The Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket is the most versatile piece we had the pleasure of reviewing. It's light, features breathable stretch panels, and packs away quickly into its own pocket. It has more features than its closest competitors, the Arc'teryx Atom SL and the Patagonia Nano Puff, for significantly less dough. This makes it an easy and obvious choice for the Best Buy Award, for a second year in a row. This year, Outdoor Research gave the Cathode a fully insulated hood (which we love!) and a new stitching design. These are solid improvements that make the Cathode an even greater value.While this jacket is versatile, our other award winners deliver more focused performance. The Editors' Choice Award-winning Rab Xenon X has a significantly better warm-to-weight ratio, while the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody gets our Top Pick for Breathability with its soft, stretchy, moisture-wicking fabrics.
Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket Review
Cons: Needs to be paired with a light shell for windy conditions
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Our Analysis and Test Results
Low priced and loaded with features, the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket scores well in the weight and comfort metrics. Little details like microfleece lining around the neck and drop big drop in pockets made this jacket a favorite among our testers. The only drawback is the lack of a DWR treatment, which makes the Cathode vulnerable even to light rain.
The Cathode is at the lighter end of the jackets in this category, not the warmer end. We found that it performs best as a mid-layer, under a wind or light rain jacket (to really cut the wind out). The stretchy Schoeller panels under the arms and down the sides to the hips are a great feature for breathability, but we felt that we lost a significant amount of warmth in those areas, especially when we were standing around in the wind. The Cathode is warmer than the other hybrid style jacket in this category, the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody
The Arc'teryx Atom LT employs a similar design, but the stretchy panels only go down the sides of the jacket, while the arms are fully insulated, making it warmer than the Cathode. The lightweight Pertex Quantum shell is a great wind-resistant fabric, and the hood is well insulated; it includes a cinch cord to keep it in place on noggins of all shapes. When the jacket is zipped up all the way with hood cinched up, the Cathode does an excellent job of preventing heat loss from the head and neck.
This jacket scored high in the comfort metric due to its great mobility provided by the stretchy panels. Additionally, it has one of the best hood cinch designs we've encountered. The hood cinches down snugly around the top of your head and moves with you as you look from side to side, never restricting your range of motion, and always keeping the hood out of your face. One of our favorite comfort features is the quilted patches where the jacket contacts the chin. These two square inches of fabric make all the difference when the jacket is zipped up to cover your neck and mouth.
This award winner comes with loads of pocket options for such a light and simple jacket. Ergonomic, easy to grab zipper pulls secure the hand pockets and and chest pocket, while the hand pockets are generously sized for gloved hands. We also loved the two drop-in pockets on the inside of the jacket for holding gloves or warming up our climbing shoes. The sleeves remain in place with elastic cuffs that are lined with thin quilted material, which makes them super comfy where they grip your arms.
Weight & Compressibility
At 11.4 oz, the Cathode beats out the Patagonia Nano Puff, the Arc'teryx Atom LT and the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody by a few ounces, making it the third lightest jacket in our review. It compresses quickly and easily into its left pocket and has a clip-in loop. It's only 3 oz heavier than the Arc'teryx Atom SL and significantly warmer due to its insulated hood and neck.
When compressed, the Cathode is smaller than the Rab Xenon X and the Nano Puff, and has a longer, tube-like shape. It hangs a little bit lower on a climbing harness, but that didn't bother any of our testers. We found the Cathode Hooded Jacket to be an excellent model for climbing multi-pitch in the shade, when a fleece just isn't warm enough, and you want to carry a jacket that you can pack away easily.
This contender did not score high on our weather resistance metrics because wind cuts through the stretchy side panels and there is no durable water repellent treatment on the Pertex Quantum shell fabric. In our shower test, the Cathode soaked through faster than any other jacket we tested, except the Patagonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Hoody Those stretchy panels on the sides and arms of the jacket also absorb water quickly. However, these features do keep the jacket light and breathable, and it pairs well with a lightweight shell. The Arc'teryx Atom LT features a similar side panel design, with more insulation, and a more water-repellent shell fabric, at a higher price.
The breathable Shoeller fabric under the arms and down the sides of this jacket allow for exceptional breathability. It is only slightly less breathable than the Outdoor Research Uberlayer and the Nano-Air, and it has better wind resistance on the back and chest.
The Cathode inhabits a unique niche between breathable insulators like the Nano-Air and the heavier, more weather resistant Xenon X. If you're into running or ski touring in less than optimal winter conditions, this could be the perfect layer since it strikes a balance between wind resistance and breathability.
The updated criss-crossing quilt patterning was described by one of our testers as "too fast for the front country". The shine of the Pertex Quantum shell seems to say "The mountains are calling, and I must shred". This jacket has a very techy look that definitely lets people know what you're up to. The sizing runs small, perfect for layering under a waterproof shell.
The combination of extremely breathable side panels and a wind resistant shell makes the Cathode Hooded Jacket unique in our line-up. Highly aerobic activities like running, ski touring, or scrambling in snowy, windy conditions best suit this jacket.
At $199 retail, this contender is the least expensive jacket we reviewed this year. It's also loaded with features like a stowaway pocket, glove pockets, and a great hood design, making it an easy choice for our Best Buy Award.
Versatility is the name of the game when it comes to the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket. Its hybrid design with wind resistant shell fabric and breathable panels make it suitable for a wide range of activities. If you're looking for something that can do it all relatively well without breaking the bank, then our two time Best Buy Award winner is for you.
— Matt Bento
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