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Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Jacket Review

By: Danielle Vilaplana, Assistant Buyer | September 7, 2022

Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Jacket

The Lowdown

The Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Ski Jacket is almost the perfect backcountry shell, and I say almost primarily on the basis that I am not a person who can own anything white. It’s a GORE-TEX C-Knit hardshell that also features waterproof stretch panels on the cuffs and back that allow a wide range of motion. This fabric differs dramatically from other GORE-TEX shells, as it retains the same waterproofing capabilities but maintains a much softer feel and is significantly less bulky when packed. 

The Hemispheres II Jacket comes loaded with pockets, including a large mesh drop in pocket for skins, and has better ventilation than any other jacket on the market thanks to the huge TorsoFlo vents that extend from pit to hem. Despite the bells and whistles, it clocks in as one of the lightest GORE-TEX shells around, which is honestly a rather mind-boggling achievement.

Shop the OR Hemispheres II Jacket - Women'sShop the OR Hemispheres II Jacket - Men's

Technical Details

The Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Jacket is a bomber 3L GORE-TEX backcountry hardshell that ditches the heavy, stiff feel of competitor jackets in favor of a more fluid, pliable fabric. The C-Knit material is soft and relatively breathable for a shell this waterproof, and the 2L stretch panels give you an unprecedented range of motion that feels great whether you’re skinning, skiing, or shoveling. 

The softness of the fabric means it is also less starchy and bulky, so it packs down very small when not in use. The fabric is extremely lightweight and thin which helps with breathability, but it also has long TorsoFlo vents from pit to hem that let you dump heat quickly and somehow don’t push it into the too-heavy zone.

The 2023 model finally features the much-demanded inner mesh drop in pocket for climbing skins, as well as numerous other pockets for hands, media, and more. It does not have a pass pocket, which solidifies it as a backcountry-oriented shell, but it does have higher hand pockets that are still functional with a harness or a hipbelt.

Face Fabric 100% Nylon 70D with GORE-TEX Stretch Technology
Membrane GORE-TEX
Insulation None
Fit Regular Fit
Seam Sealing Fully Taped
Powder Skirt No
Hood Type Fixed
Warranty Limited Lifetime

Ride Impressions

It was a wild April, so I got to test the Hemispheres II Jacket in a broad range of conditions, from balmy corn harvesting in Utah to backcountry pow fields in Wyoming. I am very out of shape and have to stop numerous times to gasp for air above 10,000ft, and the 3L GORE-TEX C-Knit fabric withstood many breaks in the snow and plenty of face shots on the descent.

The Hemispheres II Jacket features several textured 2L GORE-TEX stretch panels on the hood, back, and cuffs. This stretch fabric never soaked through and moved well when digging a snow pit and when I had to extract myself from some steep terrain while breaking the skintrack up an unknown mountain. Snow could accumulate on some of these spots in truly gnarly conditions, and I think the thinner material does make the jacket less warm than thicker shells. But the benefits of the stretch panels vastly outweigh the drawbacks, and it distinguishes the Hemispheres Jacket from the endless array of hardshells on the market.

The long TorsoFlo vents on the side were far more effective at dumping heat than traditional pit zips, and the button snaps at the hem were a nice touch to prevent the RPatz Batman aesthetic when flying down the slopes. I am truly confused and impressed at how lightweight this shell is with all of these zippers, and it’s a testament to just how much thought and design went into it.

It’s key to remember just how many features the Hemispheres II has while weighing just over a pound, especially when comparing it to other shells in its class. I own the Arc’teryx Alpha SV and used it as my primary ski shell for a season, but it’s extremely bulky when packed, fits short, and has very few pockets. The Patagonia Powslayer weighs about half an ounce more than the Hemispheres II, has a powder skirt, and uses GORE-TEX Pro fabric, but it also costs another $100 and the fabric is significantly stiffer and bulkier. This isn’t to disparage either of these shells because I still love my Alpha SV and will absolutely use it in the right conditions, but my priorities include waterproofness, packability, and movement and the Hemispheres II Jacket excels at all of these things.

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆


Lots of Pockets - The Hemispheres II jacket has a ton of pockets for various uses. I'm happy to report that the 2023 model features a large mesh dump pocket that can accommodate chunky splitboard skins, bulky gloves, etc, which is something that reviewers often critiqued in earlier models.

TorsoFlow Vents - The long TorsoFlow vents dump heat quickly and can be held in place by button snaps on the hem so they won't flat around as you're skiing.

3-Layer GORE-TEX C-Knit - The 3L GORE-TEX C-Knit fabric was a refreshing demonstration of how far waterproofing technologies have come. The fabric is pliable, soft, and lightweight while offering flawless protection against wind and water. I’ve purchased other stretchy “waterproof” jackets in the past, like the Patagonia Stretch Rainshadow Jacket that soaked through immediately in heavy rain, but Outdoor Research took that idea and actually made it work well for skinning, skiing, shoveling, etc.

2-Layer Stretch Panels on Cuffs & Back - The 2L stretch panels on the cuffs and back never soaked through and offered a range of movement not found in other hard shells that is useful when shoveling or clambering around on precipitous terrain.


Snug Hood - The hood fits over my small backcountry helmet but does seem to run a little snug, so those with larger heads or bulkier helmets might feel a little restricted with it pulled up. It is advertised as having multiple adjustment points but only has the one drawcord in the back, which I think is fine given the already slim cut of the hood.

No Pass Pocket - The shell doesn’t have a pass pocket, which really has no application in the backcountry, but if you’re a quiver killer kind of person it becomes really inconvenient when you ski inbounds.

Floppy Collar - The soft pliability of the fabric was a bit of a drawback in the collar, as it does not stay up well on its own and would sometimes fall back and choke me if I was skiing fast. This didn’t really happen when I was snowboarding, likely because of the different body orientation, and I ended up keeping the collar a little unzipped most of the time as a result.

Stain Prone - The white fabric is not ideal. White ski apparel is for a very specific demographic of people, not for those who truly use and abuse their gear. My Hemispheres II Jacket is already covered in stains from leaning against dirty tailgates, stuffing it in my boot bag, and falling on the ground when I left it to dry in the sun. It does come in other colors so it is not a dealbreaker by any means, but I just don’t believe white apparel should be sold outside of the European market.

Who's It For?

The Hemispheres II Jacket is definitely oriented towards backcountry skiers who value packability and movement while chasing bigger lines, but I wouldn’t dissuade resort skiers with touring inclinations from purchasing this shell. The GORE-TEX 3L C-Knit fabric offers bomber protection on the deepest powder days and the 2L stretch panels offer a range of motion you’re not going to find other shells. Most inbound skiers probably won’t need this range of motion in all honesty, but it doesn’t hurt to have if your ski goals include more backcountry and sidecountry expeditions..

The Bottom Line

My partner and I just moved into a 20ft Airstream, so I fully expected to shove the Hemispheres II Jacket into our storage unit and forget about it until the fall. I was impressed enough by it that I actually decided to ditch all of my other ski and climbing shells and will continue to use it as my primary shell for late spring skiing in the Tetons. 

It’s extremely lightweight and the combination of 2L stretch panels and 3L GORE-TEX C-Knit fabric effectively hold out a barrage of moisture and allow a range of motion unique to hardshells. The long zippered TorsoFlo vents dump heat immediately and won’t flap around thanks to the button snaps on the hem, and the jacket packs down better than any shell in its class, even the few that happen to be lighter.

Shop the OR Hemispheres II Jacket - Women'sShop the OR Hemispheres II Jacket - Men's
Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Jacket Review

About the Reviewer

Name: Danielle Vilaplana
Age: 29
Height: 5'9”
Weight: 125 lbs
Size Reviewed: Medium
Location(s): Utah & Wyoming
Fit Preferences: Regular
Riding Style: I dabble in touring and have taken my avy courses, but I often get scared by the snowpack in Wasatch and end up riding at Snowbird. That said, I have hiked 7,000 miles across the country with an ultralight pack so I bring that high-performance, lightweight mindset to all of my gear, including ski/snowboard equipment.

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