NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody

Long Term Review of the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody

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I bought the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody back in September 2011, and have gotten quite a bit of use out of it, depending on the season and conditions. I consider it a great baselayer+, by which I mean I almost always wear an Icebreaker 150 t-shirt as my baselayer of choice, but in cool to cold conditions I will pair it with the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody on top to act as a combo baselayer.

The NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody is made of a light microgrid fleece that has an athletic, form-fitting cut. The design is simple and clean, with a good balance of desirable features, while not including anything extraneous. The size medium garment weighs in at 10 oz, according to manufacturer specifications. The Black Spider Light Hoody retails for $110 directly from NW Alpine.

Long Term Review of the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody gear-reviews, clothing-layers

Key Features of the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody

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  • Thumb holes on the end of the sleeves to keep your wrists warm and keep the garment in place when taking on and off belay jackets, gloves, and other layers.
  • One small chest pocket (there are no hand pockets) where you can store GUs, bars, or other items you want to keep accessible (and maybe not frozen).
  • Half length zipper to allow increased ventilation/breathability during high output activities.
  • The zipper is offset, meaning it trends diagonally toward your ear as opposed to centered on your chin. Offsetting it in this manner reduces the bunching up effect of a straight vertical zipper. A subtle but thoughtful addition.
  • Hooded, obviously, but the fabric weight is nice and light, so it easily fits under a helmet.
  • Longer length in the torso so you have some sufficient overlap between your pants and upper layers, thus don’t get the shirt riding up from bending over, moving around, etc, and then get snow, ice, and cold on your bare skin.
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I’ve gotten tons of use out of the Black Spider Light Hoody during my two month stint of ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado. It was worn absolutely every single day while climbing along with the aforementioned Icebreaker 150. Temperatures ranged from around 0 degrees F to around 40 degrees on occasion. On the warmer end of the spectrum, I would just climb with the Icebreaker 150 and Black Spider Light Hoody combo. Perfectly breathable, but kept me cozy, while also keeping snow and ice from hitting bare skin on my neck (hood), wrists (thumb loops), or torso (longer length). On the coldest end of the spectrum I would add a Patagonia R1 full zip fleece over top as well as my Feathered Friends Jackorack windshirt to serve as my outer shell. This four layer combo worked well for me on the coldest days for active climbing. I would also add a belay jacket when I was standing around or inactive.

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Most often however I just used the Icebreaker 150, NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody, and the Feathered Friends Jackorack. This kept me the most comfortable while climbing in the 15-30 degrees Fahrenheit range, I would say. Adding a lightweight breathable windshirt was the key to comfort, since it better sloughs off snow and ice, keeps the fleece and wool layers drier, and keeps out the heat sucking wind.

I also frequently use those three layers for cold or cool weather backpacking trips. I love the ability to micromanage my climate for the given terrain… Start off cold with both the Black Spider Light Hoody and Jackorack fully zipped and both hoods on. As you warm up or start working harder on the uphills you can micromanage your climate without stopping, as you continue hiking:

  • Drop the hood on the windshirt
  • Unzip the front of the windshirt
  • Drop the hood on the Black Spider Light Hoody
  • Unzip the half length zipper on the Black Spider Light Hoody

Then you can obviously reverse the process as your exertion levels drop or you begin cooling down. All can be done on the fly without the need to stop and fuss with layers, which I really appreciate on those ultralight backpacking trips where you need to cover bigger mileage in a given day.

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NW Alpine is a small cottage manufacturer based in Oregon that creates simple, high quality garments targeted toward climbing. All their products are made here in the USA, and the craftsmanship is absolutely top notch. As I mentioned, I’ve gotten a lot of (seasonal) use out of NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody over the course of at least a year and a half and pretty much daily use for the past few months, and it is still holding up well to the use and abuse it’s been put through. No holes or tears in the fabric whatsoever, all the sewn seams are intact, and no zipper problems or malfunctions to speak of. I couldn’t ask for more in a garment.

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A hooded fleece layer is obviously not ideal in every condition, but this garment has most definitely found a place in my usual rotation where I am looking to balance warmth, breathability, and upper body coverage in higher exertion cold weather activities. Given the pullover nature of the Black Spider Light Hoody, it is not conducive to taking it on and off repeatedly throughout the day, but works best as a baselayer, or baselayer addition. If you are in the market for a layer like this, I wholeheartedly recommend the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody. There are some similar garments on the market–the Patagonia R1 Hoody comes to mind, but it’s a thicker and warmer fleece (and $40 more)–but, for me, the Black Spider Light Hoody had everything I was looking for, and has matched my expectations fully. I also enjoy supporting small cottage manufacturers that are creating high-quality, niche products right here in the USA, like NW Alpine.

Check out the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody here. [nggallery id=”nw-alpine-black-spider-light-hoody”]
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Long Term Review of the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody gear-reviews, clothing-layers


Head Writer and Adventurer at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out truck camping to road trip across the American West, and then across all of Central America and South America. When he isn't on the move, you can find him living as an expat in Colombia. He is also the author of the best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget that will help you travel more for less. Follow the adventures on social media or read more.

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Comments 9

  1. We liked the NW Alpine black spider hoody purchased in 2015. But soon after we got it the seams began to fray and lose thread big time all over the garment. We emailed them and they admitted a quality control problem with the garment and told us to send it it for a replacement. It’s now 2 months since we sent it in and still no replacement. They’ve said they’re out of stock in our size and color (it’s still for sale on their web site in the matching size and color) and now aren’t responding to emails about the problem at all. Not recommended if you value your $110.

    1. Post

      Hey Timothy, it’s unfortunate to hear the you had problems with your black spider hoody. Mine is still holding up strong after many years… It’s certainly alarming to hear that the haven’t been able to replace it yet, and they aren’t responding to emails. Hopefully they are just slammed with business and will be getting back to you soon. It is a relatively small business. Let us know how things work out, please!

  2. I’ve been looking for a hooded zip fleece all season. I’ve been through the Montane Jackal (super tight hood and collar), Arcteryx Fortrez (cut too short for harness and loose around the waist), Mountain Equipment Eclipse (PIA to take and off and seams ripped from stretching), and Mammut Kala Patar (hood doesn’t fit very well). I love my Arcteryx Delta LT for its light grid fleece but just wish it had a hood! Looks like the black Spider might win the race! That massive chest zip looks like it would do the trick for venting and getting it on and off over a t. Prolitegear.com has it on sale!

    1. Post

      Nice! I really do love my Black Spider Light hoody. The big chest pocket, the thumb loops, the longer torso length, and yeah the big chest zip for dumping heat are all great. If you get it, let me know how it stacks up. Thanks for the comment, Joe.

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