#ORInsightLab Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Trailbreaker Jacket

A close-up look at the Trailbreaker in Vermont.
(Photo: L. Bender)
When it comes to dressing for adventures in the cold, layering is arguably the most important thing to consider. That is, next to leaving all things cotton at home, of course.

A layering system that will help you manage your body temperature to avoid sweating while helping you stay warm is essential.If I'm planning a cold weather adventure that'll get my heart rate up, I'll typically sport a thin long sleeved baselayer, a vest or a fleece as an insulating layer, and a softshell or hardshell jacket, depending on conditions.  

The Outdoor Research Women's Trailbreaker Jacket is designed to provide weather protection and warmth for the wearer, but the jacket's breathability and other features also make it ideal for managing body temperature. I took the Trailbreaker Jacket out to play on trails in Pennsylvania and Vermont to see how it held up as a layering piece for cold weather fun.

The Outdoor Research team's goal was to create a jacket with more weather protection than the Ferrosi Hoody, another technical softshell, without sacrificing weight and breathability. Like the Ferrosi, the Trailbreaker is a softshell jacket, meaning it's not designed to be entirely waterproof, but still provides the right amount of protection in the cold. I was surprised to feel how much the fabric stretches, which is ideal for winter adventures that involve a good bit of movement like ski touring, snowshoeing, even hiking and backpacking. I also was surprised to notice a real difference in fit and feel with the articulated elbows.

Taking a break to look around in Vermont. (Photo: L. Bender)
The Women's Trailbreaker is wind resistant, which I was glad for when the wind whipped around the hills in Vermont, and the waterproof Pertex® Shield+ shoulders and hood kept the parts of my body most exposed to the snow protected. I dumped some water on the jacket for good measure before heading out; the water beaded up and slid right off. When I got too warm outdoors, I used the pit zips and front zipper to let air in. And if I got too cold, the wire brimmed hood helped keep my head warm without affecting my peripheral vision. The hook/loop cuff closures and the drawcord hem help keep even more warmth in and more snow out.

For such a lightweight layering piece (14.7 oz) that does so much in the way of protection from the elements, the Women's Trailbreaker is also designed to help you carry a whole bunch of stuff. The zippered front pocket, where I normally store lip balm and other small items, also has a media port. Two internal pockets and two zippered hand pockets can hold just about everything else you'll need, though I was wary of storing too much in the un-zippered internal pockets. And if you're using the jacket for ski touring, Outdoor Research designed in an in-pocket goggle wipe with a tether.

The jacket's internal stash pockets are big enough
for a water bottle, though I'd recommend storing
something softer in them! (Photo: S. Washinger)
With respect to fit, the Women's Trailbreaker runs true to size. The medium fit me perfectly, though the sleeves are almost too short for my approximately 70-inch wingspan. If I reach my arms above my head, the sleeves hit about an inch above my wrist; I'd love it if they were an inch or two longer. It's also not boxy like some softshells can be; it's flattering, and the Alpine Lake/Night color combination is great. If blue isn't your cup of tea, the jacket also comes in green and black.

The Trailbreaker performed well in a variety of conditions, which sealed its fate as my go-to top layer this winter. I wore the jacket in 10-20ºF temperatures as a top layer over a thin baselayer and a vest, and was easily able to manage my body temperature with the zippers. I also wore it on a  hike over a single baselayer in 40ºF weather and was on the edge being too warm, but used the pit zips to let some heat out.

Overall, I'm a huge fan of the Women's Trailbreaker. It's lightweight, fits well, and is clearly thoughtfully designed. I love the concept of a jacket that balances breathability with protection exactly where you'll need it most during snowy adventures.

And though the Trailbreaker is specifically designed for ski touring, I found it perfect for layering up for a variety of cold weather adventures. It's the perfect balance between breathability and protection from the elements.

As part of the #ORInsightLab team this winter, Outdoor Research provided me with a complimentary jacket to test. As always, the opinions expressed here are my own. What do you think of the Trailbreaker? What's your favorite cold weather top layer? I'd love to hear from you!


V said…
Am an OR fan. Have a Ferrosi hoody andAlibi jacket. Wonder where Trailbreaker would fit in.
Katie L said…
I haven't tried either, unfortunately, but OR has a great piece about how the jacket was designed! http://www.outdoorresearch.com/blog/gear-geek/designed-by-adventure-the-trailbreaker-pants-and-jacket1