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Outdoor Research Illuminate Hoody - Women's Review

The Illuminate is very well made with high quality materials but less overall warmth due to less loft.
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Price:  $270 List | $188.30 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, warm for weight, standalone or midlayer use
Cons:  Less loft means less overall warmth, less water resistant
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 20, 2018
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Our Verdict

The Illuminate from Outdoor Research is a very high quality lightweight down jacket. It is made from high quality 800 fill goose down and a mix of lighter and slightly more durable fabrics which help keep it light and supple while also retaining more down inside the jacket over the long term. The jacket does not have a lot of loft, so while it has high quality down, it is not one of the warmest jackets in this review. We liked it most as a midlayer since it does not shed light precipitation as well as some of the other jackets in this review. However, the fit is a little more roomy for the size, so it is, in fact, easier to wear warm layers underneath it, and a little more bulky feeling when you wear a hard shell over the top of it. In the end, we think this is a jacket best suited to reliably dry conditions.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


Sighting orcas in the brisk Pacific Northwest fall wearing the OR Illuminate.
Sighting orcas in the brisk Pacific Northwest fall wearing the OR Illuminate.

Warmth


The Illuminate from Outdoor Research is filled with high quality 800 fill down, giving it great warmth for its weight. It does not, however, have a lot of down, so it is not one of the warmest jackets in this review, despite the use of high quality down. It also has smaller baffles, giving it more seams which can create cold spots and less volume for the down to loft.

Catching the last climbable days at the Needles in the southern Sierra requires a good down jacket.
Catching the last climbable days at the Needles in the southern Sierra requires a good down jacket.

For a jacket that is extremely lightweight, nearly half the weight of the Illuminate, and almost as warm check out the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. And for some of the warmest jackets in this review, look at the Feathered Friends Eos, another Seattle-based outdoor company, the Arc'teryx Cerium SV and The North Face Summit L3.

Weight


The Illuminate scores toward the middle in this metric. The town is decent quality and has 10 denier fabric, which is lightweight. It is not as light as those materials might suggest, and we think this is for two reasons: it has a slightly roomier fit compared to other jackets of the same size, and it has cushy fleece-lined pockets. It is also fully featured with three hood adjustment points, one bottom hem adjustment toggle, two hand pockets and a chest pocket with internal mesh media sleeve.

Compressibility


The Illuminate features high quality 800 fill down which is very compressible for the weight and warmth. It also has lightweight 10 and 20 denier fabric, making the jacket relatively compact. It packs into its own hand pocket and has a carabiner loop to clip it to your harness. It is a little bulkier than our favorite climbing jackets, so if you're looking for the best and most compressible jacket to clip to the back of a harness, try the Ghost Whisperer, the Arc'teryx Cerium LT or The North Face Summit L3, our favorites for steep, technical climbs. Of these three alternatives, the Summit would be by far the warmest.

The OR Illuminate is highly compressible but the stowable pocket is an awkward shape and exposes fleece when turned inside out to stow and clip to your harness. Somewhat awkward.
The OR Illuminate is highly compressible but the stowable pocket is an awkward shape and exposes fleece when turned inside out to stow and clip to your harness. Somewhat awkward.

Features


The Illuminate is a fully featured down jacket. It has a completely adjustable, helmet-compatible hood, with three adjustment toggles. The bottom hem also cinches tight to keep out cold drafts with one adjustment point. The whole jacket stuffs into its own pocket which then has a carabiner loop that allows you to clip the jacket to the back of your harness. And the jacket has our favorite feature: the chest pocket! It is accessible from the outside, so you don't have to unzip your jacket and let out any warmth to get into the pocket, but it still keeps your phone or small snacks warm next to your chest. We also particularly liked the fleece patch on the collar where the zipper closes in front of your face.

We didn't really use this little mesh sub-pocket  but we love chest pockets!
We didn't really use this little mesh sub-pocket, but we love chest pockets!

The Illuminate is one of the more fully featured jackets in this review. For a couple that are a little better, check out the Rab Microlight Alpine or the Arc'teryx Cerium SV.

The hand pocket reverses into a stowable stuff sack to stash the jacket and clip it to a harness.
The hand pocket reverses into a stowable stuff sack to stash the jacket and clip it to a harness.

Durability


The Illuminate is a well-made jacket. It features a mix of lighter weight and slightly more durable fabrics. This, coupled with the high quality down, ensured that the feathers mostly stayed inside the jacket, a plus for long-term durability. The high-quality materials and excellent manufacturing standards at OR make this a sturdy, reliable down jacket.

Water Resistance


Down jackets are not meant to be waterproof. However, since down is worthless when it gets wet, it is wise to give it some sort of moisture barrier. The Illuminate performed relatively poorly in our moisture test, likely due to its reliance on the nylon material by itself to provide the water resistance. Most jackets feature a waterproof coating (DWR), but this one appears not to have it. Sure enough, it showed up in our weather testing. Be sure you take a shell jacket with you when you wear this jacket in stormy weather.

Best Applications


The OR Illuminate is best suited to dry conditions or used as a midlayer insulation piece under a hard shell jacket. It breathes well, so it is well suited to light aerobic activity in very cold conditions where there is less risk of it getting wet.

Value


At $269, the Illuminate is a good deal. It is made of high quality down and lightweight but relatively durable fabrics.

Conclusion


The Illuminate is an excellent  lightweight down jacket that allows you to layer clothing underneath easier than most lightweight down jackets.
The Illuminate is an excellent, lightweight down jacket that allows you to layer clothing underneath easier than most lightweight down jackets.

The Illuminate is a good, lightweight down jacket. It is a little more roomy for the size and does not repel water as well as most, so it is best used as a midlayer insulating piece instead of as a stand-alone insulating jacket unless you're in a reliably dry climate.


Lyra Pierotti