Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Rain Jacket
– Price: $230
– Weight: 10.6 oz (300.5 g)
– Waterproofing Fabric: 2.5 layer Dry.Q 50D stretch ripstop
– Waterproofing Rating: N/A
– Number of pockets: 3
– What we like: Breathable, stretchy, light, and compact
– What we don’t: Not super protective, expensive
The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict
There’s no substitute for a hardshell rain jacket when you’re expecting a downpour, but wearing a hardshell in a light mist is like cooking steak with a flamethrower: You’re overdoing it, and things are gonna get really hot, really fast.
Anything shy of a proper storm calls for a softshell jacket: A lighter, more breathable alternative. After testing the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic over a long rainy weekend in the mountains, we’re convinced it may be one of the lightest and most breathable options we’ve ever used.
To that end, we can’t say we’re surprised. Mountain Hardwear was founded back in 1993 on the idea of making laser-focused technical garments for serious outdoors enthusiasts, and their current catalog still reflects that same ethos.
We’ve had great experiences with Hardwear gear in the past (see our in-depth review of their tough-as-nails Trango mountaineering tent), so naturally we had high hopes for the Ozonic when we took it into the north Georgia woods for a rainy weekend of camping, hiking, and fishing. Mountain Hardwear describes the Stretch Ozonic as their “go-anywhere rain shell” and go-anywhere is just what we did (read more about how we test our rain jackets here).
All right, here’s our full test and review of the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic!
Detailed Evaluation of the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Rain Jacket
Our testing to evaluate the best rain jackets can be a nasty business. We tested the Stretch Ozonic over a five-month period in the north Georgia mountains, where temperatures ranged from near freezing in the Fall to unbearably hot and humid in the late Spring and early Summer. Most of our field testing revolved around hiking and backpacking, but we also spent plenty of time in between wearing the Ozonic around town to get a feel for its real-world utility.
Water resistance is your biggest tradeoff when choosing a softshell like the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic over a more purpose-built hardshell like the Arcteryx Beta AR we tested it alongside. It’s about “if” not “when” with a jacket like this when the rain really starts coming down, but the best softshells will keep you dry for a good while before finally wetting out.
Overall we were pleased with the Stretch Ozonic. In lighter on/off rains, the jacket kept us perfectly dry throughout the day. The fabric would start to take on water after a good 15-20 minutes of rain, but the underlying 2.5-layer Dry.Q membrane typically held its own all day long when rains weren’t too severe.
In heavier rainfall, the Ozonic slowly gives up the ghost, and we’d typically start to feel a little damp in the shoulders after a half hour or so. Overall we felt it did a fine job in most all conditions, especially considering its light weight and outstanding breathability (more on that below).
We’ll also give Hardwear high marks for the surprisingly well-designed hood and integrated visor design. The single-cinch adjustment is much less sophisticated than some, but the comparatively flexible brim held its shape well once the hood was tightened down, and did a commendable job of keeping rain from slipping in around our face in lighter showers.
Breathability is the main draw for softshell rain jackets like this, and the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic was easily one of the most breathable jackets we’ve ever tested. Chalk it up to Hardwear’s thin and stretchy 50D ripstop fabric: This stuff dries out incredibly fast, and did a commendable job of managing body heat, even with the pit zips battened down for heavier precipitation.
Speaking of pit zips, the Ozonic’s definitely have a simplified, ultralight feel to them, measuring in at a pretty average 13” length and relying on a single zipper setup for adjustment. They still managed to do their job out on the trail, and made a noticeable difference in comfort when we were gaining elevation or hiking with some extra weight in our pack.
Another detail we appreciated during testing was the Ozonic’s judicious use of lightweight mesh for all three pockets of the jacket. This superlight and breathable material allowed us to open both the hand pockets and chest pocket between sprinkles to allow for more direct venting without having to stop and adjust or remove the jacket.
Fit and Comfort
Both fit and comfort were major highlights for our testers, which makes sense considering both are a big selling point for a jacket like this.
As far as fit goes, our size large fit well without any undue bulk, while still leaving plenty of room for extra layers as needed. Once we started getting into the warmer months and those layers became few and far between, the Ozonic still felt well-cut, and a far cry from some of the boxier designs out there.
As for comfort, we can’t say enough good things about this jacket. Mountain Hardwear designed the Ozonic with full four-way stretch, which means no matter how hard or fast you’re moving, the jacket always moves with you without being constrictive.
Another highlight for comfort we found was Hardwear’s Dry.Q membrane. This jacket sports a 2.5-layer design, which means the waterproof material itself sits directly on the skin. While this often translates to the dreaded “cold and clammy” feeling common to ultralight softshells, we found the fabric to be surprisingly soft which, combined with the outstanding stretchiness, felt perfectly comfortable against the skin.
Mountain Hardwear recently updated their best-selling Stretch Ozonic from a rudimentary 40D stretch nylon to the new 50D stretch ripstop polyester of our test model. It’s a noticeable upgrade from the previous version, and a particularly impressive one considering the jacket’s weight and packability remain among the best in the business (see below).
Over the course of our testing we wore this jacket with heavy packs, took it bushwhacking through underbrush, stuffed it into bags, glove boxes, and totes, and never actually managed to damage it in any way. That’s particularly high praise for a light and flexible piece of kit, which further adds to the value of the Ozonic.
Of course the true test of durability is the test of time, and while five months of regular use is a good indicator, we can’t say we expect this jacket to last nearly as long as something like a three-layer hardshell from Arcteryx or Patagonia. As far as stretchy, breathable soft shell jackets go, however, we really can’t fault the Ozonic here.
Weight and Packability
Unapologetically light and packable, our testers had nothing but good things to say about the Ozonic. This jacket tipped our scales at a scant 10.6 ounces in a size large, beating out all but the most minimalist alternatives on the market.
As for packability, the Ozonic is also one of the most compact we’ve tested this year. Hardware designed the jacket’s chest pocket to double as a reversible stow pocket, and the jacket zips down easily into this compartment to roughly the size of a standard Nalgene bottle.
The mesh feels reasonably tough, but is clearly a much lighter and less robust fabric than the main 50D ripstop shell. For this reason, we mainly resorted to stuffing the jacket into its hood when it was riding around in our packs, but the size difference between the two options is minimal at best.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic is an ultralight softshell at heart, and as such, features aren’t its forte. We found the Ozonic stuck to a “bare minimum” approach without leaning into hardcore minimalism, and had enough going for it to keep from feeling too spartan.
In a nutshell, what you’re getting here are two large hand pockets, one large chest pocket, and simple closures at the hood, hem, and sleeves. Both the hood and hem adjust using standard elastic cinches, while the cuffs are a simple fabric-backed velcro.
The pockets aren’t waterproof, but are reasonably water resistant, enough so that we didn’t have to worry about having our phones in a pocket during light rain. We love that Mountain Hardwear managed to give them three purposes without adding weight or complexity (they’re stash pockets, heat vents, and stow pockets all in one).
As stated above, the hood cinch is definitely on the simpler side, and while it gets the job done in light rain, it certainly leaves something to be desired in a downpour. The collar was tall enough to cover up to our chin, but because it has no structure or cinch of its own, it never feels quite watertight.
With an MSRP of $230, the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic isn’t winning any awards for budget-friendliness. With that being said, we will point out that as far as technical softshells go, there are much more expensive options out there like the Black Diamond Highline, Outdoor Research Foray, and Rab Kinetic Alpine 2.0.
Ultimately our testers felt that the Ozonic was fairly priced, and delivered an outstanding balance of protection, comfort, and packability for the money. Hardwear’s decision to upgrade the jacket’s fabric to a tougher 50D ripstop material also adds value for us here, as the jacket looks and feels much more durable than the previous iteration.
We’ll also note that the Ozonic doubles are a great all-around or casual jacket thanks to its soft touch, clean design, and super-stretchy fabric. More often than not this was the rain jacket we kept in our vehicles in case of unexpected showers, and we can confirm that it saved our skin more than a few times in this regard over the last several months.
What We Like
In short, a lot. The Ozonic may not offer the bombproof weather protection of a three-layer hardshell, but it outclasses them all when it comes to comfort, breathability, and mobility. For active pursuits in anything less than an all-out downpour, this jacket is a smart compromise, working equally well for week-long backpacking trips and weekend car camping excursions.
There’s no denying this is a highly technical garment, but we also loved just how versatile it was. Big chunky raincoats are overkill for 99% of day-to-day situations, but the Ozonic was a perfect match that didn’t weigh us down or take up an abundance of storage space in our packs, vehicles, or closets.
We also can’t stress the comfort factor enough here. Hardwear’s four-way stretch fabric is soft to the touch, infinitely flexible, and surprisingly tough. The same goes for the Dry.Q membrane, which delivers an impressive degree of protection for a 2.5-layer system while still feeling nice against the skin in the warmer months when mid-layers become a hindrance.
What We Don’t Like
While we were impressed overall with the Ozonic, it does have its shortcomings. The first and most obvious is outright protection, which is to be expected in a softshell, but even in this category the Ozonic isn’t the best. Jackets like the Black Diamond StormLine Stretch deliver better waterproofing for less money, but they also weigh a bit more and breathe a bit less.
Speaking of money, our other main complaint here is cost. While you can occasionally catch the Ozonic on sale, it feels like a big spend for moderate rain protection. Your average buyer will likely be better served with something simpler and more robust like the Patagonia Torrentshell, but again, more technical/active users will surely get their money’s worth here.
- Patagonia Torrentshell 3L: Proven waterproofing for less money at the cost of comfort and breathability. Read our full test and review…
- Arcteryx Beta LT: Similar weight and packability, backed by 3L GoreTex protection. Costs more, but works just about everywhere. Read our full test and review…
- Marmot Precip Eco: Ultralight, packable, and protective for much less money if you don’t mind the bare-bones build and less breathability. Read our full test and review…
The Bottom Line…
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the field with the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, and all things considered, we think it’s a great rain jacket. It may not deliver the most bombproof protection from the elements, but its combination of comfort, breathability, and mobility are arguably unmatched in the marketplace.
This is a great option for active outdoor enthusiasts of most any ilk from day hikers to cross-country skiers. All things considered, we found this rain jacket to be a solid value as a well-made technical garment that doubles for daily use or casual duty, and believe it’ll be well worth the money for anyone who can make use of its purpose-built construction.