The Outdoor Reseach Ascendant Hoody hailed by some as the "perfect mid layer", is a lighter, even more breathable take on their popular Uberlayer. The Ascendant is the first jacket we've tested to use Polartec Alpha Direct, A version of Polartec that doesn't require an inner lining to hold it in place, saving weight and adding an extra element of comfort. Turns out Polartec Alpha Direct feels awesomely soft against our skin. The downside? This jacket offers very little weather resistance. Wind cuts through its stretchy shell fabric, and it soaks up water faster than most of the other models we tested.
Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Breathable, light, great midlayer
Cons: Poor weather resistance
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When it comes to breathability, the Ascendant tops the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody and the Arc'teryx Proton LT, but it isn't as warm or anywhere as near as weather-resistant as these competitors. It's lightweight, but by no means crazy-light, weighing the same as our warmer and more weather-resistant Editors' Choice Award winner, the Rab Xenon X.
This jacket is relatively thin and very breathable, so warmth isn't it's strong point. Under a hardshell or even a light wind layer, The Acesndent is a good insulator, much warmer than the Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody, but not as warm as the loftier Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since our testers feel like the Nano-Air is too warm to leave on during summertime alpine scrambles and spring ski tours.
Weight & Compressibility
Our small sized Ascendant weighs 11.3 ounces, the same weight as our Editors' Choice Award winner, the Rab Xenon X. It's lighter than the Nano-Air Hoody and an ounce heavier than the Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody. We stuffed this jacket into its hood down to the size of a football, but it would pack down even smaller into a stuff sack. It does not have a built-in stowaway pocket.
The stretchy Pertex Microlight stretch woven shell fabric and the soft, fleece-like feel of the Polartec Alpha Direct insulation against the skin make for an extremely comfy jacket. The Ascendant is a well-tailored mid layer, and our testers found it to be form-fitting without feeling tight or restricting. The two hand warmer pockets are lined with Polartec Alpha. They are fairly deep, and we never had any items fall out, but they don't have zippers, so keep that in mind when storing important items. There is a small zippered chest pocket for keys, lighters, credit cards and anything else you don't want to lose. Without pocket zippers, this jacket feels very comfortable under a harness, under a hardshell, and while in a sleeping bag. The hood is stretchy and stays in place well, even before we pulled the cinch cord tight, locking everything in place.
We think this jacket is a great mid layer, but what makes it soft, supple, and breathable also makes it very vulnerable to rain. The Ascendant is not treated with a durable waterproof repellent (DWR), and it soaked through in our shower test immediately. While this jacket isn't designed to be waterproof, it is one of the least water-resistant of the insulated jackets in our review. If this jacket gets soaked, it takes a long time to dry out, where a jacket like the Black Diamond Access Hoody gets wet in a downpour, the DWR treatment prevents the insulation from becoming totally water-logged, leading to much faster drying times.
The Ascendant gets top marks for breathability, making it perfect for early morning runs. Our lead tester stayed comfortable running in this jacket with temperatures in the mid-thirties and could leave it on even as the sun came up and the temps climbed into the upper fifties. For him, the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody is too warm and not breathable enough for running in these temps, but the Ascendant Hoody is perfect.
Available in six colors, the Ascendant Hoody should appeal to everyone's optical pallets. While not as casual looking as a cotton hoody, the non-reflective shell fabric has a soft, comfy feel, and the is fit near perfect, not too baggy, while not looking too tight either.
This model is designed to be a mid layer. Though it has poor weather resistance, it's designers intended it to feel great under a waterproof layer and breathe well, rather than be a do-it-all layer. For more weather resistance and durability, the Arc'teryx Proton LT is the better options, but if you want to dial in the perfect mid layer and aren't happy with the fleece options out there, the Ascendant hoody might just do the trick.
For $250 you get comfort, a little more warmth than the average fleece, and great breathability. While it is more expensive than the Editors' Choice Rab Xenon X, it's backed by Outdoor Research's Infinite Guarantee, one of the best warranty programs in the industry.
A good breathable insulator is one that hits that sweet spot where it balances warmth and breathability. That spot is a little different for everyone, and changes with the conditions. If you're one of those folks who find the Nano-Air Hoody too stifling, the Ascendant is a good alternative.
— Matt Bento