Hybrid Insulation Jacket
Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody
$185, 10 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
On cool mornings in May while backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Royal Arch Loop, and in late March on a five-day, family backpacking trip down Paria Canyon on the Utah-Arizona border, I did something unusual: I started the day’s hiking wearing the same jacket I had worn while in camp, OR’s new Deviator Hoody. From cool-weather hiking to skate-skiing in winter, I liked the Deviator as a next-generation, hybrid insulation piece whose versatility is limited only by your creativity in thinking about your layering system.
What’s different about it? This hybrid insulation jacket uses Polartec Alpha, a lightweight, synthetic insulation that’s breathable, wicks moisture and dries fast, in the front, sides, and shoulders, and Polartec Power Grid fleece, which stretches, breathes and wicks moisture exceptionally well and is warm for its weight, in the back, sleeves, and the close-fitting hood. The combination provides warmth when you’re standing or sitting around in cool (but not cold) temperatures—typical of much three-season camping—as well as just the right amount of warmth with good breathability when you’re on the go in cool to cold temps. When I wore it skate-skiing on a cloudy, 34° F winter day with no wind, I sweated a lot, and yet the jacket was only damp inside when I stopped, and it dried within minutes from my body heat.
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The athletic cut fits closely, but with plenty of stretch that doesn’t inhibit movement at all. The stretchy hood fits under or over a helmet and negates the need to carry a light hat. I like how the long sleeves with thumbholes help keep my hands warm. The two hand pockets lack zippers, but warmed my bare hands quickly in cool air. I’ve noticed with some jackets that have the waffle-pattern, fleece sleeves that it can be hard to slide a base layer of similar, waffle fabric through the sleeve, but I tried a couple different tops with the Deviator—one with tight-fitting sleeves, another with loose-fitting sleeves—and neither was difficult to slip through the Deviator sleeves. The zippered chest pocket is horizontally deep, extending into my left armpit, which is great for, say, warming up a pair of gloves, but also leaves too much space for small items like a phone to slide around into an uncomfortable spot.
It’s certainly a versatile top for day trips, but the question I had regarding its applicability for backpacking is: What layer(s) does it replace? I don’t want to just add a superfluous, 10-oz. garment to my layering system on multi-day trips. But it turns out I could compensate for its weight and bulk by carrying a lighter puffy jacket, or forgoing either a fleece vest, a long-sleeve jersey, or a puffy jacket entirely, depending on the range of temps I expected. For forward-motion activities, or when you’re carrying a pack, the Polartec Alpha in front provides good insulation against wind while breathing well enough that I never felt too overheated even on long, very aerobic climbs on Nordic skis.
I see hybrid jackets like this as a more versatile alternative to vests, because in cool temps, you often need some warmth on your arms—and often more than one layer of sleeve—but you also often want high breathability there. Jackets like the Deviator will appeal especially to people, including many women, who get cold easily but like to hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski from fall through spring. I also found myself wearing this jacket a lot around the house in winter, like a sweater.
I think hybrid, breathable insulation represents the new wave because of its versatility, and lighter garments like the Deviator are more versatile than heavier, warmer jackets because you can wear them in a greater range of temperatures by simply choosing your base layer accordingly.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a men’s or women’s Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody at moosejaw.com, ems.com, outdoorresearch.com, or rei.com.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
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