Sweater?  Jacket?  Outer layer?  Mid layer?  Yes to all of these, and yes to pretty much any activity you’ve got up your sleeve — so long as the Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater is along for the ride.

OR Transcendent Sweater Features:

  • Weight: 13 oz (men’s size L)
  • Shell: 100% polyester 20D ripstop shell
  • Lining: 100% nylon, 44D embossed taffeta lining
  • Insulation: 650 fill power goose down
  • Water resistant finish
  • Brushed tricot-lined collar
  • Internal front stormflap
  • Zippered Napoleon pocket
  • Two zippered hand pockets with brushed tricot lining
  • Two interior elastic storage areas
  • Right-hand pocket doubles as stuff sack
  • Stretch binding at cuffs
  • Drawcord hem
  • Seven color options
  • MSRP $199

outdoor research transcendent sweater

Transcendent? What’s in a name anyway? 

If your biggest gripe about a garment is the name, that’s usually a good sign.

Such is the case with the Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater; we love almost everything but the name.  First, for the spelling-challenged, transcendent is one of those tricky “-ant or –ent?” words, but hopefully for most of us that’s not such a big deal.  Our main issue with the name is the term sweater instead of jacket.  The Transcendent has a full zipper like a jacket; it has outstanding weather protection like a jacket; it’s ideally suited for outdoor activity like a jacket.  It seems like one of those “If it looks like a duck … “ situations, but Outdoor Research calls it a sweater.  Oh well.

outdoor research transcendent gray

Donald, sporting the Transcendent Sweater

Here’s another key difference: this thing is WAY more comfortable than a sweater.  The Transcendent has proven to be a favorite for all manner of activities, from lounging around the cabin to cold-weather hiking and light aerobic activity.  Its fit, design, and fabric construction make this perfectly capable of being an every day, all the time component of your cold weather wardrobe.  The standard fit styling leaves plenty of room for mobility as an outer layer, but can also be layered easily under a weatherproof shell for harsher conditions.  Its bulk is slightly thicker than comparable lightweight compressible jackets (such as the Patagonia Nano Puff or The North Face Thermoball we’ve tested), but provides better warmth – more on that shortly.  The jacket (sorry – sweater) is super easy to take off and put on, with a zipper mechanism that is extremely smooth and virtually eliminates any snagging.

outdoor research transcendent interior

Bright accents and lining help the Transcendent Sweater stay snappy.

Fabric construction consists of a soft 44D taffeta lining on the interior, which glides smoothly over a shirt and rides comfortably against bare forearms.  The exterior is a 20D lightweight polyester shell that also has a soft feel to the touch and moves easily into an outer shell.  However, the best fabric elements are the super soft brushed tricot liner around the collar and on the interior of the hand pockets.  This fabric is also present inside the chest and hand pockets, on the outward-facing side to help block a breeze from chilling your fingers.

OR transcendent zipper

Smooth zipper mechanism with storm flap

One performance feature we noticed early in our testing was that the Transcendent provides better overall insulation that any other lightweight compressible jacket we’ve reviewed.  Much of this is thanks to the 650 fill power goose down, which maintains its loft quite well even after being compressed for a long period.  Wind and water resistance are excellent, easily keeping us comfortable in gusty mountain conditions.  Other small touches such as the lined pockets, a drawcord hem, and an internal storm flap along the front zipper help retain heat against the torso. In our testing we found the Transcendent to be suitable as a standalone piece with temps in the 30s, and comfortable underneath a shell with temps in the teens.

packed dimensions roughly 8"x9"x3". Carabiner loop not visible.

Packed dimensions roughly 8″x9″x3″. Carabiner loop on corner but not visible here.

Like other compressible shells, the Transcendent packs down into a pocket, in this case the right-hand pocket that has a double-sided zipper pull for closing in the packed position.  When compressed, one side of the exterior surface consists of the soft tricot fabric, making for a comfortable camp or car pillow.  The packed size is small enough to fit easily in your daypack, and the relatively light 13-oz total weight isn’t cumbersome to carry along.

Elastic interior pockets

Elastic interior pockets

The Good

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Excellent insulation
  • Roomy pocket storage on exterior and interior
  • Easily compressible

The Bad

  • Less breathable than comparable lightweight down shells
  • Goose down loses loft, and therefore insulation, when saturated

The Bottom Line: Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater

Providing outstanding insulation, comfort, and style, the Outdoor Research Transcendent Sweater is a versatile and highly functional midweight layer for cold-weather activity or casual use.

Buy Now: Available at REI.com

In Summary

7.3 Excellent Versatility

The Transcendent Sweater is a highly-versatile down puffy that offers an excellent value in the market. It's feature-packed and ready for anything you can dish out.

  • Breathability 5
  • Warmth 9
  • Durability 7
  • Protection 7
  • Fit 8
  • Value 8

About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, ultrarunner, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 20 years of experience in endurance sports. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.


  1. Very good review. I own this jacket in the hoody version. Love the jacket but there’s a big “but.”
    I very rarely wear it as an outerlayer under a pack, or take it off trail, but after about 8 months I’m sporting around 12 pieces of Tenacious Tape to cover holes and rips.
    Warmth to weight is excellent, it packs down small (right on with the camp pillow mention) and looks great. I’d suggest sizing down if you’re on the fence as the arms are long enough and there’s still room to layer.
    But I would say this is either a trail jacket or a town jacket unless you wear patches as a badge of honor.
    Don’t want to slam OR as they make great stuff but for the money I would have like a little more durability.
    Again, good review.

  2. The thing is that OR has a killer return policy and great customer service. I’m sure I could exchange it. But this guy has been relegated to trail use which is why I bought it. I’m good with that.
    But man….that first hole SUCKED! 🙂

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