The NW Alpine Belay Jacket is a compressible and very comfortable synthetic-fill jacket built for cold and damp environments. What’s intriguing about this jacket is the apparent design quality and the company’s manufacturing location. NW Alpine began in 2010, and has since continued to produce top-quality alpine gear, cut and sewn in Portland, Oregon. It is very rare to find a quality U.S.-manufactured synthetic jacket capable of competing with the big producers in the outdoor industry. As it stands, it appears NW Alpine is sticking a foot into the industry’s doorway.

You can read more about NW Alpine’s history and vision here.

My goal is to give a quick first impression 0f the fit and features of this jacket, with a full review to follow in the coming weeks.

Colors available: Glacier Blue

nw-alpine-belay-jacket-front
(Image Courtesy: retailstudiopdx.com)

Sizes available: S-XL

Weight: The listed weight of a medium is 21 ounces. I confirmed this on my personal scale to be 20.88 ounces.

In a market where companies are boasting lighter and lighter weights for their products, integrity has slipped, with many posting numbers that aren’t accurate. If a company is not truthful about the weight of the product, what other aspects of the product’s performance are they not telling the consumer? It is refreshing to see NW Alpine post a weight that is rounded up instead of down.

Material: 

  • Shell: 30-Denier nylon
  • Liner: 20-Denier nylon
  • Insulation:  Four ounces of Primaloft One in the torso and three ounces of Primaloft One in the hood and sleeves.

MSRP: $270

Fit and sizing: When I pulled this jacket out of the box and held it up, I was slightly concerned that it was going to be too boxy for my body type and liking. I am 5’9″ and 170 pounds, and the medium fits me very well.

It is designed as a belay jacket, so there is room to layer underneath, but still retains an athletic fit. I can wear the jacket with just a t-shirt underneath without it feeling like it’s floating around or baggy. The inner liner, as stated on NW Alpine’s website, is very smooth and allows for easy donning and removal without snagging or bunching.

  • Hood: The hood easily fits over a helmet, but is not so large as to be cumbersome and floppy in high winds without a helmet. There are two pull tabs on either side of the collar for quick adjustments and to really batten down the hatches. However, there is no adjustment on the rear to pull the the sides of the hood and increase peripheral vision.
  • Sleeves: The sleeves are long enough to allow for fully extended arms without exposing my wrists. The elastic cuffs are tight enough to prevent the sleeves from slipping over my hands or riding up my arms, but have enough give to easily slip over a pair of gloves.

NW-Alpine-Belay-Jacket-Cuff

  • Length: The torso length of the jacket allows me to bend over or squat down and not expose my lower back to the elements. This jacket could be used while climbing in very cold conditions, as it is long enough to be worn under a climbing harness and not come untucked during vigorous movement. The lower hem of the jacket has an adjustable pull cord on either side of the zipper. The only downfall I see with these is that they require two hands to operate. I see no problem with this as I do not continuously adjust the hem of my jackets. I’m a set-it-and-forget-it kind of person.

Features: The jacket has two unlined hand-warmer pockets (probably not a big deal that they’re unlined, since, if you are wearing this jacket, you are probably wearing gloves as well) and one right-sided outer chest pocket. The handwarmer pockets have a 6″ zipper but have a large 7 x 12″ interior. The chest pocket has a 5″ zipper and 6 x 6″ interior—large enough to hold a pair of sunglasses or other small accessories such as a headlamp,  but not large enough for items such as maps or goggles.

The interior of the jacket has two very roomy fine-mesh stretch pockets that measure at 10 x 12″. This is a standout feature of the jacket due to the pocket size and breathability. These pockets enable the user to dry out wet climbing gloves while wearing their dry gloves belaying. Back to climbing? Boom, dry gloves. I have even utilized this pocket style on other jackets to dry out a damp pair of socks around camp. The inner stretch pockets are perfect for keeping items dry, warm, and out of the elements.

Belay Jacket Inside Mesh Pocket
Inside stretch mesh pocket

Two-way zippers allow for the lower portion of the jacket to be unzipped and moved out of the way when using a belay device, while still keeping the upper half of the torso protected from the elements.

The jacket is very compressible for its warmth and fill weight. Although I have not had the opportunity to use it with a compression sack, I managed to fit the jacket into a 7 x 6″ accessory bag with room to spare.

Application: As the name suggests, the NW Alpine Belay Jacket is intended to be used as a belay jacket or be worn during activity in very cold conditions. During the short time that I have had the jacket, it has been in the rain multiple times and kept me dry and warm. Though not meant for use in a squall or downpour, I plan on testing this jacket in a variety of conditions outside of the norm.

Pros: 

1. Lightweight

2. Warm

3. Super cozy (my wife keeps stealing it to wear when reading in the evenings)

3. Packable

4. Plenty of room for storage and drying out wet items

5. Two-way zipper

nw-alpine-belay-jacket-zipper
Center zipper with chest pocket

Cons:

1. No rear hood adjustment

2. Hem adjustment requires two hands

3. Chest pocket will not fit larger items such as goggles

Bottom Line: Upon initial inspection and given the short duration I have been able to use this jacket, I am very impressed with its warmth and features. The durability factor is, at this point, an unknown, but will be found out shortly and covered in the full review. I have reason to believe that this belay jacket is one of the best synthetic jackets of its kind on the market and would serve the seasoned alpinist to the northern dweller very well.

Rating: 4/5

The NW Alpine Belay Jacket can be purchased online at nwalpine.com.