What: Outdoor Research Women’s Ascendant Hoody
Where to buy: backcountry.com, campsaver.com, ems.com, moosejaw.com, outdoorresearch.comamazon.com
Perfect for: climbing and active pursuits as an outer layer on cool to chilly days, even with humidity

*Note: I am part of Outdoor Research’s #ORInsightLab, a team of testers who voluntarily share their findings after testing product. #ORInsightLab testers are not asked to publish positive reviews, and no financial compensation was received for this review. I was asked to record my findings, positive and negative, when testing this jacket.

At OWA, the aim is to only publish reviews on gear that, after testing, is found to be beneficial for women outdoors. If gear is received from a company but does not pass testing standards, OWA submits the tester’s feedback directly to the company to assist with improvements. It is OWA’s hope that this process will help improve women’s gear across the industry as well as assist women in finding gear that stands strong in its purpose.

Construction

  • Pertex Microlight 20D Ripstop (nylon outer)
  • Polartec Alpha Direct (a polyester lining on body and extending into hood)
  • Contrast-colored chest zip and full body zip with interior wind flap, both with pull tabs
  • Chin coverage when fully zipped
  • Hidden thumb loops in sleeves
  • Low-profile elasticized sleeve cuffs with contrast hem
  • Drawstring hemline
  • Elasticized, Polartec Alpha Direct-lined helmet-compatible hood with contrast hem; drawstring on backside
  • Elasticized, half-lined (Polartec Alpha) waist pockets with contrast hem
  • Key clip in left waist pocket
  • 10.9oz (medium size)

Testing Grounds

Spring (day/overnight) in the mid-elevations of Canada’s Kootenay Rockies near lakes and streams (higher humidity); a couple of summer mornings in Canada’s Okanagan (desert) to see how it shed heat; early fall in Canada’s mountain towns and hiking in both Kootenay and Yoho National Parks

Outdoor Research Women's Ascendant Hoody - Hood without Helmet

The Ascendant’s hood, without a helmet. The jacket’s hood can be cinched for more precise fit and more peripheral scope (see photo with helmet, below) but as is, it’s sized in a way that it’s easy to throw on and off when needed and doesn’t get in the way of visibility.

Fit

I didn’t think it was possible for one piece of clothing to look good on both straight and curvy shapes, but the Ascendant does it — and it does it while being fully responsive to movements in the outdoors.

On the curvy side of the spectrum (way over on that side), I’ve always given tech wear a break. As a girl with big hips and backside, clothing and I have never gotten along. Usually, my shirts’ hemlines would either be too snug around the widest part of my body and baggy everywhere else or it would be too short and expose my skin whenever I either sat down or needed to elongate my body (such as when reaching for a hold in climbing).

Either way, if I was hiking, those tops would always ride up.

Not so with the Ascendant. The jacket’s built-in stretch meant that it zipped over my hips without having to tug it down, and stayed put — smoothly — without looking like the seams were straining to do their job. No riding up. No constricted feeling over my hips. No baggy waist. Just a slim, well-fitting, true-to-size (and then stretches for more) jacket that didn’t get in my way — or stay in my thoughts — while I was playing outdoors.

The hood has solid coverage, even when I put my hair up in a bun, and there’s good peripheral vision built in. I was surprised to find this was also helmet-compatible; not having looked at the garment’s specifications on Outdoor Research’s website before wearing (which I make a rule not to do before completing my testing), I thought this hood was sized just right to be deemed slim-fitting, but not helmet-compatible. Just for fun, I dug out my ski helmet from storage and found there was so much stretch in the fabric that the hood is even ski helmet-compatible — and easily. However, when I zipped up fully after slipping it over my ski helmet, the zipper was noticeably, but not uncomfortably, tight over chin; some might need to zip down a few notches when wearing a bulkier helmet.