The Outdoor Research Uberlayer is a well constructed, highly breathable jacket that, along with the Nano-Air, is changing how we think about layering systems. The Polartec Alpha insulation helps regulate temperature whether you're charging hard up the hill or stopped for a break. Additionally, the stretchy shell and liner fabrics create great mobility and breathe very well. We enjoyed climbing in it on chilly days because it moves well and has many climber friendly features.
The Uberlayer is a good bit heavier a than our Top Pick for Breathability, the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody. We love both of these jackets for charging hard, but feel the Nano-Air is both higher performing and more mobile. The Uberlayer has a thicker, tougher shell though, and we feel that it will hold up to abrasion much longer, potentially making it a better value.
Outdoor Research is phasing out the Uberlayer in favor of their new Ascendant Hoody.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Outdoor Research Uberlayer scores well in comfort and breathability, and folks looking for a slightly heavier, more durable alternative to the Patagonia Nano-Air will appreciate some additional features like drop-in pockets, an adjustable hood, and a slightly slimmer fit. Unfortunately, this Jacket lacks a DWR treatment, so you'll want to be carrying a rain layer if grim weather is in the forecast.
This jacket is insulated with 98 g/m2 Polartec Alpha insulation and we found it to be warmer than the Patagonia Nano-Air… slightly. The insulation in the Uberlayer isn't as lofty as the Fullrange insulation used in the Nano-Air, but the Uberlayer earns a slightly higher warmth score because of its thicker shell fabric. Both of these jackets sacrifice warmth when used as an outer layer because they allow some air flow. We found that the Uberlayer's hood seals in warmth well and it fits over a helmet if needed.
Weight & Compressibility
Weighing in at 17.8oz for our size small test model, the Uberlayer is over 5oz heavier than the Nano-Air. It's the third heaviest jacket in this review behind The North Face ThermoBall Hoodie and the Hyper Puff. This jacket comes with a stowaway pocket with a clip-in loop, but it was everything we could do to get it to fit in there. We eventually succeeded, but it took 15 minutes and we doubt we'll ever use this feature again. The Uberlayer compresses to a small size. We would love it if the stowaway pocket was a little bigger, as this would give this contender a real advantage over the Nano-Air (which doesn't have a stowaway pocket).
Comfort is where this contender knocks it out of the park - no detail is spared in constructing the comfort features. Moreover, the stretchy fabrics and insulation just make it a cozy and mobile jacket. It moves with you really well, and the hood has a quick adjustment at the back of the head that is protected by a hood of shell fabric. This means if it's snowing and the temperature is freezing, the cord lock won't freeze up. There is a small, flexible wire brim in the front of the hood. Two hand pockets with zippers and a zippered chest pocket on the left provide lots of storage; there are also two internal drop in pockets for warming up gloves or a water bottle. Like the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket, all the pockets have awesome ergonomic zipper pulls. The front zipper can be unzipped from the top or the bottom, while a single cord lock on the right hip snugs up the hem to seal in the warmth.
Weather resistance is not the strong point of this model since it is designed for mobility and breathability. The stretch woven nylon shell fabric allows air to pass through, though it is less noticeable than the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody. Sewn-through construction in the arms, back, and sides also limits the wind resistance. Up front, an additional mesh liner on the inside chest both wicks sweat when you are working hard and provides a little wind resistance. The Uberlayer does not have a DWR treatment and soaked through very quickly in light rain conditions, while the Nano-Air continued to shed water and kept us dry. The Uberlayer's shoulders and arms are lined with a more slippery liner to make layering easier and to increase mobility. It works great as a mid-layer when paired with a light rain shell.
Like the award winning Nano-Air, this is one of two models we tested that is wholly focused on mobility and breathability for highly aerobic activity. The Uberlayer earned the second highest score in this metric and was only outperformed by the Nano-Air. Both are excellent ski touring and winter running jackets; the Nano-Air breathes better, but the Uberlayer is slightly warmer as a stand-alone outer layer. The hybrid style Arc'teryx Atom LT employs stretchy panels down its side to increase breathability, but it still doesn't come close to the highly breathable Uberlayer.
We think this jacket looks great and we awarded it a high style score. It fits snugly, yet in no way inhibits mobility. The soft shell fabric doesn't look shiny or techy, and it is available in red, blue, and black. We looked and felt great wearing it casually around town.
This jacket is designed to keep you warm but not overheated in very cold weather, and it performs extraordinarily while running or ski touring in cold weather. The breathable insulation and shell work perfectly with the wicking lining fabric to keep you dry and cozy when you're charging uphill. It has a tougher shell than the Nano-Air, so if you feel like you are particularly hard on your gear, this may be the jacket you're looking for.
At $315, the Uberlayer is a tad more expensive than its closest competitor, the Nano-Air. This is a great price, but both of these models deliver excellent cold weather aerobic performance.
If you want a jacket for cold weather aerobic activities, and you want something a little warmer than the Patagonia Nano-Air, the Outdoor Research Uberlayer is a perfect choice. It breathes and temperature regulates well for high energy adventures in the cold.
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.