Photography by Richard Giordano
When it comes to jackets, choosing between down and synthetic can be a challenge. Often the choice in chilly but dry conditions, down is packable with a higher warmth-to-weight ratio, while synthetic is more water resistant and gentler on the pocketbook. While many brands successfully compromise by constructing a down and synthetic hybrid, Outdoor Research recently introduced their VerticalX SuperStrand synthetic fill, which arranges fibers in strands (versus sheets), resulting in more loft, compression, and a better warmth-to-weight ratio than the typical synthetic jacket. While attending overland rally events, camping with friends in the Canadian Rockies, and embarking on a multi-day backcountry hiking trip, I packed along Outdoor Research’s SuperStrand LT Hoodie to determine if this rang true.
I noticed the packability of the jacket immediately. At 9.6 ounces, Outdoor Research states the SuperStrand LT Hoodie shrinks to the size of your palm. Indeed, I stuffed the hoodie into its left pocket, which proved helpful on my five-day trek where every inch of space was worth its weight in gold. Perhaps superficially, I didn’t care for the Light Pewter color; fortunately, the jacket also comes in Larch, Moth, and Black, and I admit the fit was very comfortable and flattering on my 5-foot-3-inch frame.
Outdoor Research succeeded in its quest for the ultimate lightweight synthetic jacket with a stellar warmth ratio—however, to truly achieve “four-season warmth” (at least, where I come from), the jacket should be used as a mid-layer and combined with a heavier puffy or shell. The 100 percent nylon 12D ripstop shell and lining feature a water-repellent coating meant for light moisture only—pack additional layers for the Pacific Northwest or other rainy locales. On warmer days, the interior nylon liner didn’t feel great on bare skin (I would go with my Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody if wearing a tank or sleeveless top). But it felt wonderful with anything long-sleeved underneath and kept me comfortable on chilly evenings at camp or while descending the windy Nub Peak in Assiniboine Provincial Park.
I experienced a bit of a snafu with the YKK zipper, which is tiny and incredibly light but perhaps not as robust as the YKK zippers on my other jackets. Fortunately, it is all sorted out now, but time will tell if this particular zipper lives up to YKK’s bulletproof reputation in the outdoor gear space. But, overall, the SuperStrand LT Hoodie will remain in my wardrobe for several reasons. It offers a cozy warmth that’s impressive considering the size, the fit is bang-on, and the piece acts like a down jacket in many ways, making it excellent for travel due to its light weight and ability to pack down small.
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