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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Outdoor Research Mens Marvel Windshirt > Test Report by Chad E. Fike

OUTDOOR RESEARCH MARVEL WINDSHIRT
TEST SERIES BY CHAD EMERSON FIKE
LONG-TERM REPORT
May 16, 2007

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Chad Emerson Fike
EMAIL: chadfike"at"hotmail"dot"com
AGE: 34
LOCATION: Oakland, Maryland USA
GENDER: m
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I have gone camping, usually very close to home, since my teens but only started seriously backpacking about 4 years ago. I do mostly weekend trips and often take day hikes. My backpacking experience has been mostly in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, including parts of the Appalachian Trail. Each trip has been a learning experience about techniques and equipment. I try to balance weight, durability, and cost with my gear choices.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

OR Marvel Windshirt
photo from www.orgear.com

December 4, 2006

Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: www.orgear.com
MSRP: US $99.00
Listed Weight: 14.8 oz (420 g) size L
Measured Weight: 13.6 oz (386 g) size M
Guaranteed Forever

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The Marvel Windshirt arrived with a cardboard hangtag and an Outdoor Research sticker. Other than the size and color, the hang tag mostly provides general information about Outdoor Research and little specific information about the windshirt itself. The tag also reads: "Infinite Guarantee, Outdoor Research products are guaranteed forever." The Outdoor Research web site calls the Marvel a "Classic combination of shell and light insulation" and claims: "This windshirt offers you basic protection from light weather and cool temps. The lining keeps you feeling dry and comfortable throughout the day. Stretch woven arms and shoulders give you additional freedom of movement".

The main body of the windshirt is Mojo Blue and the website reveals it is constructed of "Wind-resistant breathable 40D x 50D ripstop polyester". Upon close inspection, the material contains a pattern of very small grid work. The tiny squares formed by this design are a slightly darker blue than the grid lines. This seems to give the material an almost iridescent quality, the color changing somewhat from lighter to darker shades of blue with the wrinkles and shadows of the material. The "OR" logo appears in reflective silver on the left breast. There are two zippered handwarmer pockets and one zippered sleeve pocket located on the upper left arm. These zippers, along with the main front zipper are all trimmed in light gray. There are no interior pockets. The cuffs are adjustable with laminated hook/loop tabs. The tabs seem to attach very securely. The windshirt also contains a drawcord hem, with cord-lock adjustments located on each hip.

The shoulders and outer half of the arms of the windshirt are made of stretch woven nylon and are a dark gray color. The gray interior lining of the windshirt is 100% polyester. Most of the lining material, including the interior of the handwarmer pockets, consists of brushed tricot which provides a soft feel that reminds me of a very thin fleece. The interior of the sleeves, upper back section and sides extending downward from the armpit to the bottom of the jacket have a different surface texture without the same soft feel.

There are three tags along the inside neck of the windshirt. One indicates size "M". Another tag provides the company name, website, telephone number and advertises the company's "Infinite Guarantee". The third tag reveals the shirt was made in China. There is also a loop to hang the windshirt. The care tag, located along the lower left hand inside of the shirt, provides the following care instructions: "Machine wash, cold, Gentle cycle. Do not bleach. Drip Dry. Do Not Wring. Iron, Low . Do not Dry Clean"

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I have only worn the windshirt around the house and walking to work, but so far I really like the style and fit. Choosing a size was easy since my chest measurement of 40 in (102 cm) is the exact measurement given for a medium on the Outdoor Research website sizing chart. The slim fit seems appropriate for a piece of active wear but is not so tight as to be restricting. I am able to extend my arms without the sleeves becoming too short and I seem to have a full range of motion. I appreciate the fact that the neck is not too tight when I zip it up all the way.

The windshirt appears well constructed. I did see a couple of short pieces of thread sticking out near the bottom of the main zipper and one loose end on the upper shoulders. I did not notice any other defects. One item of concern is that the hook/loop tabs on the cuffs have a tendency to snag at the polyester material of the shirt. The material seems very thin and lightweight but I did not notice any damage.

I do not like the size of the very small, about .5 in (1 cm) long, zipper pulls on the pockets. They are somewhat tricky to grasp with my bare fingertips and even harder to grab when I tried while wearing a pair of thin gloves. The main zipper is not as problematic since it has an extension consisting of a piece of string with a small rubber end to make the zipper easier to grasp. All of the YKK brand zippers seem to move very smoothly without snagging. However, the sleeve pocket is in a location that makes it somewhat hard to manipulate. Sometimes tugging the zipper causes the entire surrounding sleeve material to wrinkle or move instead of the zipper itself. The shirt is only advertised as providing protection from "light weather". When I ran some water from the faucet over the arm of the windshirt for about thirty seconds I was impressed as the water beaded up and rolled off very nicely.

SUMMARY

So far my limited experience with the windshirt has been mostly positive. The Marvel appears well made and I really like the style and fit. As for negatives, the pocket zipper pulls seem rather small, and the sleeve pocket is somewhat hard to manipulate. I am also concerned about the tendency of the hook/loop tabs to snag at the thin shell material.

This concludes my initial report on the Outdoor Research Marvel windshirt. The field report will be amended onto this report in two months time and will include field testing data. Please check back then for further information on the Marvel windshirt.

Thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

March 8, 2007

Whitegrass XC Ski Center-Canaan Valley,Testing has taken place in the forested terrain of the Appalachian Mountains of western Maryland and West Virginia in elevations ranging from around 2500 to 4800 ft (762 to 1463 m). Temperatures were far above normal during the initial part of the test period, with daytime highs occasionally nearing 60 F (15 C) and averaging around 40 to 50 F (4 to 10 C). During this time I mainly used the Marvel for dayhikes and jogging. In mid January temperatures finally turned colder and snow began to accumulate. I was then able to use the windshirt for cross country skiing. From this point until early March I wore the Marvel skiing around thirty seven times. The duration of each trip varied from shorter evening runs of around 1 to 1-1/2 hours to longer outings on the weekends. I also wore the Marvel once while snowshoeing. During this time the temperatures were usually well below the freezing mark with 2 F (-17 C) being the coldest test temperature.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I really like the fit, comfort and style of the Marvel and found it adapted well to a variety of activities. Cross country skiing requires plenty of upper body movement, but I never felt restricted. The fit is very slim and not at all bulky, which allows for layering under other jackets. I sometimes wore the Marvel for light insulation under a waterproof shell when walking to work and during my one time snowshoeing. It also layered underneath a slim fitting soft shell for an extra layer during a dayhike. There is not as much room for layering beneath the Marvel, but I was able to fit a thin, lightweight fleece top underneath during a dayhike. Most often I wore the Marvel as an outer layer with a base consisting of long and/or short sleeve wicking tee shirts.

Zipper-right hand pocket
Tiny zippers & loose seams
The Marvel has a total of three pockets. The two side handwarmer pockets were large enough to stow an extra pair of gloves or neck gaiter for easy access. My initial impressions about the sleeve pocket on the upper left arm being rather hard to open have been reinforced. I sometimes had to take off a glove and try to carefully nudge the zipper in order to keep the fabric taut enough to get the zipper to slide without simply bunching up the material. The location of this pocket seems kind of odd and I was not quite sure what was intended to be stored there. Trying out some common items I found the pocket was too small for my wallet. While my cell phone or keys fit inside, I did not like how these heavier items seemed to flop around. The pocket turned out to be a convenient and comfortable place to stash lip balm. I also discovered that a pair of sunglasses fit perfectly. I usually like to keep glasses in a case, but this was a convenient location to stash the glasses when the sun went down. I was frustrated by the tiny [only about 1/2 in (1 cm) long] zipper pulls on all of the pockets. These pulls were difficult to grasp with my thinnest gloves and a real challenge with my thickest gloves. The main front zipper has a string extension to facilitate opening the windshirt. I could usually find this zipper and make quick adjustments simply by feeling for the extension. In contrast I sometimes had to remove a glove to operate the other zippers. For a negligible weight gain I would prefer string extensions on all the zippers. Once I managed to grab the zippers they all functioned smoothly without any snagging. I am always frustrated by jackets that do not zip easily or have zippers that are hard to engage, but the main zipper of the Marvel worked flawlessly every time.

The windshirt is advertised as repelling "light weather". Since it was not advertised as being waterproof or even water resistant, I did not test it in the rain. Out of curiosity I did walk outside for a short time during some heavy rain showers. Rain beaded up initially but started to soak in soon thereafter. The performance was much better in the snowy conditions I often encountered while skiing. During one heavy snow I noticed snow flakes were slightly melting when they landed on my shoulders and then beading up as semi-frozen water droplets. With a short puff I could actually blow off the beaded droplets. The stretch woven nylon material of the shoulders and outer arms seems more water resistant than the main body material. Melting snow would occasionally start melting into the chest area while it still beaded up on the shoulders. However, it did not seem that enough snow ever soaked through to cause the windshirt to feel damp inside. Since the product was not intended to repel heavy showers I felt it performed as advertised. Even during heavy snows I felt the Marvel repeled the weather satisfactorily.

While testing I used the Marvel at different levels of aerobic activity and temperature and found the performance of the windshirt varied accordingly. When jogging in temperatures around 54 F with no wind (12 C) the Marvel seemed a bit too warm, even with just a tee shirt underneath. If I were not testing I would not normally choose a windshirt for jogging in conditions this warm. Performance was much better while jogging in colder temperatures as low as 36 F (2 C). During dayhikes I often wore a synthetic short sleeve tee and an Ibex Outback long sleeve wool tee shirt (previously reviewed) beneath the Marvel. I was a little cool as I began one hike in temperatures barely above freezing, but as I walked briskly I soon became comfortable. On another hike I layered the same way and eventually became too warm and removed the Ibex when temperatures warmed to around 50 (10 C). I was then very comfortable with just a tee shirt and the Marvel as a shell. When skiing I wore the Marvel in temperatures down to around 20 F (-7 C) with only a short sleeve wicking tee shirt underneath. In colder temperatures as low as 2 F (-17 C) I layered a short sleeve shirt beneath a long sleeve wicking shirt. Even in these cold conditions I was always plenty warm, in large part due to the fact that I was generating a lot of heat by my activity. I usually carried an extra shell with me on ski trips since I was dressed so lightly. I knew if I was not generating a lot of heat I may cool off quickly since the Marvel is not heavily insulated. This was illustrated one 15 F (-9 C) night when I was perfectly comfortable skiing but afterward became chilled while trying to extricate our car from a ditch after a whiteout on the way home.

I found the Marvel to be completely windproof. Several times I skied in very cold temperatures with high winds but I never felt any wind. There did not seem to be any leaks around the main zipper. The wrist cuffs of the Marvel have adjustable hook/loop tabs. I had no problem sealing the cuffs snugly around thin gloves and with a little maneuvering they fit around my thickest gloves. When zipped all the way, the collar of the jacket extends up the neck about 2-1/4 in (5.5 cm) providing extra protection form wind and cold. There are drawcord hem adjustments provided to help snug the windshirt around the hips, but I never felt any need to adjust them. Since I usually had on a daypack or hydration pack with a waist belt this probably helped seal the shirt against the wind. When skiing I sometimes only had on a short sleeve shirt beneath the Marvel and the sleeves sometimes felt cold, but the wind did not seem to be getting through. The lining is thin so there is not much insulation to form a barrier from the exterior temperature. I equate this with putting your hand on a window in the winter; the glass blocks wind but it still feels cold to the touch. This was never really a problem after I warmed up. Once I started generating my own body heat the Marvel did a good job of keeping the wind off and keeping me warm even in very cold temperatures.

Outdoor Research claims the Marvel's "lining keeps you feeling dry and comfortable throughout the day". During dayhikes I was usually dry and comfortable except for a slightly sweaty back beneath my daypack, which seems to occur no matter how I am dressed. I became sweaty every time I jogged or skied. I try to keep a fast pace when skiing and have come to expect perspiration no matter how lightly I dress. The Marvel did feel breathable, especially when compared to a thicker shell. However, I can not really say the Marvel kept me "feeling dry and comfortable all day". For instance, sitting in a restaurant after a day of skiing I found myself slightly chilled since I had grown rather sweaty. It would be more accurate to say the level of breathability is acceptable considering the complete wind resistance the windshirt provides.

Damaged areas
I am rather disappointed with the durability of the Marvel. The main body of the windshirt is composed of 40D x 50D ripstop polyester material that feels very thin. I have noticed several small snags and pulls in this material. In some places thread protrudes from the fabric itself (not from a seam). The picture at right shows an example of one of the snagged or pulled areas and one of the loose threads protruding from the material. I have counted nine obvious areas that are either snagged or have a protruding thread. Some of the areas are rather small and none have worn all the way through to form an actual hole in the material. Most of my skiing and hiking has been done on open trails so I rarely encounter undergrowth that might cause such damage. I almost always wore a daypack or hydration pack while wearing the Marvel and some, but not all, of the damaged areas are in the area of my hip belt. Perhaps the friction of the belt may have caused some of the damage. There is also loose stitching around the zipper of the right hand pocket. I have attempted to illustrate this in the picture of the zipper area by showing that a pencil can slide completely through the area where the seam has come unstitched. Since pressure is applied to this area when operating the zipper, the hole has been steadily widening since I first noticed it. I see no problem areas in the lining or the nylon material of the outer arms and shoulders. I washed the Marvel and hung it to dry as instructed three times during the test period.

SUMMARY

I really like the style and fit of this product. It feels like it was tailored just for me. I have been able to use it in a wide range of temperatures and it has been completely wind resistant. Negatively, I was rather annoyed by the tiny zippers. I am also concerned over the durability of the windshirt. I have tried to care for the Marvel but several worn areas and a loose seam have appeared.

TESTING STRATEGY

This concludes my Field Report on the Outdoor Research Marvel Windshirt. As winter winds down I expect to be cross country skiing less and wearing the Marvel more often during dayhikes. The Long Term Report will be amended onto this report in two months time and will include further field testing data. Please check back then for further information on the Marvel Windshirt.

Thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product.





LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

May 16, 2007

Testing continued in the same locations as the Field Report and also included a two day trip to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia at elevations around 3500 ft (1065 m). Temperatures were still below freezing when the test period began, but later reached as high as 80 F (27 C). The temperatures and conditions fluctuated greatly during this period. Often conditions were wet and cold with rain gear being more appropriate than a windshirt. Other times the temperatures were warm enough that I was comfortable in only a tee shirt.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During the Long-Term Report period I used the Marvel for cross country skiing, jogging, biking, dayhikes and backpacking. I did not use the windshirt nearly as much as during the Field Report period. Often it seemed the temperatures were warm enough that I was shedding the windshirt as soon as the hike began or carrying it along in my pack as an extra layer that was not often required. Most of the experiences I had during this last phase of testing reinforced earlier impressions rather than cause any new revelations.

The Marvel was worn during a few of my first bike rides of the year. The jacket blocked the wind very effectively and was comfortable over a synthetic tee shirt in temperatures between 45 to 55 F (7 to 13 C). Soon after these first trips the majority of my bike rides were in warmer temperatures where I only needed a short or long sleeved tee shirt and not an extra layer. Snow was very sporadic, so I only got to cross country ski about three more times. The Marvel performed well, as it had during the many times I wore it during the winter. When jogging, temperatures above the mid 50's F (10 C) were still a little too warm for the product. The comfortable temperature range was increased to almost 60 F (15 C) when wearing the Marvel on dayhikes, especially if I was just casually strolling and not exerting myself much. I did get caught in a steady rain during one short run. The windshirt sleeve and shoulder material repelled water for longer than the main body, but after about 25 minutes both were wet. When I took off the jacket it did not seem the water had soaked all the way through. This seems consistent with Outdoor Researches claims that the Marvel will repel "light weather" but would not prevent a soaking in the long term. I took a three day backpack trip during this period. The weather was beautiful and I hiked in short sleeves. The only time I needed any extra layers were in the mornings and evenings. The first evening was rather breezy and cool, about 45 F (7 C), but I was very comfortable sitting around the campfire wearing the Marvel layered over a thin microfleece top. I also wore the Marvel one windy morning on this trip, but by the time we started to hike, I was comfortable in just a tee shirt. My overall impressions about the comfort range of the Marvel did not change much during this time. I still found it very useful in certain conditions, but as the weather became warmer I did not need any extra layers.

Since I often seemed to be carrying the Marvel along in my pack rather than wearing it I included a picture of the Marvel next to a one-liter bottle to give an idea of how much space it might take up in a pack. Outdoor Research does not make any claims about the compressibility of the windshirt. This is not the type of jacket designed to store in its own pocket.

size comparison
During the Field Report phase of testing I noticed a few snags and one pocket zipper pulling from the seams. These items did not seem to get any worse and no new issues with durability developed. As stated before, I did not use the jacket nearly as extensively as I had earlier in the test. On the Outdoor Research website I followed a link to email the company about these issues. I explained the problems and asked whether these were warranty issues and what my options were. In a little less than 23 hours I received the following email response from a customer service representative: "Thanks for the email. We would be happy to either repair or replace your jacket for you. Please give us a call between the hours of 8AM and 5PM, Monday through Friday to obtain a Return Authorization number so we can properly track your return. You may then send it back. Please be advised that our warranty process typically takes between 2-4 weeks from when we receive the item. Thanks again." I am not sure if I will return the jacket since I do not view these as particularly serious defects, but it was nice to be informed of my options so promptly. All of the zippers and adjustments continued to operate smoothly. I do not remember the zippers ever snagging.



SUMMARY

For the most part I feel very positively about the Marvel. It fits me great and I like the look and design whether in the field or around town. Even during active pursuits it moves well and was never constricting. It is a very slim-fitting design that lends itself more to being layered underneath a shell than having many layers placed beneath it. It blocks the wind very effectively and seemed breathable. My biggest complaint was with the the snags and loose zipper seam, but Outdoor Research seems willing to rectify these durability issues. As more minor complaints, I found the tiny zipper pulls much too small to be useful and although I found a few items to put in the arm pocket, it does not really seem necessary considering how hard it can be to open.

CONTINUED USE

I plan to continue to use the Marvel windshirt in the future. I like it as a light jacket for hikes on cool days when a little protection is needed but a heavier soft shell might be too warm. I also like the looks of the jacket and will consider it for casual wear as well. I trust it to block the wind in almost all conditions. I will not rely on it to repel heavy precipitation, but it works fine for snow. I especially liked it for cross country skiing and expect to use it next winter.

Thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.Org for the opportunity to test this product.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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