Outdoor Research Asendant

Review: Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody

Move over Uberlayer, there’s a new put-on, leave-on layer in town called the Ascendant. This new active insulation layer from Outdoor Research takes advantage of some newer tech to make a more breathable and lighter hoody without changing the overall warmth offered by its predecessor.

Camp Speed Comp Helmet
The Ascendant became my go-to jacket for ski touring this past spring. Very breathable but still wind resistant and warm it’s ideal for keeping a nice even body temp.


  • Facing fabric: 20D Pertex® Quantum
  • Insulation: Polartec® Alpha™ Direct (95g/m2)
  • Pockets: 3
  • Fit: Trim
  • Weight (L): 370g
  • Water & Wind Resistant
  • Cuff Thumb Loops
  • Drawstring Hem
  • Helmet Compatible Hood

Fabric & Insulation:

The Ascendant features a 20d ripstop Pertex® Quantum outer facing fabric that’s stretch woven with 95g/m2 Polartec® Alpha™ Direct insulation. For comparison, the Uberlayer was using a slightly heavier 30d outer fabric and 98g/m2 Polartec Alpha insulation. Further weight savings were realized through the use of the newish Alpha™ Direct insulation which doesn’t require an interior facing fabric. Of course fewer layers of fabric also means that the jacket is more breathable as well.

Outdoor Research Asendant
The Polartec Alpha Direct insulation is like polar fleece on steroids. It’s warmer, more durable and more breathable.


As an “Active Insulation” layer the Ascendant is designed to be used during aerobic activities in cool environments. I found it to be a great jacket for a much wider range of activities though. As it’s quite breathable for a wind resistant jacket the Ascendant works great at moderating temperatures in the backcountry. It’s warm on an alpine ridge when the wind kicks up a bit but still cool enough to keep on when the wind dies and the sun comes out.

Outdoor Research Asendant
The stretch fabric doesn’t restrict movement at all. Photo: Bonnie McIntyre
Outdoor Research Asendant
I found the thumb loop on the cuff a little small so never really used it.

With almost 100g/m2 of insulation the Ascendant is too warm for really high-output aerobic activities such as steep approaches to climbs with a big pack or deep trail breaking during a ski tour. If that’s what you’re looking for I’d suggest you check out something lighter like the Deviator. Instead, I found the Ascendant great for moderate output activities: ski touring when someone else is breaking trail, moderate difficulty alpine and rock climbs in cool weather, cycling around town, etc. It’s also fantastic as a soft and comfortable hoody for just about any non-aerobic activity like sitting at a desk when the AC’s a little high or hanging around camp at the end of the day.

Fit & Feel:

This jacket simply feels amazing! The Alpha Direct insulation is very soft and fuzzy against the skin while the breathability gives it a natural feel. The sizing is predictable for a Trim fit on a mid-layer. I personally find that I have to bump up a size when ordering trim fitting mid layers with most brands or they’re a little snug.

Outdoor Research Asendant
An inside-out view of the Ascendant. The soft and fuzzy Alpha Direct Insulation feels great next to skin.


The Ascendant has three pockets: 1 chest, 2 hand pockets. For some reason, likely weight, there are no zippers on the hand pockets. While I would have preferred a sturdy zipper to keep the pockets closed when I’m not using them it hasn’t been that big of deal. I only dropped my phone once.

The left hand pocket can be used as a stuff sac for the jacket and has a carabiner loop. However, with out a zipper the pocket doesn’t seal closed and the loop seems a bit flimsy for clipping to a climbing harness. Instead I found it quicker and easier to simply role the jacket into the hood and stash it in a pack. The chest pocket, on the other hand, does have a nice sturdy zipper and is just the right size: big enough for a bigish smart phone.

Outdoor Research Asendant
The hand pockets on the Ascendant don’t have zippers which I’m not a big fan of.
Outdoor Research Asendant
Chest pocket. Just the right size for a big phone.

Other Thoughts:

While this new hoody is stretchy, lightweight and very breathable it falls down a bit when it comes to packability. Unlike insulations that loft (think down or Primaloft) the Polartec insulation used in the Acendant doesn’t compress very much. This means that the jacket won’t pack down into a beer-can size package when you want to throw it in your pack.


Pros: Very breathable but still windproof, light, soft and fuzzy, comfortable

Cons: No zippers on hand pockets, limited compress-ability

Overall: A super versatile and technical hoody that feels great to wear year-round, in the alpine or around town. It’s been my go-to for just about every activity where I plan to actually wear the hoody. If I don’t plan to wear it but rather need a just-in-case layer I’ll grab something a bit smaller like the Micro Puff or Terrex Agravic Primaloft.

We were provided with a sample for testing but of course that didn’t influence the review in any way. Cover Photo: Bonnie McIntyre