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Outdoor Research Illuminate Hoody Review

Has a slim fit and layers well, but is vulnerable to rain and wet snow.
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Price:  $269 List | $174.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, great layering piece
Cons:  Poor weather resistance
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Adam Paashaus & Matt Bento  ⋅  Nov 10, 2019
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 11
  • Warmth - 30% 5
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Water Resistance - 15% 5
  • Fit - 15% 8
  • Compressibility - 10% 7
  • Features - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Illuminate is a solid down mid-layer. Don't expect much in the way of weather protection, but do expect a slim fitting low bulk jacket that feels great under a shell. Stuffed with 800 fill power down housed in a 10 denier nylon shell, the Illuminate is lightweight and packable, with a climber-centric stowaway pocket to keep you warm pitch after pitch or mile after mile.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $174.96 at Backcountry
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$349.99 at Amazon
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$339.00 at Feathered Friends$279.70 at Amazon
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Pros Lightweight, great layering pieceGreat fit, warm, lightweight, packable, hydrophobic down900+ fill down, warm, lightweight, incredibly compressible, competitively pricedLightweight, stylish, high warmth to weight ratioWater resistant hydrophobic down, great DWR coating, well thought-out features
Cons Poor weather resistanceExpensiveHood a little tight to fit over a helmet, no hood adjustmentExpensive, not super durable750 fill-power down is good but not as light or lofty as others
Bottom Line Has a slim fit and layers well, but is vulnerable to rain and wet snow.This is our absolute favorite jacket for going fast and light when we need to be toasty at camp.A great choice for folks looking to go fast, light, and warm.An incredibly light jacket for your trips where weight matters.Excellent for wet weather because it has all the features to ensure the down stays dry.
Rating Categories Illuminate Hoody Summit L3 Hoody Feathered Friends Eos Arc'teryx Cerium SL Hoody Rab Microlight Alpine
Warmth (30%)
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7
Weight (20%)
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6
Water Resistance (15%)
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9
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Fit (15%)
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Compressibility (10%)
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Features (10%)
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Specs Illuminate Hoody Summit L3 Hoody Feathered Friends... Arc'teryx Cerium... Rab Microlight...
Down Fill 800-fill goose down 800-fill goose down 900+ goose down 850-fill goose down 750-fill goose down
Total Weight 12.5 oz 13.8 oz 13 oz 8.4 oz 15.7 oz
Baffle Construction Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through baffles Sewn-through Sewn-through baffles
Main Fabric 100% nylon 10D Pertex Quantum GL (10D x 10D nylon ripstop), DWR coating Pertex Quantum Arato 7 nylon Pertex Quantum
Compression Method Zips into its own pocket with clip-in loop Zips into its own pocket with clip-in loop Stuff sack Included stuff sack Stuff sack
Pockets 2 zippered hand, 1zippered chest, 2 internal shove-it pockets 2 zippered hand, 2 internal stash 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest
Hoodless Option? Yes No No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Illuminate is a faster, sleeker, dare we say a sexier version of the classic OR Transcendent, using higher fill power down and a thinner shell material than its heavier cousin. This comes with the sacrifice of weather resistance and durability, but if you're disciplined and refrain from bushwacking, off-width climbing, or emergency automotive work in this jacket, you'll be rewarded with a light and relatively warm mid-layer at a nicer price than many of its competitors.

Performance Comparison


This slim-fitting jacket makes an excellent mid layer.
This slim-fitting jacket makes an excellent mid layer.

Warmth


800 fill down has great insulating power for its weight, but the Illuminate isn't as warm as other jackets with the same type of insulation. Manufacturers don't generally list fill weights as they do for down sleeping bags, but we can assume that the extra warmth comes from there being more down in these jackets and keep their weight lower with lighter shell materials.

This jacket isn't as warm as our Editors' Choice award winner  The North Face Summit L3  as it has a higher hemline and less down.
This jacket isn't as warm as our Editors' Choice award winner, The North Face Summit L3, as it has a higher hemline and less down.

Weight


Weighing in at 12.5 ounces for a size large, this jacket is one of the lighter in our review. If weight is your first motivator when shopping for a down jacket, keep looking, but this has a good warmth to weight ratio.

Water resitance


You don't want to get caught in the rain without a hardshell or a rain jacket while wearing the OR Illuminate. This jacket is one of the least weather-resistant models we've tested, as it doesn't have a DWR treatment on its shell fabric or a hydrophobic treatment on its insulation. In our shower testing, all the jackets we tested eventually leaked, causing the feathers to lose their loft. The Illuminated soaked through at a fast pace and took the longest to dry out and re-loft.

Fit


This jacket is slim fitting, making it great if you're wearing it as a mid-layer, but limited if you want to throw it over all your other layers, parka style. The hem length could use being longer, but it provides a little more bum coverage than a few competitors.


Compressibility


We've had some trouble in the past with the stowaway pockets on OR jackets being too small to fit the jackets. Maybe they were listening because the Illuminate fits easily into its pocket, and it includes a clip-in loop.

It stuffs easily into its own pocket and is one of the more compressible models we reviewed.
It stuffs easily into its own pocket and is one of the more compressible models we reviewed.

Features


The Illuminate has several features that add to its comfort and functionality. Starting from the bottom, one hem cinch does a fine job sealing out the cold, though you need to be mindful to tuck the slack loop up into the jacket so it won't catch on anything. The zippered handwarmer pockets have a microfleece lining. While this move isn't in-line with ultralight, it is in line with comfort! The hood is a little small to fit over a helmet, but it's warm and held in place comfortably with a cinch cord in the back. The hood sits high on the forehead, and while it will keep your neck and ears toasty, it provides little weather protection.

The hood stays in place nicely thanks to a cinch cord in the rear but is too small to comfortably fit over a helmet.
The hood stays in place nicely thanks to a cinch cord in the rear but is too small to comfortably fit over a helmet.

Value


The Illuminate's retail price is not bad at all for a jacket with high quality down and lightweight shell fabrics, especially considering the high price tags on the Arcteryx model, for example. This jacket's face fabric is very thin, but we didn't manage to put any holes in it or lose any feathers during the testing period. Our testers report a fast response and excellent support when dealing with Outdoor Research's warranty program.

800 fill power down feels sooo good on this chilly day at the crag.
800 fill power down feels sooo good on this chilly day at the crag.

Conclusion


While not a top performer compared to some of the more expensive jackets in our review, we are pleased with the Illuminate's features and design for its price. It's much warmer for its weight than most synthetic competitors, without putting a large dent in your bank account.


Adam Paashaus & Matt Bento