By Chris Barlow
All photos by Becca Schild
I live in Colorado, and despite all the buzz about the importance of layering systems for adventures in the Rockies, the reality is that we have it pretty easy. There’s the cliché that if you don’t like the weather in Colorado, just wait five minutes, which mostly works in the outdoor enthusiast’s favor. Generally, the weather is dry and pretty warm, and honestly, carrying any old rain jacket, sometimes a lightweight puffy, will get you through most jaunts into the mountains.
I just got back from two weeks climbing in Squamish, which has, suffice it to say, a different climate. Literally rising out of Howe Sound, nearly every day on the Chief follows a similar pattern: gray clouds and thick humidity in the morning, a hot midday, and a breezy afternoon. Sometimes it rains, sometimes not, but to be sure, getting wet (from sweat, temperate rainforest ooze, rain, or a combination) is part of the experience. I took the B.D.V. Hoody with me because it is in these environments that this kind of technical softshell layer is truly put to the test.
I climbed in the B.D.V. all summer in Colorado and knew I liked it. I’m generally a skeptic about whatever hot new item a company produces, but that skepticism dissipated within seconds of putting the hoody on. The cut is outstanding: wide in the shoulders and tapering to the waist with a trim cuff that keeps the sleeve comfortably snug and fitted so that it never gets in the way of movement. The hood is large enough to fit over a helmet, yet the half zipper and drawstring allow for micro-adjustments to keep the hood out of your face. Combine this with the stretchy and soft Schoeller stretch-woven fabric, and you get one heck of a comfortable, highly functional, and very durable top. Even after numerous hours of scraping the B.D.V. up granite cracks and stuffing it around a rack of cams in my pack, it shows exactly zero signs of wear.
To me, it is the Shoeller fabric that really sets the Hoody apart. I’m not typically a fan of softshell tops because they’re relatively heavy, bulky, and don’t provide much in wind/water protection. In basically every way, the hoody is a huge step up from other softshell layers I’ve worn. It is lightweight and svelte, feeling more like a long-sleeved shirt than a shell. Furthermore, it easily stuffs into the chest pocket (about softball size) and is almost unnoticeable hanging off my harness. On one of the first days I wore the hoody, I was chased out of Eldorado Canyon by a rainstorm and couldn’t help but be impressed to see water beading on the fabric. Sure, it isn’t quite that waterproof at this point, but it’s pretty close and far surpasses other softshell jackets I have for its protection against rain and wind.
So, the B.D.V. kept impressing me throughout my summer adventures in the Rockies, even in its breathability. I’d work up a sweat on the approach or a tough pitch but would quickly dry off once I slowed down. But that was in Colorado. Squamish, then, was the perfect final exam for the hoody, and it performed admirably. Through each long day of humidity, jungle ooze, and wind, it kept me fairly dry and protected. I did have a few moments of yarding the hoody off in an overheated fit, but I’m not sure any top would have faired better. On many of Squamish’s long layback corners, where shoulder scumming is the key to out-running the pump, I further appreciated the tough – and grippy – Schoeller fabric.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I pretty much love the B.D.V. Hoody. It’s a high performing softshell top that thrives in technically demanding scenarios. It’s the layer that you’ll wear all day in comfort – for many days to come, and it’s even snazzy enough to wear to dinner afterward.