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Outdoor Research Chaos Jacket

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Outdoor Research Chaos Jacket synthetic insulated jacket

A decent synthetic belay jacket.


  • Windproof
  • Good water resistance
  • Good pocket distribution
  • Hood has lots of room and excellent coverage


  • Not warm enough for Rockies
  • Could use a waterbottle pocket, or second glove pocket
  • A bit too tight to move freely with layers underneath

After freezing my ass off belaying in a blustery -20° day I decided enough was enough and I would stop wasting my time waiting for the Dually Belay Parka from Arc'Teryx to come available. I wanted a synthetic belay parka for ice climbing and wearing around town. (I'm planning on moving to Scotland, so I want something for wet conditions). I live in the Rockies.

So I ordered up the Chaos. OR has excellent customer service, and it came incredibly quickly. Thanks, OR!

I was immediately disappointed. It fit like a glove, the pockets were great, I loved the hood, but the jacket was about half as thick as I had expected. It's a little thinner the the Patagonia DAS parka and Arc'Teryx Kappa. Just a little bit more thick then the Atom SV. Of course this was made worse by the Dually coming available immediately afterwards. Bummer.

But I decided to give it a chance. The Primaloft One is incredible. For how little insulation is inside the jacket it performs much better then I would have expected. I would safely say that when this jacket is all packed up into its 2.5 L pocket (excellent pillow) it has the same warmth as a down jacket that packs down to a similar size.

This jacket performs much better then I would have imagined. My commute to work takes me over a very blustery bridge, and even in temperatures of -40° with windchill (walking with haste) and only an Atom LT on underneath I was comfortable. The hood cam very high and kept me cosy. I do burn hot though whilst moving (like -15 is like a thin ice breaker and Phase SV, and very thin sweater opened up.) So impressed by that. 

Belaying though... Well the two zips work great. hand warming pockets are wonderful. The internal glove pockets are sizeable enough for mits, though I would prefer one pocket on either side of the zipper on the inside so the gloves could help add some front insulation. In -26° weather it was definitely too cold with a light, and heavy base layer, Atom LT and a lightweight Gore-Tex jacket (MEC Synergy LT) while belay. I had to keep jumping and moving to stay warm. 

Overall it is very very comfortable. It's tough, windproof and very water resistant. I think for the West Coast or wet alpine climbing it would be excellent, but on Rockies ice climb down is a better option by far. The Havoc or something similar would have been a better choice. 

Source: bought via a "pro deal"
Price Paid: $125

After picking up and loving the REI, quantum, zip sleeve, lightweight, primaloft jacket; I became interested in the potential for the swiss army knife of all jackets. The hooded version of a primaloft jacket, with possibly more fill.

Researched for a while and the Outdoor Research Chaos came into focus. Got my hands on one at the local REI and decided to try it. It appears (one night walk in 41 degrees, 10 mph breeze) to be the perfect jacket. Wore my usual base (R.5 Patagonia Grid Fleece) and a light pair of pants. Never overheated (my primary concern) and felt like it was actually breathing.

The shell feels substantial (not an ultralight) and gives confidence it will take some abuse. The very high collar combined with a large hood (excellent adjustments) is like wearing a balaclava. With factory DWR this jacket should do well in anything short of extended downpour.

I've had less than stellar experience with laminates in the past, but whatever they are doing with the ripstop windstopper seems to work for me. This jacket and one or two layers should serve me from 50 degrees on down to anything I'd be interested in. (Sub zero is for sitting by the fire with appropriate wine :)

The materials and craftsmanship seem quite good. Time will tell if I remain as excited, but I can't conceive a better combination.

Fabric: Windstopper Ripstop exterior
Fill: Primaloft
Price Paid: $169.83

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Price MSRP: $260.00
Historic Range: $119.98-$260.00
Reviewers Paid: $125.00-$169.83
Price MSRP: $260.00
Historic Range: $125.00-$259.95
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