Outdoor Research’s Vanguard jacket is a quality GORE-TEX shell that is ideal for hiking in the backcountry. For whatever reason, I had preconceptions about Outdoor Research’s gear being subpar to that of brands such as The North Face, Oakley or Dakine, but the Vanguard jacket shows that OR is there to outfit the most die hard of rippers for the most extreme conditions.
The first thing you notice about the Vanguard jacket is its style. Bold colors and attractive accents make for a good-looking outer layer. The jacket itself is a heavy soft shell providing legitimate warmth, but best when paired with some insulation on colder days. It has a powder skirt that you can detach with a small, hidden zipper as well as a detachable hood, held together with a small zipper and a beefy Velcro interlocking clasp on the collar. I guess it is nice that you can take the hood off, but I think it looks better on. Another feature that makes this a great backcountry jacket are the angled pit zips – typically the zips are right where you backpack straps are, rendering them less effective when you’re hiking. OR found a solution by angling the zips away from the straps thus allowing your jacket to breathe during long backcountry excursions.
The fit is pretty standard. At 5’ 11” and 155 pounds, with a slightly longer torso than average, a large fit me really well – comfortably loose with enough length in the bottom. It isn’t a long jacket, so if you like the look of a longer coat, the Vanguard might come up a little short. It has a media pocket that is accessed from an exterior zipper, but it has an interior port for your headphones, so you can have easy access, but still run a tight show. It also has a smaller pocket on the lower sleeve, great for a ski pass. This jacket is ready for anything.