I remember reading somewhere, perhaps in Outdoor Research’s promotional material, that testers just ‘couldn’t take off’ the Deviator Hoody. I smirked. Typical advertising fluff. No one wants to spend all day in technical, dorky-looking insulated pieces. And then, well, something happened –  I got one, and took it into the mountains. Am I still wearing it right now, as I type this? That’s for me to know, and you to read about.

Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody Features:

  • Hybrid jacket with body-mapped materials
  • Polartec® Power Dry high efficiency 2L
  • Polygiene® Active Odor Control
  • Flat-seam construction
  • Zippered Chest Pocket
  • Sleeve cuffs with thumb loops
  • DWR-treated sippers
  • Dual handwarmer pockets
  • Key clip and drawstring accessed inside pocket
  • Weight: 10.7oz (Large)
  • Price: $185

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The puffy I was looking for

Note: I tested the Deviator in medium. For reference, I am 5’10.5″ and weigh 180lbs

One of the things that I appreciate about the Deviator is that it’s unapologetically technical. It’s the sort of thing that just looks a little bit silly if you wear it around town or to a restaurant, so it’s definitely not hiding its technical alpine pedigree. As is apparent from pictures of the jacket, it features a dramatic pattern of zoned insulation – a synthetic puffy wraps around the front and sides of your core, while a gridded fleece covers everything else.

That synthetic puffy is, in many ways, one of the most important parts of the garment. It’s made of Polartec Alpha polyester insulation at a fairly light 64g/square meter weight. Polartec Alpha is widely thought of as one of the most breathable synthetic insulations on the market, which is important to consider when understanding its role in the Deviator hoody. But, to understand the Deviator’s purpose, we first have to examine the other main fabric.

The arms, hood and back of the jacket are made of Polartec PowerDry polyester/spandex blended gridded fleece insulation. The ‘gridded’ bit is key there – it’s essentially a light fleece that is wildly breathable, far more than traditional fleeces. I have a number of pieces of gear using gridded fleece and, as a rule, they’re remarkably breathable. This particular fabric is Polartec’s High Efficiency 2L weave, which actively wicks sweat away from your body to be evaporated.

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Working together, these two fabrics deliver a truly remarkable piece of gear. In short, it’s kit that’s completely well suited to the challenges of alpine environments and yet is breathable enough to handle all of the heat generated by the exertion of mountaineering. This, frankly, is really quite rare on today’s gear scene: we’re still largely reliant on layering systems, but something like the Deviator is so versatile that it allowed me to eliminate some stops to change layering.

This is especially important for people like me, who run hot and tend to sweat heavily. The Deviator came with me into mountains across Montana and Washington, culminating in a surprisingly chilly climb of Glacier Peak, where temperatures hovered in the 50’s as wind whipped pebbles and dirt into our hair. I started off from our base camp at Glacier Gap wearing the Deviator as my only outer layer; it was quite cold to begin with, but I knew I would soon heat up. Sure enough, the Deviator’s light insulation proved sufficient to protect my core and arms from the cold and wind.

When I stopped up on Dissapointment Ridge, I automatically thought about taking out another layer for the rest break, but found that I didn’t have to. The day had warmed up slightly but had gotten even windier and, yet, the Deviator still felt comfortable. This was for three reasons: first, its zoned insulation was keeping my core warm, which is critical; second, its highly efficient insulation had prevented me from wetting the fabric with sweat, which would have chilled me; finally, the fleece is what I would call wind resistant – I felt the coldness of the breeze but it wasn’t cutting through the fabric. Instead, I just popped the hood on underneath my helmet and was just fine.

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Cushy thumb holes aid in layering

Although this piece is absolutely ideal for people like me who run hot, it offers tremendous advantages to a wide variety of people. It has all of the basic features that I would look for in an inner piece of a layering system, notably its very slim athletic fit and comfortable thumb holes. The jacket also features a shock cord hem which is adjustable via a single pull in the right pocket, while the left one has a hook for keys. The pocket openings are lined with an elastic band which helps to seal out drafts, but there’s no zippers to get in the way. The only hard points on the piece are the main zipper and the small main zipper that gives access to the chest pocket.

The hood design is wonderful, providing plenty of warmth and causing me to end up leaving my beanie at home. It does fit quite tightly around the face, though, which was slightly uncomfortable if I was wearing glasses or glacier shades.

Climbing in the North Cascades

In any case, we wound up turning around around Disappointment Pass (appropriate, right?), so my second attempt at Glacier Peak was foiled again. This time, though, it was because a rain storm was sweeping across the Cascades from the east – it was definitely time to get down. As we moved swiftly down to our camp, it began to sprinkle. I appreciated the polyester insulation’s resistivity to the droplets of water that was coming, but by the time we had got to camp the rain turned heavy and my light shell had begun to soak through. Exhausted, I crawled into my sleeping bag wearing the Deviator, which was just slightly damp at that point. I knew that my body would dry it out over night, and I wasn’t eager to switch layers in the cold.

A small hole in the fleece

A small hole in the fleece

And this, ladies and gentleman, is where I came full circle with the Deviator – from having put the Deviator on for the start of our climb, I didn’t take it off until I got to the car the next day. Thus, I spent something like 48 hours without taking off the Deviator. Why? I didn’t need to and, what’s more, I didn’t want to. As we climbed traversed the almost martian landscape left behind by the retreat of the White Chuck glacier, I was oddly thankful for this particular piece of gear. When I got back to the car, I could have easily worn the jacket into town – thanks to its built-in odor control, the Deviator smelled just fine.

The Good

  • Very, very versatile – suitably warm, yet never oppressive
  • Comfortable in a layering system, thanks to very tight fit and thumb holes
  • The hood is a nice, low-profile addition
  • Fabric dries quickly and handles sweat with ease
  • Zoned insulation pattern is perfect, especially fleece back panel for use with a pack

The Bad

  • Some users might not like how tight the jacket is, especially in the arms
  • It’s hard to take off, and I’ve heard a few seams pop as I pulled at the sleeves
  • Fleece can be a trifle delicate – mine has two small rips which I do not remember causing

Bottom Line: OR Deviator Hoody

If you’re someone like me who runs warm no matter the conditions, this piece is essential. If not, and you’re simply looking for a versatile piece that’s suitable for crag climbing, mountaineering and all sorts of challenges, you’ll be hard pressed to find something more comfortable. Outdoor Research has designed a winner, and it’s earned a prominent place in my gear closet.

Buy Now: Backcountry.com

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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