Outdoor Research Woman's Igneo jacket

Author: [ smburt ]   Contact Author: smburtMon Jan 11 20:41:34 UTC 2010

I'll have to start this review with a caveat: I have always had issues with insulated jackets. This unshakable bias certainly colours my view of the Igneo, but I will do my best to maintain journalistic integrity in all other aspects of the garment.

The Women's Igneo jacket from Outdoor Research is described as “the ultimate waterproof/breathable insulation”, featuring 2-layer Pertex Shield (an ultra-thin synthetic membrane with a nylon face fabric), EnduraLoft insulation and taped seams. It's a piece designed for both resort skiing and side country ventures.

Let's start with what I like about it. The thing is definitely waterproof. Not wanting to risk a rain test in the backcountry, I stood in the shower (high jet) with it on for five minutes or so. Not a drop got in, not even through the zippers. With the "prove it to me first" test out of the way, I have found the same result on wet BC hikes since. The construction also seems very quality, I have no doubts about the durability of the thing.

The Igneo seems to be a perfect shell for those cold days where you aren't sure if you'll be pelted with rain, or wet snow. It's warm enough for light activity at 10 below (C) to virtually no activity at plus 15. The pockets zip closed, are well-placed for tucking hands into and there is a small chest pocket which is perfect for cell phones, i-pods or some cash for that apres-ski poutine. The hood is a good size, has one-hand cinching and provides decent peripheral vision. The snow-skirt is a nice touch and begs for this jacket to be taken on some powder turns.

It is also a very stylish piece; I receive compliments every time I venture onto the streets of Rossland (a town where the majority of people are decked in ski/outdoor gear at all times, and have an appreciation for such things). The men's jacket comes in one colour, the women's in two-tone.

Now... let's get to the issues. The insulation baffles me. When feeling around the inside of the jacket, I get the impression that a thin fleece has been sewn into the shell. I expected EnduraLoft to be a synthetic down-type filling, packing into the gap between inner and outer linings. I can't help but feel that a quality waterproof shell has been ruined by forever marrying a mediocre insulation layer to it. The best thing an outdoor garment company can do for a consumer is give them the freedom to layer. This jacket is now too warm to wear on a moderate day, and not hardy enough to keep the core warm in serious cold.

The breathability of Pertex fabric is compromised by the fleece liner; the more layers you add to a jacket, the harder it is for air and moisture to escape. This brings me to my next problem – the bulk. Both my down jacket and my gortex shell are lighter and far easier to stash into a pack, which makes me loathe to reach for the Igneo on my way out to a lengthy excursion. Perhaps this is why it's designed more for side or front country use, over longer adventures.

I took the Igneo on a snowshoe outing on the Record Ridge trail; it was a sunny day, perhaps 2 degrees C. During the high-output climbs I had to ditch the outer layer and found it took up every last molecule of space in my pack, and weighed me down considerably more than I would have liked.

Finally, the fit is rather snug. I wear a medium top in everything, and never find it to be an issue. The Igneo fits rather tight around the upper arms and chest (and I am by no means what you'd call bosomly) and does not allow for anything but the thinnest layer underneath. This last point is important if you want to wear the Igneo in really cold weather, because it does not allow for pairing with a medium-weight fleece or wool sweater. The cut is rather archaic, with a straight hem that sits a little below the hip, providing no bum coverage at all.

In summary, the Igneo would be a good value for under $200, but for the MSRP of $350, you could do better. It makes a good-looking, durable and efficient jacket for low to mid-output activities in moderately cold weather where there is possibility of rain. It actually seems to be perfectly suited for resort skiing, both in its look and function. I wear it on the hill all the time (except on chilly days, when it's a let-down on the lift).

But if you're looking for an all-around adventure technical shell, the Igneo just doesn't cut it. The mandatory insulation limits its seasonality and you'd be better served saving space in your pack for the essentials.

-Ida Koric
guest reviewer
Rossland, BC

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