The Straibo Hoody from Arc’teryx has the style to work well as a casual hoody and the technical features to perform brilliantly as a hoody for bouldering.
When I bought the Straibo Hoody early in 2015, Arc’teryx was selling it as part of their Whiteline collection for skiing and snowboarding. Their sales pitch was that the Straibo Hoody combined “contemporary looks with performance fabrics and design” to provide a jacket that “travels from a day on the mountain to a relaxed evening in town.” In other words, Arc’teryx had crossed an urban-style hoody with a technical, mid-layer fleece to produce something that was practical without looking geeky. Since then Arc’teryx seem to have stepped back a bit from promoting the practical, mountain applications of the Straibo Hoody and are now selling it as part of their 24 lifestyle (i.e. urban) range of clothing. All of this makes me think that Arc’teryx’s marketing department hasn’t realised what the Straibo Hoody really is. It might be good snowboarding wear and it certainly looks pretty good as casual wear around town, but what the Straibo Hoody really excels at is being a bouldering hoody.
Strangely, it’s probably its origins as skiing or snowboarding wear that helps make the Straibo Hoody good for bouldering. As the Straibo Hoody is designed to work under a jacket, the fit is trim and the elastic cuffs and waist are snug and low profile. All of which means that there isn’t excess fabric to get in the way when climbing and that heat is kept in. Yet this trim fit isn’t constrictive. Arc’teryx have managed to give the Straibo Hoody great freedom of movement through a combination of cut (including gusseted underarms) and stretchy fabric. As an added bonus for a lanky climber like me, the body and arms are long and so there is less chance of bare bellies and forearms when doing stretchy climbing moves.
The excellent cut of the Straibo Hoody continues in the hood. It manages to be close fitting, but not restrictive. It also manages to move easily with the head despite having no means of adjusting the fit. A nice additional touch is a small, unstiffened brim that provides a little bit more protection and some additional style. When the hood is down, the brim and the close fit also mean that the collar is high and snug.
The rest of the design of the Straibo Hoody adds to its utility as a bouldering hoody. The two large hand pockets are in the location of the pockets of a casual hoody and this helps the Straibo Hoody look like a piece of casual clothing. However, they have the advantage for climbing of being zippered so your wallet and keys don’t fall out when climbing a roof or overhang. These pockets are too low to work well if you were wearing a harness or rucksack hip belt, but that doesn’t matter really matter for bouldering.
The material is Arc’teryx’s own Cobblecomb fleece. It’s stretchy, comfortable and warm. This fabric has a brushed interior and a smooth outer that was probably originally meant to help with layering it under a ski or snowboarding jacket. However, this smooth exterior is also useful for a bouldering hoody as it is likely to help with abrasion resistance. Arc’teryx certainly describe the Straibo Hoody as durable and in the time I’ve been using it I’ve only noticed a tiny bit of bobbling on the lower forearm where it’s more likely to pick up wear from being rubbed against rock. Double stitching throughout the jacket should also make it tougher.
The smooth exterior face of the Cobblecomb fleece is put to good use in the hood. Here the fleece is doubled-up, with the smooth exterior lining the hood. This makes it twice the thickness of the rest of the jacket, increasing the hood’s warmth and comfort. It cleverly also makes the hood easier to pull up and down than it would have been if it were the brushed side of the fleece up against your hair. Slightly oddly the fleece is replaced at the nape of the neck, on the inside, by some mesh. My guess is that this is meant to improve comfort, but I’m not convinced it’s necessary.
The one thing that people might see as a disadvantage with the use of Cobblecomb fleece in the Straibo Hoody is that it’s not windproof. This isn’t too much of an issue when bouldering, but it may need a belay jacket throwing over the top if you are waiting around or spotting on a winter’s day.
There is really only one other issue with the Straibo Hoody. It’s something I’m really surprised about because the design is generally so good that I can’t believe Arc’teryx made such a basic and odd mistake. The issue is that the chin guard at the top of the main zip is tiny. It’s so tiny that it doesn’t even fully cover the zip. Prior to growing a beard, this didn’t cause me any irritation. Since growing a beard doing the zip all the way up has become a bit riskier and I’ve managed to catch my beard in the zip a couple of times.
The Straibo Hoody has the cut, warmth, comfort and style to make it a brilliant bouldering hoody. At £150, it’s expensive for a hoody, but it’s generally well-designed and great quality.
There is a women’s version of the Straibo Hoody too.