Most fleece jackets bank the tried and true method of insulating with thicker fleece in the chest and back while upping the breathability factor with panels of lighter weight fleece under the arms. The Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody takes this design concept to the extreme and the results are fantastic. This jacket is a Polartec insulated piece that covers the front and shoulders, and microgrid fleece on the arms and back. This business-in-the-front-party-in-the-back style mullet of a jacket defies categorization, but we've wrestled it into our fleece category, where the Deviator earns our Top Pick For Breathability, a position previously held by our all-time favorite, the Patagonia R1 Hoody, which holds on to our Editors' Choice Award due to its superior comfort and warmth.
Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody ReviewPrice: $189 List | $185.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Ultra breathable, very comfortable
Cons: Not very warm
Bottom line: This jacket is your best choice for high exertion activities in the winter.
Main Material: 9.65 oz
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The fleece parts of this jacket are almost base layer thin and are incredibly breathable, while the synthetically insulated front panels are thicker and offer a little wind resistance. This jacket assumes that you'll be hauling a backpack around while you're wearing so that your back is insulated by the pack, and then you'll dry quicker when you take the pack off. Compared to the other "hybrid designs" in the fleece line up, the Deviator is less weather resistant than the Patagonia R1 Techface Hoody and the Arc'teryx Procline but breathes much better than both of them.
This light jacket isn't very warm on its own, and on longer hikes and long days into the mountains, you'll need to complement it with a heavier, more insulating layer. The Deviator is designed to keep you warm while you're working hard, and as long as you're generating the heat, the Deviator will keep it close to your body around your chest and sides, while blasting off heat through the thin Polartec Power Grid fleece on your back and armpits. The front panels are filled with Polartec Alpha insulation and feel as warm as a much thicker, heavier fleece like the REI Co-op Flowcore, but at a lighter weight. A thin hood caps thing off and gives your ears a break from the wind, but we wish the hood was made from the warmer Polartec Alpha panels. For a breathable fleece that's warmer, we suggest the Patagonia R1 Hoody or the Arc'teryx Fortrez.
The Deviator is very comfortable; so comfortable that we slept in it after long ski tours. The hand warmer pockets don't have zippers, so they're for hand warming only, but the lack of zipper makes for a softer jacket if you're sleeping on your stomach. If you do need to stash important items like keys, a light, or a credit card, this jacket has a zippered chest pocket. Our only complaint in the comfort metric comes from the sizing. Our lead tester usually wears a size small in Outdoor Research products, and the small Outdoor Research Transition Hoody fit perfectly. A small in the Deviator was too tight in the chest and a little short in the hem, but a medium felt too baggy to wick moisture as well as the form fitting small. So if you're the perfect size, you've got a perfect active mid layer. Try one on if you get the opportunity.
The Deviator is noticeably more breathable than other fleeces. After skinning uphill for a few hours, our lead tester could take off his pack, put his arms in the air, and feel himself quickly cooling off while sweat was whisked away by a light breeze and the warm sun. The insulated front piece did not breathe as well as the back and arms, but that's what zippers are for! The Arc'teryx Procline combines lightweight fleece with a Tyono shell fabric to balance warmth and breathability, but we feel that the Deviator is a better compromise, only putting the extra insulation exactly where we need it. The Patagonia TechFace R1 Is more weather resistant, but its baggy cut makes it thermally inefficient, and it doesn't breathe as well.
Thin fleece on the arms and back make the Deviator a great layering piece, and once you stop moving you will need to slip into an insulated jacket, a down puffy, and even a shell. This jacket breathes so well that you'll lose your body heat reasonably quickly while pulling off your climbing skins or stopping for lunch. Thumb loops help you get this jacket under all your other layers without the sleeves bunching up.
The Deviator can't do much against inclement weather. The power grid fleece wicks moisture but gets soaked quickly in the rain. The insulated front and shoulders shed light precip, but not for long. We recommend carrying an insurance policy in the form of a waterproof hardshell jacket for days where wet snow or rain are in the forecast.
Our small size test model weighs superlight 9.65oz, even lighter than the Less Insulated Outdoor Research Transition Hoody. While it doesn't stuff into its pocket, this jacket crams down into a pack so small that you'd forget it was even there.
Some of our testers didn't like the form-fitting Deviator for going out to the bar or hanging around in town. "I look like some kind of skimo dude." One of our testers complained, "Gimme a flannel." While the Deviator firmly and defiantly puts function over fashion, you don't have to draw attention to yourself with flashy euro colors; it's available in Hot sauce/Charcoal, Night/Hydro, Black/Tahoe, and Aloe/Charcoal. Remember, fashion is subjective, so if you like the look of the Deviator, go for it! Also, when you're comfy in the woods, who cares what you look like.
This jacket costs $189, almost twice the price of our Best Buy Award Winner, the REI Co-op Flowcore. If you're serious about active insulation, you'll bite the bullet and enjoy many miles and long days in this jacket, plus Outdoor Research's Infinite Guarantee means that this jacket will be repaired or replaced forever.
Running and ski touring are a dream in this breathable, versatile fleece. We also did quite a bit of climbing in the Deviator, where it kept us warm at belays, and sweat free when going got serious. For less active folks, a thicker jacket like the REI Co-op HyperAxis Hoody will keep you much warmer. If more weather resistance is what you're into, the less breathable Arc'teryx Procline is a better choice on those wet maritime snow days.
This fleece is one of our favorite designs. At a time when many folks are transitioning from fleece to active insulators like the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hood and the Outdoor Research Uberlayer, the Deviator shows us that there's still room for a fleece mid layer (albeit hybridized with Polartec alpha) in our closets and our packs. Our Top Picks and other award winners don't make it to the top of the podium by employing new textiles and gimmicky features, they are recognized for their thoughtful design and overall function. The hybrid style of this jacket isn't groundbreaking in itself, but the deviator gets the Top Pick for breathability because of its nearly perfect balance of breathable and insulating materials.
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Most recent review: May 14, 2018
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