“Designed By Adventure.” It’s more than just an advertising slogan. At Outdoor Research, our products have been designed by adventure for more than 30 years, with features and fabrics imagined, tested and perfected in the wild. And like our products, our lives and the lives of our customers are sculpted by the experiences we have in the natural, unpredictable environments we love. We, too, are Designed By Adventure.
Perfecting the balance between warmth and moisture management isn’t easy, and getting it wrong can turn your stellar day in the mountains into an epic. Fortunately for us all, the design team at Outdoor Research got it right with the Men's Deviator Hoody and Women's Deviator Hoody, a lightweight, breathable active Insulation piece that was named a Backpacker Magazine Editors’ Choice for Spring 2015.
“The challenge of keeping certain areas of our body warmer and but avoiding excess perspiration and heat from too much warmth is a never ending one,” says Jeannie Wall, an Outdoor Research Product and Marketing Consultant for Alpine and Rock Climbing with decades of experience competing and playing in the mountains. It’s a constant balancing act, and a challenge all too familiar for the designers at Outdoor Research.
Though the Deviator is lightweight, it is anything but simple. It begins with a hybrid-mapped design. This design philosophy obtains optimal performance by placing unique, technical fabrics in areas where their performance is best appreciated. While hybridized jackets have been in the Outdoor Research line for over a decade, “The Deviator reflects one of our most concerted efforts to put the right fabric in the right places for our athletes, regardless of previous convention,” says Jason Duncan, Technical Apparel Product Manager at Outdoor Research. The imagination, innovation and effort paid off when the Deviator won the Backpacker Magazine Editors’ Choice Award. While the honor is substantial, the designers at Outdoor Research always return their attention to what matters most: the customer’s needs.
“It always culminates in trying to meet a functional need for our customers,” says Wall. “Often, however, ideas for solving these problems come from researching new fabrics.” In the case of the Deviator, they set out to experiment with Polartec® Alpha®, a premier active insulation. As they worked with different constructions and fabrics, something became apparent.
“We had the opportunity to lose the bulk of a mid-layer fleece or wool by using this new super quick drying and breathable puff insulation,” says Wall.
The team used the Polartec® Alpha® insulation in its lightest weight package. For the jacket’s liner fabric, the team decided on a stretch mesh. This passes on the heat and moisture directly to the Alpha® insulation without using, for example, a taffata inner layer. “This is one of the biggest benefits to our athletes,” says Duncan, “insulation with maximum airflow.”
Finding the right lightweight shell to cover the Alpha® insulation became the next challenge. The team went out on a limb. “There are not many 7D fabrics out there that work in the outdoor industry,” says Duncan, “but ultimately we found one that met our high standards and it really keeps the weight down, while helping to add warmth by cutting drafts in the forward-facing torso area.”
Finally, to finish off the jacket’s materials, the team chose the Polartec® Power Dry® Power Grid™ fleece for the back, arms and hood because of its breathability and maximum wicking.
Duncan originally targeted the Deviator for spring touring. However, during the testing phase, Martin Volken—an IFMGA guide and product development expert—kept using the Deviator long beyond its perceived limitations. In fact, Volken said, “I see this as a year round piece for a variety of applications.” It was a wake-up call for Duncan and he began to reframe the design, by getting the jacket out to climbers, winter runners, cyclists and hikers for testing. They all had the same response to Duncan—“This jacket is awesome.”
A few of the final challenges were fit—how trim can you go to optimize performance—and color. “Color isn’t something most people worry about in design, but when you are hybridizing four fabrics,” says Duncan, “it is a challenge to execute it well.”
The last touch, as surprising as it may seem, was the thumbholes. While features this small don’t usually go through so many iterations, the design team wanted to satisfy its most demanding users. “Sometimes when you know you have something special like the Deviator, you want to ensure you make every feature as perfect as possible, no matter how small.”
The time and energy the designers poured into this jacket helped it earn the 2015 Backpacker Magazine Editors’ Choice Award. However, as Duncan notes, if Outdoor Research’s customers don’t also see the Deviator as something innovative and useful, wards mean little.
Wall agrees: “We're grateful to see our products get recognition from reputable sources like Backpacker, but ultimately the truest confirmation is our customers’ satisfaction.”