This Week’s Gear Review: OR Zealot Spreads Religion

Post by blogger | September 25, 2007      

We’re heaping up the gear for this winter’s backcountry skiing adventures, so here is our weekly equipment review (back to our “10 Things” tomorrow). Big test these days is comparo of Delorme Topo USA and National Geo Topo!, but that one is taking a while, groan. In the meantime, some interesting clothing has been flying in from Outdoor Research. In particular, their Zealot shell jacket has us buzzing. Is this the solution to our nearly religious quest for the low mass shell appropriate for wear over a softshell parka? Perhaps it is — as this thing is so light that cutting the labels out actually makes a difference.

Outdoor Research Zealot Jacket for backcountry skiing.
OR Zealot

Our idea with jackets such as the Zealot is they’re something almost always stowed in our packs, and used on rare occasions when our soft shell jackets don’t cut it. To that end it’s got to be simple, super light, but still waterproof. Made with the Gore-Tex Paclite minimalist waterproof/breathable fabric, Zealot fits the bill at 7.7 ounces (220 gr). With fabric this thin it’s not going to function as body armor for tree skiing, but it’s still strong enough to be functional — any thinner would be problematic.

The hood works and even fits over a helmet (though it’s thin enough to wear under a helmet, and perhaps more comfortable that way). The only pocket is a small slash on the front, and that’s how it should be; who wants to haul the weight of fabric for pockets that might never get used? Only disappointment is our usual gripe about the hood not stowing in a way that functions as a collar, but with this shell’s Northwest heritage one must assume the hood is probably designed to be used. Come to think of it, if our use is for extreme conditions that principle probably applies to us as well.

In all, thumbs up for the Zealot being a terrific emergency top-layer for your favorite soft shell jacket.

Shop for Men’s Zealot Jacket (now called the Helium) here.

Jacket tags
Definition of light: Remove all the tags and feel a difference.



6 Responses to “This Week’s Gear Review: OR Zealot Spreads Religion”

  1. Tony September 25th, 2007 10:12 am

    Lou, what sort of cuff does the Zealot have? I have a similar Patagonia shell from a few years ago with elastic cuffs, which can only fit under the gauntlet of my gloves. In a heavy sleet storm on Ranier, the rain ran down my sleeves into my gloves, obviating their waterproof qualities.

    Does the Zealot have velcro cuffs? Would that solve the problem I describe above?

  2. Ron E September 25th, 2007 10:16 am

    I’ve been using the Zealot for the past year and have been extremely happy with it. Yes, it stays in my pack most of the time, but its light weight and small packed size means it’s an easy decision to pack it rather than leave it at home. The OR Celestial pants, made of the same material, are also in my pack (7.8 oz./221 g for size L). That gives you complete hard shell protection, when required, at less than one pound. When I’ve needed to use these shells, they have performed admirably.

    OR seems to be paying a lot of attention to making clean, light, functional and affordable clothing right now. You may want to check out their soft shells and puffy jackets (this year’s new Fraction even has a hood) as well.

  3. Tom G September 25th, 2007 10:24 am

    Lou, one problem I always find with superlight jackets of this type is that the maker often cuts weight by triming the fit really close. This is fine if you are going to wear the jacket while moving fast and you don’t need many layers, but it’s a problem in a real emergency situation where you need a storm shell over maybe a down jacket. You can probably mitigate this by purchasing a size larger, or with a heavier waterproof insulation layer, but it would be nice if the clothing manufactures would make a hard shell that really functions with a soft shell system for limited emergency use.

  4. Ron E September 25th, 2007 10:38 am

    I usually wear size L and have found that the OR Zealot L allows me to easily wear it over my softshell (or even a light puffy coat if the weather gets really nasty, although this is a bit of a tight fit). My experience is that the Zealot has ample room for layering/ease of movement without being boxy.

  5. Lou September 25th, 2007 12:44 pm

    Good points you guys.

    I tested Zealot yesterday by taking a long walk in a drizzle with it over a puff jacket and it had plenty of room. The cuffs are indeed simple elastic, but the sleeves are long enough and the cuffs stretch out enough to pull them over the glove gauntlet.

    They couldn’t make a jacket this light and still have things like Velcro cuffs. Perhaps nearly as light, but not this light…

    This thing is impressive, but I wouldn’t make it my primary winter hardshell, though I’d use it for my backpacking rain shell in places like Wind Rivers or Colorado Rockies.

  6. Ian Fleming March 25th, 2008 8:34 pm

    Great Blog! Really enjoyed the last post, full of handy tips and interesting comments!

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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