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Apparel • May 17, 2023

Outdoor Research Swift Running Apparel Review: Goin’ Retro

Outdoor Research - Spring 2023

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What You Need To Know

Gear for (most) seasons

Between hats, shorts, and jackets, you’re covered from spring to fall

Party like its 1999

Outdoor Research is embracing the retro vibes in a big way and we fully approve

Goin' green

OR’s designs incorporate Bluesign-approved practices

The Intro

EMILY: Known for its high-quality, eco-savvy, ultra-practical outdoor apparel, Outdoor Research continues to push the limits of innovative possibilities with comfortable gear that serves a purpose: to allow the runners, hikers, adventurers, and the directionally challenged of the world (me… I’m referring to me) to safely explore the outdoors with top-notch protection.

The Outdoor Research Swift collection showcases the best of founder and nuclear physicist Ron Gregg’s “function-forward approach,” with the marriage of game-changing feather-light comfort, vibrant colorways, and warm weather functionality. This bodes well for us Marylanders, who are no strangers to training through some scorchers.

Here in Baltimore, we’re kind of basking in the fragrant glow of our annual two weeks of temperate spring weather we’ll get to enjoy before the doors of Hades crack open release the dog days of summer. Needless to say, right out of the gate, I could appreciate the feather-light fabric of the 2.5-inch Swift Lite Shorts and Swift Air Cap. Plus, all items are designed with the planet in mind using Bluesign-approved practices and recycled materials.

The dog days may be panting heavily on our heels, but I’m not sweating it. Here’s why.

ROBBE: I’ve long been a huge fan of Outdoor Research. They have some of the most functionally useful and fully adaptive gear, whether it’s their exceptional line of winter running gloves or their quality shells (I still have one from five years ago, that – despite reviewing tons of jackets since then – I still can’t give up.). So I was pretty stoked to see some incredible 90s color palettes coming to their spring 2023 line of gear. And an anorak. We always love anoraks.

Swiftbreaker Jacket

outdoor research swiftbreaker

EMILY: The Swiftbreaker looks vintage workout-cool and feels new-age workout-slick. When the murder of crows in the trees at mile 7 went silent after an initial belch of thunder, I promptly closed the deep center-front zipper from diaphragm to chin, sinched the drawcord hem at my waist and I took off at a sprint. Sure enough, within the time it took to turn off the Freddie Mercury and stash my phone in a protective pocket, the storm cell that was hunting me spilled its guts. A smattering of rain and wind and even some weirdly beautiful hail all fell victim to the awesome repelling power of the Swiftbreaker’s retro-inspired polyester panels.

Can we just take a moment here to appreciate how far polyester has come? This jacket is made with breathable — yes, breathable — 100% recycled ripstop polyester for softness and color vibrancy. The multifaceted breathability is critical when you don’t want to overheat after a rogue temperature drop and some precipitation has sent you scrambling for cover. Plus, a mesh panel and strategically placed rear vent help regulate body temperature.

As someone who tends to layer like a Smith Island cake (a lot), I enjoyed the relaxed fit of the jacket. Overall, there wasn’t much stretch to the fabric, so taking off was probably hilarious to watch, but the deep front zipper made for more maneuverability. I’m a huge advocate for the inclusion of pockets in most apparel (real pockets, not a pocket tease), and while the jacket boasted a decent size stash pocket because of the relaxed fit, items tend to bounce around while running and that can be a big distraction. This could also be interpreted as a reason to leave one’s phone behind and be one with the run.

ROBBE: I love anoraks, so it may come as no surprise that the Swiftbreaker is by far my favorite piece from the spring collection (though I gotta say, I think the ladies got the best selection on the color front). I will say, I 100% had the brick/dawn colorway in a Reebok jacket from the mid-90s.

The fit of this jacket is perfect, which, for some reason, is really difficult for a lot of brands to do. The sleeve length is just right, as is the waist hem. And it’s full of nice little details, from the very cool stitched-in outer label to the snap closure on the kangaroo pocket. It’s very lightweight without feeling cheap and offers sufficient protection against light run and/or wind. I’m not too sure I’d reach for this as a running jacket, but it’s pretty damn good for everything else.

The only thing I would’ve like to see added to this was maybe a roll-up hood, but it’s not the end of the world. The good news is that the zipper hits the right point on the neck allows for decent wind-blockage without a suffocation effect. The price is quite nice for this jacket, which means you should probably get it.

PRICE: $99

Shop OR Swiftbreaker - Men Shop OR Swiftbreaker - Women

Swift Lite Shorts

outdoor research swift lite shorts-2

EMILY: The Outdoor Research Swift Lite shorts took the barely-there experience to the next level. With ultra-soft material overlapping in notched hems just below the hips, these babies provide movement-mirroring stretch for when you get some pep in your step — looking at you, Mrs. Incredible. Plus, a supple jacquard waistband discreetly conceals an internal drawcord, and strategically placed ventilation holes along the back upper panel and hems add some nice detail and help keep the accumulated moisture moving right along. That means significantly fewer opportunities to chafe and occasionally forgetting that you’re wearing shorts at all.

The Swift Lite short 2.5-inch inseam was true to length and partnered with an Echo brief liner for breathability, modesty, and comfort. Especially with the shorter inseam, the built-in liner is appreciated, as was the modest side zip pocket, perfectly sized for an Air Tag, ID, or your Harry Potter sidekick.

ROBBE: For fans of ultra lightweight shorts like the Janji AFO or The North Face Better Than Naked, the Swift Lite short may scratch that itch you’ve been missing. You may catch yourself looking down every now and then for fear you forgot them. The rear ventilation holes offer superior breathability and while the back zip pouch is pretty much standard these days, it’s still nice to have (it’s also where the men’s short differs from the women’s).

PRICE: $69

Shop OR Swift Lite Short - Men Shop OR Swift Lite Short - Women

Swift Air Cap

outdoor research swift air cap

EMILY: Hands down and hair up, one of the most wearable, flattering athletic caps I’ve ever tossed on my head. Plainly said, every day is a good hat day with the award-winning Outdoor Research Swift Air Cap. As with the other Swift products, the quick-wicking capabilities and complementary fit make this my new go-to dome decker in rain or rays. The more I wear this cap, the more I love how it meets me where I am on sweaty days with a 100 % recycled polyester mesh lining that provides the perfect amount of air exposure and UPF 40 protection for my temperamental Irish skin.

The brim is soft to the touch and flexible but has enough integrity to hold its shape, and the entire cap offers bounce-back malleability so you can crush and stuff if the feeling strikes. Bonus — I found that, unlike other hats I’ve tried, the quick-release belt buckle is not only easy to adjust while on the move, but it also looks half decent when rally capping and navigating trail shadows. Minimal forehead indentations are also appreciated.

ROBBE: A good run cap can be surprisingly hard to find, but luckily Outdoor Research knows what they’re doing. With a pretty similar design (like, really similar) to the Patagonia Duckbill, the Swift Air Cap is about as breathable as you can get in a cap. It’s quite crushable and packable so you can throw it on whatever small pocket you need to as you’re heading out to the trails. It’s also fairly low-profile so will mold to whatever head shape you have. Of course, with such an airy mesh, it’s quick drying, something that we’ll definitely appreciate in the coming months.

PRICE: $32

Shop OR Swift Air Cap
Bucket hat

Swift Bucket Hat

outdoor research swift bucket hat

EMILY: The Swift Bucket Hat and I spent the weekend together, seeing the sights, feeling the feels, and getting jiggy while jogging on both roads and trails. We kept things low-key — no heists or thunderstorms on the agenda — we really just took the time to experience the real us. Similar to its cousin, the Swift Lite Cap, Outdoor Research’s Bucket Hat displayed chivalry at every turn, from wicking the sweat from my brow to shading my face from the sun with a wrap-around 2.25-inch brim. I was further impressed with how the vibrant quick dry panels overlaying buttery soft mesh made for a striking colorway.

We spent more than a few hours together, and despite some bumps in the trail, the Swift Bucket didn’t once leave my head until I took it off and stuffed it into a pocket for a few miles when the shadow play on the ground became sketchy. As expected, the bucket hat returned uncreased and ready to party once unstuffed and reformed. The only potential concern I saw in taking the relationship to the next level is the fact that I may someday want a chin strap, and well, OR’s Swift Bucket Hat just doesn’t see that in its future.

ROBBE: This was the only miss in the collection for me, and it was only because of the sizing. To be fair (!), that was my fault because I didn’t designate my head size when requesting the review items. I wear a 7 1/4 fitted hat and the L/XL size was a bit too big. So I didn’t really get to test it, though I definitely would have loved to. If it retains any of the quality of the Swift Air Cap, then it’s good to go in my book.

PRICE: $38

Shop OR Swift Bucket Hat

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girl running in a red tanktop wearing a hat
Emily Hanson
Mid-Atlantic Trail Reviewer

Born and raised in Smaltimore (Baltimore), Emily relishes running for hours in the woods. It’s where she works out the kinks in her approach to being a mother, partner, writer, and a better human being.

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Robbe Reddinger
Senior Editor
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Robbe is the senior editor of Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. At home in the city, but country at heart. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.

All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield, Asics Metaspeed Edge+

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