Hands-on Gear Review

Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody Review

Price:  $250 List | $99.83 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Outstanding comfort, better than expected weather protection, great layering piece
Cons:  Long term durability concerns, wrist loops poorly executed
Bottom line:  The scendant Hoody is a comfortable insulated jacket that works admirably as a mid layer or as an outer layer.
Editors' Rating:   
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Type:  Stretch woven with Polartec insulation
Weight (size medium):  0.8 lbs
Material:  Pertex Microlight 100% nylon 20D ripstop stretch woven shell
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research

Our Verdict

The Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody represents the growing trend of hybrid jackets. Featuring both a Polartec Alpha Direct insulated interior and a superlight Pertex exterior shell to keep wind and wet weather from getting in and spoiling your day, the Ascendent Hoody is a fantastic piece that offers four season functionality. While we would not recommend using it alone as an outer layer on days with more than brief precipitation, this was our review's most versatile jacket. For activities where a heavier woven fabric is necessary, we prefer the Mountain Hardwear Dragon.

A jack of all trades, while a master of none, the Ascendant Hoody bridges the gap between insulated jacket and softshell for those who want a garment for every occasion. It is a niche jacket and could be replicated by wearing a light fleece covered by the Top Pick Winning Rab Torque or Arcteryx Psiphon. However, we like the feel of this jacket and love how well we can layer with it. We probably won't take it off until our significant others finally put it in the laundry when we are sleeping.



RELATED REVIEW: The 12 Best Softshell Jackets for Men


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Ryan Huetter

Last Updated:
Friday
November 17, 2017

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The most unique in our review, the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody is a hybrid between an insulated jacket and a softshell, combining both to create a niche layer that works well on top of light base layers or underneath a heavier jacket. It performed well against some top-tier softshell jackets and didn't quite measure up against others. This is a specialized layer, which for active adventurers, could be the solution to all your layering problems.

Performance Comparison


About to begin the trek up to Mount Whitney's basecamp  the Ascendant is a perfect layering piece for cold days.
About to begin the trek up to Mount Whitney's basecamp, the Ascendant is a perfect layering piece for cold days.

Weather Protection


Outdoor Research uses a Pertex Microlight nylon ripstop shell to provide the outer weather protection to the Ascendant Hoody. This lightweight shell fabric feels thin, and we figured that it would quickly wet through when taken into the shower test. We were quite surprised when the material shed water continuously, and while soaking the outer fabric, did not allow our base layer to get wet. This was a much better result than we experienced with the Rab Torque, whose thin Matric fabric quickly soaked through.

The Pertex shell keeps light wind from making us feel too cold on this late season walk.
The Pertex shell keeps light wind from making us feel too cold on this late season walk.

The hood does have a single point of adjustment in the back to seal around your face, and perhaps a helmet if it a low-volume model. However, the wrists do not have any means of closure other than elastic. It is not designed to be the outer-most layer on a nasty weather day, so the higher cut hem should not be an issue. Instead, we would tend to layer this underneath a longer model like the Arcteryx Psiphon FL, or even a hardshell jacket like the Arcteryx Beta AR. It is important to note that there are no zippers on the handwarmer pockets, so the open pockets need to be layered over if poor weather is encountered.

Breathability


Despite being the most insulated jacket that we reviewed, using designated Polartec Alpha Direct insulation rather than just a simple fleece backing. The Ascendant Hoody breathed admirably well, making it a versatile layering piece for active pursuits in colder weather such as cross-country skiing, ski-touring, and ice climbing. This performance is likely the result of the light Pertex shell that does a better job than many other fabrics like The North Face WindWall or Mountain Hardwear Dragon AirShield at allowing perspiration to pass through.

The Ascendant works well as both a mid layer and outer layer depending on conditions  and even underneath the Marmot ROM breathes quite well.
The Ascendant works well as both a mid layer and outer layer depending on conditions, and even underneath the Marmot ROM breathes quite well.

When we wore this jacket underneath a hardshell, though, we did get clammier, since the Gore-Tex fabric did not do as good of a job at breathing. While the Ferrosi and Torque scored higher, they lack any insulation or fleece backing, so it is impressive that this model can boast the breathability that it does while being one of the warmest.

Mobility


With serious activity in mind, the Ascendant Hoody is a top performer when it comes to stretching and moving with the body, only falling behind the Ferrosi and Torque. The light Pertex shell stretches and accommodates skiing and climbing movement. Despite being one of the most form-fitted jackets that we reviewed, behind the Arc'teryx Gamma MX, we experienced minimal hem rise, keeping the jacket snugly tucked into our harness while searching for the next hold. To keep the cuffs from slipping down (since there are no adjustable closures), OR uses a small thumb loop. This is a nice idea, but in practice, it's tight and does not play well with gloves. The Ferrosi has a much better thumb loop design.

The Ascendant is stretchy and allows for ample movement.
The Ascendant is stretchy and allows for ample movement.

Some folks in warmer climates may find that the Ascendant Hoody is a bit bulky for layering, and might favor a thinner piece like the Patagonia R1 Hoody, a model in our fleece jacket review. With a thin hardshell or softshell outer layer, we were still able to move quite well despite the added insulation.

Weight


The Ascendant Hoody scored a 9/10 after weighing in at a scant 0.8 pounds. It's the second lightest in the review, which is impressive since the top performer in this metric was the OR Ferrosi Jacket, a layer that has zero insulation and weighs only 0.1 pounds less. With this low weight, we were able to wear both the Arc'teryx Psiphon FL AND the Ascendant Hoody - a phenomenal combo for active mountain sports - and still weigh less than the Mountain Hardwear Dragon.

The fuzzy inner insulation is both warm with very little weight or bulk.
The fuzzy inner insulation is both warm with very little weight or bulk.

Features


To shed weight, and unnecessary frills on this mid-layer jacket, Outdoor Research limited the features found on the Ascendant to the minimum. A single hood cinch on the back of the neck tightens the hood against a hat or helmet, and a single, offset hem cinch secures the waistline. We like that OR has positioned their hem cinches slightly towards the rear, it interferes with a harness and climbing gear much less and makes it easy to operate one-handed or with gloves. There are no thumb-loops to keep the cuffs in place, but these are not the most well-thought-out feature on the jacket. The lack of zippers on the handwarmer pockets imply that this is meant to be worn with an additional outer layer in bad weather.

The narrow thumb loops are barely big enough  and won't work with gloves.
The narrow thumb loops are barely big enough, and won't work with gloves.

Style


The trim-fitting Ascendant Hoody features classic active styling, with duo-tone zippers and offset interior colors that give it some of that flair you are used to seeing on the floor of your local gear shop. This year's Ascendant offers more color, though, so you have the option to choose a more subtle black/Tahoe blue (tested), or the much louder lemongrass/flash combo.

The single hood adjustment can be tightened with one hand  but needs two to open it.
The single hood adjustment can be tightened with one hand, but needs two to open it.

Either way, this light jacket is equally at home on trips around town or to a casual get together at the local watering hole.

Best Applications


This niche jacket is best suited for colder weather climates during high output activity where ample mobility and breathability are required as well as added warmth. The Ascendant Hoody capably performs as a layering piece, to be worn underneath a heavier coat, as well as on its own. It's a four season, versatile jacket that deserves rave reviews.

The one-way adjustable hood fits over most climbing helmets  but don't expect it to get over your ski helmet.
The one-way adjustable hood fits over most climbing helmets, but don't expect it to get over your ski helmet.

Value


Anything billed as hybrid seems to be way more expensive than it needs to be, and the Ascendant is not an exception. With a price of $215, we feel that even though it is a great, useful layer, and much more versatile than a less expensive jacket, it is hard to justify a great value. The Best Buy winning OR Ferrosi Jacket is a tad more wallet-friendly and is a nice mid-weight fleece for $99; you can even buy the hooded version for $129.

Conclusion


For those who think they already have it all, and for those winter sports junkies who want supreme breathability as well as added warmth in the same jacket, then the unique OR Ascendant Hoody might be a great choice for you.

Layering with the Ascendant Hoody makes cold fall days in the alpine much more comfortable.
Layering with the Ascendant Hoody makes cold fall days in the alpine much more comfortable.

Ryan Huetter

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Most recent review: November 17, 2017
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