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Hands-on Gear Review

Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket - Women's Review

Best Buy Award
Price:   $199 List | $124.73 at REI
Compare prices at 5 resellers
Pros:  Breathable side panels, lightweight & packable, flattering design, water resistant, inexpensive
Cons:  Lacks warmth, not very wind resistant, pocket zipper gets caught
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research

Our Verdict

Many of our testers fell head over heels in love with 2015's Best Buy Award winner - the new Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket. Not only is this baffled and colorful jacket breathable, it also features hybrid body mapping that moves with you, wherever you go. Its breathable side panels (which extend the length of the jacket, from hip to armpit to wrist) stretch with and mold to the body. The face fabrics are resistant to wind and water, while the zippers are large and craftsmanship is tight. The two-toned look of the jacket catches the eye and had many of our testers asking to wear it.

As a trade-off for fantastic breathability, the Cathode is not as warm or as light as last year's Best Buy winner, The North Face ThermoBall Jacket - Women's, but it makes up for those faults in having better weather resistance and style. For only $199, the Cathode is a steal.

If you are looking for an even more breathable jacket, check out our Top Pick for Breathability, the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody - Women's.


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11.2 oz (medium) 60 g/m2 PrimaLoft Gold Pertex Quantum 20D 100% nylon
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14.6 oz (medium) Mainbody: Coreloft 120 g/m2; Hood & Underarms: Coreloft 80 g/m2; Inside Pockets: Coreloft 60 g/m2 Tyono 100% nylon 30D shell
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Best Buy Award
10.9 oz (small) 60 g/m2 PrimaLoft Gold Pertex Quantum 22D 100% nylon + 75D stretch double weave panels
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9.7 oz (medium) 60 g/m2 Thermal.Q Elite 15D ripstop, 100% nylon

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
November 22, 2015

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The Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket earns our Best Buy Award for its breathable side panels, weather resistant face fabrics, eye-catching good looks, and, of course, its very reasonable price tag. As a trade-off for breathability, it lacks warmth as a stand-alone piece, but works wonders as a mid-layer.

Performance Comparison


Getting ready to rack up for Katie's bachelorette party up Castleton Tower in Utah. She played rope gun while the Cathode sufficed as a great stand alone jacket on this warm day. Had it been any colder  we would have been wishing for more layers.
Getting ready to rack up for Katie's bachelorette party up Castleton Tower in Utah. She played rope gun while the Cathode sufficed as a great stand alone jacket on this warm day. Had it been any colder, we would have been wishing for more layers.

Warmth


The Cathode Hooded Jacket was well-loved among our testers for its breathability, comfort, style, and weight. However, most of our testers were not psyched on its level of warmth - which was seriously lacking. Even though this jacket has similar construction specs to our Editors' Choice, the Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's - including 60 g/m2 primaloft Gold insulation and a Pertex Quantum 22D outer fabric - the Cathode sacrifices warmth for breathability. The stretch panels extend from the hip, up to the armpits, and down the arm to the wrist and allows heat to escape through its length.

The light blue denotes the area where the baffles are stuffed with insulation. The dark blue denotes the stretchy side panels that result in greater breathability (and less warmth).
The light blue denotes the area where the baffles are stuffed with insulation. The dark blue denotes the stretchy side panels that result in greater breathability (and less warmth).

Our main tester wore this jacket while biking to work on a cold day and showed up in a frigid state. She later tried this with both the Xenon X and Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Womens and arrived to work less chilled and much more comfortable. Given that this was one of the least warm jackets tested, it is a perfect stand-alone piece on warm fall and spring days and a great pairing option with a shell or insulated layer on colder days. If you're looking for a warmer option with a similar weight, check out the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - Womens.

Weight & Compression


Weighing in at only 10.9 oz, this isn't as light was the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's or the Nano Puff, but it is lighter than most. Additionally, its left hand pocket doubles as a stuff sack with a nifty accessory loop.

Not the lightest product we tested  but we'll say we hardly noticed it was there when we had it on!
Not the lightest product we tested, but we'll say we hardly noticed it was there when we had it on!

This is a handy addition to clip on to your harness during alpine ascents. When compressed, it's about the size of a six-inch sub - making it a little larger than the Nano Puff, but smaller than the Xenon X. Overall, this jacket is light, highly compressible, and a great option for lightweight backcountry missions where breathability is valued over warmth.

LOVED the carabiner loop that was sewn into the jacket. We took it up a multi pitch route with us and it stayed snug and secure on our harness. A perfect addition for any ascent or backpacking trip.
LOVED the carabiner loop that was sewn into the jacket. We took it up a multi pitch route with us and it stayed snug and secure on our harness. A perfect addition for any ascent or backpacking trip.

Comfort & Coziness


We loved all the comfort extras that the Cathode has to offer, including mobile materials, lots of pockets, and many adjustment points. The lightweight material makes it feel like you're not wearing a jacket at all. The Schoeller stretchy double weave panels extend the length of the arms and torso which means the jacket doesn't pull up when your arms are overhead. We also appreciated the hybrid mapped construction that moves with your body, not against it.

Stephanie's favorite jacket (and our Best Buy award winner)! She loved it so much she went out and bought one shortly after trying it on! Hunkering down for a night listening to music was a good role for the Cathode Hooded Jacket.
Stephanie's favorite jacket (and our Best Buy award winner)! She loved it so much she went out and bought one shortly after trying it on! Hunkering down for a night listening to music was a good role for the Cathode Hooded Jacket.

The hood, like most of the insulated jackets tested, has a cinch cord on the back that you can pull to adjust around any climbing or biking helmet. The hem also has an adjustable drawcord for versatile fit, while all zippers have large, glove compatible pull tabs. One of our favorite features was the extra storage space in the form of pockets! These included two deep handwarmers, one chest, and two large internal (non-zipping) compartments. We had lots of places to stash food, gloves, and phones anywhere we went.

One of the five pockets the Cathode hones.
One of the five pockets the Cathode hones.

This jacket could only be made more comfortable with the addition of fleece lining in the pockets (to keep digits warmer) and around the collar (when snuggling in cold weather is necessary) like the Rab Xenon X. One major issue was the material of the pocket would get stuck in the zipper. This happened so often that some of our testers mentioned they wouldn't purchase this jacket just out of sheer frustration.

The fabric inside the pocket was prone to getting caught and forcing some red faced frustrations when one of our testers couldn't get to her money at the coffee shop. This was one of the few downsides to this design.
The fabric inside the pocket was prone to getting caught and forcing some red faced frustrations when one of our testers couldn't get to her money at the coffee shop. This was one of the few downsides to this design.

Weather Resistance


This jacket stands out as one of the most water resistant and quick to dry. That said, it is not very wind resistant. The Pertex Quantum 22D shell and lining does a great job at wicking away water. While walking through a light rainstorm one morning, one of our testers noticed the droplets of rain would bead and simply shed off. However, when exposed to torrential downpours, we were left soggy within minutes. This is not congruent to the performance of most jackets tested in this review. In addition, like the Rab Xenon X, it is extremely quick to dry, making it a good choice for wet alpine conditions.

We noticed that the fabric on this jacket wetted out faster than others  but it still holds up in a light rain. Don't try to take it to the coast during monsoon season - you'll find yourself completely soaked.
We noticed that the fabric on this jacket wetted out faster than others, but it still holds up in a light rain. Don't try to take it to the coast during monsoon season - you'll find yourself completely soaked.

While the Pertex Quantum face fabric does a good job in wind and rain, but the highly breathable Schoeller stretch panels make this jacket quite susceptible to the wind. During a cold early morning bike ride, our main tester felt this effect first hand. The wind cut right through the breathable vents and chilled her to the bone. As a result, we recommend wearing a wind jacket or shell in conjunction with this jacket if you anticipate nasty windy weather.

Breathability


As mentioned above, the stretchy side panels that extend from the hips to the wrists (and under the armpits) provide fantastic ventilation and breathability. We also loved the handy ventilation strip at the top of the hood in case you decide to take a winter run through a storm. Take this jacket on your most aerobic winter days, but wear a shell if it gets nasty outside. It stands out as the most breathable jacket that isn't constructed with breathable insulation or a soft face fabric. If you want a jacket with even more breathability and softer face fabrics, check out the Outdoor Research Uberlayer - Women's or our Top Pick for Aerobic Adventures, the Patagonia Nano Air.

The breathable side vents allow you to hike  ski  and do it all over again without taking off your jacket! We loved this during an early winter powder session in Silverton  CO.
The breathable side vents allow you to hike, ski, and do it all over again without taking off your jacket! We loved this during an early winter powder session in Silverton, CO.

Style & Fit


The ladies that wore this jacket LOVED its stylish arching baffles and the stretchy fabric that wraps the waist and hips with feminine flattery. The fit is trim and athletic with many fun colors. This jacket fits true-to-size with arms and a torso a little shorter than the Arc'teryx Atom LT. Many of our testers were drawn to the two-toned and textured appearance. Overall, this jacket sports an athletic style that many of our testers loved!

Cute  fashionable  and functional.
Cute, fashionable, and functional.

Best Applications


Given this jacket's great breathability, most of our testers thought it was a great stand-alone piece for cool spring and fall days or for highly aerobic activities in winter. Given its low weight and bulk, as well as its breathability, this is a perfect mid-layer to wear in conjunction with a winter shell. With all this in mind, we think this is a highly versatile jacket perfect for rock climbing, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, camping, or hiking.

Taking a little breather after snowboarding down a knee deep coliour in Silverton  CO.
Taking a little breather after snowboarding down a knee deep coliour in Silverton, CO.

Value


Beating out last year's Best Buy Award winner (The North Face ThermoBall Jacket), the Outdoor Research Cathode stands out as a high-performing and well-priced garment. At just $199, it is well below many of its competitors. During our testing period we didn't notice any stitching fly-aways or signs of wear and tear. Additionally, Outdoor Research backs up its products 100%. If your jacket is not performing the way you want it to, they will replace it with something else or fix it free of charge. This awesome guarantee is just one of the many reasons we recommend this excellent, affordable jacket.

Conclusion


The Outdoor Research Cathode was awarded our Best Buy Award for its versatility, low price, and fantastic style. We loved its breathable side panels, and water resistant face fabrics. It's not the warmest jacket, but at only $199, this is one heck of a deal.

Just hanging out in the Cathode and enjoying the view at our secret campsite in Castleton Valley  Utah.
Just hanging out in the Cathode and enjoying the view at our secret campsite in Castleton Valley, Utah.

Other Versions


Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket
  • $199
  • Men's version
  • Our Best Buy Award winner
  • Stylish and affordable to boot

Cathode Vest
Outdoor Research Cathode Vest
  • $150
  • Vest version of the Cathode
  • Has the same hybrid construction as the jacket
Amber King

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 22, 2015
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