Gear Review: Outdoor Research Women's Diode Hooded Jacket

Playing in the snow in Vermont. (PC: D. Hercovitch).
Unfortunately for those of us in love with the peace, quiet, and beauty snow brings, winter seems to have disappeared in the Philadelphia area already, leaving behind ever shrinking piles of half-frozen brown gunk on the streets. Punxsutawney Phil, we are not friends.

The little bit of winter I did get to experience this year gave me plenty of time to test my second piece of #ORInsightLab apparel, the Outdoor Research Women's Diode Hooded Jacket. And if the giant smile on my face in the picture doesn't give it away, (spoiler alert), I absolutely love it.

The Technology

Outdoor Research's Hybrid Mapping design philosophy used in creating the Diode means that specific materials are used in different parts of the jacket to maximize performance. The hood, shoulders, waist, wrist, and outer arm areas of the jacket are filled with PrimaLoft Gold insulation while the torso is filled with a mix of PrimaLoft Gold and durable water repellent (DWR) treated down.

Translation? Your torso is surrounded by a mix of warm, fluffy down and synthetic insulation while parts of your body that tend to be more vulnerable to getting wet are protected with only synthetic insulation. And the purposeful material choices don't end there; exterior fabrics used were carefully chosen as well. A water-resistant 30-denier Pertex Endurance fabric covers the vulnerable areas, like the shoulders and waist, while a lighter, breathable 22-denier Pertex Quantum fabric covers the torso.

Overall Fit, Style, and Performance

The ultimate goal, according to the Diode's designer, Melanie Sirirot, was to create “ insulated jacket that you never questioned putting in your pack for any trip.” Though the Diode was designed with ski mountaineers and ice climbers in mind, I wore it around town, through Winter Storm Jonas, and on a hike up and down Pico Peak in Vermont to see how it performed in a variety of situations.

Not pictured - the INSANE wind as soon as I stepped out of the woods near the top of Pico Peak. (PC: D. Herscovitch.)

The fabric and insulation choices are designed to give the wearer the best possible protection from the elements without adding unnecessary weight or volume, and as far as I can tell, mission: accomplished.  I was surprised at how lightweight and packable the Diode is. I stuffed it into a small backpack for a day hike without any trouble, and boy did it come in handy as temperatures dropped and the wind picked up on Pico Peak.

Temperatures hovered in the mid-20's (ºF) at the base of the mountain, but 2,000 feet higher, it was much, much colder, and windier. I pulled the Diode on over a single long-sleeved baselayer near the top of the mountain after being reduced to shivers in my shell jacket, and I warmed up almost immediately. The down insulation used in the torso did its job.

The zippered pockets left plenty of room for my hands and anything else I needed to store. (PC: D. Herscovitch)

The elastic cuffs with velcro tabs and the drawcord hem helped me seal all my body heat in. The hood has an adjustable wire brim an fits over a helmet, but also cinched down tight over my hat to keep my head warm. I love how the wire brim gives the hood a bit of shape and weight.

The Diode has two internal pockets I used to stuff my gloves in when I took them off to take photos, along with another internal zippered pocket I kept my phone in so the battery didn't freeze. The two zippered hand pockets are designed to sit right above the waist belt if you're wearing a harness, and the left pocket doubles as a stuff sack.

Hiding from Pico Peak's snow guns! (D. Herscovitch.)
With respect to fit, I have a ton of trouble with down jackets, and jackets in general. I have a six-foot wingspan, I'm 5'9", and years of swimming and CrossFit mean I've got more volume on my upper body than average. The medium gives me enough room to wear a single heavy baselayer underneath, but that's about it. And for what I'm using the Diode for, that's fine.

I found the sleeves roomy, which is unusual for me, but the torso was snug. If you're often borderline between sizes, I'd suggest giving more than one size a try. I'd love it a touch bigger, but not enough to order a size up. And another inch on the sleeves wouldn't hurt, but it's not significant enough to affect my overall opinion of the jacket.

Recommended Uses and Final Thoughts

Overall, I really like the Diode. It's thoughtfully designed and keeps me warm when it's supposed to. All of the materials are clearly high-quality, including the zippers, and it packs down easily enough to throw into my pack without sacrificing any space. And the Hydro/Rio color combination on the jacket I got to test is awesome. If bright blue isn't your style, the Diode comes in black and purple (pinot) as well.

As part of #ORInsightLab this winter, Outdoor Research provided me with a complimentary top to test. As always, the opinions expressed here are my own. What do you think of the Diode? What's your favorite cold weather insulating layer? I'd love to hear from you!