My dad was an avid windsurfer on Lake Tahoe back in the day. Day after day spent at altitude underneath the glaring sunlight took its toll, and he wound up having to fight through two melanomas and an endless series of benign basal tumors. If there’s one lesson about the outdoors he taught me that I’ll never forget, it’s this: protect your skin. When I moved up to the PNW and started climbing volcanoes, I quickly discovered the need for products like the Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody to protect me from those killer UV rays bouncing off the glaciers at altitude.
Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody Features:
- 50-UPF sun protection
- Polyester stretch jersey (140 gsm, 91% polyester, 9% elastane)
- Underam gussets
- Under-the-helmet hood
- Polygeine permanent odor control treatment
- Average weight: 240g
- MSRP: $79
Keep those UV rays at bay
I mentioned glaciers in the introduction, but I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time cragging and enjoying some multipitch trad climbing in the Alpenglow. That’s relevant because the wear placed on the garment by rock climbing is substantially different from glacier travel. Glacier travel basically places no wear on the garment at all; it might start pilling from being beneath your pack or something like that, but it’s not the same as scraping your backside up some rough granite. I’ve been able to do both in the Alpenglow at places like Mt. Hood, Leavenworth and the Selkirks.
Let’s jump in to the garment. Black Diamond advertises this as a ‘slim cut,’ but it feels like a very moderate cut to me. I’m 5’11” 185lbs and tested the Large, and it’s a trifle baggy around my torso and upper arms. For me, this is a good thing. The thought of wearing a tight, trim-fitting hoody while baking under the hot sun sounds absolutely terrible. It’s actually really important for garments like these to have some extra fabric because they catch the wind better and work to cool you down.
I mention this because a number of wearers have commented on the fit; it’s a good thing that it’s baggy, but you should make your way into a store to try it on and decide how baggy you want it. I personally never had a problem looking down and being able to see my feet well.
It’s such simple garment that it’s tempting to think there’s not much to talk about, but there is! Take, for example, the cuffs. Black Diamond’s design is a very broad, fairly tight cuff that doesn’t construct your wrist at all but almost instantly starts to tighten on your arm once you pull your sleeves up. This is a perfect design, because it means the cuffs stay out of your way when the sleeves are down but then grip your arms and stay put when you pull your sleeves up. Very well done on the cuffs.
The hood design is an interesting point. It’s designed to be worn under a helmet, but you can also squeeze it over your helmet if you really want to. The one way you really can’t wear it very effectively is without a helmet at all. Without a helmet to either hold it in place or fill up its volume, there’s just too much hood fabric without a clear idea of what it should be doing. It’ll either slide off your head or flap loosely against your face in the wind. I mention this primarily for the benefit of you boulderers out there – us alpine climbers are always wearing helmets, so it was actually a non-issue for me.
That said, I will briefly mention that some sort of keeper, be it a button or a drawcord, would almost completely resolve the problem. Though I imagine BD’s designers could spruce up the actually hood design, too. They’re clever types.
One key point to the Alpenglow’s success is its ability to fight off odors. It’s infused with Polygiene anti-odor, which is a pretty cool chemical way of preventing the bacterial growth that leads to odor. It’s not perfect (no garment will smelly daisy-fresh after a couple of days of hard wear) but it definitely prevents the nose-crinkling severity of really bad BO.
Finally, durability. The Alpenglow spent most of its time tucked beneath my harness as I scrambled, heaved and grunted my way up the delightfully rough Selkirk and Cascade granite that I love so much. I am not a skilled enough climber to take great care of my clothing as I climb; if you can float up routes with only your fingers and toes touching the rock, I wish you every happiness. If you’re like me and throw arm bars, leg bars and like to use your torso like a giant piece of sandpaper, then you will appreciate the Alpenglow’s durability.
Here’s the deal: when you climb in this hoody, it’ll fray. No question about it, that’s just what rock will do to it. This will happen particularly at the seams. I have been pleasantly surprised, though to see that the fraying has stayed local to the stitching and that I haven’t seen a single tear or rip and only moderate pilling. In my mind, that constitutes a durable sun hoody. How else can you balance staying light and breathable in something that’s gonna get dragged up chimneys and cracks?
The sun protection itself is great. I did a couple of floats in the Alpenglow and had no issues, and I’ve baked at plenty of belay stations. I never got above 10,000 feet in it, though, and I wish I’d been able to fit a Rainier climb into my testing window to really see how it does up there. I’m confident it will do fine; I’ve used sun hoodies lighter-weight fabrics and they’ve protected me up there. Plus, who’s actually going to be wearing only a sun hoody at 14,000 feet? Not me.
- Lightweight, breathable fabric keeps you cool and un-cancerous
- Good, if loose, fit overall – unless you only wear skin tight clothing
- Fabric has been surprisingly durable, despite fraying seams
- Excellent cuff design
- Hood works perfectly well with a helmet
- The hood design needs a little love for helmet-less endeavours
- I still can’t send 5.12’s, despite the marketing hype
The Bottom Line: Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody
The Alpenglow isn’t the first sun hoody on the market, but it’s Black Diamond’s first offering in a long time and their climbing know-how really does make for a surprisingly good offering. Other options exist that may be better suited for white water, fishing or glacier travel, but I think the durability that the Alpenglow has demonstrated in my testing makes it uniquely suited for rock climbers. Get out there and put a hole in it!
Buy Now: Available from Black Diamond