By Matthew Claudel
on 12.6.11
Photo by MC

Outdoor activity is unpleasant when: A). you are wet; B). your pack is too heavy; or C) when you are not wearing and Outdoor Research Axiom Jacket with Gore-Tex Active Shell (which, conveniently, solves all of these problems). Gore-Tex –- a name that needs no introduction — recently unveiled the latest advancement in its long line of high-performance fabric. It’s called Active Shell. Comprised of three-layer laminate that Gore-Tex touts as compact, waterproof and windproof, its key feature is mobility.

According to Gore-Tex, athletes “want extremely lightweight, minimalist outdoor apparel where every gram counts and where outstanding functionality is partnered by an attractive, sporty look,” – pretty bold claims from the people at Gore-Tex, we think.

To test, we went hands-on with Gore-Tex Active Shell in a place you’re most likely to come across the fabric, a jacket. To be specific, the new Outdoor Research Axiom Jacket, one of the first designed with the material. Of course, tt also served as the perfect excuse to get outdoors for some early winter testing, exactly the season Active Shell is designed for.

From the moment you pick it up, the standout experience with the Axiom is how unusual the fabric feels –- sheer but slightly elastic, soft, unbelievably thin, almost liquid-like. Throw it on and it hugs your body. Or do some jumping jacks. The Axiom isn’t going to get in your way thanks to the Active Shell fabric (and lots of well-tailored engineering). But the most impressive thing about this shell is that it works just as well protecting you from harsh weather as it does in providing breathable moisture wicking. It performs beautifully as both a windbreaker on a crisp bike ride, as an outer layer for bouldering, and as a shell for trail running. Water-resistant hardware, clever pocket design, and adjustable everything also help. The only possible concern is durability — while it’s remarkable as a high-performance, light, versatile material, we’re not 100% certain that it will stand up well to abrasion and impact, but we’re digging deep on that one.

Our verdict? Active Shell technology is the latest in a long line of outstanding products from Gore-Tex, and you won’t have to concern yourself with failing to stand up to the elements. Say hello to the new go-to material for the Renaissance Outdoorsman.

Buy Now: $375 | Learn More

Photos by Matthew Claudel