Outdoor Research Aspire Super Stretch Jacket Review
Are you looking for a rain jacket that can handle some serious storms? How about a jacket that handles all adventures, not just thru-hiking? Or do you wish your current shell provided a bit more mobility? See if the Outdoor Research Aspire Super Stretch Jacket (or the men’s counterpart, the Foray Super Stretch) is right for you.
Outdoor Research Aspire Super Stretch Jacket At-a-Glance
Weight: 12.7 oz (360g)
Materials: Gore-Tex 50D Paclite
Size range: XS-XXL
Men’s version: Outdoor Research Foray Super Stretch Jacket
Circumstances of Review
I tested the Aspire Super Stretch backpacking in the Adirondacks, as well as canoeing, biking, and hiking in both rainy Ontario and the United Kingdom from September to February.
This jacket is overkill for good-weather trails like the Arizona Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail’s southern segments. However, it’s perfect for wet-weather trails where you absolutely need dependable rain gear. I would bring this jacket for a Great Divide Trail hike, shoulder season Appalachian Trail hiking, or anything in the Pacific Northwest.
This jacket is also fantastic as a do-it-all option. If you’re spending almost $300 on a jacket that should last years, you’ll want to be able to wear it in almost any situation. The helmet-compatible hood makes it a great choice for cycling or climbing, and it’s attractive enough to wear around town.
Fit and Comfort
I tested the size small. It was true to size for me, with enough room to layer underneath. I did find the sleeves a little long since they went down over my fingers. However, when wearing a backpack, the straps pull the sleeves up a little, and they fit perfectly.
The Aspire Super Stretch features both a soft fleecy patch on the inside of the collar and a hidden storm zipper covering on the inside of the jacket. Both of these mean no irritation from the zipper, even in wet, cold conditions.
Aspire / Foray Super Stretch Jacket Features
The Outdoor Research Aspire Super Stretch is loaded with features. Here are a few you’ll care about.
This is the real reason to buy this jacket. GORE-TEX fabric is insanely waterproof. There were no leaky seams, and I wasn’t able to test this jacket to the point where it wetted out despite wearing it for hours in pouring rain over a five-month period. The brimmed hood keeps water off your face, and the adjustable cuffs keep rain from running up your sleeves. This jacket is about as waterproof as you can get without wearing a full paddling drysuit.
The stretchy, elastane-integrated GORE-TEX panel in the back is why Outdoor Research thinks you should buy this jacket over other options. The panel gives you more arm mobility and flexibility. But, to be honest, I just didn’t care about it for backpacking. I don’t need the added mobility for regular hiking, and I stay away from scrambles when it’s raining. It adds an ounce over the regular women’s Aspire II jacket. If you are only going to use this jacket for thru-hiking, I don’t think it’s worth upgrading to the Aspire Super Stretch over the Aspire II.
However, if you’re also into anything that does require more arm movement (scrambling, mountaineering, paddling… the list is long), you’ll appreciate the added mobility. I frequently canoe in the rain, and this jacket is absolutely made for that. It’s nice to have a jacket that really can do it all in your closet.
This jacket is about as breathable as any other truly waterproof jacket on the market: which is to say, not very. If I’m working up a sweat with all of the zippers closed, the inside of the jacket gets damp fairly quickly. However, the breathability of the fabric isn’t an issue at all due to the next feature.
The pit zips on this jacket are crazy. Featuring a two-way zipper, you can unzip all the way from your waist to your bicep, either keeping the bottom closed or unzipping it fully to turn your jacket halfway into a poncho. Breathability is less of a concern when you can expose your entire side to vent heat and sweat.
I was a little worried about having so many zippers sitting under my pack hip belt, but there was no chafing. The pit zips do have a tendency to unzip themselves from the bottom, especially when I wear lots of layers underneath, however never to the point that I worried about inadvertently exposing myself to rain.
The Aspire Super Stretch features adjustable cuffs: pretty standard stuff you’d expect on a high-quality jacket.
The Aspire Super Stretch features two front pockets and a single chest pocket. All are zippered, and one front pocket also features a clip to attach car keys or other small items. The two front pockets are inaccessible while wearing a hipbelt. It would be nice to see higher pockets that aren’t covered by hipbelts similar to Arc’teryx jackets, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker. Just put things you need access to in your hipbelt pockets instead. The chest pocket fits my phone perfectly and is accessible while wearing a pack in case you want access to something stored in a waterproof pocket.
The Aspire Super Stretch is one of the least packable backpacking jackets I’ve ever used. Technically, you can stuff it into one of the pockets if you try hard enough, but the lack of a two-way zipper makes it clear it wasn’t designed for this. It’s a little easier to roll it up and stuff it inside the hood, but that still leaves you with a lump the size of a Nalgene. I mostly hiked with it stuffed inside my pack’s front mesh, where it ate up valuable space.
Adjustable Brimmed Hood
The hood features a nice large brim: perfect for keeping the rain off your face. I did find it a little difficult to adjust the elastic tightening the hood while wearing the jacket, so you’ll want to set it to a tightness that you like before you’re stuck in a storm.
I only tested this rain jacket for five months, which doesn’t seem like a lot when it comes to durability. However, I’m very hard on my gear and have destroyed rain jackets in much less time. I’ve had serious durability issues with other Outdoor Research rain jackets, including breaking two Helium rain jackets on my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike in 2016 and shredding Helium rain pants in less than a week on my 2021 Great Divide Trail thru-hike.
Luckily, the GORE-TEX 50D Paclite fabric on the Aspire is much, much tougher than the Pertex fabric used on the Helium. This comes with a serious weight penalty, but after months of heavy use, there are no rips, tears, or wear on the fabric, and the seam taping on the inside of the jacket still looks new. I’m confident that this jacket will hold up for a long time.
At 12.7 ounces, this jacket is on the heavy side. However, you won’t be carrying it because it’s an ultralight option: you’ll want it for the heavy-duty waterproofness. If weight is more important to you than waterproofing, consider other options like the Outdoor Research Helium.
I tested the Aspire Super Stretch in Rhubarb. I adore the color: bright colors look better in photographs, and a vibrant red jacket helps me stay visible if I’m biking or walking around town. The jacket as a whole is fairly attractive. The hood looks a little goofy if you’re not wearing it with a helmet, but apart from that, I don’t feel like a fashion disaster walking around town.
Aspire Super Stretch Jackets are built with new GORE-TEX 50D Paclite fabric with a 100% recycled, bluesign-approved face and environmentally-friendly DWR finish that’s free of PFCs of environmental concern. Bluesign approval means that an independent auditor has checked all steps of the textile processing to ensure environmental impacts are reduced. If you’re a thru-hiker, you probably care about the environment, so it’s nice to know that your jacket is relatively sustainable.
Aspire /Foray Super Stretch Jacket Pros
Waterproofing: I would absolutely trust this jacket to keep me dry in awful weather. GORE-TEX is reliable, and the fabric is durable enough that it can take a beating in the worst conditions.
Pit Zips: Who cares about breathability when you can vent your entire side?
Attractive: The bright color looks fantastic in photos, and I don’t feel like I’m wearing a potato sack if I wear the jacket in town.
Aspire / Foray Super Stretch Jacket Cons
Weight and Packability: The Aspire Super Stretch is pretty heavy to carry unless you know you’ll be getting rained on, and it doesn’t pack down small at all.
Price: $299. Ouch. That’s enough to buy 15 pairs of Frogg Toggs, my normal go-to rain jacket. I’d absolutely buy this jacket for a bad weather trail where its reliability would outweigh the cost. But unless I know I’m going to be slogging through rain for days at a time, I’ll stick with the cheaper options.
The Outdoor Research Aspire Super Stretch is a solid choice if you’re looking for a reliable rain jacket that can handle days of rain. It transfers well to multisport adventures due to the stretchy back panel and helmet-compatible hood. However, it’s definitely overkill for good weather trails. If you’re hiking the PCT or AZT, you may want to consider lighter, cheaper options.
Comparable Rain Jackets
Fabric: Pertex Shield
Weight: 5.6 oz
Fabric: GORE-TEX Paclite
Weight: 11.3 oz
Fabric: GORE-TEX Pro
Weight: 13.8 oz
The Outdoor Research Aspire Super Stretch was donated for purpose of review.
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