Outdoor Research Illuminate Down Hoody
SO light and SO compressible! I wish it weren't quite…
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample for testing and review provided by Outdoor Research)
SO light and SO compressible! I wish it weren't quite SO drafty.
- Around 11 ounces = very light
- 800 fill down
- Bare essential features don't leave you wanting
- Athletic, slim fit
- Quality construction
- Gaps in the baffles let in wind
- Just not warm enough
- Baffles aren't filled full enough with down
Down is great. 800 fill down is next-level great. I bring down into the mountains nearly every time I go. It's light, breathable, compacts to nothing, insulates better than anything, and lasts decades.
When it comes to down, 800 fill down is some of the best in terms of loft, compressibility, and warmth. Outdoor Research also makes sure that its down is responsibly sourced, something that really makes a difference when you learn where some other down comes from.
Outdoor Research (OR) set out to make a jacket that pushed the limits of what teensy bits of amazing down can do and may have pushed a little too far with the Illuminate Hoody. I think they were possibly too focused on being the "lightest" and missed the mark on warmth, which is why we wear down.
I had this jacket all winter. I wore it in bone chilling ski tours in the low teens, sweaty twenty-degree ski tours, some windy, blustery days, and during my resort skiing. I wore it around town during our snowstorms where temps seemed to hover in the 30-degree F range.
Yes, as rough, tough backcountry people we're supposed to not care about this category. As human beings who don't want to look like a dork though, it matters. The angled baffles and color patterns of this jacket make it pretty sweet looking. My wife immediately commented on how stylish it is. Nice!
If I knew I'd be working up a sweat and not sitting still, I'd take this jacket. The airy down allows heat and moisture to escape effortlessly, and this, in my opinion, is also its downfall.
I REALLY like OR as a brand and really wanted to like this jacket, but on a moderately cold (20-40° F) day or during ANY wind a cheap, department store fleece hoody is warmer. Down is supposed to keep you warm and I felt let down. The down inside the baffles is so thin in an attempt to save weight that the Illuminate is pretty much useless as anything but an insulating layer. I advise against using it as a top layer below 35 degrees F. A few more ounces of down wouldn't have broken the scale and could have brought it from the "mid-layer only" category into something more versatile.
Of course when you use a small handful of 800 fill down in a jacket it will smash down to absolutely nothing which is impressive. The 800 down also rebounds nicely back to its original loft pretty quickly. If weight and space is critical and you have a shell to protect it, the Illuminate might earn a place in your pack, though there are better options. I say this because having a jacket that is ONLY a mid-layer that really can't stand as a top layer very well really restricts it. Other down jackets that have just a few ounces more filling serve the role of mid-layer AND light jacket, making them 10x more useful. Basically the Illuminate is a really compressible, light fleece because of its vulnerability to wind.
Order a size up unless you have a thinner, runner physique. This hoody fits next to your skin with maybe a light t-shirt under it. There was no way much else would have fit under it for me. My thinner teenage son fits it nicely, but his more moderately muscled father finds it needlessly snug with no stretch. This fit paired with no stretch makes it lose a star because when paired with the closeness of the fit your movements are restricted.
The jacket is described as "standard fit" but on me it was pretty tight. Other reviewers were divided on the fit with half saying it is snug and the rest saying it is true to size. I am 5'10" and my measurements almost exactly match up to the published chart: my waist is 33", my chest is 41", and my arms are 32". While the sleeves were generously long, the chest was tight when I zipped it all the way up. The large would have fit better but if I lose ten to fifteen pounds (I'm around 195# now, I need to run more) it might be okay.
All the hate aside, as a mid-layer it does okay, but at some point you're going to take that shell off and the wind will blow and icy streams of regret directly to your skin.
The Illuminate has a few fantastic features like shock cord tensioners, good zippers, large inside dump pockets, and an amazing hood. It packs into its own pocket easily with room to spare.
Even though it is a featherweight (11 ounces!!) it does not sacrifice the quality of its zippers in the process. All of them functioned flawlessly and have a substantial feel to them.
Chest and handwarmer pockets zip securely as per expectations.
The elastic cuffs and drawstring cords do a good job of keeping the cuffs and hems close to you without restricting circulation.
I found the media pocket in the chest pocket to be good for chapstick or keys, but I don't have an MP3 player anymore so I can't vouch for its usefulness there.
It weighs around eleven ounces, making it very light for its class.
Don't go traipsing around a briar patch in any down jacket, including the Illuminate. Wearing down means that you are dedicated to treating these delicate jackets with the care that their price tag commands. Having said that, under my pack straps and after camp chores on several overnight trips the Illuminate has survived unscratched.
OR manufacturing is top notch as I have come to expect and I found no quality or workmanship issues.
As with any down garment, wear a shell over it if you intend to ski or hike in the trees.
For the very narrow intended purpose it is designed for the Illuminate does well.
At the same time, instead of adding two or three more ounces of down to the garment, now I need to wear another nine-ounce base layer or windbreaker with it to keep warm and stop the wind, so have I really saved any weight?
Update 06/13/19: I wore it on Mt Hood, skinning up to the crater. During breaks I put it on while waiting for the snow to warm up enough to ski on. I ended up cold and put a shell over the top.
Wore it on Mount Baker and loved how it squeezed into a smaller pack. I seldom wore it alone but it performed pretty well considering its intended use. I'll probably being it on Rainier in a week.
There are five down jackets in my closet presently. I also own two synthetic jackets in this class (unless the kids have stolen them again). I wear down during mountaineering trips on Cascade volcanoes, while belaying on rock climbs, and on ski trips. It's one of my favorite insulation materials.