The Outdoor Research Superstrand LT Hoodie Jacket is a lightweight jacket insulated with a new type of polyester insulation that OR is incredibly excited about and hyping like mad calling it “synthetic down” and claiming that “it’s as soft, light, and lofty as 700-800 fill power down.” Called VerticalK Superstrand, it consists of lofted polyester strands (rather than traditional sheet-based synthetic insulation) that mimic the shape of thousands of down clusters connected along a strand, blending the properties of down and synthetic insulation. In addition to its high loft, it offers warmth if it gets wet, and OR claims “it is more resistant to compression over time than down.”
I’m a little skeptical about such claims in the absence of more rigorous proof since the most advanced synthetic insulation is only equivalent to 550-650 fill power down in terms of warmth. The advent of synthetic insulation that’s the equivalent of 700-800 fill power down would be significant, particularly if it’s closer to 800 fill power.
Regardless, there’s no denying that the Superstrand LT Hoodie Jacket is a very warm lightweight jacket and much warmer than other lightweight synthetic jackets that I’ve reviewed this year including the Outdoor Research Helium Insulated Hoodie. If you run cold and you’re are looking for a lightweight jacket to be worn under a hardshell jacket this winter, the Superstrand LT Hoodie could be a great option.
Specs at a Glance
- Gender: Men’s and Women’s
- Fabric 12D Rip-Stop Diamond Fuse Nylon Shell and Lining
- Insulation: VerticalX SuperStrand Insulation (100% Polyester)
- Weight: 12.4 oz (men’s XL)
- Center back length: 28″
- Pockets: 6 (two external zippered handwarmer, and four interior “drop” pockets)
- Adjustable hood: No
- Wrist cuffs: Elastic
- Hem adjustment: Yes
- Helmet compatible: Yes
- DWR Coating: No
- Sizing: Runs a bit big
Construction and Shell Fabric
The OR Superstrand LT Hoodie has a sewn thru-style construction to hold the VerticalX Superstrand insulation in place and prevent it from shifting. The sewing is a little different from the norm though. The stitching isn’t continuous and doesn’t form compartments to hold the insulation in place, which helps keep the jacket lighter and reduces the number of needle holes compared to normal sewn-through jackets. Instead, the stitching serves to pin the superstrands of insulation in place rather than box them in. It’s definitely innovative and helps increase the Superstrand insulation’s maximum warmth potential.
The Superstrand LT hoodie is also made with a 12D ripstop nylon with Diamond Fuse fibers which are twice as abrasion-resistant as regular nylon without added weight. Diamond Fuse fabrics use yarns with unique diamond-shaped filaments that actually lock together to create a durable and highly abrasion-resistant fabric. Heavily used jackets made with low denier nylons normally break down around the wrist cuffs and leak insulation, so having one made with a more abrasion-resistant fabric is a real plus. While the breathability of the nylon ripstop fabric is adequate, we don’t consider it best in class or equivalent to fleece.
Superstrand LT Hoodie Hood
The first thing I look at on an insulated jacket is the hood and whether it’s adjustable, either in terms of volume, or if the front hem can be cinched down to block cold air from blowing in around your face and down your neck into the torso. Unfortunately, there are no hood controls on the Superstrand LT Hoodie, which diminishes its value as a standalone garment. This is less of an issue if you wear it inside or over a climbing helmet, a ski helmet, or inside a hooded shell jacket which can fill to excess volume. Otherwise, the hood is oversized and awkward to wear, reducing your peripheral vision and venting body heat. Alternatively, you can buy a hoodless version, called the Superstrand LT Jacket, which is lighter weight and easier to seal around the neck.
I suspect the hood controls were left off the Superstrand LT Hoodie to keep the jacket weight down and because it’s designed more for skiers and climbers, than joe schmoe hikers. This hood would be vastly improved if it only had a volume control strap on the back like the Outdoor Research Insulated Hoodie.
There are two zippered handwarmer pockets on the exterior of the jacket and four deep drop pockets inside the jacket, two on either side of the zipper. The drop pockets are map-sized in width, providing a convenient way to organize their contents. Many jackets just provide two wide and drop pockets which can make them awkward to use when holding bulky objects.
However, I do wish there was a chest pocket on the Superstrand LT Hoodie because I like to put my cell phone in it to keep it warm in cold weather and to keep it accessible when wearing a backpack.
Wrist Cuffs and Hem
The jacket has elastic wrist cuffs to seal in your arm warmth and a dual elastic drawcord hem to prevent updrafts from chilling you. Nothing fancy here, but still quite functional
Lightweight Synthetic Insulated Jacket Comparison Table
The Outdoor Research Superstrand LT Hoodie is a lightweight synthetic insulated jacket made, available in men’s and women’s versions, that uses an innovative new form of synthetic insulation which mimics goose down and is warmer than existing synthetic fills. The advantage of using a synthetic jacket as a middle layer is that it remains warm when it gets damp and is less bulky to wear under a shell than down. While the Superstrand LT Hoodie can be used as a standalone outer layer, it doesn’t have an adjustable hood and should be worn under a hooded hardshell to seal in your body heat. A more streamlined, non-hooded version, the Superstrand LT Jacket is also available if you prefer to wear it as an outer layer over a breathable fleece or warm jersey or for more athletic pursuits like winter running.
Disclosure: The author received a jacket for review.
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