I’ve been searching for a lightweight, practical layer that feels good on the skin, and sheds wind and light precipitation. The Outdoor Research Whirlwind is something I stumbled upon, and immediately wanted. It is a simply designed lightweight soft shell designed with many uses in mind. I’ve worn it around town, and for a few windy casual bike rides. I will definitely be wearing it climbing year round.
Build: It is made from a stretch woven fabric that is a mix of 87% recycled polyester and 13% spandex. As I mentioned it is soft and feels great on the skin over a t-shirt. The stretch allows for excellent range of motion. It is a half-zip pullover soft shell with a hood that’s stretchy enough to pull over any sized head, and could go over a helmet, but would cause the jacket not to fit properly because it will be pulled up.
Fit: Labeled as a Trim Fit, I would agree. I ordered a small which fits me perfectly (~6′, 165lbs, narrow shoulders). The lower half of the jacket fits snug around the waist, which makes it interesting to put on and take off as it gets slightly caught on my upper torso and I have to roll it down. That snug fit will definitely come in handy when wearing a pack or harness, and while lifting arms above your head. The overall fit is trim, but not restrictive. As soon as you put in on you can just tell that you’ll have full freedom of movement.
Features: Two awesome features with the OR Whirlwind. First, is the classic napoleon pocket stuff sack. While wearing the jacket this pocket us the perfect size for a phone and granola bar or two. What is nice about the small size of the pocket is that you know it’ll stuff down nice and small, about the size of a tennis ball, with room to make it even smaller when stuffing into a pack. It also has a loop on it to attach to a harness or backpack for quick weather changes.
Second favorite feature is the cuffs at the wrist. Overall the wrist is the perfect fit. Not too tight, but tight enough that it doesn’t move around on you, and they also stay on your arms if you push your sleeves up. Here’s where it gets magical: There is an extra piece of fabric folded over the cuff, that will unfold and become a hand warmer cave of delight on morning or day hikes that are just a bit colder. (See video below for another example)
Performance: OR labels this as water and wind resistant. I have not tested this in light rain yet, but it feels and looks water resistant enough to shed light weather. I mostly bought this for the wind-blocking. Even though they say its only wind resistant, multiple reviews said it pretty windproof. Which is why I bought it. After riding around on a windy day, I’ll say it is 85%-90% windproof. Definitely enough to block gusts, and shed light wind.
Selfie face while bike riding. Totally safe. Notice the wind hair happening, and the wind blocking ability of the hood.
Cons: I’m always one that struggles to find negatives in things. This is another one of those cases. I do have some minor things I’ve noticed though. The zipper closure when it is stuffed down into its pocket, does not feel as sturdy as others. There is also a piece of fabric around the zipper when it’s inside out that just doesn’t look as clean, but shouldn’t affect performance. I also think the hood could have some cinch cords, but since it is not designed to stop rain and precipitation, it is not a huge drawback.
Conclusion: This is going to be a new favorite piece and a go-to when the weather doesn’t look too bad. It’s something that you can put on at the beginning of a day of climbing and leave on until you leave the bar later. Looks good, feels good, and performs well.
Best Uses: Year-round rock climbing and hiking/backpacking, aerobic spring and fall activities, all in good/moderate weather.
Last seasons Whirlwind video (Some features no longer on newer jacket)
Outdoor Research Whirlwind Softshell, $99. Men’s and Women’s version available here.
Reviewed by Ryan, 2nd best adventure-selfie taker. Chris is 1st..