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NW Alpine sent us the Black Spider Hoody and their Volo Pant last autumn, and I set aside the Hoody to test as it was just the right size and the sort of lightweight base or mid-layer that’s perfect for winter cragging in Colorado’s Front Range, where the weather fluctuates wildly and rapidly with storms, wind, and clouds pouring over the Continental Divide.
My first impressions were that I loved—loved—the Hoody. Weighing only 11 oz, it had a warm, clingy feel and thin, low profile that made it perfect for tucking under a harness. I’d wear it climbing, bolting, belaying, to work, walking my old hound dog—you name it. The Hoody is made of 8 percent polyester and Spandex for solid stretch while climbing, but the bulk of it (92 percent) is Polartec Power Dry, a high-tech wicking fabric. A simple, minimalist piece, the Hoody comes with a balaclava-style, helmet-compatible hood, thumb loops on the wrist cuffs, and a single chest zipper pocket that’s about large-smartphone-sized—good for your phone, wallet, keys, or an energy bar or two.
I’ve been wearing it consistently ever since, always as a midlayer (though you can go next-to-skin), and it’s become a go-to piece for outings when I know layering will be key: multi-pitch climbs that dance in and out of shade or spike up into the wind, cold-weather cragging in the shadowy Flatirons, fluctuating conditions in windswept Dream and Boulder canyons, etc. It’s a versatile, extremely-warm-for-the-weight top that’s become an indispensable part of my cool-weather kit. The Black Spider is built for strenuous activity, when you’re moving and sweating—you get all the mobility and wicking you need and then some, without the overheating that comes with a bulkier fleece. I’ve only ever noticed sweat collect along the sleeves and in the pits, with max exertion, but it dries quickly (Power Dry). The hood is a great touch, too, form-fitting around the head to give a dash of climate control.
Early on I did notice some pilling at the seams on the sleeves where I was abrading against the rock. (All of the seams are semi-extruded along the exterior of the Hoody.) I was concerned and wondered about the piece’s longevity, but that was six months ago and the issue hasn’t gotten worse, even with day-to-day use and weekly washings. In fact, it’s not really an issue—just something I had my eye on that seemed like it could become an issue. But it didn’t.
I’ve worn the Black Spider Hoody on everything from 5.9 trad romps to at-my-limit redpoints, with multiple other jackets (a hybrid shell and a puffy) layered over it. It never fails to deliver. Warm, light, bomber, quick-to-dry, and with just a dash of style, this is a killer climber’s piece.