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 onto your helmet. The heat that rises and falls inside your jacket between each pitch.

Designing a fabric technology that can keep you dry but also release all your surplus heat was a challenge we at Outdoor Research took on with pleasure. The dream fabric 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.

We took those dreams, tested a solution, and named it AscentShell™ technology: Active waterproof stretch.

“We’re fabric geeks,” says Jason Duncan, Head of Innovation at OR. “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.”

AscentShell is an Outdoor Research exclusive, proprietary fabric that’s a waterproof, breathable three-layer fabric that broadens your comfort zone during aerobic effort throughout changing conditions. It’s created by an electrospinning 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.

This process also allows all AscentShell™ gear to be soft to the touch and keep a great mechanical stretch while remaining waterproof. That’s why we keep talking about Active Waterproof Stretch.

Today, you can find AscentShell™ in some of our best-selling and top rated hard shell jackets that run the gamut of outdoor activity.

  • The Interstellar Jacket is the evolution of the hard shell that started it all, and Outside Magazine’s choice for its famed 2018 Gear of the Year award. It’s our favorite pick for alpine climbing and high-exertion, cold and windy excursions above treeline, packed with the technical features you need to push the limits.
  • The Skyward II Jacket and Pants make the most bomber ski touring kit for alpinists that prefer to set the pace and skin track for their crew. Complete protection against ice, snow, wind, and whatever else the forecast throws your way, the Skyward have been a best seller and fan favorite season after season.
  • The Guardian Jacket is the no-frills hard shell for active folks who always seem to be moving, whether it’s hiking a local trail, embarking on a summit push, or enduring a rainy commute.
  • The Microgravity Jacket is the newest to the AscentShell™ Collection, providing breathable waterproof comfort built for the high alpine and outperforms everywhere else. In the high alpine, you need a hard shell that can withstand brutual, wet, windy weather with constantly changing temps. You also need a shell that can breathe when your're working hard uphill, the Microgravity Jacket checks all the boxes.

While we originally designed AscentShell™ with jackets in mind, its versatility and multi-use jobs (plus, feedback from our ever-scrutinizing athlete team) quickly demanded we expand this fabric into other products.

  • This season, we took what Outside Magazine, our athletes, and dedicated OR product testers loved about the Interstellar Jacket and translated it into the Interstellar Bivy and Interstellar Rain Bucket Hat. Both do the job of a waterproof breathable hard shell, and then some. Whether you’re hiking in a muggy forest or zipped up at camp, the newly expanded Interstellar Collection is your key to staying dry and comfortable even when the forecast says WET.
  • The Stargazer Bivy is another new shelter expansion of the AscentShell™ fabric that celebrates a night well spent under the stars, with a view to boot.

Words got us this far, but to truly appreciate AscentShell you need to feel it, get outside in it, and put it through the ringer to really appreciate all it can offer. Check out the video to see AscentShell in action, and consider comfort the next time you’re shopping for a hard shell.

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