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Outdoor Research Shiftup Zip Top

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Outdoor Research Shiftup Zip Top fleece top

The women's Shiftup Zip Top by Outdoor Research is a versatile mid-layer that keeps me warm and comfortable across a wide range of outdoor activities. The hexagon fleece wicks moisture efficiently and feels comfortable against my skin.


  • Comfortable
  • Versatile
  • Durable
  • Hood
  • Half-zipper for venting
  • Thumb holes


  • Hidden pockets are small

Testing Conditions: I tested the women’s Shiftup Zip Top as a member of the Trailspace Review Corps from late October 2017 through mid-February 2018 in and around the New Hampshire White Mountains. Temperatures during testing ranged from about -20 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.


                                  Shiftup Zip Top

Versatility: I’ve worn the Shiftup nordic skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, running, fat biking, backcountry ski touring, and alpine skiing in the frontcountry. Oh, and I’ve worn it to yoga class a few times too! It’s a consistently comfortable mid-layer that pairs well with all my favorite activities. I also recommend it for après-adventures: cozying up around a fire or a hot meal, or toasting an epic powder day with friends (hint hint, snow gods...more powder please!).

Fit & Comfort: The Shiftup fits true to size. I’m 5'4" with a short, fairly narrow torso (35" hip, 27" waist, 33" chest, 15.5" torso length), and the size small fits perfectly. The Shiftup is constructed of what OR refers to as hexagon fleece (89%) with a hint of polyester (6%) and spandex (5%). The result is a comfortable, lightweight (6.3oz) mid-layer that stretches where it needs to, providing unrestricted movement through the arms, for example, while consistently maintaining its shape.


                 Shiftup layered under the OR Deviator Hoody and Prana Lyra Vest

The fleece feels more like cotton than what I expect when I think of fleece. It's soft and comfortable against bare skin. I also find the hexagon pattern to help with breathability, which I discuss later on in this review.

Adjustability: Thumb holes are incorporated into the wrist openings. They’ve allowed me to nordic ski without gloves on (during warm days) and avoid getting blisters from pole straps. I’ve also enjoyed the bit of extra warmth provided by pulling the sleeves over my thumbs and wrists on late fall days when my hands get cold while trail running.


                                  Thumb holes from different anglesthumb-hole-2.jpg


Unzipping the half-zipper vents extra heat during an ascent. When fully zipped the neck provides a welcomed layer of warmth and is comfortable against my skin. The zipper is lined and incorporates a “hood” at the top, so it rests against my neck or chin without chafing. 


                                  Half zipper and zipper "hood"


Water Resistance: The Shiftup isn’t designed to resist moisture, so I wouldn’t recommend it as an outer layer on rainy or snowy days. That being said, I was caught in an early season snow squall when out on a trail run in early November. I hadn’t brought any extra layers with me that day. Moisture from the snow certainly seeped in over time, but I stayed warm through the duration of the run.

Breathability, Moisture & Abrasion: Fleece can be so cozy, but in my experience not always fantastic when it comes to wicking moisture. And a sweaty, wet fleece is the worst! The hexagon fleece used in the Shiftup is textured, which creates tiny air gaps between the material and your skin. The Shiftup is breathable and wicks moisture efficiently. The material has never caused any chaffing or hot spots.


                                 Hexagon fleece

Warmth & Layering: The Shiftup is a great piece for layering. I often wear it over a tank baselayer and, depending upon weather conditions and outdoor activity, throw on a down jacket and/or a waterproof shell. The material is thin enough to be able to comfortably add layers without feeling overstuffed.


             Shiftup layered under the OR Clairvoyant (shell) and Verismo Down Jacket

The hood isn’t so bulky that it gets in the way of other layers. I can tuck it under a shell on snowy days without feeling like I have a hump on my back. I enjoy pulling the hood up over my hat on cold morning starts, or to get a little extra heat at the summit. There are no bells and whistles—no drawcords or anything like that—but it stays put so long as the zipper is fully zipped. 


                                 Hood front (above) and side (below)



Function & Ease of Use: When I’m outside, I’m not there to appreciate the clothes I’m wearing, in fact I prefer these items fade into the background allowing my attention to dance along the trail. What I don’t want is to be pulled out of the moment by a caught zipper or chaffing skin. The Shiftup passes this test. Day after day I pull it on as I venture into the outside world because it moves as I do without resistance or chaffing, its simple features are intuitive, useful without getting in the way. The zippers never catch, and the material doesn’t bunch or lose its shape when wet. It doesn’t take up too much space in my pack. The Shiftup is an easy and reliable trail companion.



Features: I’ve already mentioned the half-zipper, the hood, and the thumb holes, so won’t bore you with repeating myself here. Additional features include the front kangaroo pouch and two hidden mesh pockets, which are contained within the pouch.


                        Kangaroo pouch

I like this zipper pocket as it allows me to store small items securely, such as keys, an ID or credit card. My one complaint is that while I can wrestle my iPhone into this pouch, it takes a bit of effort and the fit is snug. This isn’t such a problem in the winter when I’m often wearing other layers with additional pockets. However, in warmer months I like to store my phone in a front pocket, somewhere I can access easily to snap a quick photo. I don’t dare to keep my phone in the kangaroo pouch due to risk of it falling out, and while it fits securely in the zipper pocket, it's kind of a pain to get in and out. 


                        Hidden zipper pouch 


                             iPhone in hidden zipper pouch- barely noticeable 

The smaller of the two hidden storage pockets is pretty tiny. It could fit a packet of energy gel, not much more than that. I suppose it could be useful to carry this sort of thing, but I'm not a fan of energy blocks or gels and haven't found a great use for the pocket.


                       Small hidden pocket



Construction & Durability: After nearly four months of regular use (HUGE understatement—I’ve probably worn this shirt at some point every day since I started testing) the Shiftup is showing no signs of wear. The material has maintained its shape and comfort, and continues to wick moisture just as well as the first time I wore it. I’ve washed it many times and hang it on the line to dry. There are no odor issues and no problems associated with laundering.

Outdoor Research’s Infinite Guarantee is one of the reasons I’m loyal to this brand. It’s nice to know that if anything ever gives out the item can be replaced.

The Shiftup retails at $120, although it’s presently listed on OR’s website for just $78. Personally, I love this hoody. However, for me $120 is a lot to invest in a mid-layer. The sale price is more reasonable to me. That being said, price is such a personal matter I’ll leave it to you, reader, to decide how this price tag fits into your budget.

Overall Impressions: I've thoroughly enjoyed testing this top. It's comfortable, versatile, and has shown no obvious signs of wear despite frequent use and laundering. Its simple features—thumb holes, hood, and half zipper—allow me to remain comfortable across a wide range of weather conditions. The kangaroo pocket with two hidden storage pouches is a great idea in concept, but I'd prefer one larger zippered stow pocket instead of the two smaller pouches. 

Thanks to Outdoor Research and Trailspace for the opportunity to test and review the Shiftup!


Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Outdoor Research for testing and review)

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