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Field Tested: Outdoor Research’s Superstrand LT Hoodie

Basics

The Outdoor Research Superstrand LT Hoodie is a lightweight synthetic down hoodie meant for year-round use, and made of Outdoor Research’s new insulation technology (VerticalX™ SuperStrand).


Pros

Light weight (10.9 ounces men’s M), compressible, and very pliable—the jacket can be stuffed into one of its own pockets. // The cut is designed with movement in mind and doesn’t feel restrictive when climbing. // It’s warm, but not too warm, something you can wear under a shell in winter or over a T-shirt on a cool summer evening. // The SuperStrand is bluesign® approved, which means that it’s sourced and manufactured in ways that are safe for the environment, textile workers, and customers—so you can feel virtuous when wearing it.

Cons

Though the ultra-lightweight 12D nylon ripstop shell fabric is relatively durable, it is nonetheless vulnerable to tearing. // It’s not a one-stop-shop jacket, so you’ll still need another down coat, plus base layers and a hardshell in your quiver.


Our Thoughts

Lightweight and athletically cut, the Outdoor Research Superstrand LT Hoodie is an midlayer or outer layer for climbers of all kinds. The VerticalX™ SuperStrand insulation combines the principal benefits of traditional down insulation (lightweight flexibility and great warmth-to-weight ratio) with the principal benefits of synthetic insulation (warmth when wet and an animal-free materials). Meanwhile, the hoodie’s supple ripstop nylon fabric is wind-resistant, and the discontinuous quilting pattern reduces weight from excess stitching.


Size Reviewed

Medium

Weight

10.9 oz

Price

$219

Brand

Outdoor Research


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I’ve spent the past four months (autumn and winter) travelling back and forth between New Mexico and Massachusetts, and in that time have literally worn my SuperStrand LT Hoodie most of the day, every day. I’ve worn it bouldering, I’ve worn it hiking, I’ve worn it hangboarding in the garage. I’ve worn it while doing yoga. I wore it when moving the contents of my apartment into a moving truck in a Massachusetts snowstorm. Then I wore it while driving the truck. I’m wearing it right now, over a T-shirt, as I write this review, and I’ll wear it (over some base layers) out to the boulders tonight.

What I’m getting at is this: The SuperStrand LT Hoodie is (a) pretty awesome and (b) extremely versatile. For me, it occupies the same clothing niche as a sweatshirt or fleece—except it’s far lighter. Worn over a few base layers and under a hard shell, it can play the role of a winter coat; but worn over a T-shirt, it’s more like a flannel. During my climbing days, I often wear it for the approach and warm-up. Sometimes I remove it while climbing, but other times—as with a recent night session on the basalt boulders outside Santa Fe, when temperatures never got above freezing—I’ll spend the entire session in my hoodie, wearing a heavier puffy over it while resting.

This fact—that I routinely climb in my SuperStrand LT Hoodie—is notable. Though I love climbing in the cold, I have always hated climbing in puffy jackets, even the streamlined ones. They feel too bulky in the arms, too restrictive in the shoulders. Even my trusty old Patagonia Down Sweater, though light and warm, feels cumbersome on the wall, so I never wear it on anything harder than a warm-up. But the SuperStrand LT Hoodie climbs exceptionally well. Part of this is the way it fits: Mine sits relatively loosely around the shoulders and chest, which means I can do full-span moves without feeling hemmed in by the fabric. (The SuperStrand has a long-enough body that I can climb with it tucked into my harness, though I do have a pretty stubby torso, and there’s not a ton of spare hem below my harness; if you’re long in the body, I’d recommend trying the SuperStrand LT Hoodie on before buying it.)

Another explanation, though, is that the SuperStrand LT Hoodie is incredibly light and supple. Weighing in at just 10.9 ounces for the men’s size M that I tested, with minimal stitching, a flexible nylon shell, and highly compressible synthetic insulation, the hoodie doesn’t suffer from that airy bulk that you often get with down jackets. Indeed, the VerticalX™ SuperStrand insulation is highly compressible, and feels far more like traditional down than most synthetics. (The hoodie can be stuffed into its own left pocket, which doubles as a stuff sack, making it great for packing out to distant cliffs or ferrying up big walls.)

Of course, the tradeoff for such a lightweight garment is wind-resistance, water-resistance, durability, and warmth. The ripstop nylon exterior does block some of the wind and sheds small amounts of water, but if it’s blowing heavily or raining harder than a light drizzle, you’ll probably want to supplement your kit with a hardshell.

My SuperStrand LT Hoodie has held up remarkably well given how much I’ve been wearing it, but the outer material has nonetheless proven vulnerable to snags. About a week after I got mine, a trailside juniper punched a fast gash in the fabric at my shoulder. (An honorable wound, resolved with duct tape.) Additionally, the external stitching is beginning to fray in places where the stitches have caught on branches, rocks, and the corners of boxes—though no stitches have broken or unraveled.

While the SuperStrand LT Hoodie has the best weight-to-warmth ratio of any of Outdoor Research’s synthetic jackets, it is hardly designed to be a one-stop-shop winter coat: If you’re looking for something to keep you toasty while ice fishing in Saskatchewan, look elsewhere. But if you’re willing to play the layer game, and if you want something super-light to climb in, the SuperStrand LT Hoodie is a great option.