Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The OR Ascendant Hoody struggles with some durability issues, but we love everything else about this fun and functional layer. It's snuggly warm due to its plush interior but still breathes surprisingly well. It only weighs 11.5 ounces but manages to have impressive weather protection. Some aspects are not as technical as you'll see in a high performing softshell, but overall we enjoyed this jacket and feel it is an asset to almost anyone's closet.
When we first laid eyes on this jacket, it was easy to underestimate. It's so lightweight and fragile looking that we honestly didn't expect it to measure up to most of our test group. But measure up it did, holding its own in a stiff competition.
We wore the Ascendant Hoody biking on a below-freezing day, hiking through knock-you-off-your-feet wind in the alpine, belaying on chilly climbing days, and even into the shower to test water resistance. Time after time we found ourselves impressed. One thing we consistently noticed when putting on this jacket is that we always felt an instant layer of warmth surround us, the same way you do when pulling on a puffy. Many softshells feel a little chilly when they first get put on before the body was a chance to heat up the material. But not the Ascendant — this gem was like getting wrapped up in a cozy blanket.
Cold and wind aside, we didn't think this layer would handle water very well. Once again we were wrong. The Ascendant kept water out everywhere except at the waist because — since the pockets don't zip — water was able to get in there. The interesting thing was that the water, for the most part, pooled inside the pockets instead of just running through them and we had to dump it out physically, once again showing the fantastic barrier this jacket can provide.
The interior of the Ascendant Hoody has Polartec Alpha Direct Insulation, a fuzzy and cozy layer that feels really nice on the skin and provides impressive warmth and weather protection. We thought this insulative layer would for sure impede breathability but, like everything else we initially assumed about this contender, we were wrong.
Somehow this plush layer was able to wick moisture away and breathe while still providing an impressive barrier against the elements. We found this combo to be pretty magical, though the tradeoff may be a lack of durability, discussed in more detail under the "Features" section below.
Another rating metric, another stellar performance by the Ascendant. It stretched and moved along with us like a champ.
This layer fits well and doesn't ride up or feel uncomfortable in any way, though the hemline is shorter than other more technical models in this review. It's like a cozy plush sweatshirt that's a joy to put on and that you never want to take off. We ended up enjoying it for every adventure we took it on, our only concern being the easily-damaged thin outer material.
Currently, this layer is the fourth lightest in our test suite, weighing in at 11.5 ounces.
Our other Outdoor Research contender, the Ferrosi Hooded, weighs just 0.1 ounces less than the Ascendant — which honestly is close enough to have been a fluke of our scale. The lightest contenders in this review if you need to shed weight are the Arc'teryx Psiphon FL Hoody at 10.6 ounces and the Rab Borealis at a featherweight 8.3 ounces.
The lightweight yet warm material on the Ascendant is the main and most impressive feature of this jacket. Outside of that, it lacks many of the basic features of other models in our review.
The Ascendant Hoody is constructed with a stretchy Pertex Microlight 20D ripstop stretch woven shell with a fuzzy Polartec Alpha Direct Insulation on the interior. This combination provides incredible warmth while still allowing breathability and mobility. Beyond that, it has internal thumb loops, a key clip in one of the two non-zippered hand pockets, a narrow zippered chest pocket, adjustable drawstring hem, and a one-way adjustable helmet-compatible hood.
While we feel we had everything we needed and loved the fit of the hood on the Ascendant, we had to deduct some points because of how it stacked up overall against other jackets in our review. The cuffs are not adjustable, and the internal thumb loops aren't executed as well as we feel they could have been — they chaffed and felt a bit constricting. The chest pocket is narrower than our hand which made it irritating to get in and out of, especially when wearing gloves.
The hand pockets don't have zippers, so forget using them to store anything. But far and away our biggest concern was the durability of the otherwise fabulous fabric on this jacket. We had a feeling this would be an issue, so we tested a small area by rubbing it on a rock. Within seconds we had a hole in the material. We also noticed some discoloration on the front that we weren't able to remove, resulting from, we think, either chalk or chalk combined with water.
We appreciate the casual and simple style of this layer, though it isn't as flattering overall as some of our other contenders. It's fun and casual though, and sometimes that's all you need or want.
If it weren't for the durability issue with the Ascendant Hoody we would recommend it for almost anything and everything. As it stands, we still think it's fantastic for most chilly and aerobic activities from hiking and biking to climbing, skinning, and running; just be aware that on sharp rock or ice, you could tear a hole in the exterior fabric pretty easily. If you're okay with being a bit careful with the Ascendant, we think this do-it-all layer will be a favorite whether you have it under a hardshell, over a base layer, or even right next to your skin.
$250 is a pretty solid investment but, despite the durability issues we had with the Ascendant Hoody, we think it's worth the price. It was our Top Pick for Warmth for a reason - this jacket is light, compact, insulating, and just downright impressive in almost all respects. Should you buy it if all you do is rock climb and you love tight chimney squeezes? No. But if you plan to go out for varied activity and you treat this jacket with the same respect and care you would a down puffy, we think it can last a good long while. You may need to also invest in a role of Tenacious Tape to fix the inevitable tear that life will bestow at some point, but you'll probably be so cozy while doing it that you won't mind too much.
The Ascendant Hoody was superb in almost every respect, so much so that it almost unseated our reigning Editor's Choice champ, the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody. This cozy puffy-like layer, our clear Top Pick for Warmth, only weighed 11.5 ounces yet provided some of the best weather protection, breathability, and mobility in our entire test suite. The outer material is fragile and overall this shell didn't provide some of the basic features like adjustable cuffs and zippered hand pockets that many of our other contenders did, but we loved the protective feel so much that even these shortcomings didn't much bother us. If you're looking for a comfortable and warm jacket that can easily fit in your pack, layer under a hardshell, breathe while you hike, and keep you cozy while in wind and light snow, look no further - this is a great choice.
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