My winter shell is the Outdoor Research Foray Jacket because I prefer wearing jackets with pit zips, even if they are made out of a breathable fabric like Gore-Tex, Polartec Neoshell or eVent. Outdoor Research is one of the few companies that puts pit zips on jackets made out of breathable fabrics – something I really respect about the company – since heavy exertion will easily overcome any jacket’s ability to vent perspiration if it doesn’t have some form of venting (see mechanical venting, pit zips, and layering).
Suitable as a winter hard shell and a 3 season rain coat, the Foray Jacket is made out of 50 denier Gore-Tex PacLite and weighs 17.5 ounces in a size XL. It comes with a unique type of pit zip system that Outdoor Research calls “Torso Flow”, because the pit zips can be opened from the arm pit all the way down the side of the jacket, opening up like a poncho for maximum ventilation.
I’ve used both sized openings – in partial and full poncho mode – to vent heat on winter hikes where you want to stay cool enough to avoid perspiring, but where you still want to wear a hooded hard shell jacket to protect yourself from weather and wind.
If you are wearing a backpack, the Torso Flow system let’s you loop your hipbelt under the front of your coat if the side zips are opened like a poncho, eliminating the slippage that often occurs if you wear a hip belt over a hard shell or rain coat. This is something that drives me crazy when I wear other rain shells but which I can totally eliminate with the Foray. That’s very valuable to me.
Besides the pit zips, the Foray Jacket has three pockets, two large hand pockets and a smaller but still spacious chest-high Napoleon pocket that is large enough to hold a large POS camera. The side pockets are positioned high enough that you can get at things stored inside them while wearing a backpack but you do need to position the hip belt when you put it on so that it doesn’t cover the side pockets. All of the pockets have a mesh backing on the inside of the coat, which is about the only thing I’m not thrilled with in the Foray Jacket, because it means that items in your pockets like gloves or hats can become moist if you sweat a lot.
The hood is fully adjustable with side pulls and a volume reducer. It also has a front bill to provide for better weather protection, especially good if you wear glasses or goggles, and a lined chin guard for comfort. Velco wrist cuffs, long zipper pulls and taped seams complete the spartan, yet highly functional features of this 2L Gore-Tex jacket.
Back in the day, I owned another Outdoor Research Jacket (Celestial Jacket) which was quite similar to the Foray, but made out of very thin 15 denier Gore-Tex PacLite. I remember that coat well because it snagged on a thorn the first day I wore it hiking and had to be patched. Having worn the 50 denier Gore-Tex PacLite Foray Jacket now on several winter bushwhacks, I can say that its heavier weight fabric is far more durable and tear resistant. It’s heavier weight, but the improved durability is worth it.
The Outdoor Research Foray Jacket is a great hard shell and one I plan to use in 4 season conditions for years to come. The Torso Flow pit zips really distinguish this coat from others at the same price point and make it an exceptional value.
Disclosure: Outdoor Research provided Philip Werner with a Foray Jacket for this review.
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