For a minute there, Old Man Winter was taking his sweet time waking up this season much to the chagrin of countless backcountry enthusiasts across the country. But recently he’s made a decisive and welcome appearance in the Wasatch mountains of Utah which has given me ample opportunity to test Outdoor Research’s Archangel Jacket in the face of his pow-filled breath.
Materials & Construction
Crafted using GORE-TEX’s highest quality material, GORE-TEX Pro(and its Pro Stretch variant), the Archangel Jacket is designed to be completely windproof and waterproof while retaining great breathability, durability, and a useful degree of stretch. This is exactly what one would hope for in a shell designed to put up with potentially technical, scrambly ascents on a regular basis.
The majority of the shell is constructed with GORE-TEX Pro and the stretchier version of GORE-TEX Pro can be found on the upper back panels, providing some noticeable give when extending one’s arms.
In practice, much of the claims made by GORE-TEX about this material rang true. I spent hours using this shell in trying conditions, and, as one would expect in a 3-layer GORE-TEX shell, I found it to indeed be completely wind and waterproof. Its breathability was also notable. It seemed that the Archangel’s GORE-TEX Pro material is slightly more breathable than GORE-TEX’s “Active” material which is saying a lot.
As long as I wasn’t going full gas and sweating an ungodly amount, I found that this Outdoor Research shell allowed me to ward off a massive accumulation of sweat, and the amount of moisture that did build up inside the shell ended up drying out over time which I found to be quite surprising! It did not at all feel like being trapped inside a garbage bag, which is all one can hope for when using a shell with such great weatherproof properties.
I was impressed by all the useful features this jacket has. For one, the main zipper is of the double zipper style which is great when using the shell for an extended period of time. When using the shell with a harness or backpack, the ability to unzip just the bottom for extra wiggle room while stationary is quite a luxury. Even unzipping the top and/or bottom during any given high-output effort for extra breathability is a welcome plus.
Like the main zipper, the pit zips are of the double zipper style which is great if you need to dial in where exactly you want your ventilation. However, this is a feature I could take or leave as the zippers themselves are quite bulky. And having two together in the wrong position can cause a bit of rubbing/catching while swinging one’s arms. But this is a minor gripe, as in practice the zippers are not too noticeable.
Perhaps this is due to my oversized noggin, but some of the jackets I’ve used previously that boast helmet compatibility end up creating the sensation that the entire jacket is being propped up by my helmet. This was not the case with the Archangel. The hood features two distinct modes for use with and without a helmet using a simple hook on the rear of the hood. In helmet mode, there’s plenty of space for a large ski or climbing helmet. And in hat mode, the hood hook combined with the easily accessible and glove-compatible elastic pulls reduce the volume in the hood greatly. You won’t have to worry about having the hood creep into your line of sight.
The Archangel features three pockets. There are two hip belt and climbing harness compatible front pockets with inner mesh pouches to keep things from bouncing around or sinking to the bottom of the pocket. These two pockets utilize the same zippers as the main zipper and pit zips, which I found to be smooth, burly, and glove-compatible. There’s also one inner chest pocket which is large enough for a large smartphone.
I am 5’10 and weigh about 180 lbs. and I found the size medium to fit more snugly around the torso than other medium size backcountry shells I have used. However, the volume in the arms and the length of the garment felt on par with what you would expect. Considering the more technical intended uses of the Archangel, the snugger, more athletic fit is more of a feature than a bug.
Amazon.com Price: $761.54 (as of 02/22/2024 20:25 MST) Details
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As far as GORE-TEX Pro snow garments go, the Outdoor Research Archangel is on the more affordable end of the spectrum with an MSRP of $699. RAB and Arc’teryx offer similar shells with MSRPs that are $50-$100 less than the Archangel. However, it seems the vast majority of GORE-TEX Pro shells in this category will run $750-$900. For example, if you’re a big Jones person, their Shralpinist shell will run you a whopping $850.
The Outdoor Research Archangel Jacket ($699.99) is OR’s top-tier backcountry shell, and it shows. While its high price may induce a serious case of sticker shock, if you require the features it provides, you will not be disappointed. However, for the average skier/splitboarder, I feel this garment is overkill. After all, it was co-designed by a winner of the Piolet d’Or to be equally at home alpine climbing as it is touring in the backcountry.
So if gnarly mountaineering ascents aren’t your style I would suggest you look elsewhere. There are other 3-layer Gore-Tex utilizing shells that aren’t quite as premium as the GORE-TEX Pro varieties per se but would do perfectly well. And if you’re willing to sacrifice the bombproofness of a 3-layer shell for a 2.5 or even 2-layer style, you’ll have lighter, more packable options that don’t break the bank – all while still being reasonably weatherproof.