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.
About to begin the trek up to Mount Whitney's basecamp, the Ascendant is a perfect layering piece for cold days.
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 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.
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.
Fleece-lined jackets can work well as both a mid layer and outer layer depending on conditions, and even underneath a second softshell it can breath 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.
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.
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.
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.
This fuzzy inner insulation is warm with very little weight or bulk.
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 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.
Either way, this light jacket is equally at home on trips around town or to a casual get together at the local watering hole.
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.
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 $2149, 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 softshell for $99; you can even buy the hooded version for $129.
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.