With winter upon us in here in the San Juans, our technical layers take on added importance. SW Colorado and the San Juan Mountains offer up a veritable cornucopia of conditions. Everything from whiteout conditions, 45 mph winds, warm sunny days, feet of snow, and frigid freeze-your-fingers cold is par for the course in Ouray and throughout the San Juan Mountains in the winter months. As a consequence, the versatility and durability of our technical outerwear is critical to our daily work in the the field. This year, we chose the Outdoor Research Lodestar Jacket as our go-to softshell jacket for all winter endeavors.
I’ll spare you the suspense: the Lodestar Jacket is perhaps OR’s finest effort at a workhorse softshell ice and alpine climbing jacket to date. Our guides prefer working in a softshell jacket given the nature of our conditions here in SW Colorado – low humidity and super cold temps don’t necessarily call for Gore-Tex.
They do call for a jacket that can perform in all conditions and function well doing so. I’m happy to report that the Lodestar does it all. Here’s an example: guiding two clients up the classic Stairway to Heaven in Silverton’s Eureka Canyon. We need a jacket that climbs well and can be worn all day without the need to mess with other insulating jackets to stay warm. The beauty of the Lodestar is that you can wear it all day and it is warm enough (especially with the hood up) that you can climb up and rappel down Stairway to Heaven without putting another layer on – or find it necessary to take the Lodestar off.
The trim fit of the jacket eliminates any extra fabric that can bunch up and get in your way while climbing. I’ve found that the arm length of the jacket is perfect for when you are reaching for a tool placement – meaning that the cuff does not ride up and expose your wrist to the elements. The trim cut of the jacket affords you the ability to layer underneath, but does not allow you to over do it. Doing so would lead to over-heating anyway because the next feature of the jacket that I like is it’s……….
This is by far one of the warmest soft-shell jackets I’ve ever worn. The combination of the Polartec Powershield Pro and Polartec Powershield High Loft is perfectly balanced throughout the jacket to achieve both warm and breathability. The overall warmth of the jacket gives you the flexibility to wear a bit lighter layers underneath the jacket, limiting the complexity of your clothing layers – which I consider to be a major bonus in a workhorse softshell jacket.
This might be a small detail to some, but the functionality of the zippers on a jacket is a major factor to me when I consider the overall quality of the piece – especially when considering you are usually messing with such things in a gloved hand. I’ve found that I really appreciate the larger teeth on the zippers of the Lodestar because they are simply easier to handle and don’t snag unnecessarily on excess fabric near the teeth of the zipper. Not to be overlooked – the pit zippers function perfectly in each direction, a feature that I’ve found underdeveloped and poorly executed in other types/brands of jackets that I’ve worn over the years.
I like the placement of the pockets on this jacket, and they haven’t overdone it with too many in all the wrong places. A simple left-hand chest pocket is sized just right for a small point-and-shoot camera which is handy for taking quick pics of your friend following the pitch. The zippered hand pockets fit well over a harness and still allow you access when you’re all cinched up in your harness. To boot, the pockets are formed with a tight mesh lining that would seem to increase breathability. I am a little suspicious of the durability of this feature of the jacket but I don’t often put sharp things into my jacket pockets so I’m not too worried.
On the Lodestar Jacket, a few more details really set the piece apart. The hood fits over a helmet perfectly and is easily maneuverable without having to unzip the jacket. The draw cord on the waist maintains its adjustment and does not routinely come loose during the course of the day. Overall, all the features of the jacket are extremely well thought out and executed by the design and development team at Outdoor Research.
If you’re in the market for a new ice/alpine jacket – look no further. Alpine objectives await in the the newly redesigned Lodestar Jacket!
AMGA Certified Rock & Alpine Guide