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Hands-on Gear Review
Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody Review
Cons: Not super warm, not terribly water resistant, could be lighter for how thin it is
Bottom line: A nearly ideal set of features for a technical warmth layer at a very affordable price.
Testing gear can be a little like driving a rental car. It isn't yours, so you tend to race around in it like you stole it. The burly Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody suffered some serious mistreatment, misapplication, and the occasional misadventure during testing without much evidence of its hardship. With extremely well thought-out features like over-sized zipper pulls and spacious internal stash pockets, the Transcendent Hoody is a perfect combination of burl and functionality. While not the lightest of lightweight down jackets nor the warmest of the warm, the Transcendent Hoody is ready for whatever punishment you choose to inflict on it (and yourself). The best part about this jacket may just be the price tag.
At only $225 retail, it is the second most affordable jacket in the review, and has no problem performing better than some that are nearly twice the cost. Considering it is a super well thought out jacket at a very low cost, it was easy for us to award the Transcendent Hoody our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
[tip]Searching for a different style?
Transcendent Down Sweater. Weighing in at 13 oz., you can expect the same great performance without the bulk of a hood for those looking to add this piece to their layering collection. For even less bulk, check out the Transcendent Down Vest, the $149, 9.4 oz. hoodless, sleeveless version of this jacket.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Down Jackets of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Offered in an array of two-tone color options (ours was Pewter and Lemongrass), with a standard fit that leans towards the athletic, the Transcendent Hoody looks cool. Due to the features that help fine tune the fit, we used it primarily as an outer layer on some big days in the mountains. It also served us well as a mid-layer with a hardshell over the top, and in both layering applications it performed well. When our athletic endeavors got aerobic or the weather got a little wet, the 20 denier ripstop outer did what most down jackets do in the rain — got wet — but it did prove to serviceably wick, keeping our testers dry from the inside.
The Transcendent Hoody is reasonably compressible and won't take up much room in your pack, but it isn't ultra-light like the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded. The jacket packs down into its own pocket, but it serves better as a pillow than when it is clipped onto your harness on a multi-pitch. The 650 fill-power of the Transcendent Hoody is on the lower end of the jackets we tested, which factors into both a little added weight, but also the low cost. In spite of this, it still manages to be functionally warm.
The Transcendent Hoody (shown below in blue) received solid scores in each metric, resulting in a top five overall score once all testing was done. Considering its relatively low price, that's a pretty impressive feat!
In the following sections, we dissect why it scored as well as it did by breaking down its performance in each key metric we used for evaluation.
More than likely, the most critical consideration when buying a down jacket is how warm it will keep you (or very possibly, this consideration is secondary to whether or not it makes you look fat). Regardless, the Transcendent Hoody is definitely warm enough. A well designed and well crafted garment, the Transcendent Hoody keeps the weather out and your heat in.
Drawstrings in the hood and waist help minimize drafts and elastic in the cuffs keep the sleeves in place over your gloves. The ultra-durable 20 denier ripstop polyester shell is incredibly wind resistant. The most significant limitation to the warmth of the Transcendent Hoody is the 650 fill-power down. Despite this, it compares well to the warmth of the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody (with 800 fill-power down, fewer design features), and is without doubt warmer than the Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody or the REI Co-op Down Hoodie. We awarded it six out of 10 points for warmth.
A jacket this solid won't be a featherweight. At 1 lb. 0.7 ounces, the Transcendent Hoody is on the heavier side of the lightweight down jackets we've tested in the last two years, slightly heavier than the similar The North Face Trevail Hoodie. Yet, along with a little extra weight you get a tremendous amount of durability and weather protection. A great design with well chosen features such as drawstrings at the front and back of the hood, an internal front storm flap, and fleece-lined pockets; you won't begrudge the extra ounces when you are snug in the Transcendent Hoody on a stormy day. Five out of 10 points.
Getting your down jacket wet is an excellent way to get started down the road toward an epic in the mountains, particularly if you then manage to get snowed on for an extended period of time. Like the great majority of down jackets, the Transcendent Hoody will saturate even in a light rain if it's consistent enough.
Despite having a DWR coating applied to the outside shell of the jacket, we found that in a light rain it was less effective than most, and the fabric was quick to absorb water like the Marmot Guides Down Hoody. Not only that, but OR chose not to use hydrophobic down in this model. Don't ditch the rain shell if wet precipitation is in the forecast. Five out of 10 points.
The Transcendent Hoody is a great stash-away layer for big ski tours or climbs of big cold peaks like Denali or Rainier. It also serves well as a light belay jacket, as it includes two giant internal stash pockets for storing extra items such as climbing shoes or water bottles. We liked how small this jacket packed down, much smaller than in previous years. It was a little bit smaller than The North Face Trevail Hoodie, but much easier to stuff into its own pocket.
We have also found that the down of the Transcendent Hoody has shown little to no loss of loft after languishing at the bottom of packs, being used as a pillow, and used daily for months. One of the better characteristics of this jacket, we awarded it eight out of 10 points.
With a standard cut that manages to look trim and low profile baffles, the Transcendent Hoody looks athletic. Add some cool contrasting inside/outside color options, ala the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody or Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, and you get a slick looking jacket that performs nearly as well as it looks. The fit is generally to size and will accommodate a big build. It exemplifies the term "mountain style," as it exudes a touch of technical know-how and prowess, but doesn't come across as a desperate plea to be noticed for things you haven't done.
Our only complaint is that the logo is a bit too visible, especially compared to many of the other jackets we tested where restraint was used to push style over branding. That said, it was one of the better looking ones we tried, and so got eight out of 10 points.
The design of the Transcendent Hoody has very little room for improvement (perhaps 800+ fill-down in the next iteration?). A minimum of extras reduces the number of the things that might break and helps keep the weight of the Transcendent Hoody somewhat in check. Oversize zip pulls on the hand warmer pockets and the front zipper make adjusting layers without taking off your gloves a cinch. Spacious internal stash pockets give you a spot to stash gloves, bottles, and your snacks when resting, and were without doubt our favorite feature.
We can't say enough how much we love having these pockets! Drawstrings on the hood allow you to dial in the fit over a beanie or a helmet with equal ease. There are strong similarities in the design of the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody and the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody, but the latter definitely has a more mountain-ready design with greater adjustability of the hood, water bottle pockets, and a napoleon pocket. Our only complaint is that the hem draw cords weren't recessed into the hand pockets, instead leaving a draw cord to dangle, something that drives us nuts. Overall it tied for the best in the review with the Marmot Guide Down Hoody, receiving a solid nine points.
Use this jacket as part of a layering system for the big days when you can throw it in a pack. Its fit will accommodate layers underneath it, while still being trim enough to throw a hardshell over the top. Ski touring, alpine rock, and mountaineering are great activities for this jacket. Due to its trim, stylish look, it also makes a good choice for wearing around town without looking like a mountain guide. This is truly a do-anything jacket, as long as you don't let it get wet.
This jacket retails for only $225. To put this in perspective, you could buy two and a half Transcendent Hoodies for the price of one Canada Goose Hybridge Lite Hoody. It is a great jacket and is a steal for such a low price. The result is it was a very easy choice for our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
Though not the warmest or the lightest, the Transcendent Hoody will keep you sheltered in a storm for a lot longer than many jackets on the market. It has perhaps the most ideal set of features for use as a climbing or skiing jacket, and looks good enough to wear anywhere you want to go, not just in the mountains. It is also made using only responsibly sourced down, so is a great choice for the conscience. The best thing about this jacket is the price, a low $225, making it our Best Bang for the Buck.
— Andy Wellman
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