Previously featured in our sneak-peak from the Outdoor Retailer show, the Outdoor Research Superlayer jacket is designed as an all around breathable insulation layer that can be worn through a range of cold-weather activities (such as backcountry skiing). This is an innovative new piece from Outdoor Research and will be available in the Fall of 2014.
At the heart of the Superlayer jacket is Primaloft’s Hi-Loft Silver Insulation. The unique insulation is manufactured in long, continuous sheets that allow it to stay in place without additional baffles or seams. Without the need for these baffles, a much wider possibility of fabric construction opens up on both the inside and outside of the jacket. Outdoor Research has elected to use a breathable fabric they call “woven softshell” for the exterior of the jacket. This fabric is designed to be highly breathable first, and provide light wind and weather protection second. On the inside, a woven mesh fabric is used to aid in breathability and moisture transfer.
This combination of a woven softshell exterior and breathable mesh interior is designed to prevent overheating during high output activities, while still providing warmth from the Primaloft insulation.
The Outdoor Research Superlayer jacket is trimmed with a lightweight and stretchy fabric around the cuffs, and a uniquely embossed “Outdoor Research” logo.
- 100% nylon soft shell outer, 100% polyester woven mesh lining
- PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Hi-Loft 100% polyester insulation 65g
- Breathable woven softshell exterior
- Moisture-moving inner liner
- Water resistant, wind resistant and breathable
- Single-separating front zipper with internal front-zip storm flap
- Two large interior pockets
- Zippered napoleon pocket and two zippered hand pockets
- Elastic cuffs with internal thumb loops
- Drawcord hem
The Superlayer jacket is designed to be a do-it-all jacket that keeps you warm while still breathing away additional heat. As an insulation layer, the jacket provides adequate warmth, but not as much as the tropical embrace a quality down jacket or even synthetic down-like jacket such as The North Face’s Thermoball jacket provides. As a shell, the lack of protection from the elements necessitates the need to carry an additional hard-shell layer, and voids the claim of an “all-around jacket” in my opinion. It works well as an insulating layer, however it doesn't fulfill the requirements of a dedicated outer shell layer. As a hybrid breathable/insulation layer, it works well for each attribute but excells at neither.
The lightweight, and light coloured fabric that is used around the cuffs of the Superlayer not only means that the jacket will wear faster, but will start to look dirty and worn much faster. Not a good design choice in my opinion. Finally, the fit of the jacket. I found it a little baggy and short in the arms for my standard frame size. It hung from my body, instead of fitting it snugly. This would be less of an issue for an outer layer, but is something to consider when you select a size for you.
In my ski touring testing the temps were on the milder side for a Canadian winter and I found the Outdoor Research Superlayer too warm to wear while on the skin track. It also didn’t pack down very small in my pack while not in use and for this reason alone I would opt for a down jacket or much more compressible synthetic layer for my ski touring adventures. While I see the benefits of an active insulation piece such as the Super Layer jacket I think the conditions have to be right, the same can be said for a down jacket as well though. If you are looking for a piece that breaths more than down while still keeping you warm the Superlayer jacket from Outdoor Research may be worth some investigation.
While still talking about insulation for high aerobic activities I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Outdoor Reserach’s new Delta Zip-Top. It’s built with a mid-weight DRIrelease Merino fabric that has not just great moisture management but also great stretch properties. It’s made up of 90% Polyester, 6% Merino Wool and 4% Elastane and comes with FreshGuard technology to keep the stench out. The Delta-Zip top has flatlock seams so that there is no irritation under pack straps, an internal storm flap behind the 1/4 zip and a napoleon pocket for storage of small and light items. The Delta Zip-Top also comes in a Hoody version and both will be available in fall 2014 for $90US / $100CAN and $99US / $110CAN respectively. All this is wrapped up in a soft base layer that weighs only 335g /11.8 oz.
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL
Colours: Glacier, Pewter
Weight: 429g / 15.1oz (size large)
Warm, although not as warm as a decent thin down jacket. Internal skin pockets are a nice touch.
The light yellow and wear-prone fabrics used in high-wear areas like the cuffs will decreases the lifespan of the jacket. The aesthetics and fit of the jacket we reviewed (grey with yellow accents) wasn't the best we have tested from OR. Leaving a hood off the jacket decreases warmth significantly, and was sorely missed. The jacket is not designed to resist wind, water and other elements so a shell was still necessary.
Quality / Price 1.5/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.