A few years back I was fortunate enough to review a jacket and mid-layer from a company called Oros. At the time, the company was relatively new on the scene but was making some innovative apparel that used a proprietary material called Solarcore as an insulator. At the time, I found the products to be very warm, comfortable, and versatile.
Since then, I hadn’t heard much from the company, but like the rest of us, it spent the past few years pushing through the pandemic and preparing for a return to normalcy. That includes introducing some new products, like the Oros Explorer Hoodie. And if this pullover is any indication, the future is looking bright for the apparel manufacturer.
Solarcore and Aerogel
It’s impossible to talk about Oros without first mentioning its origins. The company started in 2016 with the goal of finding a way to use aerogel to create warm clothing for use in cold—and even arctic—conditions. The idea was to integrate the martial into outdoor and everyday apparel and make it viable for use by the average person.
For those unfamiliar with aerogel, it is an insulating material created by NASA for use in spacesuits and other items. It has the distinction of being the lightest and warmest substance known to man, with the ability to maintain heat even in -450ºF (-267ºC) temperatures. The downsides of aerogel are that it can be extremely fragile and until recently, it was prohibitively expensive to use.
Oros managed to change that by creating its own Solarcore material. It uses aerogel as a base but wraps it in a flexible foam that holds its structure and is more durable. When used in clothing, it provides a surprising amount of warmth and protection from the wind, without adding bulk or weight. In other words, everything we’re looking for in outdoor and travel clothing.
The Oros Explorer Hoodie
At first glance, the Explorer Hoodie looks a lot like just about any other pullover that you might find in use around town or on the trail. If you’re unfamiliar with the Oros brand, you’d never know that it was using aerogel—by way of Solarcore—to provide warmth and protection from the elements. The mid-layer has a clean, classic look to it that is both functional and stylish, without drawing undue attention to itself.
When designing the Explorer, Oros integrated its Solarcore insulation into the upper torso and across the shoulders. That’s the part of the body that should be kept the warmest in cold conditions and the aerogel-based material does an excellent job in that regard.
It is easy to tell exactly where the Solarcore is located, as the rest of the hoodie uses thin—yet durable—fabrics to cover the arms, waist, and head. Those materials are flexible and offer a bit of stretch, which keeps them from inhibiting movement. They also feel soft and comfortable against your skin, making this a pullover that you’ll want to reach for both when you’re headed for a backcountry ski trip or just running to the neighborhood coffee shop.
Simple and Comfortable
As you would expect from a hoodie, there aren’t a lot of technical elements to the Explorer. It has a simple—yet elegant—design looks great in any setting. It comes with a high-quality YKK zipper on the chest for venting out heat or sealing up when things get chilly. A second zipper seals a small pocket located on the left side of the garment.
When pulled on, the Explorer feels a bit on the snug side, contouring to the body nicely. If you’re an outdoor athlete who prefers that type of fit, you’ll feel right at home here. On the other hand, if you tend to feel restricted and confined with lighter clothing you may want to go one size up just to be safe.
While the Solarcore insulation gets the bulk of the attention with any piece of Oros gear, the thing I like most about the Explorer is its hood. It provides just the right level of warmth and protection when you need it, but stays out of the way when you don’t. It also feels great when pulled up without limiting your range of motion or blocking your vision. The fabrics used to make the hood do offer a bit of stretch, but it may struggle to fit over some helmets, which can be an important element for outdoor gear.
Plenty of Warmth
The other notable thing about the Explorer Hoodie is its warmth. Whether used on its own or as part of a larger layering system, the pullover delivers on its promise to keep you comfortable in colder conditions. In fact, it’s so good at its job that you may have to strategically choose when to wear it. As someone who warms up quickly during outdoor activities, I found myself getting overly warm in temperatures that were above freezing.
Aerogel isn’t known for being all that breathable, which can often be a problem too. But with the strategic placement of the Solarcore insulation on the core of the body, excess heat and perspiration are able to escape through other parts of the hoodie. That will be much appreciated when you find yourself working hard on your outdoor adventures.
Priced at $180, the Oros Explorer Hoodie is on the high side when compared to much of the competition. But, it also delivers a level of warmth and insulation that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Yes, there are other outdoor brands that are using aerogel in their products, but few have used them as extensively as Oros.
Is the Explorer worth the extra money? If you’re someone who needs high-end performance from your gear, then the answer is a resounding yes. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time outdoors in the winter and has a hard time staying warm? Chances are, you’ll love this hoodie too. But if you have a more casual relationship with cold-weather pursuits and don’t embrace the fun that winter brings, you can probably look elsewhere and save yourself some cash.
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