My unscientific litmus test for what makes a good piece of technical apparel is this: Do I reach for a garment more often than I reach for other pieces in my admittedly overstuffed drawers and closet? With the Voormi High-E Hoodie, it’s legitimately the only mid-layer I’ve been reaching for of late.
The High-E Hoodie feels different than most other mid-layers right from the get go; the outside is slightly burlier and rougher than similar pullovers out there. This is because the hoodie is made from Voormi’s proprietary Surface Hardened Thermal Wool. Essentially, it consists of merino wool which is “hardened” with a layer of nylon fibers integrated right on top of it. That nylon then gets a water-repellent treatment.
The difference between that outer texture and the inner merino layer is stark—in a good way. Once it’s on, whether over a base layer or right on your skin, the merino is soft, and moves well without any stiffness that the outer layer might suggest. The piece insulates exceptionally well: this was my preferred layer mid-layer for ice climbing this season. It kept me that right amount of warm while on the sharp end with a hard shell over it, and felt soft on my arms (above of a synthetic t-shirt baselayer) while hanging around at belays with a belay jacket.
Another reason I liked it for ice climbing is the hood: the hoodie’s zipper comes all the way up to just above the nose, so you get full balaclava-esque coverage for those most bitterly cold of days. It keeps out the wind, and rather than have a puffy or hardshell—the layers that most often zip that high—against your face, you have the softer, form-fitting High E.
Other good features include a Kangaroo pocket (like those many Anoraks have), accessible even with a harness on, and thumb holes in the sleeves. The latter feature is particularly good for when you have to take your gloves off for the things that require the highest degree of dexterity. Your fingertips will still get cold, but the rest of your hands get a bit of coverage.
The biggest strike against Voormi’s High-E hoodie is the price. You’ll have to shell out $249 for this piece. Would you be better off buying a cheaper, not-as-nice mid-layer and a better belay parka or technical shell? Maybe, maybe not. But he High E is sleek too, so you can wear it out and about. Or you just lounge on the couch while wearing it, as I am wont to do.
Finally, I don’t know if the hoodie is named after the classic Gunks climb High Exposure or if it’s just a happy coincidence, but anything named for that iconic climb—be it a garment or anything else—is A-okay in my book.