Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - December 26, 2013

Field Report - March 9, 2014

Long Term Report - May 1, 2014

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 60
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking venues have included a combination of Minnesota hikes where I have lived most of my adult life, and Arizona trails where I moved to take a new job about four years ago.  I have always been a "comfort-weight" backpacker, never counting grams, but still keeping my pack as light as easily attained.  I normally carry a fleece jacket into the backcountry in the cool seasons, but I am keen to try out a down vest to keep the weight down.

Initial Report

Product Information

Transcedent Vest
Photo courtesy Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research
Transcendent Vest
Year of manufacture
US $149
Manufacturer website
Pewter/Lemongrass (gray/green)
Also available: Lemongrass/Evergreen (green), Glacier (blue), Earth/Caf (brown), Black
Listed: 9.4 oz (267 g) for Large size
Measured garment weight:  10.8 oz (306 g) for XL
Also available: Small, Medium, Large, XX-Large
100% polyester, 20D ripstop outer; 100% nylon taffeta, 44D nylon lining
650 fill down

The Transcendent vest is a polyester down-filled garment with a zipper front, Napoleon (storage for glasses, etc.) and zipper handpockets.  This is a lightweight vest, suitable for hiking in colder temperatures, in-camp at moderate temperatures, or as part of a layering system.  Manufacturer's listed features:
  • Zippered Napoleon Pocket
  • Two Zippered Hand Pockets
  • Internal Front-Zip Stormflap, prevents wind from blowing through the zipper
  • Breathable - down garments ventilate reasonably well
  • Lightweight - typically lighter weight than an equivalently warm fleece garment
  • Brushed-Tricot-Lined Collar - soft on the neck
  • Left Hand Pocket Doubles as stuff sack, no additional stuff sack to get lost
  • Drawcord Hem - tightens around the hips or waist to seal in the warm air

Trying It Out

Trying it outAfter removing all the tags I put the vest on, as shown in the photo at left.  Sizing is always difficult for me with jackets and shirts as I have a long torso and normally wear a large-tall size, but I went with the XL following the Sizing Chart on the manufacturer's website.  It is just a touch bulkier than I'd prefer, but it should be just fine when layered over something a little bulkier than a T-shirt.  It felt really nice and toasty!

I inspected the vest and could find no signs of manufacturing defects, loose threads, sticking zippers, etc.  The garment fabric is smooth and silky, and appears to be of very high quality.

Next I stuffed as much as I could of the vest into the left hand pocket.  It packs down to a size that will fit nicely into a backpack pocket for easy access/stowing on the trail:


Things that I find positive at this early stage

  • Seems very warm
  • Very attractive garment, including the color
  • Workmanship and fabric quality are very high

Perceived limitations at this early stage

  • None

Check back in two months when I've had a chance to tromp around a bit in the mountains wearing this garment and see what I have to say about it in my Field Report.

Field Report

Test Conditions


Terrain/ trail type
Altitude range
Dec 28-29, 2013 Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Sycamore Canyon
10 mi
(16 km)
Mountain canyons Sunny, 24-60 F
(-4-15 C)
3800-5000 ft
(1160-1520 m)
January 11-12, 2014 Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Romero Canyon
11.2 mi
(18 km)
Mountain canyons Sunny, 30-70 F
(-1-21 C)
2600-5200 ft
(790-1580 m)
January 19-20, 2014 Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Sutherland Trail
15 mi
(24 km)
Mountain foothills, Jeep trail, and steep mountain ascent Hazy, 40-65 F
(4-18 C)
2600-6600 ft
(790-2010 m)
February 7-9, 2014 Grand Canyon National Park Grandview Loop
18 mi
(29 km)
Deep desert canyon Mix of sun and clouds, 25-60 F
(-4-16 C)
7300-3700 ft
(2220-1130 m)

Sycamore Canyon

I had never hiked the Sycamore Canyon section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, and I was looking for a trail with not too much elevation gain/loss for a change, so I set out on a Saturday afternoon for an overnight hike.  I put the vest on as soon as I reached camp over the top of a merino wool long-sleeve shirt, as the temperature was dropping fast.  I was quite comfortable while setting up camp, but started to get chilled as I prepped dinner so I added a pair of down-filled sleeves that I recently purchased.  This turned the vest into a jacket, which worked quite well.

During the night I rolled the vest up into the left pocket and used it as a pillow.  It worked really great for that purpose, except in a hammock it rolled down to the bottom whenever I lifted my head up.

The next morning I wore the same combo of the vest over a merino wool shirt while breaking camp.  I appreciated the freedom of motion the vest gave me while doing these camp chores.  I left the vest on as I began my hike back out when the air temperature was right around the freezing point, and removed it after about 30 minutes as I began to overheat.

Overall I was very pleased with the performance of the vest on my first backpack with it.  It kept me warm and was a great pillow while taking up very little space and weight in my pack.

Romero Canyon

I purchased a new hammock that I wanted to try out, so I headed out for a quick overnight to my favorite camping spot in the Catalina Mountains. Same drill as the prior hike; I put the vest on as soon as I reached camp over the top of a merino wool long-sleeve shirt.  The following picture shows me wearing the vest while filtering water as I was setting up camp:

Filtering water

As the sun set it started getting really cold, so I added my down sleeves to the configuration:

Down sleeves

This is a really nice, lightweight combination: the Transcendent vest + down sleeves.  A down jacket is far too warm to hike in, but the vest is perfect for cold mornings.  With the addition of the sleeves I am prepared for cold nights in camp.

The next morning I wore the vest for the first 30 minutes of hiking as the temperature was right around freezing.

Sutherland Trail

I have done several short sections of this trail as a day hike, but it ascends all the way to the summit of Mt Lemmon and I had never spent the night along the trail so I thought I'd see how far up I could go.  The trail starts out with a gentle climb in the foothills, then turns into a rugged Jeep trail, finally transitioning to a brutally rough climb straight up the mountainside.

Due to the overcast skies the temperatures were a little warmer on this hike at night than the prior outings.  I wore the vest while cooking dinner, then again at breakfast.  I did not hike with the vest on.  Bottom line: the Transcendent vest continues to do a great job of keeping me warm in-camp with a very low cost in weight and space in my pack.

Grandview Loop

The Grandview Loop is a "lollipop" hike: it begins by descending to Horseshoe Mesa from the Grandview Trailhead, loops to the left down to Cottonwood Creek, then connects to the Tonto Trail to circle the backside of the mesa, hooking back up with a connector trail back up to the top of the mesa at Hance Creek, then back up to the trailhead.  This was only my second foray into the Canyon, and though off the beaten path it requires only modest mileage and altitude for a three day hike and has water available at convenient distances.

The conditions were a bit challenging: fresh snow covered the trail on my descent, and over the course of the next two days the snow thawed and was trampled down enough to turn to slick ice on the way up out of the Canyon.  Temperatures were cool, but I had prepared for worse than I got.

I wore the vest mostly in camp during the evenings and while having breakfast in the morning, but also when starting out in the morning of Day Three as it was pretty chilly.  On both nights the vest served as a great pillow by stuffing it into the pocket.  The following picture was taken just before sunset on Day Two at the campsite on the mesa - it cools down very quickly in the Canyon this time of year once the sun gets low in the sky.

Transcendent vest in the Grand Canyon


Good Things

  • Toasty warm - the drawcord hem keeps the heat in
  • Exceptionally attractive garment - I enjoy wearing this out in public as it has such a clean look
  • Versatile: I like stuffing the vest into the pocket, no stuff sack needed
  • Makes a great pillow: good size, soft, and the fabric feels good against my face
  • Lightweight and packs down very small
  • Great pockets - I often use the Napoleon pocket for my reading glasses
  • Great fit
  • Soft fabric has a nice feel against the skin, including when using the vest rolled up for a pillow

Areas for potential improvement

  • The front zipper has a tendency to snag on the stormflap near the top

Long Term Report

Test Conditions


Terrain/ trail type
Altitude range
April 5-6, 2014
Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Romero Canyon
10 mi
(16 km)
Mountain canyons Sunny, 38-68 F
(3-20 C)
2600-4800 ft
(790-1460 m)
April 12, 2014
Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Mount Lemmon SkyCenter
Not applicable
Clear, 39-60F
(4-15 C)
9145 ft
(2787 m)

Romero Canyon

This was just a little sub-24-hour backpack into my favorite local canyon.  I wasn't expecting much in the way of severe weather, so I wore a long-sleeved hiking shirt and took the vest as my only upper-body warmth.  As usual, as the sun went down the temperature dropped quickly, but I was able to eat dinner very comfortably with just the vest over my shirt.  After dinner I retired to my hammock and covered up my legs with a quilt.  The vest served well as always as my sleeping pillow.

It was a bit chilly in the morning, so I ended up wearing the vest for about the first hour of hiking.

Transcendent vest in the Catalina Mountains

When I took off the vest I noticed my back was a little sweaty - even when it is cool outside, I find it hard to not sweat while wearing down when hiking.

Mount Lemmon SkyCenter

This was not a hike, but rather a chilly evening spent gazing at the stars through one of the largest publicly-accessible telescopes in the United States.  As the title infers, this observatory is located at the summit of Mount Lemmon just outside of Tucson and operated by the University of Arizona.  Chilly conditions were expected, so I packed the Transcendent vest and a windproof fleece as I expected a stiff breeze at the summit.

Once the sun set and the temperatures plunged, I spent most of the evening with the vest worn underneath the fleece.  This worked exceptionally well, as the wind blocking shell prevented convective heat loss, and the vest kept my core nice and toasty, even when standing around in the observatory waiting for my turn to gaze at the Orion Nebula.

Bottom line: the Transcendent vest can keep me warm when stationary under pretty chilly conditions when worn as an insulation layer under a wind-blocking shell.


I don't have any details to add to the summary in my Field Report.  Overall, I have been very happy with this down vest.  I intend to carry it on many of my future backpacking outings, primarily in the shoulder seasons when hiking at altitude when I need to deal with modestly chilly weather where a vest will be adequate.  I like to keep my pack as light and compact as possible, and this little vest packs a lot of warmth in a small footprint and weight.

Thanks to Outdoor Research and for the opportunity to contribute to this test.

Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson