zipper from chafing the neck while hiking.

IMAGE 2
Detail of Zipper Tab




INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

My initial impressions are that the jacket seems to be extremely well made. I have carefully examined all seams and zippers, both inside and out, and they seem to be uniformly perfect. I found no loose threads, puckers, or other bad places in the construction. The zippers seem to be of high quality and properly sewn.

The fabric feels as though it is supple yet appears to be rugged and seems as though it will be hard to snag. I slipped the jacket over my head with some difficulty. After I had it on I noticed the side zipper. Unzipping that I easily slipped the jacket off, then easily slipped it back on. The side zipper allows the jacket to be nice and snug around my torso, while also making it convenient and easy to slip on and off. I found this to be an excellent feature.

IMAGE 3
Side Zipper open
IMAGE 4
Side Zipper closed

I have preliminary wadded the shell into a ball to see how small it will pack. I am able to compress this garment, size XL, into a ball slightly larger than a softball that I can easily grip in one hand. Releasing the jacket I gave it one shake and there were no discernible wrinkles.

Initially, I am impressed by the construction and fabric. This product seems to live up to the standards I would expect from a top quality product of this type.

TRYING IT OUT

I have not yet had the opportunity to wear the jacket in any cool weather setting. I have worn it around the house, in the backyard in the evening and have found it to be comfortable to wear. I look forward to opportunities to wear the jacket outside on a cool mountain ridge after an afternoon thunderstorm.

SUMMARY

The Contour Windshirt seems to be a top quality product. The fabric seems tough but supple. The construction and stitching are first rate. I especially like the side zipper as this provides a convenient way to get the jacket on and off while allowing it to be fit snugly around my torso.

I look forward to putting this jacket through its paces in the mountains throughout the summer months.

This concludes my Initial Report. Check back in early July for my Field Report.

I wish to thank Backpackgeartest and Outoor Research for the opportunity to test this fine product.

Field Report - August 3, 2009

Since I last reported I have had 3 occasions to use the Contour Windshirt in the sort of activities for which it was designed. The first was on a boat in New York Harbor. While not technically backpacking, a cold 20 mph (32 kph) wind on the deck of a boat is the same as a cold wind on a mountain ridge. The second trip was to Shining Rock Wilderness Area in NC and the third was a 3 day backpacking trip to Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in West Virginia.

In New York we took a twilight harbor tour. That evening the wind was gusting up to 20 mph (32 kph) off the North Atlantic. This provided quite chilly conditions even though the temperature was around 60 F (15.5 C). I was wearing a t-shirt, a dress shirt, and the Contour Windshirt. As it was a beautiful evening and the New York skyline was amazing, I tried to stay on deck as much as I could. I found that, while still chilly, the Windshirt did just as I would have expected. It knocked the wind down so that I was able to stay relatively warm. If I had been wearing a cap or toboggan I believe I would have been adequately warm to stay outside most of the time. One thing I did like was that the Windshirt was rolled into a ball for the plane trip up there, and for 3 days of meetings. When I was ready to put it on I pulled it out of my suitcase, shook it hard a couple of times and put it on. I looked in a mirror and there were NO wrinkles... none. Again, while this is not technically a backpacking requirement it certainly does expand the usefulness of this garment.

IMAGE 5

On our trip to Shining Rock the jacket got a real test. This was an overnight trip to the mountains of NC at elevations between 5,000 and 5,500 feet (1524 m - 1676 m). We hiked all day, spent the night and hiked out on Sunday. The weather was forecast to be clear and breezy. Perfect conditions! As we hiked during the day it was far too warm to comfortably wear the Windshirt. However, when we made camp and the sun went down it cooled rapidly and I found myself digging in my pack. I pulled on a fleece shirt and the Windshirt over the t-shirt I was wearing. The weather was beautiful in the evening and I was quite comfortable in this combination even though the temperature dipped below 60 F (15.5 C) and the breeze was gusty.

IMAGE 6
A rainy walk


The next morning we awoke to pouring rain. I lay in bed for a while thinking it might stop but it showed no signs of doing so. While normally, I am a meticulous packer, bringing everything I think I might need, on this occasion I had decided to believe the weatherman for a change so, no proper raincoat, no rain pants, no pack cover. Just a Windshirt to keep me warm and dry for the 2 hour hike back to the car. The literature says that the Windshirt is "water repellent" and good for "emergency use" in wet weather. I take that to mean that it is fine for a short time if you get caught in a passing shower. It's not intended for use as a full-on rain jacket to keep you dry all day. Well, I found that the literature is just about exactly right. The Windshirt kept me reasonably dry for the first hour or so as the water beaded up. I had my wide-brimmed hiking hat (as always) so the lack of a hood did not faze me at all. After that the unrelenting rain soaked all the way through and I was pretty well drenched. By the time we arrived at the car my t-shirt was completely soaked through and I was thoroughly wet and cold. This is not a criticism of the Windshirt however. The OR website makes it very clear that it is water repellent, not water proof. I found their claims to be just about exactly right.

IMAGE 7
Closeup of the rain beading


Finally, we just returned from a trip to the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in West Virginia. This is a remote highland area with strong winds and very unpredictable weather that will change in an instant. We arrived late on a Friday night and spent the night in the back of my son's SUV. I had the Windshirt on when we arrived at the parking area and we pulled out camp chairs and sat back to enjoy the evening for a bit. The thermometer on the truck read 62 F (16.7 C) and the wind was probably gusting up to 15 mph (24 kph). I again found that the Windshirt is quite breathable and yet knocks the wind down completely so that I was able to enjoy the evening. I found it to be quite pleasant to wear. Our evening reverie was short-lived however as it began to rain. I found that the Windshirt was perfect for use as we put camp chairs away, moved things around in the truck, laid the back seats down so we could stretch out to sleep, and generally prepared for the night. I was probably out in the rain a total of 10 minutes but never felt the need to stop what I was doing to get my rainjacket. In this circumstance the Contour Windshirt proved to be ideal.

The next night, camped by a stream, I enjoyed the Windshirt as we lay by a mountain river and enjoyed the evening. One minor gripe, was that the sleeves don't have any sort of fastener or binder around the wrist. This means that when in a buggy area, and wearing it largely to keep the mosquitoes off of the arms, its utility is compromised. For this purpose it would be more useful if there was a mechanism by which I could gather it tightly around my wrists.

The Contour Windshirt shows absolutely no signs of wear and tear. I have not actually had a chance, due to warm summer weather, to wear it while carrying a pack yet. I am sure that will change as we transition into the cooler autumn months.

Summary

The OR Contour Windshirt does everything I can ask of it. It is attractive enough to wear around town and the fabric is truly amazing in the way it shakes out wrinkles. I have found that it is quite comfortable to wear, particularly around an evening campfire, or on a breezy ridge. The Windshirt is quite breathable yet thoroughly protects me against the cooling effects of a windy day.

The manufacturer claims that the garment is water-repellent, not waterproof and I have found that claim to be very accurate. Water will bead up for an hour or so but will eventually soak through. I would prefer that the garment have some sort of fastener or cinching mechanism around the wrists but this is a minor inconvenience.

I would like to say thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and to Outdoor Research for the opportunity to test this garment.

Please check back in early October for my Long Term Report.

Long Term Report - September 27, 2009

I have had one additional opportunity to wear the Contour Windshirt backpacking since my last report, as well as several opportunities to wear the windshirt in town. The backpacking trip was on a two night trip on the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The weekend we picked it was foggy and cool in the mornings and cloudy and cool in the afternoons. The temperature was around 50 F (10 C) in the mornings and only rose to around 65 F (18 C) in the warmest part of the day. It was quite breezy with a steady breeze of 10 MPH (16 KPH) or so.

In the mornings while performing our normal camp chores, eating breakfast, etc. the windshirt, worn over a fleece shirt, was quite comfortable. When we began hiking in the early morning hours I would remove the fleece shirt but pull the windshirt back on for a while to see how it felt with a pack. There were no problems, no chafing on the shoulders, no fabric bunching, no nothing... I found it to be a snug, but supple fit. During this time I did notice the lack of a full length front zipper. Although it's quite breathable there is not really a way to open it up to have it on your arms, but not closed across the front of the torso. I would also like to see a way to loosen the shirt around my wrist so I could pull it up when I wanted to either reach down into a stream, or simply pull it up on my arms for whatever purpose. The fixed sleeve opening is too loose for bug repellency, but is also too tight to allow me to pull my sleeve up and reach down into a stream to retrieve one of the hoses from my water filter without taking the shirt off. A simple hook and loop fastener, and looser fit would easily solve both problems.

In camp at night it kept my fleece shirt completely dry and was absolutely adequate to repel the dampness natural on a foggy breezy night in a three-sided shelter. When not being worn the shirt would easily pack into a small ball and stuff down in my pack. Again, when I was ready to wear it, I could pull it out, shake it vigorously, and it was good as new.

I enjoy wearing the shirt around town on cool breezy days. It is ideal to wear on a rainy blustery day around town, running errands etc. I have found that when I carry an umbrella to ward off a heavy rain, such as a thunderstorm, it is ideal. It looks attractive and is quite comfortable, while providing protection against blowing rain. Like a lot of folks, I don't have the financial means to have a totally separate wardrobe for backcountry use, and town use. I find that this particular garment serves both purposes with equal aplomb.

Final Summary

I find the OR Contour Windshirt to be a very useful addition to my wardrobe. For strictly backpacking purposes I find that it repels wind and dampness like a champ. It fits snugly but the fabric is so supple and breathable that it is quite comfortable to wear. It wears well with a pack and does not bunch up underneath it. The workmanship is excellent and after several months of use, and several washings, it shows absolutely no wear and tear.

The product would be improved with the addition of some way to tighten or loosen the sleeve cuffs. Additionally, I missed a full length zipper so I could unzip the jacket while keeping my arms covered while carrying a pack.

Things I like:
1.) The snug but comfortable fit
2.) The breathable and supple fabric
3.) The water repellent properties of this shirt

Areas for potential improvement:
1.) The sleeve cuffs need to be larger and have some sort of fastener
2.) A full length zipper would be a plus but would change the style.

Again, I want to thank Backpackgeartest and Outdoor Research for the opportunity to test this jacket.

This concludes my review of the OR Contour Windshirt. I'll see you on the trail!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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