The Outdoor Research Foray II Jacket is a 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite waterproof/breathable rain jacket that can be worn year-round for hiking and backpacking. Its claim to fame are its TorsoFlo side vents…think pit zips on steroids…which let you unzip the jacket from hem to bicep to vent excess heat and reduce your perspiration level. A two-way adjustable hood with a brim, velcro wrist cuffs, and Aquagard zippers are just some of the advanced technical features of this versatile all-season jacket that’s suitable for hiking on trail and off.
Specs at a Glance
- Gender: Men’s (women’s model is called the Aspire II)
- Waterproof/breathable: 2 Layer
- Membrane: Gore-Tex Paclite
- Weight: 11.8 oz in a size medium (13.3 oz in a men’s XL, tested)
- Back length: 29.5″
- Pit zips: Yes
- Adjustable hood w/brim: Yes
- Helmet-compatible: Yes
- Pockets: 3
- Velcro-wrist cuffs: Yes
- Seam-taped: Yes
- Hydrostatic Head and MVTR: Not Published
- Fit: Runs large for layering
- Materials: 50 denier polyester
- External DWR: Yes
Two-Layer Waterproof/Breathable Construction
The Outdoor Research Foray II Jacket is a 50 denier, 2L waterproof/breathable rain jacket made with Gore-Tex Paclite. Gore-Tex Paclite is very waterproof in addition to being lightweight and packable. But its breathability is so-so compared to other Gore-Tex variants. That’s not an issue on the Foray II so much because it has massive vents along the sides that you can open to augment the jacket’s breathability. This is a jacket designed for the active “venter” who’s constantly tweaking their clothing to prevent heat and internal moisture buildup.
The Foray II is reasonably lightweight because it does not have a backing textile layer to protect the membrane. Instead, it’s a laminate with a polyester outer and rubbery grey inner material. While the polyester provides adequate protection on the outside of the jacket, the inner material is easily fouled by body oils and perspiration. If you care about the Foray II’s breathability, wash it often and don’t wear it next to your skin. Then again, if you use the side TorsoFlo vents, you don’t really have to worry that much about the jacket’s breathability anyway.
Features for Hiking and Backpacking
When I evaluate rain jackets for backpacking there are a few features that I look for, regardless of whether the jacket is made with a waterproof/breathable fabric or not. These include an adjustable hood, pit zips, and whether the wrists have velcro closures or elastic ones. All of these features are important for regulating your warmth level and the amount of perspiration you experience. As a hiker, you want to be able to manage your warmth and perspiration level across a wind range of temperatures, wind speeds, and trail conditions by zipping and unzipping openings and covering and uncovering your head and wrists.
While the Foray II Jacket has a high-volume helmet-compatible hood, it has a rear volume control that lets you downsize it to a more manageable human scale. The hood has a front waterproof brim that covers your forehead and keeps the rain off your glasses or out of your eyes.
There are also two neck control cords inside the collar that you can pull down to reduce the height of the hood and tuck in the sides. They hold the tension well when tightened and don’t relax over time, but you can’t adjust the hood unless you unzip the collar to access the pulls.
When the hood is zippered up all the way, you get a good deal of face coverage with it, so your mouth, neck, and upper chest are protected from the wind, and blowing snow and rain. A high neck like this is a good feature to fend off nasty weather and is a good hedge against having to wear full face protection like a balaclava when frostbite is a concern. There’s also a soft suede-like patch of material along the top of the zipper and a zipper garage, which is nice for bearded people so your facial hair does not get caught in the zipper.
The Foray II has TorsoFlo vents that run from the biceps up your arms and then down the sides of the jacket to the hem. They can be opened partway like pit zips or all the way down the sides of the jacket, effectively turning it into a poncho if you want to dump a lot of body heat. If you are a thermoregulation fanatic and a lot of hikers are, they’re a great way to vent extra body heat and water vapor to reduce perspiration buildup in your middle and base layers. All without having to stop to remove your backpack and take off the jacket so you can keep moving when you want to make tracks.
I usually leave the TorsoFlo vents open at the top like regular pit zips when I hike, unless I’m very cold. They’re nice because they can be opened incrementally beyond normal pit zip length or opened fully, splitting the sides of the jacket completely open and venting the entire torso. It’s a very effective way to cool off fast.
The Foray II Jacket has rip-and-stick (velcro) style wrist cuffs instead of the cheap elastic wrists that you find on many warm-weather rain jackets. These are much more efficient at sealing in body heat at the wrists and are wide enough to wrap around the gauntlets of insulated gloves.
They’re also good for venting warmth. For example, when I’m too warm, I’ll pull up the jacket sleeves over my forearms and use the wrist cuffs to lock the sleeves in place. You’d be amazed how much excess body heat you can vent this way. I consider velcro-style wrist cuffs to be a premium feature on a rain jacket and one that extends its utility into the colder, winter months.
The Foray II has three pockets: a chest pocket and two zippered handwarmer pockets. The chest pocket has an Aquaguard zipper and is large enough for any sized Smartphone. The handwarmer pockets are not hipbelt compatible but are also quite large. You can stuff the jacket into the left-hand handwarmer pocket which has a key fob that can also be attached to a climbing harness.
The Outdoor Research Foray II is a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex Paclite Jacket with torso-length zippers along the side to vent body heat and water vapor.Its sweet spot is in really crappy weather, in blowing rain or snow, in mountainous terrain with high winds and cooler temperatures. However, if you only hike in warm weather, the Outdoor Research Foray II Jacket is going to be overkill, in terms of gear weight and feature set. But if you want a rain jacket/shell that gives you the layering/venting flexibility you need in mixed conditions (rain, snow, slush, ice), the Foray II Jacket is without compare. Its rugged 50 denier exterior provides the jacket with extra durability and warmth that you won’t get with an ultralight 7 denier or 10 denier rain jacket making it suitable for year-round use both on trail and off.
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