The Black Diamond Equipment First Light Hoody feels right at home in alpine environments, packing a lot of warmth, wind resistance and just enough breathability into a durable package. Although too warm and lacking the breathability for highly aerobic pursuits like trail running, this jacket impressively manages alpine stop and go missions in true mountain conditions.
Breathability The Black Diamond Equipment First Light Hoody’s combination of PrimaLoft Silver Eco Active insulation, Schoeller nylon stretch woven outer shell, and nylon woven mesh inner shell nets less breathability than would be expected. Air movement is perceptible, but less so than other garments in this test. This is a tradeoff to provide the desirable wind resistance for stop and go activities in alpine environments but keeps the jacket too warm for more aerobic endeavors. Moisture management is highly effective should sweat accumulate.
Durability The Schoeller stretch woven nylon face fabric used in the Black Diamond Equipment First Light Hoody scoffed at attempts to abrade or puncture it during extended use in rocky and brushy areas, almost constantly with backpacks. The shell fabric’s “Nanoshpere Technology” claims to repel dirt, water and oil, and careless treatment proved to be true, as nothing yet has left a stain. Classic baffled construction in the main body ensures insulation will remain in place over the long haul.
Weatherproofing The Black Diamond Equipment First Light Hoody fended off winter weather well; this jacket is one of the warmest in the test and combined with high wind resistance, it remained comfortable at rest despite freezing temperatures and gusts of cold north wind. The “Nanoshpere Technology” of the outer shell repelled rain amazingly well for a jacket in this category and the PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active is said to retain 91% of its warmth when wet.
Fit/Comfort The Black Diamond Equipment First Light Hoody has a trim fit, leaving just enough space underneath for light layers. The torso was just long enough to work under a climbing harness and the bottom hem has a single cord lock adjustment. Although the outer shell material has some elasticity, the liner material does not, making this jacket somewhat “sticky” with aggressive movements. The jacket is tight across the upper back and shoulders with horizontal or overhead arm movements. Arms are generously long, keeping wrists covered even overhead, and the wrists incorporate a low bulk elastic binding. The hood is climbing helmet compatible but has no adjustments, relying on an elastic hem. It provides adequate coverage but required tuning by hand.
Compressibility The Black Diamond Equipment First Light Hoody packs down into its own stretch mesh inner chest pocket, shrinking down to the size of a cantaloupe. Although not as compressible as others in this test, the high warmth to weight ratio justifies the extra pack space while in the mountains.
Features The Black Diamond Equipment First Light Hoody has a minimal pocket configuration with two zipped handwarmer pockets (will not clear pack hip belts), and an internal stretch mesh pocket that is used for self-stuffing. The self-stuffing pocket also has a loop to hang the stuffed jacket from a carabineer. Zippers have short plastic pull-tabs that proved difficult to use with gloved hands.
Seiji Ishii works as a trainer to professional supercross/motocross riders, adventure riding test editor at Dirt Rider Magazine and an AMGA certified rock climbing guide/instructor for White Star Mountain Guides/Austin Rock Gym. He lives in Wimberley, TX with wife Shay, 3 year old daughter Sequoia, 3 dogs and a cat. His personal time is spent rock climbing, any form of dirt biking, cycling, and training for the next mountaineering adventure.