The synthetic fill puffy is a staple for those looking for some foul and cold weather insulation when moisture might compromise a down piece. Outdoor Research’s Superstrand LT Hoodie delivers a lightweight and compact punch for those on the go in the backcountry.
It’s finally fall. Winter is right over the horizon. As much as we love winter and all the joys it brings, there is something liberating with the dawning of spring. Warmer days, lighter packs, stronger legs, fewer layers for fewer (theoretical) contingencies. During this seasonal transition, I was presented with the Outdoor Research (OR) Superstrand LT Hoodie. The Superstrand is a lightweight synthetic puffy. My initial thoughts were this: potentially a perfect shoulder season piece for outings with a sustained moderate tempo. Over time, I confirmed this thought and expanded it. The OR Superstrand LT Hoodie is an excellent warmish weather insulative piece that traveled with me all over Absarokas and Winds this summer and fall.
The Superstrand is legit light. It has a claimed weight of 10.9 oz/309g. (I didn’t confirm this since I sold my gram scale when I left Missoula. Ask the editor, but that was long ago.) When this jacket arrived, I had trepidations about its insulative value. I like the cold, but I don’t enjoy being cold: I’m working through this personal fallibility — don’t judge. Like any quality relationship, our trust has grown over time. Now, having spent enough quality time together – me and the Superstrand LT Hoodie – working through some challenging situations, pushing boundaries, learning, and growing…together, our relationship has blossomed into a thing of beauty, and my trust is complete. Well, complete for a given temperature range/activity level.
The Superstrand uses the eponymous “VerticalX Superstrand” insulation. Rather than a sheet of insulation wrapped in a shell material with arms, pockets, and a hood, the Vertical X Superstrand insulation is composed of polyester clusters, similar to a down cluster. The cluster insulation results in greater compressibility and lower weight than most sheet form insulations. OR claims the VerticalX is “just as soft, light and lofty as 700-800 fill power down”.
The internal and external shell material is a 12-denier, rip-stop nylon contributing to this piece’s svelteness. Initially, I had concerns about the shell fabric’s durability, though I was pleasantly surprised with how well the jacket has held up through ski trips, climbs, pack trips, hunts, and SAR missions over the last six months. As expected, the shell is no match for campfire embers.
OR was clearly fixated on minimizing the jacket’s weight. In addition to the fill and shell material, the stitching of the quilting pattern on the shell is discontinuous, providing an attractive patterning while minimizing associated material. Sticking with the lightweight ethos, the Superstrand LT only has two hand warmer pockets and two interior drop-in pockets with diameters large enough to accept an average 1-liter bottle. The left exterior pocket has a two-way zipper enabling this pocket to double as a stuff sack. The stuffed size is approximately 1 liter, but you can squash it tighter if necessary.
OR markets this piece as “delivering four-season warmth,” which my inner attorney will agree is technically true and relative to one’s location, but damn sure not four seasons in Wyoming. As much as I like this jacket, a winter puffy, it ain’t, nor, frankly, is OR marketing as such. The Superstrand LT is similar in warmth to a Patagonia Micro Puff — call it less warm than Patagonia’s DAS Light.
The Superstrand’s svelte, low-profile nature of the insulation works quite well matched with, both under and over, additional jackets. This type of layering extends the operable range of the piece and leverages available pack space. I’ve layered the Superstrand under hardshells while relatively stationary riding out a day-long monsoon downpour event with temps in the mid-40s below Marston Pass and used it as an exterior layer over an Arc Teryx Cerium for borderline belay jacket level warmth.
Living in Wyoming, the Superstrand LT is a solid three season puffy and really shines when coupled with breathable insulative pieces. I like matching the Superstrand with a Patagonia Thermal Airshed, R1 hoodie, or Arc Teryx Proton FL, and/or a Proton or Nano Puff vest, and maybe an Airshed Pro. (Damn, that’s a deep wardrobe.) This combination allows for various iterations throughout the day based on movement tempo, elevation, and weather while keeping pack weight and bulk to a minimum. I have yet to use this jacket in full-on winter conditions. Still, I can see it coupled with another lightweight puffy like the Cerium, which theoretically could provide layering diversity and redundant warmth. We’ll see.
You can’t have a legit review without whining about something, correspondingly inflating the author’s ego by espousing his technical omnipotence and gear savvy.
My first issue; is no chest pocket. I know, I know, the goal is minimal weight. Zippers are crazy heavy, yeah, yeah, but in our present day, where everyone is strapped with a phone, a chest pocket seems imperative. Perhaps folks pack their phone elsewhere. The chest pocket is my go-to location for ease of access and maximum warmth to milk as much battery life as possible.
Gripe two, fit.
Bottomline, if the fit stinks, you’ll not be psyched to wear the piece, and you’ll have yet another $300 jacket collecting dust in your closet.) I’m 6 ft. 168, ok 172, (it’s fall, for Pete’s sake), 15.5 /34 shirt size, and average wanna-be fit dad dude. Patagonia’s medium fits me perfectly. The medium in the Superstrand LT fits great in the jacket’s body/chest/torso, but the sleeves are fuzz short. This annoyed me initially (first-world problems), though wearing the jacket through the summer, I’ve become more used to the fit, and it has become less of a hang-up. Just another inch or so of sleeve would result in an exponential increase in net joy. For reference, the sleeve length/fit is similar to Arc Teryx, shorter than Patagonia’s.
The Superstrand LT Hoodie’s hood is nice: super simple, low profile, definitely of the under-the-helmet persuasion, but certainly can accommodate your nog with a toque or baseball hat. The hood, nor the hem, has any drawcords. I appreciate this simplicity. All those bungee cords can get on a person’s nerves.
The OR Superstrand LT Hoodie punches above its weight for $219 bones. Dress this piece up with an additional layer to leverage your kit and pack space in the hills; throw it in a bag to ward off the evening chill for the park concert series; sport it for the drive to the trailhead. This one goes about everywhere. A chest pocket and another inch of sleeve and this jacket would be off the hook.
Claimed Weight: 309g
Pockets: Two zippered hand pockets (left pocket serves as a stuff sack), and two internal drop pockets.
Cuff/Hem: Elastic cuffs and hem.
Brian wanders through the hills from his home in Lander, Wy.