Outdoor Research Uberlayer Jacket Review

or-uberlayer-jacketI run hot. This is good for staying alive in winter, not so good for being comfortable on sunny rock climbs. It also means I typically don’t wear much when moving uphill, usually a thin layer is adequate while skinning. So it was with some skepticism that I decided to try out the Outdoor Research Uberlayer Hooded Jacket, a breathable insulation piece designed to be put on and stay on for a full day of aerobic activity in winter conditions.

I had tried out the OR Superlayer last year and two things I didn’t like about that jacket were improved in the Uberlayer: 1) it has a hood (duh!), and 2) it’s lighter weight, which means it offers a better balance between breathability and warmth. The Polartec Alpha Active insulation does a good job dumping heat, and I was indeed impressed with how well the technology worked. On cold days, I could leave it on while skinning at a moderate pace, and then there was no need to put on a jacket for the descent.

It’s amazing what a small thing that is, but how much of an impact it had. Out on ski missions, when I got to the top, it was one less thing I needed to do before heading down. The time difference itself might not have been all that tangible, but it felt like I was cheating going straight from touring to ski mode without putting something on or taking it off.

I’ve mostly skied in this jacket, but I’ve also taken it up a few ice climbs as well. It has great range of motion, and the sleeves stayed put thanks to the elastic cuffs. It wasn’t warm enough that I didn’t need to throw on a belay parka while cragging, but doing a longer climb where you were moving fast would probably be a different story. It has two interior stash pockets, crucial for warming up gloves, skins, rock shoes, anything-that-needs-heating-up. The hood doesn’t fit over a ski helmet, though it does fit over a climbing helmet. And I’m really glad they put a two-way zipper on this, making it easier to use a belay device, check your harness, etc.

My only complaint at this point is that after a dozen or so uses, it started to get pretty stinky. I imagine that’s because it’s transporting a lot more moisture through the fabric than other jackets, but it took me by surprise. The first couple weeks I had it, I also used it as a going-out-on-the-town jacket, but it quickly became a little too pungent for social use. A quick run through the washing machine took care of the problem, but I had to wash it twice this winter, which isn’t something I typically have to do with other jackets.

Overall I’m impressed with this piece and would recommend it to anyone who is curious about breathable insulation and hasn’t yet jumped on the bandwagon. It’s a nice weight for most conditions in cold and dry climates, and versatile enough for a wide range of activities.

Fit: I’m generally in between a medium and large. I’m a medium build in the chest, but large in the arms. I got this in a large, and it doesn’t feel overly bulky, with a good trim cut.

Retail: $299
Fabric: Nylon Stretch Woven Shell / Polartec Alpha Insulation
Weight: 20.5 oz (L)
Ideal use: Backcountry skiing, ice climbing, alpinism

More info available on the Outdoor Research site.

Disclaimer: Wait! Before you go handing over your credit card number, ask yourself, do you really need to buy more new stuff? If so, this product is worth a look. In the spirit of full disclosure, it was provided to SplitterChoss.com for the purpose of reviewing. Don’t worry, though, our integrity can’t be bought!

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