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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Outdoor Research Celestial Jacket > Test Report by Andy Rad

Outdoor Research Celestial Jacket

Front Jacket View

Initial Report: April 19th, 2007

Field Report: July 11th, 2007

Long Term Report: Sept 5th, 2007

 

Product Information

Manufacturer: Outdoor Research

Website: www.orgear.com

Model: Celestial Jacket

Year of Manufacture: 2007

MSRP: $249.00 (US)

Listed Weight: 10.2 oz  (289 g)

Measured Weight: 10.3 oz (292 g)

Color: Retro Red

Hem length: 31.5 in (80 cm)

Sleeve Length: 37 in (94 cm)

  (center of back, over shoulder, to cuff)

 

 

 

Tester Information & Background

Name: Andy Rad

Gender: Male

Age: 49

Height: 6 ft (1.83 m)

Weight: 165 lb (75 kg)

Location: Boise, Idaho USA

Email: arad1 at yahoo dot com

I started backpacking 23 years ago, most were short three day trips, but are now generally four or five days. I'm in the backcountry year round with early spring trips requiring snowshoes over the passes, summer, late fall into snow, and winter camping on snowshoes or skis. About half of my trips are lightweight solo and the other half are with my family and friends.  The majority of my trips are in central Idaho and eastern Oregon.

Initial Report     April 19th, 2007

My initial inspection of the jacket was very favorable. Every detail is focused on minimal weight while retaining functionality.  I expected a jacket that would be cut narrow with minimal frills, but what arrived was a generous cut jacket, hood visor, hood cinch cord, spacious chest pockets, and average hem length.  The cinch toggles are smaller than any I have seen, the zipper pulls are short, and cuff adjuster is even perforated to reduce weight.

Information tags are printed in both English and Spanish.  The OR tag expounds on the jacketís features; ultralight 15D Gore-Texģ PacLiteģ fabric, double-sliding TorsoFloô side zips, adjustable hood, chest pockets, hem drawcord.

The Gore-Texģ tags expounded upon on the PacLiteģ fabric; explaining that the thin light weight fabric is not highly durable in comparison to heavy garments, about the seam sealing, and the principle behind the breathable membrane.

Iím tall with slender build at 6 ft (1.83 m) 165 lb (75 kg) and would wear a size 40 jacket if it were not for my long arms.  This would equate to a medium by ORís sizing chart, however, I opted to order the large to insure that sleeve length would be sufficient.  The large sleeve length of 37 in (94 cm) from center of back, over the shoulder, to end of sleeve cuff is perfect.  The chest cavity is much larger than I require; so much so, that Iím able to wear a down jacket with room to spare in both chest and arm volume.  This is not always the case with UL jackets, as Iíve tested jackets in the past where weight was reduced by narrowing the fit and shortening the hem length.  At 31.5 in (80 cm), this hem has ample length as can be seen in the top photo.

I was very pleased to see that the hood is not cut small, but allows full view/rotation when the jacket is pulled down on my shoulders, as would be the case when wearing a pack in the rain.  Even though the hood has a built in brim, it might be too short to protect my glasses from rain.  I will probably be wearing a brimmed hat to keep my glasses dry. Even with a brimmed hat on, the hood follows nicely without obstructing my view.  I was pleased that there are cinch toggles on the front of the hood as shown in the photo, and also a cinch on the back of the hood to pull it out of my eyes.  All in all, the hood appears to be a good design, and an example where OR didnít cut features to reduce weight.

Hood View

The two napoleon chest pockets are huge, measuring 12 in (30 cm) x 11.5 in (29 cm).  If so inclined, they are large enough to store climbing skins when skiing in the backcountry.  They are not mesh backed as I might have expected for venting, but constructed of the same PacLiteģ fabric.  The zipper pull tab even has a pocket/flap that sheds rain off the entry point when the zipper is closed.  I donít know if this is necessary, but demonstrates attention to detail.

Pocket View

There are no pit zips, but rather a torso zip on each side that extends from hem to just below the arm pit.  The two way zipper allows the torso to be opened from the bottom, as might be the case when wearing a pack (see photo below).  This configuration allows the back of the jacket to extend the full length down the back and yet allow the jacketís front to extend over the hip belt.  This configuration appeals to me, as I often have a waist pack style camera case riding in front.  The other configuration is to open the torso from the top and allow ventilation, as is similar to pit zips.  All zippers are water-resistant design, thus not requiring flaps and reducing weight. 

Torso View

As for testing, I must preface that I've never been overwhelmed with jackets constructed of 2 ply waterproof/breathable fabrics.  My past experience has always driven me back to 3 ply fabrics because Iíve found them to breathe better and be more durable.  Gore-Texģ has some strong claims on the breathability of the PacLiteģ fabric, as will be evaluated in my testing.  The TorsoFloô venting is appealing in that venting will be very easy.  As for durability, I would be surprised if there is delamination in the few months I will be testing.  Nevertheless, the shoulder area under the pack straps will be the primary area to watch for laminate wear and ability to shed rain.

Given the generous cut and features, Iím surprised the jacket comes in at 10.3 oz (292 g).  The manufacturer has gone to great lengths to keep weight to a minimum, preserve functionality, and attention to detail in construction.  Iím impressed!

Test Locations/conditions:

April:
Weekend trips into canyons around Boise, Idaho. Weather can often be overcast with showers. Iíll also be comparing breathability of the jacket in comparison to my 3 ply Gore-Texģ while riding my bike.

May:
Starting to get into a little higher country and more moisture. This is the time of year where I'm hitting about 6000 ft (1800 m) within a 4 hour drive of Boise, and going over the passes on light women's snowshoes. This year we are about 70% of average snow level, so there may be less snowshoeing the passes. Warmth is generally the need for jacket/pants more so than rain. Of course there are often afternoon/evening showers, but they are limited. If it appears we are heading into an all weekend rain, then we are often inclined to sit the weekend out. If rain is expected to be off-and-on, then there isn't an issue. Last year about this time we would get about 4 hours of rain over two days hiking the mountains.

June:
Now we are getting out on extended trips and expect rain showers about half the afternoons and evenings in the mountains. Rain is generally not continuous, but comes in showers that last a few hours or through the night. Third weekend in June we are doing a 4 night trip into Lemhi Mountain range of eastern Idaho. Elevation of 10,000 ft (3000 m), snow on passes, and rain expected many afternoons or the evenings. This is also the time to hit the Eastern Oregon Eagle Cap Wilderness.  Afternoon showers and wind are prevalant. In both cases jacket would be welcomed.

July:
Thunder showers are common place, thus hard rain for short durations in the Idaho/Oregon mountains. Iím planning a 4 day trip to Glacier NP in late July.  Showers and wind with cold evening/mornings where a jacket is welcomed more for warmth than rain protection.

August:
Five day trip into Frank Church Wilderness, but it should be relatively dry and warm. Jacket is more for warmth and light showers. Additionally, there will be 2 extended weekend trips into the mountains around central Idaho.

Field Report     July 11th, 2007

Locations and Conditions

Field test period provided the opportunity for using the Celestial jacket on 4 different backcountry trips.  Additionally, I used the jacket while commuting to work on my bike, and this turned out to be the most controlled test conditions to evaluate the breathability.  Total days in the field was 10 and dozens of times commuting on the bike.

Wet conditions in the last two months havenít manifested as they generally do, as we are having a drier than normal spring.  Nevertheless, using the jacket as a wind breaker and riding my bike has been a pleasure.  Temperatures while using the jacket were from slightly below freezing to 60 F (16 C).  Locations have been from lower elevation desert to high mountain snow covered camp sites.

Trip #1: Owyhee Desert area south of Boise, Idaho for 2 days in late April.  Climate was dry,  moderate winds, and temp dropped to about 40 F (4 C).  Jacket was used as a wind breaker in the evenings.

Trip #2: Eagle Cap Wilderness Oregon, Imnaha River drainage, 3 days , the second week of May.  Elevation was 6600 ft (2000 m), camp was among snow patches, day hiking was over snow, thus very heavy due and frost at nights. Jacket used primarily as a shell a over insulation for warmth.

Trip #3: Wolf Mountain Boise National Forest, for 2 days in mid May.  Climate varied from clear skies, to overcast, and then afternoon showers.  Temps were from 26 F (-3 C) at night to 68 F (20 C).  Elevation topped out at 8800 ft (2600 m) with camps at 6000 ft (1800 m).  Camps were in valleys surrounded by water, thus very heavy dew in evening/mornings.  Jacket was used during showers and in the evening/morning as a shell over insulation.

Trip #4: Eagle Cap Tombstone Lake loop for 3 days the 3rd week of June.  Skies were mostly sunny with no precipitation.  Temps were from light frost to 68 F (20C).  Elevation was from 5600 ft (1700 m) to 8800ft (2600 m).  Camps were in lower elevation next to high moisture surroundings.  Jacket was used as a wind breaker on the hiking ridges and for warmth in camp over insulation layer.  I also slept in the jacket as I woke up cold during the night.

Performance:

I must state, that Iíve become a believer in two-layer Gore-Tex.  In my application to test the Celestial jacket, I commented that Iíve never been pleased with two-layer Waterproof/Breathable fabrics.  My experience is that they are less breathable than three-layer and the inner surface is wet to the touch when Iím overheating/perspiring. 

Three-layer waterproof/breathable fabrics tend to have an inner layer (often a tricot knit) that dissipates the moisture across the fabricís inner surface, and appeared to breathe better than my two-layers.  Iím pleased to report that the Gore-Tex Paclite fabric has done a good job of dissipating moisture.  The best controlled tests were while riding my bike.  I tried several different jackets, and found that the Celestial jacketís inner surface was dry to the touch in comparison to my other two-ply waterproof/breathable jackets.  The Celestial compared favorably with my three-ply Gore-Tex jacket.  Exposure to showers has been limited to one occurrence, and the jacket kept the moisture out.  During the month of July, I will be in the back country at least 11 days while traveling through the Beartooth Wilderness and Glacier NP.  I fully expect to get several opportunities to fully test the jacketís water shedding and breathability.

The torso zip is great for venting and configuring over the packís waist belt.  In some respects, I do miss traditional pit zips, because my arms still heat up.  Given the choice, I would pick the torso zip, because of the versatility.  It is nice to have a jacket where I can unzip the torso from bottom up and place the front over the hip belt as in the earlier photo.  I use a waist/fanny pack carried in front with my larger camera and having the ability to pull the front of the jacket over the camera in light rain is appreciated.

I wear glasses, and a good visor is appreciated.  My preference is to wear a ball cap under the hood as this gives me the opportunity to look up hills and keep my glasses dry.  The integrated hood on the Celestial jacket is ample to protect my glasses if the hood is pulled down a bit.  This works for a while, but then the hood works its way back up and my glasses are exposed when looking around.  The hood is of generous size and fits such that my vision is minimally impaired when turning my head from side to side.  Thus far, Iíve been pleased with the fit of the hood.  When sleeping with the jacket the visor is annoying as it works down over my eyes, but I found that I can double it back a couple inches and it works great.

The water resistant zippers, do a good job of keeping rain shower out, but are a nuisance when trying to bring the two sides together for zipping.  This is typical for this style of zipper, as I have several other pieces of gear that utilize them, and they all behave similarly.  It is inherent to this style of tight fitting zipper with opposing gaskets sealing out the elements, as there is simply more friction.

One noticeable attribute of this jacket compared to my other light weights is the generous fit.  There was no trimming of the body or shortening of the length to achieve the reduced weight.  I have come to appreciate the fit, in rain showers, comfort, and when I resort to sleeping in the jacket on cold nights.

The next couple months are busy with backcountry excursions in Idaho and a couple weeks in Montana.  This will provide ample opportunity to test the jacketís water tightness, breathability, and durability.

Oh, and did I mention this is one classy looking jacket.  My jacket is burgundy and I have received numerous complements on the design and color.  I had a couple fellow backers indicate it looks too good to be outdoors, and take the risk of damaging it.

Long Term Report     Sept 5th, 2007

Locations and Conditions

The last 2 months of the test period consisted of 7 days in Montanaís Beartooth Wilderness, 3 days in Glacier National Park, and 4 days in Oregonís Eagle Cap Wilderness.  The only rain encountered was in the Beartooth Wilderness, and it was minimal.  The Northwest is having unusually hot dry weather, thus little opportunity to fully evaluate the Celestial jacketís waterproof/breathable attributes.  Nevertheless, the jacket was used every day in some fashion for wind protection and warmth.  In total, I used the jacket 24 days in the backcountry and dozens of times commuting on my bike, during the 4 month test period.

Trip #5: Montanaís Beartooth Wilderness consisted of 7 days in the backcountry starting on July 4th.  Climate was varied with temps hitting the mid 80s F (28 C) on a couple days and dropping to freezing one morning.  There were 3 days with rain showers, but nothing substantial that taxed the jacket.  Jacket was used as a wind breaker on numerous occasions and I slept in it one cold night.  Elevation was between 10K feet (3000 m) and topped out at 12,200 ft (3700 m).  There was a lot of snow and winds were often cold.

Trip #6: Montana Glacier National Park consisted of 3 days in the backcountry the third week of  July.  Climate was hot, dry, and smoky with temps hitting the low 90s F (34 C) and no rain.  Evening temps dropped to upper 40s F (6 C) and the mountain ridges were very windy.  The jacket was seldom worn and only as a wind breaker in the evenings.

Trip #7: Oregon Eagle Cap Wilderness consisted of 4 days in the backcountry in late August.  Climate was dry, clear, and temps in the low 70s F (22 C) during the day and high 30s F (3 C) during the night.  Jacket was worn every morning and evening for warmth, on a couple ridges as wind breaker, and once in the sleeping bag for warmth.

Performance:

Even though there was little opportunity to test the jacketís waterproof/breathable capabilities during the last 2 months, I wore the jacket for numerous hours and several miles in the backcountry.  I snagged it a couple of times on branches and brush, and immediately thought I probably tore it as the material feels so light.  In every incident there was not a scratch or any evidence of the incidence.  The jacket still looks like new, and that is even in the shoulder areas where pack straps will sometimes cause some abrasion.  This is pretty much what I would have expected from such a high quality jacket.

One attribute I appreciate is how compact the jacket crunches down.  One of my ultra-light packs is a small front loader, and it is imperative that my gear be minimal in volume.  I often stuffed it in-between my other gear, and it just seemed to disappear.

I found the chest pockets to be very handy and strategically placed, as the contents were easily accessible while wearing a pack or while sleeping at night.  They are actually quit generous in size.

While on my last trip, I noticed the pocket zippers are glued in place rather than stitched.  All the other zippers and seams are stitched, and I thought that odd.  Not that anything is wrong with gluing, just thought it interesting.  The workmanship is top notch, and even the seam tap matches the gray inner laminate.  The color match is so close, that I had to take a double look to make sure the laminate wasnít over the tape.

I have really grown to like the Celestial jacket.  It is by far the most generously cut ultra-light jacket I have owned, and I have had 8 or so waterproof/breathable jackets.  Some considered ultra-light and some not.  Additionally it has great cosmetic appeal, and detail to functionality. 

Iíve been trying to find an attribute on the jacket I would change.  At one time I thought that netted chest pockets would have been a plus for breathability, but the torso zippers satisfy that need.  Besides, netted pockets wouldnít be as durable as the PacLiteģ fabric and anything with hook and loop would attach itself to the netting.  With that said, there is nothing I would change in materials, design, or fit for an ultra-light jacket.  This is one excellent jacket and I appreciate the opportunity to have tested it.

 



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