Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody protects against wind and light rain and is so ultra-light and pack-able that there are few reasons why you should not pack this little piece of insurance on every outing.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review- photo from

Last summer my long time friend and climbing partner Tom turned me onto this piece which coincidentally shares its namesake with my own website. We were exploring a back-country cliff during the peak of black-fly season and despite it being a rather warm & humid early summer day he donned this jacket to provide some protection from the onslaught of blood-suckers.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Black flies attempt to carry Tom away

I remarked that he must be sweating like crazy wearing a hoody like this in such warm weather and he re-assured me the piece was so light & breathable that he was actually quite comfortable. He took the majority of the leads that day while I donated a pint or two of blood to the insect world.

With that history in mind I was quite enthusiastic when Black Diamond provided a sample for review.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Fresh out of the plastic

At home impressions were quite positive. For starters this jacket is ridiculously light-weight weighing in at 7 3/4 ounces on my home scale!

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

That’s light!

Black Diamond lists 7.1 ounces (202 grams) in their Technical Specs.

In addition to being one of the lightest soft shell hoodies on the market the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody is also super pack-able and easily stuffs inside its reversible zippered chest pocket!

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review


When crushed into a ball its the size of a youth softball. It also has a convenient sewn loop to allow attaching it to the back of your harness just in case the clouds get a little darker.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Extra protection when you decide to leave your pack at the base of the climb

My first real test of the jacket this July on an ascent of that classic east coast alpine climb, The Whitney Gilman Ridge. Dry cool air and a 15-20mph breeze led to quite comfortable climbing conditions, until we got held up by a slow moving party on the notorious “pipe pitch”. We weren’t going anywhere for awhile so out came the hoody’s while we waited for the traffic to clear.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

It was serendipitous that I was climbing with Tom, the guy who preached about this jacket to me last summer. He had upgraded to a new color of the same jacket!

So what is this thing made of? Well technically it is “Schoeller® stretch-woven with NanoSphere® Technology (80 g/m2, 93% nylon, 7% elastane)”.

Since most people probably don’t know what exactly that means let me break it down. First off, this Schoeller® fabric is super thin. The 7% elastane gives the fabric a noticeable stretchy feel.

Second, the NanoSphere® Technology is a high end Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment that also boasts a “self-cleaning” property. You can read more on this technology here. This jacket is clearly not intended to be water-proof but it certainly has shed light rain and mist on a few blustery days while climbing in Huntington Ravine and on Cathedral Ledge. At 7 ounces I consider this a fair trade off and when the forecast calls for a significant chance of rain I will pack a more substantial shell like the waterproof Eastern Mountain Sports Storm Front Jacket.

But the breath-ability! This is the most breath-able wind shell I have tested. So breath-able that it is wearable on hot & humid days as a bug protection layer! This feature makes it ideal for high output activity in blustery conditions. Trail running, fast-hiking, XC skiing, peak-bagging, or any time you want to go fast & light! And the weight! Even if the forecast looks like this:

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Not the North East

When it only weighs 7 ounces, and packs into the size of a softball, there’s really no question in my mind like “should I bring this?” It’s been living in my summer climbing pack all season and I’ve been surprised at the amount of times I’ve actually dug it out to be more comfortable, rain or shine!

Ok, let’s finish looking at some of the smaller but important features and move on to our summary shall we?

The Hood

It fits over a helmet as shown in the photo above, but also thanks to a one-hand-adjustable shock cord & cord lock on the back it can be cinched down to conform to your melon without a helmet on as well. This tightening option also helps the hood turn with your gaze so you don’t get blind-sided by a wild moose on the loose.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Well fitted hood

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Adjustable helmet compatible hood

The only pocket on this ultralight piece is the reversible chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack when turned inside out. A reversible zipper and sewn nylon loop add utility and convenience.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Chest pocket reverses for easy storage

My first concern with this jacket was the lack of an adjustable cuff at the wrist. I’m sure this saved a small amount of weight but when climbing I really like a snug wrist cuff.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Elastic wrist bands

I have a pretty small to medium sized wrist and I found this cuff to be a bit too loose. My solution is to just slide it up my forearm until it feels snug. It’s definitely a utilitarian type look, and I’d prefer a traditional velcro adjuster in future models.

I measured the back length at 28 inches, and given the stretchy characteristic of the Schoeller® fabric it is sufficiently long enough to stay tucked into my harness even when making long over the head reaches.

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Back length of size large = 28 inches

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Topping out Whitney Gilman Ridge on Cannon Cliff, Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire


Tom was right. This is an ingenious piece and it will be a part of my kit for as long as it’s produced. It’s not waterproof, but that’s ok, it’s not meant to be. Think of it as a highly breathable wind shirt with a hood. Able to shed light precipitation. Able to cut cold breezes when you thought August on Cannon would be t-shirt weather. Able to pack up into a a neat little package and live on the back of your harness for those “just in case” type days. From cool weather running & cycling to fast & light alpine climbing this is a well designed piece of gear. You should check it out for yourself!

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

If you do check it out you can order from Amazon here. Doing so will help support this blog and my efforts at providing fair and accurate reviews of clothing and gear designed for adventure in the mountains.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this review please like, share, subscribe, comment, or just send me some positive karma.

See you in the mountains,


Disclosure: Black Diamond provided this sample for the purposes of this review and this post contains affiliate links.

About David Lottmann

David grew up skiing in the Whites and started climbing at a summer camp just north of Mt. Washington when he was 16. Those first couple of years solidified climbing as a lifetime passion. From 1996-2000 he served in the USMC, and spent the better part of those years traveling the globe (18 countries). After returning to civilian life he moved to North Conway to focus on climbing and was hired in 2004 as a Rock and Ice Instructor. Since then Dave has taken numerous AMGA courses, most recently attaining a Single Pitch Instructor. He has completed a Level 3 AIARE avalanche course, is a Level 2 Course Leader, holds a valid Wilderness First Responder and is a member of Mountain Rescue Service. When David isn't out guiding he enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, backcountry skiing, trying to cook something new once a week and sampling new micro-brews. He lives in Conway, NH with his wife Michelle, son Alex, and daughter Madalena.
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3 Responses to Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review

  1. Pingback: Petzl Bug Pack Review (and Colonial Knife Giveaway) | North East Alpine Start

  2. Pingback: Review: Petzl Sitta Harness | Northeast Alpine Start

  3. David Lottmann says:

    Reblogged this on Northeast Alpine Start and commented:

    Re-blogging this review from August since I noticed the small & large sizes in GRASS color are on sale on Amazon right now for $104. That’s a great deal on this jacket! Check out my detailed review and if you are a small or large (not sure why medium is not on sale) consider picking one up!


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