The Rigid Designator Amphitheatre in East Vail, Colorado, with its massive, overhanging limestone walls resembles a modern sport climbing area–except for a handful of iconic waterfalls. Bolts are everywhere, and there’s even a comfy hanging bench so visitors don’t have to sit in the rocks and snow.
Climbing there is a high-intensity workout. Forget wearing bulky breathable/waterproof shells, gaiters and ski hats–they’re too hot for most routes. Here it’s all about climbing the steeps in light- to midweight layers, then throwing on your biggest, warmest jacket to keep warm between burns.
The Ortovox Merino Fleece Light Hoody, worn over long underwear, made an ideal second (and final) layer for everything I climbed, from mixed routes to long, frozen waterfalls such as the Rigid Designator (WI5-, 115′). At times the layer got damp in the sleeves from the dripping routes, but I was working so hard that the cool water was a welcome relief. And since the layer is made of moisture-wicking fleece and wool, by the time I got back to the ground, the sleeves were dry (or mostly dry) again.
I also wore it for a 20-mile midnight winter run in the Rockies, backcountry skinning in Rocky Mountain National Park and general winter rock climbing. The athletic-cut hoody was soft and light enough to wear daily, and it worked great as a second layer for cool-weather activities.
The 67 percent polyester, 26 percent merino wool, and 7 percent elastane layer is stretchy, remains warm when wet, is antimicrobial, and is soft against the skin. Because it’s primarily a fleece and wool layer, it’s highly breathable and protects well enough in a light wind.
The hoody still looks mostly new after several months of heavy winter use. There aren’t any loose threads, cuts or abrasion spots, and it’s held up to countless washes without breaking down or fading. This means it’s still–for better or worse–the same flashy lime green hoody with navy blue piping and internal patches of bright orange.
The Fleece Light Hoody has two large side-zippered pockets and a bonded pocket on the left sleeve big enough to hold a folded topo. And the hoody comfortably fits under a helmet without covering up the eyes. It’s a mere 403 grams, which is about the same weight as a can of soda.
Regarding the fabric specially manufactured in Lithuania: “The outer is poly, for the more durable face fabric, and merino next to skin for climate control and odor control,” Tom Mason, U.S. Ortovox brand manager, said.
The Merino Fleece Light Hoody is lighter than many other tops, but in terms of loft and warmth it’s closest in weight to the Icebreaker Quantum Long Sleeve Zip Hoody and VOORMI Access NXT Pullover.
It is available in various styles, from full zip, half zip and jacket (no hood).
Only available in flashy colors