Outdoor Research Axiom Jacket
Size Tested: Medium
Front zipper length: 28.5”
Color Tested: Glacier
Manufacturer’s Stated Weight: 13.5 oz
- Fabric: Gore-Tex Active (w/ light, 20 denier face fabric); slightly stretchy feel
- Fully seam taped
- Water-resistant zippers
- Drawcord adjustable helmet compatible hood
- Drawcord hem
- Internal front-zip storm flap
- Zippered napoleon pocket with media port
- Two Zippered Hand Pockets (left hand pocket doubles as stuff sack)
- Hook & loop cuff closures
Reviewer Info: 5’ 10”, 170 lbs.
Test Duration: 6 months
Locations Tested: Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, Lost Trail Powder Mountain, & Bogus Basin, Idaho; Mission Mountains Wilderness, Montana; North and South Islands, New Zealand
I don’t have the room in my closet (nor the $$) for multiple waterproof / breathable shells to use for specific purposes. I prefer having one jacket to use for various outdoor pursuits, year-round, from week-long backpacking trips and mountain biking in the summer, to ski touring in the winter.
With this in mind, Outdoor Research’s Axiom jacket seemed like it would fit the bill. Outdoor Research says that it is “engineered for fast-and-light alpine climbs and all-day lapping of untracked slopes.” The jacket has a light, minimal design (which I figured would make it nice and packable) and is made with Gore-Tex Active, a very breathable and waterproof fabric that Paul Forward spoke highly of in his review of the Mountain Equipment Firefox.
I wear a size Medium in pretty much everything, so I tested the Axiom in a Medium over the last six months and found OR’s description of the jacket as having a Slim Fit to be accurate; it has “a close cut that moves with the wearer.”
The Axiom’s fit is slightly tighter in the torso and arms than the GoLite Phantom jacket, for example, which is said to have a traditional fit.
Lengthwise, the Axiom’s cut is on the shorter side, with a front zipper length of 28.5”. Despite this, I have yet to feel any unwanted drafts while wearing the Axiom backpacking, and I haven’t had any issues with snow getting up under the jacket while touring (though admittedly, I’ve only skied in bibs while wearing the Axiom).
The sleeve length on the Axiom is just right for me, and doesn’t seem particularly long or short. Outdoor Research hems the fabric around the cuffs diagonally, with a bit of extra material left on the outside of the sleeve. I’ve found this to be a really nice touch when wearing ski gloves; the sleeves’ cuffs sit perfectly, and I experienced no issues with them riding up and over the cuffs of my gloves.
The sleeves articulate well, too, and never restricted my movement when swinging an axe or reaching overhead, thanks in part to the slight stretch afforded by the Active Shell fabric.
The more athletic, alpine-inspired fit of the Axiom can limit your layering options, however. Namely, the jacket’s arms don’t accommodate thicker layers as well as a skiing-specific shell with a more relaxed fit. Because of this, I often layered a Patagonia Nano Puff vest under the shell instead of a Nano Puff jacket to give my arms a bit more space.
All in all, the Axiom’s fit is slightly tighter in the torso and arms than your standard shell, but, as OR says, the jacket does do a good job of moving with you. If you don’t tend to pile a lot of layers under your shell, the Axiom’s slimmer fit shouldn’t be an issue. But if you want to use it on really cold resort ski days with a thick down parka underneath, I’d consider sizing up in the Axiom, or look at a more skiing-specific shell with slightly looser fit (like the Arc’teryx Rush, for example).
The Axiom is billed as a minimalist, fast-and-light alpine-style shell. I tend to think of minimalist shells as having few to no features like drawcords or pockets, and in that sense, the Axiom is certainly not minimalist. It has three pockets and a helmet-compatible hood with a drawcord, so I’d call it simple rather than minimal.
The Axiom’s most significant feature is its Gore-Tex Active fabric, a lightened version of Gore Pro that breathes slightly better than Pro, but is just as waterproof. I’ll say more about this in the Waterproofing and Breathability sections below.
Weight / Packability
I’d say the second most attractive feature of the Axiom is its light weight; at 13.5oz, it’s definitely the lightest hard shell I’ve ever used, and probably the most packable.
The jacket’s left pocket doubles as it’s own stuff sack, and it packs down to a rectangle roughly the size of a meaty sandwich. This really came in handy as I jammed it and a month’s worth of gear into a 35-liter daypack for a trip to New Zealand.
The Axiom has two front pockets with 9” waterproof zippered openings. The pockets themselves are backed by a thin mesh material, allowing them to double as vents, and are big enough to hold a granola bar or two each.
It’s very nice that the pockets on the Axiom are positioned higher up than traditional hand pockets, so they’re still accessible when you’re wearing a pack with a hip belt or a climbing harnesses. The 6.5” Napoleon pocket also has a waterproof zipper, and is the perfect size for a smartphone and credit card.