Outdoor Research Foray
Weight: 15.2 oz. (men’s medium)
Waterproofing: 2L Gore-Tex Paclite
What we like: Multi-sport features and appeal; large side vents are great for dumping heat.
What we don’t: Annoying toggles and pricey for a Paclite shell.
See the Men's Outdoor Research Foray See the Women's Outdoor Research Aspire
As Seattleites, Outdoor Research has had ample opportunity to test rain jacket designs, and we like what they've come up with in the Foray. This do-it-all shell is lightweight enough for hiking and backpacking yet tough enough to hold its own for spring skiing. The defining feature is the distinct side zips that open up the jacket, improving breathability while also adding some heft to the mix. Below we break down our experiences with the Foray. To see how it stacks up against the competition, see our article on the best rain jackets.
Table of Contents
- Water and Wind Protection
- Weight and Packability
- Build Quality and Durability
- Fit and Sizing
- What We Like/What We Don't
- Comparison Table
- The Competition
After a handful of wet-weather hiking trips and rainy days fly fishing in the Pacific Northwest, I found that the Outdoor Research Foray offered plenty of protection from the elements. The 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite construction withstood hours of standing knee-deep in streams with an unrelenting drizzle overhead, and the DWR coating continued to bead water on the surface of the jacket, keeping me dry. While the relatively lightweight design of the Foray can’t compete with heavy-duty alpine hardshells in terms of weather protection, it provided all the fortification I was looking for.
Outdoor Research wisely outfitted the Foray with a number of features to batten down the hatches when the weather takes a turn for the worse. In addition to the durable 50-denier Gore-Tex Paclite material and DWR coating, the Foray features a water-resistant front zipper and chest pocket to keep moisture at bay. Additionally, the two hand pockets are covered by the same Gore-Tex Paclite material found on the rest of the jacket, which kept my items dry. Finally, the hood’s sealed seams, three adjustment points, and nicely sized brim helped to fend off nasty rain squalls. With a robust feature set overall, the OR Foray performs well in wet and windy conditions.
Similar to other 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite rain jackets, I found the Foray to quickly overheat during moderate activity (note: from my experience, jackets with upgraded Paclite Plus offer improved breathability). If you're working hard, the Foray's lining can feel clammy against the skin, especially compared to models like the Arc’teryx Zeta LT, which uses a soft-touch Gore C-Knit backer. Having said that, the magic of the Foray lies in its full-length side zips, which run from the bottom hem to bicep. These massive vents allowed me to dump a ton of heat quickly while on the trail, more than any hardshell I’ve ever used. So while the fabric itself can’t quite match the breathability of more premium options, the side zips definitely help make up for it.
Weighing in at 15.2 ounces on our scale for a men’s medium (the listed weight is 16.3 oz.), the Foray is heavier than most other 2-layer rain jackets. For comparison, popular options like the Marmot Minimalist (14.9 oz.) and Black Diamond Liquid Point (13.9 oz.), both of which utilize 2.5-layer builds, slightly undercut the Foray and give up very little in terms of features. And when pitted against stripped-down models like the Arc’teryx Zeta SL (10.9 oz.), it’s easy to see just how portly the Foray really is. While I loved the full-length side zips for dumping heat, they do add a lot of weight to the overall package.
Despite its hefty weight, I was impressed by the Foray’s packability. The jacket stuffs into the left-hand pocket, which features an easy-to-use two-sided zipper and handy clip, and measures about 10 inches long and 7 inches wide. However, I preferred rolling the jacket into its hood. Using this method, the Foray became the size of a large burrito and easily fit into small and large packs alike.
There’s a lot to like about the Foray when it comes to build quality and durability. My outerwear takes a real beating during fly fishing adventures. I’m often careening through riverside thickets and brambles in search of that ever-elusive honey hole, and doing so on a number of occasions while wearing the Foray resulted in almost zero signs of wear. The shell is free of any rips, and despite its dirty appearance, it functions just like new. The 50-denier polyester fabric has a tough and substantial feel, the seams show no signs of fraying or delaminating, and all of the zippers work flawlessly and continue to operate with ease. While it can’t match the hardwearing nature of a burly hardshell, it feels decidedly more robust than other lighter-weight rain jackets.
As described above, the standout feature on the Outdoor Research Foray is its full-length TorsoFlo side zips, which extend the standard pit zips all the way to the bottom hem. When fully unzipped, this creates a poncho-like opening for awesome venting on the trail—they provide a great way to dump excess heat while still retaining a mostly waterproof coverage. While wearing a pack, the side zips and their storm flap are noticeable under the hipbelt but don’t create pressure points. One notable compromise to this system, however, is that the adjustments only affect the area behind the zipper's bottom stop—the cinch cord only covers the back of the hem. This results in a slightly uneven look, with the front side of the jacket smooth and the back bunched up. It's not a deal-breaker, but we were always aware of the slightly odd fit.
The large hood and multiple adjustments on the Foray do a good job of sealing out wind and rain, but the hood’s rear drawcord toggle left me frustrated more than once. If you’re a set-it-and-forget type of individual, then there’s no need to worry. But if you’re like me and constantly tinkering with adjustments, then you’ll likely be similarly annoyed. In short, it’s difficult to pinch and loosen the rear cinch.
I ordered my standard size medium and found that the Foray to fit slightly baggier than the Marmot Minimalist and Arc’teryx Zeta SL rain jackets, but I don’t see a need to size down. The jacket is very functional with or without a midlayer jacket underneath. The Foray has a long back length thanks to a significant drop hem, which provides some extra coverage if you plan to take the shell for some spring skiing—we did, and it works great for occasional use as long as you don't need a powder skirt.
Other Versions of the Outdoor Research Foray
In addition to the men’s Foray jacket tested here, Outdoor Research also makes Foray Gore-Tex Pants that retail for $175, use the same 2-layer construction, and weigh 10.7 ounces. And for women, OR offers the Aspire jacket and pants, which share an identical construction and feature set to the Foray kit. The only major differences are weight and colorways, with the women’s Aspire Jacket clocking in at 13.7 ounces and the pants at 9.8 ounces. We haven’t had a chance to test the women’s Aspire yet, but given the similarities, we expect performance to be very similar across the board.
- Well-rounded design and feature set that work well for a variety of activities.
- Unique full-length side zips do an amazing job at dumping heat.
- Excellent water and wind protection.
- Outdoor Research uses an eco-friendly PFC(EC)-free DWR coating.
What We Don't
- At 16.3 ounces, the Foray is heavier than most other 2-layer rain jackets on the market.
- The rear hood toggle is difficult to use.
- The fit is slightly baggy for our tastes.
|Outdoor Research Foray||$215||16.3 oz.||Hiking/daily use||2L Gore-Tex||Yes||Yes|
|Marmot Minimalist||$189||14.9 oz.||Hiking/daily use||2.5L Gore-Tex||Yes||No|
|Arc'teryx Zeta SL||$299||10.9 oz||Performance/hiking||2L Gore-Tex||No||No|
|REI Co-op XeroDry GTX||$159||12.5 oz.||Hiking/daily use||2L Gore-Tex||No (vents)||No|
|Black Diamond Liquid Point||$259||13.9 oz.||Performance/hiking||2.5L Gore-Tex||Yes||No|
|Patagonia Calcite||$249||14.5 oz.||Performance/hiking||2.5L Gore-Tex||Yes||No|
Our overall impressions of the Outdoor Research Foray are positive, enough so that we rank it mid-pack in our round-up of the best rain jackets. Marmot's Minimalist is another one of our favorites and a well-rounded jacket overall. Both use Gore-Tex Paclite for waterproofing, the OR slightly outweighed the Marmot on our scale, and the side venting system makes it more desirable for those on the go. However, the Minimalist has a super-clean design and premium feel that just can’t be topped. In the end, both jackets should keep you dry in most conditions, but the Marmot has more everyday appeal, is slightly lighter, and costs around $25 less.
The Foray’s performance falls short of the premium Arc’teryx Zeta SL ($299), but so does the price. Both are billed as hiking-centric jackets and use Gore-Tex materials, but that is where the similarities end. The Zeta SL weighs significantly less than the Foray (4.5 ounces to be exact), the upgraded Paclite Plus material feels less clammy against bare skin, and it packs down much smaller in size. I also like the trimmer fit of the Zeta SL (for more, see our in-depth Zeta SL review). On the other hand, the Arc’teryx is around $85 more expensive than the Foray, does not feature pit zips or vents, and is the more specialized option overall.
For $60 less than the Foray, REI’s XeroDry GTX offers a similar 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite shell complete with three pockets and a highly adjustable hood. You do give up the Foray’s generously-sized side zips, which do a great job of expelling heat, but many will find the 3.5-ounce weight savings to be worth it. But while the XeroDry certainly looks good on paper, we have concerns about its performance in very wet weather—a recent heavy storm in the Grand Canyon left one of our testers soaked while others stayed dry. Because of this and the Foray’s well-rounded appeal, it’s our choice over the XeroDry in most instances.
Another Paclite design to consider is Black Diamond’s Liquid Point Shell. Compared to the Foray and aforementioned Marmot Minimalist, the BD is the most technical of the bunch with a climbing helmet-compatible hood, two-way pit zips, and a tough 75-denier build (the Foray is 50D). It also undercuts the Foray in weight by around 2.5 ounces, although it’s around $45 pricier and only sports two pockets (the Foray has three). We also found the larger hood to be a bit unshapely and cumbersome for use while hiking and exploring around town, which makes it less of an everyday piece than the Foray (for more, see our in-depth Liquid Point review here). In the end, given the Liquid Point’s steeper price tag and more targeted build, we think the Foray is the better buy.
Patagonia is another leader in the rain shell market, and their competitor to the Foray is the Calcite Jacket. Like the Liquid Point, the Calcite uses a 2.5-layer Gore-Tex Paclite construction, undercuts the Foray in weight at 14.5 ounces, and has a bit more of a performance slant with a helmet-compatible hood and robust 75-denier face fabric. You do get a similar three-pocket layout including two hand pockets and one chest pocket, although the OR gets the clear edge in breathability with its TorsoFlo side zips (the Calcite’s pit zips dump heat less effectively). And the real clincher for us is price: at $249, the Calcite doesn’t strike us as a great value. To be sure, its feature set and robust build make it viable for activities like climbing and skiing, but the Foray costs less and doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of performance.
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