This post may contain affiliate links.

The Outdoor Research Motive Rain Jacket Review

Outdoor Research Motive Rain Jacket Review

The Outdoor Research Motive Rain Jacket is an affordable three-layer waterproof/breathable rain jacket made with OR’s AscentShell membrane. Three-layer rain jackets are usually more expensive, work much better, and are much more comfortable than other waterproof/breathable jackets because they have a liner inside that eliminates that cold and clammy feeling you get when perspiration builds up inside a rain jacket. There’s also a very noticeable performance improvement in terms of breathability between three-layer jackets and other rain jackets with waterproof/breathable membranes.

Specs at a Glance

  • Waterproof/Breathable: Yes
  • DWR Coating: Yes
  • Seam-taped: Yes
  • Pockets: 2 External Side Pockets, 1 Internal Chest Pocket
  • Membrane: Outdoor Research AscentShell
  • Waterproof Rating: Not available
  • Breathability Rating: Not available

While the Motive Jacket is light on features, OR’s goal is to reduce the price and weight of a three-layer rain jacket and make it more affordable. The question you need to ask is whether the improved comfort of a three-layer rain jacket is really worth sacrificing a fully adjustable hood, adjustable wrist cuffs, hip belt accessible pockets, and pit zips. There’s no question that you can do without those features for more casual use, but they do provide a lot of value if you need to hike or backpack in all-day rain, wind, or snow.

The hood opening cannot be adjusted to block wind and rain.
The hood opening cannot be adjusted to block wind and rain. I could have used that feature on this mountain summit in blowing mist.

Three-Layer Waterproof/Breathable Jackets

Three-layer waterproof/breathable jackets have an outer shell layer, a waterproof/breathable membrane, and a third inner liner fabric. The liner fabric is often silver-colored and keeps dirt, oils, and sweat from clogging the pores of the waterproof membrane maintaining better breathability between washings. It also eliminates the cold and clammy feeling you get when perspiration and condensation accumulate inside 2.5 layer and 2 layer waterproof/breathable rain jackets, which are the rain jackets most hikers buy because they’re less expensive and lighter weight  That cold and clammy feeling is also present in the non-breathable, single-layer, silnylon, silpoly, PU-coated polyester rain jackets that hikers also wear.

If there’s a downside to the improved breathability of a three-layer jacket it’s that they’re often heavier and warmer than their less expensive counterparts. While OR has done a great job at keeping the Motive Jacket relatively lightweight (12.5 oz in a men’s XL), it’s definitely warmer and sweatier to wear while hiking with a backpack in the rain. That can be a blessing in cool weather or a torment when it’s hot and steamy out.

The Motive Jacket has a DWR coating on the exterior, like many of the waterproof/breathable jackets available today. That coating rubbed off the sleeves and shoulders after I used the jacket a few times with a backpack (which is to be expected) resulting in sustained surface wetness. I didn’t really notice an increase in condensation or perspiration build-up, however, probably due to the internal liner. You’ll notice that OR does not publish waterproofness or breathability specs, which is just as well because those tests are performed in a laboratory setting and have little correlation to field use.

The hood must be worn with a billed cap to keep the brim from flopping down over your eyes.
The hood is best worn with a billed cap to keep the brim from flopping down over your eyes.

Jacket Hood

The Motive Rain Jacket has an oversized hood which is obviously designed to fit a climbing or ski helmet. As a hiker, that alone is usually a disqualifier for me. The Motive does have a front brim and an elastic cord in the rear that you can adjust to reduce the hood’s volume, but there are no neck toggles to cinch the front opening closed around your face which is problematic when it’s windy and rainy.

The brim is just a piece of fabric sewn to the front of the hood and requires you to wear a billed hat underneath to keep it off your face and out of your eyes. I’m not a fan of front-billed baseball caps but prefer hats with wide brims for sun protection, so the Motive hood is a big disqualifier for me.

The Motive jacket only has elastic wrist cuffs.
The Motive Jacket only has elastic wrist cuffs.

Wrist Cuffs

The Motive Jacket has elastic wrist cuffs that let water leak down your hands and arms in the rain. This isn’t a big deal in warm weather, but it’s a negative in cold temperatures or rain when it’s important to keep your wrists and hands dry by wearing insulated gloves or rain mitts. Velcro wrist cuffs are preferable because they let you seal the arm-to-glove interface keeping your wrists and hands drier and warmer.

Outdoor Research Motive Ascentshell Jacket

Water Resistance
Comfort & Mobility
Hood Adjustability
Packed Size

Budget 3L Rain Jacket

The Motive Jacket is a 3L waterproof/breathable jacket made with Outdoor Research's proprietary membrane. While it is a 3L jacket, it's pretty light on the features important to hikers like a non-helmet-compatible hood, pit zips, or velcro wrist cuffs,

Shop Now


The Motive has three pockets: two external side pockets and one internal zippered chest pocket. They’re all large and lined, which is a big plus because it keeps the contents warmer and drier. The side pockets are only partially accessible when worn with a backpack hip belt, but that’s not the end of the world, since it’s easy to unbuckle your hip belt to access them. I also don’t mind the internal (not externally accessible) chest pocket because it ensures dry storage for my phone or electronics, but you do have to unzip the main zipper to access it.

Comparable Three-layer Waterproof/Breathable Jackets

Make / ModelFully Adjustable HoodVelcro Wrist CuffsPit ZipsPrice
Outdoor Research Motive Jacket---$199
Outdoor Research Microgravity JacketY$249
Patagonia Torrentshell 3LYYY$149
Patagonia RainshadowYYY$199
REI Stormbolt JacketYYY$279


The Outdoor Research Motive Jacket is a relatively inexpensive three-layer waterproof breathable jacket with a reduced feature set that’s good for casual use but I prefer a more feature-rich and adjustable rain jacket for hiking in the rain with a backpack, even if it’s not a 3-layer jacket. I think the Motive is probably fine for use in warm weather and occasional rain showers, but I’d encourage you to check out the other options I’ve listed above if you have your heart said on upgrading to a 3-layer waterproof breathable jacket.

From a price and feature/functionality/benefit standpoint, I think the lower cost Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is much better for hiking in rain and snow because it has a fully adjustable hood to block wind and rain, wrist cuffs for heat retention and pit zips to dump the excess body heat that can make you perspire.

Disclosure: OR donated a Motive rain jacket for this review.

SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.


  1. Those Patagonia jackets are slightly heavier but much have much better features for hikers. Good review.

  2. Strange that a good company like OR would not design the hood with a rear hood pull cord that adjusts the face opening. Maybe reviews like this one will wake them up.

    • It has a rear adjustment, but that just adjusts the volume of the hood, not the face opening. You need neck cords for that.
      You have to understand. Most rain jackets are NOT designed for hikers, but for skiers or climbers who wear helmets. That’s why they all have these godzilla-sized hoods.

  3. Surprised ‘grandpa’ hasn’t commented on the OR rain jacket after field testing it. I think he doesn’t use it anymore, at least didn’t bring along last spring section hike. I’ll stick with the LightHeart rain jacket and feel clammy, although feel the Frogg Togg is probably the best way to go.

    • Grandpa field tested an OR Gear shell that they quit making so his field test article never got written. He did bring it on the section hike this spring, but being old and slow, fell behind and got into camp after dark each night so no one could tell which shell he was wearing. That shell began to wet out a while back so Grandpa followed all the directions for washing and refreshing the DWR but it still wets out. Consequently, Grandpa is shopping for a new shell.

  4. the search for a better rain jacket continues.

  5. You must be a very rich man trying to convince us $200 is cheap…. This type of review is the reason why I stopped paying any attention to the reviews and reviewers on corrupted the Backpaciker site and dropped the Magazine after 25 years, being one of the original subscribers……..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *