The Cathode is a jacket that grows on me the more I wear it. When I first got it, it seemed to be nothing too special, just your usual lightweight synthetic with stretchy breathable side-panels. All the materials are high-quality, top-of-the-line spec, but it still didn’t seem too remarkable on paper. Fast forward a few months and I find myself bringing the Cathode along more often than not, even when I don’t necessarily think I’ll need it.
The outer, as well as the lining inside, is made of Pertex Quantum, a lightweight and breathable but also incredibly weather-resistant ripstop nylon fabric. It’s proven incredibly durable, and I’ve only managed to put a couple of small tears into it when I brushed up against some particularly sharp rocks (and, truth be told, I brushed up against them somewhat roughly on purpose — I’m here to test the limits of this stuff so you don’t have to!). It sheds light precipitation and blocks wind. Plus, the smooth face slides easily over or under other layers, making the Cathode truly versatile as both an outer or mid-layer.
The side and underarm panels are made of stretchy Scholler. I really appreciate that the panel extends all the way under the arms: great for dumping heat and adding some stretch to the sleeves. The Scholler is stretchy and breathable, and like the Pertex, much more durable than I expected.
The synthetic fill is what is these days known as Primaloft Gold, though if you’ve been around a while you might remember it better as Primaloft One. It’s Primaloft’s best synthetic insulation, and is present here in 60 g/m form. It’s lightweight, warm, fairly breathable and water-resistant: it doesn’t get much better than this stuff for synthetic warmth-to-weight ratio.
Put it all together and the Cathode performs exceptionally. It sheds light rain and heavy snow. Nothing but the strongest gusts of wind get through. Breathability is good enough for those uphill approaches and stretch is more than adequate for climbing.
Fit is not-too-loose but not-too-tight. It’s most certainly not body-hugging, but then neither is it so loose as to flap around with excess material. For how I use this jacket — light belay duty in summer and the shoulder seasons, and as a mid-layer or warm climbing layer in winter — it’s just right. There’s enough room and stretch in the fabric to fit over a harness with ice clippers on it but at the same time it remains trim enough to use as a stand-alone approach or climbing jacket.
The hood fits easily over a helmet, and thanks to a stretchy bit of fabric at the lip also cinches down nicely over a bare head. It’s not the best hood OR make but it’s pretty damn good with some proper articulation and minimal binding. I also really appreciate a solid hood on such a lightweight piece — a hood adds a lot of warmth, for not much extra weight or bulk. (As a note, I’m told that OR have updated the hood for 2016 — they’ve removed the stretchy bit on the lip — so it should fit and function more like their regular hoods, which is a good thing!)
I love the attention to the little details. The main zipper, as well as those on the pockets, are large, easy to open and don’t snag. The cuffs are simple but effective, easily stretching over bulky glove gauntlets but not too loose over a bare wrist. There are two large drop pockets inside — a nice touch on such a lightweight jacket, and one of my favourite features of the Cathode.
I didn’t think I’d get much use out of this jacket and yet I find myself bringing it almost everywhere. It’s supremely versatile, finding use as light insulation during warmer months, an extra layer during the shoulder season, and as an approach or climbing piece in winter. It layers well over climbing layers and also slides easily under bulky belay parkas, adding a lot of warmth when you really, really need it on those long, cold belays. The Cathode weighs next to nothing so I tend to bring it along on almost every outing, even if I don’t necessarily think I’ll need it. And I like the colour, too — a friend called it my “happy jacket” and I think the moniker fits.
Pros: materials, fit, design
Cons: if I had to nitpick, the hood could be a touch roomier
Overall: I love the Cathode: it’s the one jacket I always throw into the pack, no matter what I’m doing, where I’m going, or which season it is. It’s awesome.