Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket Review: King of Stretch

Outdoor Research utilized Gore Stretch and C-Knit, advanced (and expensive) fabrics, in its Hemispheres Jacket. I took it touring and downhill skiing in wintry Colorado for this review.

Enhance a skier’s range of motion while protecting them from the harshest elements on Earth. That’s Outdoor Research’s goal with the Hemispheres Jacket.

And from my testing of this season’s flagship jacket, the brand seems to have nailed its objective. Read on to learn more about this high-end ($599) shell.

In short: The Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket gives a great range of motion in a waterproof-breathable shell. The jacket stood up to testing during both cold-weather ski touring and riding lifts during a half dozen days of skiing. It’s a fine option for those looking for a do-all ski shell.

Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket Review: Gore-Tex C-Knit

Before I jump into the details of the jacket, let’s take a moment to talk about its main ingredients: Gore-Tex C-Knit and Gore Stretch.

Without going too far down the rabbit hole, C-Knit is one of the new premium Gore-Tex fabrics. It couples a waterproof-breathable membrane with a new backing that Gore claims is more breathable, softer, and stretchier than previous iterations.

Does it work? Well, beyond taking Gore’s word for it, I’d say yes, at least as well as other Gore products. But it’s not air-permeable. This means it probably won’t vent quite as well as jackets with eVent or Neoshell.

That said, I never had a problem with moisture management with the Hemispheres. The shell has good options for mechanical venting (huge hem-to-pit zippers) if you encounter sweat issues.

And the Gore Stretch, well, it stretches great. More below.

Hemispheres Jacket: Stretch, Pockets, Hood

Here’s where the Hemispheres Jacket really shined in the field. In a few days of ski touring, I started to really notice the enhanced mobility this jacket allows. Thanks to the strategically placed Gore Stretch panels, I was able to move more freely than in some other jackets I’m testing.

I noticed this most not while skiing, but when bending over to snap boot buckles or getting in weird positions while working through trees or ripping skins. It’s not a dramatic difference, but from time to time I realized I didn’t hit an end range of motion when I expected. It’s nice.

Beyond the stretch, this is simply a well-engineered shell for mountain use.

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First, the hood. It’s well-fitting and helmet-compatible. Skinning above Cooper Mountain to access Chicago Ridge in a complete blizzard, I wore the hood up for a few hours and really liked the wire-brimmed “halo” effect. Without a helmet, it snugged nicely to my face, keeping moisture and cold at bay.

Two internal shove-it pockets help keep skins in place after removing them for the descent. I did this a few times to warm my glue, and the jacket kept them in place comfortably.

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A zip chest pocket with an internal media spot works well for phones, although I personally like to keep mine in a pant pocket far away from my chest-worn avalanche beacon.

Rounding out important features are great YKK AquaGuard and Vislon zippers. They gave me zero problems.

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Full stoke in full-on conditions

This is a simple jacket made from premium materials. It works as promised and carries really good ratings from other consumers who have used it.

The only negative is the price: $599. That’s a heck of a hit for a shell that doesn’t even have insulation. But if the Hemispheres Jacket is on your radar, you know that it will be the first line of defense between you and whatever nature throws your way. For those who get after it in big mountains in the winter, that layer is mighty important and probably worth the investment.

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Sean McCoy
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Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

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