Designed By Adventure: The Realm Jacket

When you’re pushing hard above tree line, change might be the only constant. A puckering wind that wasn’t there below the ridgeline. The on-again-off-again graupel pattering and then melting on your helmet. The heat that rises and falls inside your jacket between each pitch. Designing a jacket that can keep you dry but also exhale all your surplus heat was a challenge we at Outdoor Research took on with pleasure.

The dream jacket would feel soft to the hand, fit snug under a harness, be seam taped and water repelling, and still stretch and move with every reach and twist. It would be the Realm Jacket—a streamlined jacket that functions like both your favorite hard shell and your favorite soft shell. It will change the way you think about hard shell jackets.

[Outdoor Research Ambassador Peter Doucette below the crux pitch of Comesaña/Fonrouge on Aguja Guillaumet in wintery conditions, Patagonia.]

The magic ingredient for such a jacket? The breakthrough AscentShell fabric technology.

“We’re fabric geeks,” says Jason Duncan, OR Director of Apparel. “We spend a lot of time getting the perfect fabric. We never give up or do half measures…our athletes would hold our feet to the fire.”

This proprietary fabric is a waterproof, breathable triple layer that broadens your comfort zone during aerobic effort throughout changing conditions. It’s created by an electrospun process where charged polymers are affixed to a grounded surface. Those polymers gather into a breathable membrane that, under a microscope, you can see forming a web that allows sweat vapors out but stops water from coming in. That means comfort in both external precip and internal exertion.

[OR Ambassador Peter Doucette packing up camp at Piedra Negra on the way to climb Mate, Porro y Todo lo Demás, on the North Pillar of Fitz Roy, Patagonia.]

This process also allows the Realm Jacket to be soft to the touch and keep a great mechanical stretch while remaining waterproof. Adam George, a France-based OR Ambassador and owner/guide of Into the Mountains, has used the Realm Jacket extensively for ski touring and ice climbing.

“The fabric has a nice feel, a bit softer than most rain jackets or ‘shell’ materials,” Adam says. “Many lightweight shells on the market have a plastic feel, but the Realm Jacket is much softer and more comfortable.”

Assembled with the AscentShell membrane, the Realm Jacket is finished with 100% abrasion-resistant nylon 20D on the exterior and 100% polyester 12D interior. Melanie Sirirot, OR Apparel Product Manager, describes it as “fast and light.” At 10.9 ounces, you’ll barely notice it’s in your pack, she says.

To break it down, the Realm Jacket’s fabric is minimal yet protective, soft yet abrasion-resistant, and waterproof yet breathable, so its coverage is just as versatile as the changing conditions you’ll be using it in.

But we weren’t content to stop with an amazing fabric. The revolutionary jacket we dreamed of would have to feature details just as thoughtful as the material.

Adam and Melanie agree that packability is one of the jacket’s best perks. “The jacket stuffs into an interior pocket, constructed to have shell side out for better durability when it’s packed,” says Melanie. “Then it easily clips onto a harness.”

[OR Ambassador Peter Doucette descending after climbing Rubio y Azul 6c, Media Luna, Patagonia.]

The jacket’s chest pockets are easily accessible even when you’re wearing it tucked into a harness, and the right-side pocket has a small mesh organizer pocket inside.

Other details like the Realm’s taped seams, YKK® AquaGuard® zippers and a front zipper storm flap make sure no unwanted moisture sneaks in. The hood’s toggles in both the front and back and its wire construction let you shape it to exactly the right size—with or without a helmet—and keep it from slumping in the way. The lightly reinforced brim blocks pesky precipitation from your face.

At the cuffs, slight stretch with hook-and-loop closures let you seal off outside exposure with or without gloves while the elastic drawcord at the hem locks out external elements from below.

The Realm Jacket is cut with an athletic, trim fit, but the underarm panels are made with Dynamic Reach™ material so you can reach for that perfect tool placement—or the top-shelf whiskey—without the whole jacket sliding halfway up your torso.

“I’ve used the Realm Jacket on some of Europe’s classic hut trips, including the famous Haute Route. It did a great job of keeping me dry from snow storms…and then as a wind breaker during nice weather,” Adam says.

Highly breathable and waterproof, super soft and yet ruggedly abrasion resistant, trim yet stretchy, the Realm is a combination of seemingly opposite—though extremely desirable—traits. That’s the formula that makes the Realm the go-to jacket for any high-exertion alpine days, from sunny and cold to blowing and wet, and everything in between.


Photos by Bernd Zeugswetter.