Belay Jacket Reviews

Whether you're belaying a hard redpoint in the shade on a crisp autumn day or shivering at a stance below a long pitch of ice, the right belay jacket can make the difference between a good time and pure misery. These reviews will help you make the best choice among synthetic and down belay jackets.
  • Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Editors' Choice Awards

    As editors of a climbing magazine, part of our job description includes traveling to cool climbing areas with the latest and greatest gear and putting it through its paces—all in the name of “testing.” Yeah, we’re pretty lucky. Of course, it’s not all peaches and cream. We eventually have to decide which products are worthy of a mention, and which are better left on the shelf. Every year there are several items that shine brightest, proving themselves to be absolutely must-have pieces of gear. We bestow those top picks with the gear world’s premier prize: Editors’ Choice. This year, we winnowed a field of hundreds of products to select these 15 coolest, best-performing, and most drool-worthy gear picks.

  • HPECBassecamp

    Gear Guide 2014: Basecamp

    Whether your digs are a sleeping bag under the stars or a shiny new Sprinter, here are 31 of the best new things to improve any climbing trip.

  • ECSport

    Gear Guide 2014: Sport Climbing

  • HPEC

    Gear Guide 2014: Editors' Choice Awards

    Innovative, smart, lust-worthy, and just plain cool: 10 new must-have products that topped our testers’ lists.

  • Eddie-Bauer-First-Ascent-Backdraft

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Backdraft

    “The chimneys and offwidths of the Utah desert are some of the toughest proving grounds for apparel, and if anything functions well and emerges unscathed, it’s a winner in my book,” said one tester after rocking the Backdraft for several pitches of wide (and wider) cracks.

  • apparel-guide

    Fall 2013 Apparel Guide

    Every season, the latest gear promises more breathability or warmth or weather protection. But which pieces work so well you can forget they’re there? And which should just be forgotten? From crystal-clear days on cracks at Lumpy Ridge to hail and heart-stopping thunder in the Black Canyon, we reviewed more than 100 articles of clothing to bring you the best of the bunch.

  • North-Face-Verto-Hoody

    The North Face Verto Micro Hoodie

    “Although I was skeptical at first, this piece has revamped my layering system,” said a tester who took it ice climbing for 14 consecutive days in Utah. It was so windproof and breathable, one tester wondered, “How do they do it?” Eight-hundred-fill down on the front and back torso insulated key body parts, and FlashDry Pertex Quantum GL nylon on the sleeves and sides blocked the wind while wicking and drying sweat.

  • La-Sportiva-Cham-Down

    La Sportiva Cham Down

    “Forget every other down puffy you’ve ever worn—this will beat them all,” one tester declared. The 750-fill down kept us warm in single-digit temps throughout the West. “Belay puffy, around town, skiing… I wore this every day this winter,” another tester said. The superior warmth and airy feel of this 23-oz. jacket (men’s M) was the foundation of our testers’ obsessions, but it was the climber-centric features that sealed the deal.

  • Wild-Things-Custom-Insulight

    Wild Things Custom Insulight Jacket

    “That was fun!” said one tester after designing his own jacket from colors to materials to fill. “And the jacket has proven to be a bombproof performer, too.” Wild Things lets you select from a range of features and fabrics at a competitive price, with a 14-day delivery turnaround.

  • Helly-Hansen-H2Flow

    Helly Hansen H2Flow

    A simple polyester shell with elastic cuffs and a drawstring hem houses a brushed interior of 200g Polartec fleece. Sounds uncomplicated until you look at the inside of this jacket: The fleece—lining the chest and back—is pocked with dozens of dime- to quarter-sized holes that trap heat when you need it and ventilate when you don’t.

  • La-Sportiva-Pegasus-Primaloft

    La Sportiva Pegasus PrimaLoft

    “This hooded, midweight jacket quickly became my go-to piece for chilly days at the crag and while navigating alpine terrain,” says one contributing editor. “It’s the climber-oriented fit that won me over: The torso is trim while the waist and arms are long, so the Pegasus stayed tucked under a harness and always covered my wrists when reaching overhead.”

  • La-Sportiva-Galaxy-Hoody

    La Sportiva Galaxy Hoody

    Labeled as a “do-everything hoody for the do-everything athlete,” this full-zip midlayer really does all mountain sports well. Our testers took it (and the women’s version, the Avail Hoody) from boulderfields in northern California to the long multi-pitches of Red Rock to ski slopes in Colorado.

  • Patagonia-Encapsil-Down

    Patagonia Encapsil Down

    Patagonia’s own version of water-resistant down ups the ante by boosting loft to an astonishing 1,000-fill. They zap 800-fill down with radio waves until its molecular structure changes, allowing the plumes to accept a silicone DWR treatment without the use of chemical binders.

  • Sierra Designs Gnar Lite DriDown

    Dry Heat

    It’s funny how much waiting happens at the crag: Belaying, spotting, gawking, sharing beta—these don’t require a ton of energy. What’s not funny is how far your core temperature can drop on cold days during inactivity. Solution? The Sierra Designs DriDown Gnar Lite jacket ($229; While at first glance it looks like any other 800-fill down jacket (and indeed its weight and warmth are comparable to most in that category), it’s the invisible treatment to the down itself that makes the difference.

  • Arcteryx-Jacket-660

    Don’t Leave Home Without It

    Bailing off the sixth pitch of Petit Grepon (5.8) in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, in the face of a rain and hail storm, our tester put this “emergency storm jacket for an alpine environment” to the test. The Arc’teryx Alpha SL Jacket ($319; was a godsend for the two-hour downpour while the tester and her partner rapped down almost 800 feet.

  • North-Face-Polar-Hooded-Jacket-158

    Chill Beater

    I’ve always wanted that one warm jacket that I can grab for approaches and belays in times of near-freezing temps and blustery winds. That one jacket that I can throw over a tank top when I’m running to the gym, and trust to keep me completely warm. Downs weren’t cutting it for such uses (especially with that skin-to-nylon fabric contact—eek!), and regular fleeces weren’t windproof or warm enough. The North Face Polar Hooded Jacket ($299; came to my rescue at the end of last winter.

  • Change is Good

    The new Arc'teryx Gamma MX jacket for climbers is a definite upgrade, with its proprietary Fortius 2.0 fabric, which is blessed with enhanced durability and water resistance without any sacrifice of stretch or breathability.

  • Puffy Time!

    Puffy Time!

    Eight fluffy jackets for cold-weather pursuits - There's nothing better than feeling that first crispy bite of the cold season: Temps drop to the perfect sending range and tourists go back to their day jobs, meaning more routes for the rest of us. From the chill of fall through the frigidness of winter, while belaying at a windy crag or rappelling off a tall multi-pitch, proper insulation is key. Most of these puffies are best suited for rock climbing belays and frosty campsites, but several pieces would also work well for mountaineering and ice climbing.

  • TNF-Zephyrus_33588.jpg

    Apparel Engineering

    Four new jackets that break the mold - The term "hybrid" doesn’t just mean space-shippy little cars that save gas. Outdoor companies have adopted the word to mean apparel that combines multiple fabrics within a single layer for comfort and smart performance. Employing what they call “body mapping,” designers examine the way certain parts of our bodies work during high- and low-output activities, in all kinds of weather, and then put waterproof shell fabric where you need waterproofing, stretch panels where you need breathability, and insulation where you need warmth, all in the same layer.

  • GG-Camp-Magic-Jacket_31724.jpg

    2011 Gear Guide: Shells

    Shoulder season means one thing for long rock routes: Be fast, or be prepared. After a few too many times when I was neither, I’ve learned that I can always afford to carry a few more ounces. So when super-light, stuffable wind shells for climbers first started showing up, I bought one immediately. When the wall goes into shadow, the wind picks up, and you still have four more belays before the top, that triangle of nylon spinning from your harness will be on your back in a hurry, and you’ll praise the designers for making it hooded, wind-proof, and possibly even water-resistant.

  • PatagoniaNano_26257.jpg

    New and Notable: Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover - 2010 Gear Guide

    Renowned for their stance on matters of ethics and environment, Patagonia ( has had a host of top-shelf synthetic-fill insulated jackets, the burly DAS Parka and the Micro Puff Jacket being two staff favorites here at Climbing. In late 2009, Patagonia pushed the limits of weight and packability in an insulated jacket even farther...

  • Gearing Up For Winter - No. 245

    Gearing Up For Winter

    Sub-zero temps, brittle ice, horizontal snowfall - if terms like that get your adrenal glands revving and your hands grasping for tools, then it's time to check out what's new in gear for this season.