The first thing you notice about Outdoor Research’s Lodestar is how fuzzy and cozy it is on the inside. It’s like your favourite sweater. It’s probably warmer than your favourite sweater, though — this jacket is designed for winter use and it shows.
The main body is made with Polartec Power Shield High Loft, which is the nice, fuzzy stuff that makes this jacket a fantastic pillow when rolled up. It’s also very warm, and the outer face is suitably weather-resistant, and though it isn’t waterproof it dries very quickly. This outer fabric is also quite durable, even though it doesn’t really feel like it would be. I haven’t been able to find any nicks or tears in it, anyway. The High Loft stuff also shows up on the sleeves, along the outer edge of your forearm.
The rest of the jacket, along with the hood, is made with windproof, waterproof Polartec Power Shield Pro. This is usually a lightweight fabric, but with a grid fleece backer as used here it is quite warm. It’s stretchy and tough, as befits a top-level softshell fabric. As mentioned, it is waterproof which is quite remarkable for a quiet, supple, softshell material. You can stand under a dripping icicle with this jacket on and you will not get wet!
The hood is large and easily fits over any helmet I’ve tried. It’s well designed and properly articulated, too, so you can look around comfortably without restriction. The cinch cords are routed internally so they don’t snag on stuff, and the rear hood cord is hidden under a piece of fabric for protection. The brim has a wire rim, which for me is a take-it-or-leave-it feature: it does what it’s supposed to but I’m not sure is absolutely necessary.
The Lodestar is very warm, and because I tend to run warm as well, I’m very thankful that it has pit-zips. The openings are not overly large but the zipper is big and easy to open — this isn’t one of those tiny, fiddly, coated zippers that require two hands to open — so I use the pit zips often (as in, most of the time).
All the zippers on the jacket are, in fact, of the large, easy-sliding, snag-free variety. This might add some weight but I prefer them for ease of opening, especially when it gets really cold. The main zip has dual sliders, which I don’t really get the purpose of in a shell-style jacket.
The pockets — two hand-warmer and one chest — are large and mesh-backed, so you can use them as additional venting (which I do!). The two hand-warmer pockets inevitably end up under a harness, so I’m really glad to have at least one chest pocket that is easily accessible when fully geared up. Due to the mesh backer, especially if you run as warm as I do, this is not a great pocket in which to store moisture-sensitive items, such as random route photocopies or (unprotected) phones.
Cuffs are nicely detailed, with a slightly longer cut over the back of the hand. Nice touch. There’s no elastic or stretchy bits but good old-fashioned velcro to cinch them tight. I like it, but it does add a bit of fabric bulk around the wrist area.
Finally, fit. The sleeves are long enough to keep your wrists warm, and remain tight over glove cuffs no matter how far you reach. The torso is fairly slim — just big enough for a couple of light layers underneath — and is well tapered to sit comfortably under a harness. Shoulder movement is unrestricted thanks to the built-in stretch and a roomy chest/shoulder cut. Overall length is a touch short, and I often found the front of the jacket had come untucked after a long pitch. The rear and side of the jacket stay put and it’s not really much of an issue but a slight annoyance nonetheless.
With winter back in the Bow Valley, I’ve been getting reacquainted with my winter outfits. It seems I really like the Lodestar, and other than the two handwarmer pockets I don’t have any complaints. If anything, it’s too warm — it has to be seriously cold for me to use this jacket to its full potential (and without overheating).
I’d like to see it lose the two handwarmer pockets, and gain a second chest pocket. The hem could be longer. But, most of all, I’d love to see a lighter weight version of this jacket, keeping the Power Shield Pro sections but replacing the High Loft with a lighter, more breathable fabric. (Could this be the new Iceline?!)
If you climb in cold, high, places, and love those chilly, mid-winter days, or you just tend to run really cold, this is the jacket to choose. It’s the warmest softshell I’ve ever used, and I really like it for those frigid days when the sun is low and the ice is in the shadows, but for me it’s just too warm for typical winter conditions.
Pros: warm, great fabrics, nice cut
Cons: hand-warmer pockets inevitably end up under a harness, a touch too short, too warm?!
Overall: The Lodestar is a great jacket for those who get really cold — or those who climb in really cold conditions.
Disclaimer: I am part of the OR Insight Lab team (?!) wherein I get gear to test and review (like this!), and I try to talk about it on social media. So, if you have any questions, please ask!
Also, if you’re interested in this jacket, use this link so OR (and I!) can track how many people actually read this stuff. 🙂