ProView – Outdoor Research Men’s Alpine Down Hooded Jacket

The warm belay jacket that handles the worst that winter will throw at you. The Outdoor Research Alpine Down Hooded Jacket brings a balance between warmth and usability in alpine conditions.

Reviewer: Aidan Goldie
Gear: Outdoor Research Alpine Down Hooded Jacket
Tested: Tested in Vail Colorado and Iceland. Used for ski mountaineering, and ice climbing.
Size reviewed: Small
Height: 5’11
Weight: 145 lbs
Fits: True to size with some room for layering underneath.
Pros: Warm, compressible, intuitively designed with alpine climbing in mind
Cons: Stitching around cuffs could be more robust.
Rating: 5/ 5 stars

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The Alpine Hooded Jacket is a large belay jacket that can be easily packed away in your climbing pack. A jacket filled with 800-fill down expertly baffled to distribute the feathers to the places they are most needed. Outdoor Research advertises this jacket to be suited for use on 6000-meter peaks, so that is the baseline that I used to review. On a 6,000 meter peak like Denali, Orizaba, or Aconcagua, you’ll find frigid conditions on the glacier, with howling winds, and cold sleepless nights. I tried to best replicate those conditions in my home of Vail, Colorado.

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This jacket was very much designed with the alpine climber in mind. I got the opportunity to take it on my backyard mountains in Vail and put it to the test ice climbing. I packed the Alpine Down Hoody in my bag and took it to the Rigid Designator Amphitheater in East Vail. Here you’ll find a variety of North America’s hardest mixed-climbing routes, in addition to some classic pillars of ice. The mixed climbing is far beyond my skill level as an alpinist, but luckily I have friends that can pull on ice tools much harder than me. I went to the amphitheater with the intention of photographing some of the most challenging single-pitch mixed climbing, including the world’s only M15 climb. To photograph these completely overhanging climbs, I fixed a rope above and rappeled into the amphitheater with camera in hand.

To get the shot of climbers at the crux of the route, I needed to stay on the rope, hanging while climbers took multiple attempts at the route. This led me to hang from the rope for 3 hours in freezing temperatures. I figured that this extended period of hanging out among an array of the frozen waterfalls was a suitable test for the warmth of this jacket, and a fair representation on how it would handle on long belays in the alpine.

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Immediately I notice the small features that tailor this jacket for the alpine climber. A helmet compatible hood, large pockets accessible while wearing a harness, a front zipper that can be unzipped from the bottom to keep you warm while you tie in or give a belay, and a stretchiness that allows you to reach your arms above your head with ease.  The Pertex Fabric wicked away drops of water falling off the curtains of ice dangling above me. While keeping a weight of 19 ounces, the jacket is baffled in a way that down stays where it needs to be and makes the most use of what is available.

Staying still for 3 hours, on a hanging rope, or while belaying. makes it obvious where the weak points of a jacket are. Where there is a lack of insulation, where drafting air gets in, or where moisture collects that compress the down. After this long hang on a fixed rope, I could not identify those weak points. I stayed incredibly warm and comfortable, something that rarely happens for a climbing photographer in this situation.

Fit/Comfort

There is nothing more comfortable than a large down jacket on a cold day. It’s like getting a warm hug, helping you forget the cold weather surrounding you. This jacket is the teddy bear of insulated jackets. Soft, fluffy, and helps you forget the times you were questioning your decisions pursuing the masochistic sport of ice climbing. This down jacket is form-fitting, a rarity for big belay puffy jackets. It keeps the down baffles against your body, eliminating empty airspace that can take away precious body heat. Even with this formfitting feature, I was still able to fit base and mid-layers below without sacrificing mobility.

Look/Style

This jacket looks like your classic down belay jacket. Big baffles, and a spacious hood. Outdoor Research lives up to their reputation of making functional gear that does not sacrifice on appearance either. It can perform on a long sweaty day climbing or skiing and then be worn Apres as well.

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Features

This jacket is designed with the alpine climber in mind from top to bottom. This inlcudes a large helmet compatible hood (that can be converted to a normal sized hood with their hood lock feature), large pockets accessible while wearing a harness,internal pockets to store warm gloves or skins, a front zipper that can be unzipped from the bottom to keep you warm while you tie in or give a belay, and a stretchiness that allows you to reach your arms above your head with ease. The Pertex Fabric works well to wick away water that may fall from above. This allows you to wear this jacket above your layers, and put in on and quickly taking it off without too much work.

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Weight/Packability

This jacket packs down inside of its own pocket, no larger than your standard 1-liter Nalgene. I was able to easily stuff it in my climbing pack in case I needed a belay jacket and forget it was there until needed.

Function/Performance

Down jackets only work if they are able to use the power of down feathers to trap warm air around your body, and reduce the amount of warm air lost to the atmosphere all the while expelling moisture from your body. This is the paradox manufacturers have to face in the design process. The conflict between breathability and warmth. Outdoor research seems to have remedied this problem through their use of mixed fabrics in the construction of this jacket. Using a light-weight fabric on the majority of the jacket, they are able to keep the weight down, the compressibility high, and maintain good breathability. Outdoor Research also uses Pertex Quantum Pro fabric to provide reinforcement on the sleeves, shoulders, and hood to beef up the durability of the jacket. The durable Pertex fabric also provides key weatherproofing on the areas of the jacket that are most likely to get wet from dripping water, light precipitation, and condensation. Overall, this combination of fabrics paired with 800-fill down provides a smart design to combat alpine conditions.

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The Final Word

Pros

  • This jacket has great warmth for the weight and is designed to be worn with a harness. I love how it’s tailored for the alpine climber.

Room for improvement

  • There isn’t much that this jacket could do better. It’s designed to serve a purpose, and it does that wonderfully. It doesn’t try to be too fancy or cut corners. What it does well is by design, and fulfills that niche of a warm belay jacket.

Rating: 5/5

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Aidan is a ski mountaineer based out of Colorado. When he is not climbing and descending peaks in the American West, he is an outdoor educator, working with schools and nonprofits guiding groups through the Colorado wilderness. Connect with him on instagram @agoldie94

 

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