Fit & Feel
Holding all these materials together are fully taped seams and waterproof zippers. The result is a very comfortable outer layer that, in some regards, cherry picks features from soft and hard shells: bombproof when it comes to keeping you dry (as a hard shell should), but still comfortable and flexible enough to allow full range of motion (like a soft shell).
The Stealth Hoodie LT’s high marks for range of motion can also be credited in part to its cut and fit. At 6’3” (and slowly creeping up on 190lbs these days) I found the Large to fit perfectly. I was able to layer a base- and mid-layer comfortably underneath, and the sleeves are mercifully long enough to cover my wrists throughout my range of motion.
The Stealth Hoodie LT has a host of bells & whistles that may be exceptional or superfluous depending on how/when you plan to use it. As an example, the hood is easily adjusted, fits over a helmet well, and can be rolled up and stowed away. Awesome feature. Similarly awesome is the cap at the top of the zippers (or “zipper garage” in TAD-speak) that keep out water. Thoughtfully, the front pockets of the jacket are high enough to be above your harness. I also appreciated the jacket’s reinforced elbows. As a climber I don’t consider reinforced elbows to be critical, but a friend pointed out that it’s just the sort of feature he’d look for in a jacket to wear hunting.
On the seemingly less-functional end, the Stealth Hoodie LT has small pockets hidden all over the place, which seems consistent with a larger industry trend that I’d be inclined to reverse if I could. I can understand how some people like keeping chapstick or a credit card in a pocket on their wrist or bicep, but I have never been out climbing and needed wrist access to something that I couldn’t put in a chest pocket. The Stealth LT also has a pocket in the small of the back (right under the waistbelt of your harness), similar to what is found on road biking jerseys. This might be awesome for, say, hunting where you may find yourself laying down for extended periods, but I’ve had no use for this pocket. The Stealth Hoodie LT also has several Velcro patches with which you can customize the look of the jacket either with TADs logo, or your own insignia if you are in the military or law enforcement (or at least, this is how TAD explained these to me).
Climbing, especially alpine climbing, is a particularly weight-conscious activity, and these added pockets and patches just aren’t worth it in my mind.
All the Stealth LT’s features are rock solid, but bring the total weight of the hoodie up to just shy of 2lbs (~31oz). This is heavy for a shell, especially when compared to other top-end 3-layer shells such as the Arc’teryx Theta AR (~18oz) or Patagonia’s Leashless jacket (~13oz). The difference here is that the Stealth Hoodie LT, while much heavier, is slightly warmer and significantly more durable than either of those. It’s one thing to hike to the wall wearing a shell, but it’s another to have to climb in it. And the Stealth Hoodie LT stands up to rock better than any other shell I’ve worn.
Who’s It For? Warm & Cold Weather Shells
All of this leads me to think that the Stealth Hoodie LT isn’t a strong warm weather shell. There’s no getting around the fact that this is a heavy outer layer. The fact that it does provide some additional warmth means that some detail-oriented climbers will be able to get away with less insulation elsewhere in their layering system. And in such a case, maybe they’ll break even in terms of the added weight, not sacrificing much as a result of the increased durability of the layer.
I’ve used the Stealth Hoodie LT in just this way on many cold, early-season cragging days in the past few months, typically in Clear Creek Canyon, Boulder Canyon, and Eldorado. On cold days, it’s great to have a little more insulation and the top notch wind protection the Stealth Hoodie LT provides.
This added protection doesn’t help you much, though, if you only plan to carry a shell with you as an insurance policy, or if you plan to wear it part of the time and to find room in your pack or clip it to your harness for the rest of the day. If you’re going alpine climbing in the summer, you don’t need a shell this heavy. You are probably better off with something super light and compressible like Patagonia’s Alpine Houdini (if you need waterproof) or even something like the Westcomb Crest hoodie (if water resistance rather than strict waterproofing is good enough to get you off the mountain). Granted, you’ll chew through your space age, paper thin shell in your first chimney, but such is the nature of “fast and light.”
The Stealth Hoodie LT doesn’t seem like the best choice for mountaineering, either. If I’m headed to Rainier, I’m going to ditch the extra pound of the Stealth LT and opt for a lighter shell to trudge uphill. After all, in most high-alpine situations, if the weather really turns on you, you’re likely going to bail, and all you’ll need is a layer that’ll keep you dry enough to get off the mountain before you freeze. All in all, the sub-standard packability and heavier weight of the Stealth Hoodie LT make it less than optimal for nice-weather-only activities like rock climbing.
But if you’re expecting tough, wet conditions, it will be worth dealing with the Stealth Hoodie LT’s extra bulk. I thought it was a great ice climbing jacket, for example, as the little extra stretch of the material is really nice when swinging picks above your head. Between its super high durability, extremely effective waterproofing, and extra warmth and range of motion compared to other top end hardshells, the Stealth Hoodie LT works great for climbing water ice.
This was a difficult review for me to write in the sense that the Stealth Hoodie LT truly excels in many regards, but also has some limitations that stand to diminish its versatility in alpine environments (namely the numerous features that add weight to the jacket).
If you need a piece for longer, alpine-style ascents or light-and-fast summer climbing in places like the Diamond, Black Canyon, or the High Sierra is your scene, then the Stealth Hoodie LT is more jacket than you need, and you’ll be better off with an ultrathin shell.
Having said that, the Stealth Hoodie LT is still a standout shell for harsh conditions, extended periods of rain, and many cold weather activities. It’s built from top quality materials, and assembled expertly with a lot of attention to detail. For those reasons the Stealth Hoodie LT is well suited for user groups less concerned with overall weight, such as hunters, skiers, and ice climbers. (Sure, you won’t be as comfortable at the belays, but hey, that’s alpine climbing.)
Triple Aught Design also makes an even heavier, fleece-lined version of the shell (the Stealth Hoodie) if weight and packability aren’t concerns for you and you think you’ll want some added insulation.