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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence
RESEARCH TRANSCENDENT VEST
I have more than 15 years of backpacking experience. Day hikes and 2-3 day backpacking trips take place on most weekends throughout the year while longer trips are only occasional. I backpack predominantly in mountain terrain (Coast Range, Cascades and Canadian Rockies) with the goal of summiting peaks. Activities I use my gear with include mountaineering, ski touring, rock climbing, kayaking, biking, trail running, Search and Rescue and overseas travel. I like my gear to be reasonably light, convenient and simple to use though I would not claim to be a lightweight hiker.
The Transcendent is a 650 fill down insulated vest intended for outdoor activities in colder temperatures and used as either an outer or mid-layer. The vest is made with a shell of 100% polyester and 20D ripstop nylon and a lining of 44D nylon taffeta. This vest is equipped with a front zipper and storm flap, two zippered hand pockets and a small left breast zippered pocket. The right hand pocket doubles as a handy stuff sack for the vest. When it's stuffed it makes out to be a small square with a loop and clip at one corner suggesting it could be hung from a carabiner. The collar is covered in a soft material referred to by the manufacturer as 'brushed-tricot', the same material lines the pockets making them soft and cozy for the hands. The vest also has a draw cord hem for adjustability and keeping the wind from seeping in the bottom. The seam construction for the vest appears to be a baffled construction, which I have always understood offered maximum loft and distribution from the down fill, as opposed to a sewn through construction. This attributes to the quality of the garment, which shows superb craftsmanship with all the seam work.
Vest stuffed in pocket: brushed-tricot side up followed by nylon side up with "Made by Adventure" imprinting.
TRYING IT OUT
So, here comes the unfortunate part for me. While this vest is nice looking, beautifully made and cozy-feeling, I'm not able to revel in the fit as it is a men's garment, which as expected comes with a men's fit. I ordered the smallest size, but naturally it was too big in the shoulders and chest. But, enough about that as I already anticipated the awkward fit when I stepped forward to test men's clothing. Thank goodness it wasn't men's underwear. I can definitely say the fluffy down vest is cozy to be wrapped in and the soft material inside the pockets does indeed feel nice on the hands. I found the loop and clip in the top of the right pocket that I thought was for hanging the stuffed vest. Logically now, it may be more useful as a clip for keys, a knife or a camera, so these items won't fall out of the pocket. The inside pockets are huge and are big enough to stash items like gloves and a beanie, which may be handy warming up on the trail. The chest pocket, which I thought would be small was actually quite large extending all the way to the armpit. I'll have to think of a use for this. Around town it perhaps would make a good wallet pocket, or on the trail as a place to stow sunglasses. I will be able to comment more after the field test. The zippers all slide well and the size of the toggles on the ends of the zipper loops are grippy and big enough to grab with gloves on. It does fit under my shell and over some of my mid-layer jackets, so I anticipate using it as both a middle and outer layer depending on the circumstance.
In March I used the Transcendent vest on a 7 day, 6 night hut based backcountry ski-touring trip in the Monashee mountain range in southern British Columbia. Temperatures on this trip were relatively warm for the region ranging from -5 to -1 C (23 to 30 F). We had over a meter (3.3 ft) of snowfall over the course of the week. This meant that it snowed almost every day all day while we were there. Needless to say, visibility was poor and on top of this we had some rather chilling windy days. Overall, the wind wasn't bad, it was just memorably wet from the relentless snow and warmer temperatures. Later on in April I brought this vest on 2 different weekend overnights tenting near Koocanusa Lake in Montana. I used it around camp and for rock climbing in the cool mornings. Temperatures have risen in this region to highs of 17 C (62 F) and lows of 1 C (34 F) over night. We had some significant wind come up from the lake, but for the most part clear, warm, sunny days and cooler, windy evenings made for some enjoyable outings. Apart from this I have carried this vest around in my search and rescue ready pack and have used it during some practice time.
OBSERVATIONSComfort & Fit:
First off, the Transcendent vest has been light and comfortable to wear. It fit nicely and comfortably over my base layers and under my Gore-Tex shell, which I needed for the persistent snowfall we had on our backcountry ski-touring trip. As mentioned before as I'm wearing a man's vest and I'm not shaped as such I won't dabble further in the fit area. I do want to mention that the material was very light, soft and cozy to wear. I also enjoyed the soft material around the neck and inside the hand warming pockets.
Performance and Function:
I have found this vest to be a well functioning mid-layer in colder temperatures, which proved itself when it kept me warm during rest stops on my ski-touring trip. I used it mainly in this sense on that trip. Anytime there was a stop, I would put the vest on over my base layers (thermal underwear and a thicker fleece layer), then my shell on top, which protected me from wind and snow. I was very happy to have this item of warmth with me on this trip. I was able to ski down with the vest on, but it was ultimately too hot to wear skinning uphill as was expected. I found its ability to maintain and generate heat in these temperatures was very good. I also appreciated the rigidness and size of the zipper toggles, which allowed me to zip and unzip with my mitts on.
On the warmer tenting trips, I found the vest kept me warm against the wind, so long as my arms were covered with a windproof layer. It was nice to wear as an outer layer around the campfire and it kept me warm through the evening as temperatures fell. It worked well as an outer layer for rock climbing in the cool mornings. The vest cut kept my arms free and my core toasty.
I used the chest pocket several times to stash a small pack of tissue and at other times my small digital camera. It was a handy spot to warm up my camera in the snowier temperatures. I also explored the pillow option when I was tenting and found that it made quite a lovely pillow with the soft side up, which was a bonus. And because it did pack up so small and was so light, it really did have a great weight to warmth ratio for bringing into the backcountry.
SUMMARYSo far I am very pleased with Outdoor Research's Transcendent down vest. It offers a lot of warmth for a very small and light piece of gear. There's really no excuse to leave it at home. I like the versatility of the vest which is not restricting in the arms for activities like climbing and still offers a very warm layering option underneath a shell or as an outer layer on its own. Its use in snowy temperatures as well as warmer spring temperatures boasts its abilities to accommodate any number of activities, uses and seasons.
- Very warm in snowy temperatures, works well as a mid-layer
- Versatile layer in warmer temperatures and useful for many activities as an outer layer
- Nice pockets with fleece lining
- Functions as a simple pillow in the backcountry
- Big and rigid zipper toggles that are easy to use with mitts on
- Chest pocket option for storing small items, freeing up the hand warming pockets
Nothing to DISLIKE
LONG TERM FIELD CONDITIONS
I've continued to use the Transcendent vest for many activities during the long term test period. At the beginning of May I brought this vest on an overnight backcountry ski-tour and camped in the snow at 900 m (2953 ft). Temperatures ranged from -3 to 18 C (27 to 64 F) and the weather endured was everything from freezing rain, wind and snow to calm brilliant sunshine. On the long May holiday weekend, I brought the vest camping during a 2 night, 3 day kayak paddling fest. During this weekend we endured a heavy storm with heaps of rain. I brought it on three other day-hikes to local peaks and another overnight hike in June. Temperatures in June were around 11 to 17 C (52 to 64 F), with some damp conditions, but otherwise dry and sunny. Elevations encountered were between 1350 to 2580 m (4429 to 8465 ft).
I have continued to enjoy using this vest for rest stops on the trail and hanging out at camp. If the wind or temperature was too chilly, adding my shell over the vest made for a very warm and cozy option for any of the temperatures mentioned above. It was also a great layer for backcountry skiing. With just a base layer underneath, it worked well for skinning up and when it became too hot it was easy to peel off. At the top of the ski-tour destination, transitioning to downhill was just slipping a shell over the vest. The down fill insulation did a very good job of radiating heat. Being that it was small and light made it easy to pack for overnights in the backcountry.
The vest still looks as good as new. The seams all remain intact and minimal if any down fill has migrated out of the jacket. I have seen the odd feather poking through the fabric, but this was easily tucked back into the vest. On a number of my trips, it spent a great deal of time compressed before I needed it and when I took it out of its pocket I found it puffed up right away. It has not lost any of its ability to do this over the test period. Throughout the test period the vest stayed clean and didn't require washing. But, I wanted to see how it fared in the washing machine. So, I did machine wash it once in cold water and hung it to dry, which proved no problem.
Finalizing my thoughts on the Transcendent vest, I would have to say it was a great layering piece proving to be versatile in its uses. It held up over the long term, not losing its down fill or its poofiness after being compressed. It was lightweight and warm and had many useful pockets for storing things. I plan to continue using the vest for backcountry use in all the ways already encountered. My Likes and Dislikes remain as before. Nothing to dislike here.
Thank you Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to take part in this test series, I have thoroughly enjoyed this product.
Read more gear reviews by Theresa Lawrence
Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Outdoor Research Transcendent Vest > Test Report by Theresa Lawrence
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