Gear Review- Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody

The Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody is another great addition to the growing market of sun hoodies. This category has become a year-round staple of my outdoor wardrobe, especially as we enter the Northeast black fly season. Having a sun hoody means you can go lighter on both bug repellent and sunscreen and if you haven’t tried one yet I strongly recommend you pick one up!

Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody Review
Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody – photo from blackdiamondequipment.com

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Manufacturer Description:

A technical fit paired with a highly protective fabric, the Black Diamond Alpenglow Hoody offers coverage on desert multi pitches, high-alpine approaches and hot crag sessions. With 50-UPF and moisture wicking fabric, you can add a layer of protection to your arsenal, and an under-the-helmet hood and pullover design add comfort.

  • 50-UPF sun protection
  • Underam gussets
  • Under-the-helmet hood
  • Fit: Slim
  • Size: S-XL

Comfort

The Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody is made with a very thin polyester stretch material ((140 gsm, 91% polyester, 9% elastane). It feels great on bare skin and I’ve worn it over a thin synthetic t-shirt, a medium weight collared Black Diamond Technician Shirt, and by itself all with equal comfort. The material is so light and breathable it truly feels cooler in the sun with this on then just wearing a t-shirt. When combined with my Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody that I reviewed here my torso is covered for about 90% of the weather I find myself climbing in from May through August.

Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody Review
The author testing the Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody on Whitehorse Ledge- photo by @alexandraroberts

Fit

While Black Diamond claims this has a “slim” fit I found it a bit bulky. For reference I am 5’9″ 180 lbs and I went with the size large based on my chest size of 42 inches. I think a medium would fit me better but the large works. The forearms are snugger than other models I’ve tested in this category and I prefer that style for rock climbing. Black Diamond also claims this has a “under-the-helmet-hood” but it is sized rather roomy and can easily fit over or under my helmet. Over a bare head the hood feels a little to large but felt comfortable if I had on a ball-cap. I would wear the hood under my helmet when the bugs are biting and over my helmet for slightly better airflow on really hot and humid days.

Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody Review
Hood options- Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody Review

Versatility

The Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody only weights 240 grams (8.5 ounces). When I combine it with my Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody that I reviewed here the total package is about one pound but covers the vast majority of weather and bug conditions I climb in. At a combined weight of one pound there is no reason not to bring these two pieces of added protection even when the forecast is for comfortable climbing conditions. It’s just cheap insurance for when the crag is a bit windier than you expected or you find yourself still out at dusk and the mosquitos decide to feast. And if you’ve never tried a sun hoody your will be quite impressed the first hot day you pull it on and realize it is cooler than not wearing one!

Convenience

One feature not mentioned in the manufacturer description is the fact that the material has been treated with Polygiene which basically eliminates odor and reduces the amount of washing’s this piece needs. I personally do not wash my high end outdoor clothes with every use as washing will reduce the lifespan of your outdoor clothing. Other than under garments (which do get washed almost every use) I typically wear items like this 7-10 hard use days between washing. I’ve worn this piece for 8 days straight and it is has not picked up any noticeable odor. You can read more about how this technology works here.

Poly_How-it-works_Illustration_150604_570x358

Summary

A sun hoody should be on every climber’s wish list. From cragging to alpine, sport to trad, and even casual hikes and trail runs, this is a super versatile piece and a must have staple to every outdoor wardrobe. Black Diamond has entered the market with a solid contribution to the style with the Alpenglow Sun Hoody and you should check it out!

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Thanks for reading! See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Black Diamond provided this item for purpose of review. Affiliate links support this blog.

Gear Review- La Sportiva Tech Gloves

The La Sportiva Tech Gloves are another great option in the growing category of technical gloves designed for mountaineering, ice climbing, and mixed climbing. For this review we had guest reviewer, AMGA certified Rock Instructor, and all around sender Justin Guarino, test these over ten hard days of ice climbing and mountaineering in the White Mountain Region. Here is his take on this technical alpine glove!


La Sportiva Tech Glove Review
La Sportiva Tech Glove Review- photo from lasportiva.com

The Good

  • Warm even when wet
  • Excellent dexterity
  • Slip Resistant Grip (great of ice climbing)

The Bad

    • Durability
    • Odor
    • Slow to dry

The Verdict

I was very pleased with these gloves and there performance was top notch. The test consisted of a few weeks of steep ice and mixed terrain as well as times of idle inactivity whilst coaching students. Through the entirety of the test my hands were as happy as they could be in the sub freezing daily temps. Easily clipping gear while running it out on grade 5+ waterfall ice and placing cams was never difficult on sketchy stances while sending steep mixed corners. From the onset I took the approach of looking at this glove as a contender for multi day alpine walls in Alaska this spring; I have to say I would take them with me on this death defying terrain were a glove can make or break you.


La Sportiva Tech Glove Review
Justin starts up the crux pillar of the classic Grade 5 ice route Repentance

The Details

Warm when wet:
This is critical and they performed excellent. My hands get sweaty… maybe because I’m always scaring myself. With that said wet from the inside wet from the outside (dripping ice and snow) doesn’t matter they did the job. Truly a pair of gloves that you can start and finish the day with. That in itself merits buying them for they simplify your selection. One and done get after it!
Excellent dexterity:
Given that I often venture into strange terrain, terrain where you better be able to get gear in and not fumble your crucial equipment. I have to say that given the level of insulation the dexterity of these gloves was astounding.
Slip resistant:
This is a crucial trait of an alpine glove and they delivered! Designed to perform and it showed. No fooling around. Its life or death at times up they. Not once did I pull these gloves off with my teeth in a panic and spit them out! I’ve done that before with other gloves and was glad I didn’t have to!
Durability:
You can’t hold it against La Sportiva. If you climb as much as I do you don’t expect these things to last… and they won’t. 10 days on them and I probably have 10 days life left in them. I am a professional and use them at a professionals level of activity so like I said I didn’t expect them to last. (Editor’s note: 20 days of hard use might translate to 1-2 seasons for us weekend warriors).
Odor:
I mean come on all gloves smell bad. But these in particular produced a particular offensive odor. I suppose I need to dry them out better. But who has the time… Climb climb climb! (Editor’s note: I’ve noticed this with most gloves and the only resolution is a good glove/boot dryer! This is the one I use everyday and it is amazing!)
Slow to dry:
Lots of insulation but once the water gets in there it stays. They are still warm but you better believe that makes me nervous especially in sub zero temps. Again they are gloves what do you truly expect. All said they are a great buy.
La Sportiva Tech Glove Review
Justin finding some alpine conditions on Mount Webster’s Shoestring Gully

Thanks you Justin for sharing your feedback on these gloves! If you would like to give these a try you can find a pair on Amazon here or Backcountry.com below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: La Sportiva provided a sample of these gloves for the purposes of this review. The opinion expressed above are solely of the tester. Affiliate links help support this blog.

Gear Review- Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell Jacket

The Black Diamond Helio Shell Jacket is a bombproof technical super light three layer hard shell suitable for everything from hard ice climbing to alpine touring and Skimo.

Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell Review
Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell Review- photo by Brent Doscher Photography

Over the last 3 months I have tested this jacket climbing above tree-line on Mount Washington, leading Grade 5 waterfall ice, and taking laps on the Sherburne ski trail. Its versatility and durability combined with its extreme pack-ability make this a solid contender in best hard-shells of 2016/17.

Durability

Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell Review
Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell Review- photo by Brent Doscher Photography

The Black Diamond Helio Shell Jacket uses GORE-TEX® 3L, 30d nylon plain-weave face with nylon C-Knit™ backer and DWR (95 gsm, 100% nylon). The nylon C-Knit™ backer supposedly creates a “quieter construction”. While it may feel a little softer than an old stiff style GORE-TEX® jacket it definitely does not feel like a soft-shell jacket, but that is a sacrifice one makes when they want 100% water and wind proof protection. After a few thousand feet of back-country skiing, a half dozen or more ice pitches, and 2-3 days above tree-line on Washington the jacket is showing virtually no signs of wear.

Weight/Pack-ability

Black Diamond Helio Shell Review
Hard shell protection at less than a pound!

Definitely one of the key features of this streamlined jacket is how light and small it packs. Black Diamond lists 370 grams for a size medium. My size large was 386 grams, or 13 5/8 ounces. I could crush the piece down to about a 6 inch by 6 inch by 3 inch package, easily small enough to forget about it in your pack until that snow switches over to freezing rain or the next pitch climbs out a drippy shower-fest.

Comfort/Sizing

Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell Review
Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell Review- photo by Brent Doscher Photography

The Black Diamond Helio Shell Jacket is designed to be worn with a harness and omits hand pockets to save weight and increase pack-ability. While Black Diamonds size charts put me in a size large I would definitely prefer a size medium in this piece. For reference I am 5′ 9″ 180 pounds with a 42 inch chest. The large has a lot of space in the chest and I feel it would better fit a 44+ inch chest or someone closer to 200 pounds. Sleeve length was slightly long on the large but could be shortened with the Velcro wrist straps. Length was perfect for tucking into my harness and the hood easily fit over my ski helmet. Plenty of room in the shoulders for long reaches over the head. A medium would be perfect for me.

Features

The Black Diamond Helio Shell Jacket sports a streamlined minimalist design to keep the weight down and the pack-ability up. Full length pit zips, two large chest pockets, velcro cuffs, and an innovative and effective “Coheasive” single pull draw-cord system at both the hem and the hood leave little to talk about here, and that’s ok. The alpinist or skimo customer this jacket is designed for is not looking for a ton of bells and whistles. This shell has what it needs and nothing it doesn’t.

Summary

I’ll admit I am often reluctant to pack a hard shell jacket on most my adventures. I prefer the superior breath-ability of soft shell jackets for the high output sports I pursue. However having the hard-shell packed away as a piece of insurance is a wise move when conditions change and things become a bit wetter or windier than you were expecting.

The extreme pack-ability and less than a pound specifications of a true hard-shell make the Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell a solid piece of insurance to carry on just about any mountain adventure.

You should check it at Backcountry.com here and Amazon here!

Disclaimer: Black Diamond provided the sample for the purpose of review. The opinions above are solely mine. Affiliate links above help support this blog. 

 

Gear Review- Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket

The Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket is the lightest synthetic belay jacket I have tested this season that also competes well in the heat retention department. I previewed this jacket back in November and now that I have tested it above treeline on Mount Washington and while hanging at icy cold belays while ice climbing throughout the White Mountains I am ready to share some more first hand opinions on this piece.

Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review
Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review- Photo by Brent Doscher Photography

Let’s start with the most important feature:

Warmth

The Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket uses 120g of Pinneco Core™ fill in the body and 80g in the sleeves. This “feels” warmer and puffier than the Primaloft ECO insulation used in other jackets I am testing and has decent compress-ability. I wore this over my typical soft-shell and Merino wool layers on Mount Washington in 60+mph winds with wind chills hovering around -40 degrees and was very pleased with the protection it offered. Yesterday after topping out a remote back-country Grade 5 route off the Kancamagus Highway I was grateful for the full enclosure insulated hood while I was stationary and exposed belaying both a photographer and my partner for the better part of a windy hour. Here’s some video from that climb:



Shell

Big Agnes does not list much detail in relation to the shell fabric, just: “100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant”. I have reached out to Big Agnes for more info and will update this as soon as I hear back! That said I found it fully windproof. It is likely there is a DWR treatment on the fabric as climbing under a drippy chandelier of ice a week ago the jacket did not take on any moisture.

Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review
Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review- photo from http://www.bigagnes.com

Weight/Compress-ability

24.5 oz. / 695 grams. The lightest option in this seasons line up of synthetic belay jackets this piece easily stuffs into an included high quality 10 x 7 stuff-sack. Oddly the manufacturer’s website description references an interior chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack but I believe this must be a web error as there is no interior chest pockets and the exterior chest pocket is far to small to function as a reversible stuff sack.


Fit

I went with a size large for my 42 inch chest and it fits great over my typical load out. The adjustable hood is the perfect size for my helmeted head. Arm length is slightly shorter than similar models and the back length feels slightly shorter, which works well over my climbing harness. If in doubt consult the manufacturer’s size chart!

Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket Review


Features

  • Center front zipper includes interior no-draft flap and a zipper garage at chin
  • Features YKK Reverse coil zippers
  • Textured zipper pulls are easy to use with gloves
  • Adjustable drawcord at hem seals out wind
  • Two zippered hand-warmer pockets with zipper garages
  • Large interior mesh pockets for extra stash space
  • Exterior check pocket
  • Separate stuff sack included
  • 120g Pinneco Core™ synthetic insulation in body, 80g in the sleeves
  • Insotect Tubic™ construction provides supreme loft and thermal efficiency
  • 100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant
  • Jacket weight, size Medium – 24.5oz/ 695g

Summary

The Big Agnes Dunkley Belay Jacket is a solid choice for a synthetic belay jacket, a must have item in every ice climber/mountaineer’s kit. I like the high visibility yellow but it also comes in a visible bright blue if yellow isn’t your thing. It comes in black too but I would not recommend that color for a belay jacket (bright colors are happy colors when you are freezing your tuchus off). If you’re in the market for a solid performer in the belay jacket you can pick this one up here at a great price.

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Big Agnes provided Northeast Alpine Start a sample for this review and the product has been returned to the manufacturer. All opinions stated above are my own. Affiliate links above support this blog.

Gear Review: Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody

A couple months ago I got my hands on the iconic Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody and I’ve come to discover why I often see climbers milling about both at the cliffs and at the local coffee shop in this well designed piece. The non-hooded version of this jacket won the Editors Choice Classic Award from Climbing Magazine. I prefer hoods on almost all my outdoor clothing so I was happy to review the hooded version. This jacket falls into the “light puffy” category. If you are looking for a full on winter belay jacket you can check out some “full puffy” models I am reviewing here.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody
Patagonia Men’s Nano Puff® Hoody- photo from Patagonia.com

So let’s break down what makes this piece an excellent addition to your outdoor wardrobe!

Insulation

The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody uses super light and compressible 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold ECO Insulation. “Gold” Primaloft is the highest level of synthetic insulation and of course being the environmentally conscious company Patagonia is known for they went with the ECO version of Gold which is 55% post-consumer recycled content. So you can feel warm and fuzzy while feeling warm and… ok that’s a bit too cheesy.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody

The “brick quilting” pattern is superior to other less expensive baffling methods and keeps the insulation in place preventing cold spots.

Shell/Lining

The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody uses 1.4-oz 22-denier 100% recycled polyester with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Well what does that mean? 1.4-oz 22-denier feels like silk!

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody
Brick Quilting Pattern = no cold spots

This isn’t a cheap nylon taffeta but a very abrasion resistant and pack-able material. It is quite comfortable over bare skin which is good since I broke this out repeated this Fall to wear directly over a t-shirt.

Weight/Compress-ability

12.8 oz. / 362 grams. Ultralight weight and super compressible, this is undoubtedly where the jacket go its namesake. Nano in this sense means extremely small. The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody easily stuffs into its own internal chest pocket which measures about 8 x 7 x 4 inches.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody
A lot of warmth in a small little package

A carabiner sewn loop allows you to clip this off to the back of your harness if you are leaving your pack on the ground and the top of the pitch looks a little bit more breezy than the base of the route.

Sizing/Fit

I found the sizing to be spot on. I went with a large which fits my 42 inch chest with a little extra space for a soft-shell and base-layers but not too baggy to throw on over a t-shirt. The hood is sized to fit under your helmet but I found it would fit over as well, but a bit snug.

fullsizerender-2

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody
A blustery day rock climbing this Fall near Gorham, NH

Probably more comfortable, and warmer, to wear this hood under your helmet unlike traditional belay jackets with over-sized hoods.

Features

Rounding out some of the features I haven’t mentioned yet:

  • Center-front zipper has wicking interior storm flap and zipper garage at chin for next-to-skin comfort
  • Two zippered handwarmer pockets have cleanly finished zipper garages
  • Under-the-helmet hood construction is light and simple
  • Drawcord-adjustable drop-tail hem seals in warmth

Summary

This is a super versatile layer that can serve many purposes.

It’s the perfect balance of warmth, weight, and pack-ability for climbing on the edge seasons.

Fall rock climbing is the best rock climbing in the Northeast and this jacket is ideal as your insulating layer all on its own. The DWR finish and warm-when-wet insulation adds protection should you leave the rain shell at home and get surprised by a later afternoon shower. After the leaves have fallen and the ice is starting to grow this becomes an excellent mid-layer, taking the place of heavier and less compress-able 200 weight fleece jackets. With quality long underwear, a soft shell, Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody, and a hard-shell you have an adjustable system that can handle almost any winter conditions. I’ll still carry a heavier full on belay jacket when swapping leads ice climbing but for fast solo missions this is a perfect companion!

If you think you’d like this jacket you can find other reviews and competitive pricing right here on Amazon. If you liked this review please leave a comment below and subscribe above!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Patagonia provided this item for purposes of review. The opinions expressed above are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

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Gear Preview: Synthetic Belay Jackets

This winter I’ve acquired a number of high end synthetic insulated belay jackets to review. Getting field time to fully test all five of these models will take a little time so I decided to post a first look comparison of these industry leading models so those shopping for a new belay jacket for this season will have some info to look at before the ice climbing season really gets underway. Below I will share some technical comparisons within the various models and some impressions of each. Full reviews of each model will be posting throughout the season and I will back-link here as they publish.

First let’s define the category here. The common definition of “belay jacket” should look something like:

belay jack·et

bee-lay ˈjakət/

noun

  1. 1.

    an outer garment extending to the hips with sleeves and a fastening down the front. An insulated hood and dimensions to fit over all other layers make a belay jacket stand apart from regular jackets. Also known as a “Puffy”.

I am going to limit this comparison to synthetic insulated options… apples to apples so to speak.

We will compare insulation, shell material, weight, fit, and features of each piece specifically trying to pull out how they differ from each other. Keep in mind this is not intended to be a full review of any of these jackets as that will need to wait until each has been sufficiently field tested. Here we go!

LaSportiva Latok 2.0 Jacket

La Sportiva Latok 2.0 Primaloft Belay Jacket
La Sportiva Latok 2.0 Primaloft Belay Jacket

Insulation

The LaSportiva Latok 2.0 uses Primaloft ECO Silver insulation. LaSportiva states they use “Body-mapped construction of 3 different weights of Primaloft used for thermal regulation”. I reached out to LaSportiva for more details and discovered they use 200 grams in the body, upper sleeves and shoulders have 133 grams, and lower sleeves have 80 grams.

Shell

10-Denier Ripstop (100% Nylon); Repeloff Nano Super DWR; Upper Body, Shoulders, and Sleeves: X2Weave-BR (85% Nylon, 15% Spandex); Repeloff Nano Super DWR

Weight/Compressability

29.3 oz. / 831 grams. This is the 2nd to heaviest model in the line up. It doesn’t feel very “crushable” for packing, and I’m assuming that may be due to the more cost effective Primaloft ECO insulation and regular (heavier) YKK zippers used throughout.

Fit

This model has the most snug fit of all the models I am testing. It’s a bit tight in the shoulders and the hood is just big enough to fit comfortably over my helmet.

Features

The jacket is black, not my first choice in belay jacket color. Bright colors have a physcological effect when waiting out a storm or your partner takes a decade to lead the next pitch while you slowly turn into a popsicle. It also has a microfleece lined adjustable hood that fits over my helmet, albeit a bit snug. Rounding out the feature list: 2 Front Hand Warmer Pockets with Invisible Zippers, 2 Napolean Chest Pockets with YKK Zippers, 1 Inner Binded Phone Pocket with Headphone Access Port (fits iPhone 6 but not 6 Plus), 2 Large Inner Mesh Pockets, Adjustable drawcord at hem

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket
Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

 Insulation

The Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket uses 120g of Pinneco Core™ fill in the body and 80g in the sleeves. This “feels” warmer and puffier than the Primaloft ECO insulation used in the previous jacket and is 5 ounces lighter.

Shell

Big Agnes does not list much detail in relation to the shell fabric, just: “100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant”. I have reached out to Big Agnes for more info and will update this as soon as I hear back!

Weight/Compressability

24.5 oz. / 695 grams. The lightest option in our line up this piece easily stuffs into an included high quality 10 x 7 stuff-sack. Oddly the manufacturer’s website description references and interior chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack but I believe this must be a web error as there is no interior chest pockets and the exterior chest pocket is far to small to function as a reversible stuff sack.

Fit

This model fits well over my typical load out. The adjustable hood is the perfect size for my helmeted head.

Features

  • Center front zipper includes interior no-draft flap and a zipper garage at chin
  • Features YKK Reverse coil zippers
  • Textured zipper pulls are easy to use with gloves
  • Adjustable drawcord at hem seals out wind
  • Two zippered hand-warmer pockets with zipper garages
  • Large interior mesh pockets for extra stash space
  • Exterior check pocket
  • Separate stuff sack included
  • 120g Pinneco Core™ synthetic insulation in body, 80g in the sleeves
  • Insotect Tubic™ construction provides supreme loft and thermal efficiency
  • 100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant
  • Jacket weight, size Medium – 24.5oz/ 695g

Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

black-diamond-stance
Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

Insulation

The Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka uses two layers of 80 gsm PrimaLoft® Silver Hi-Loft Insulation insulation (basically 160 gsm), a continuous filament insulation made with fibers of differing thicknesses. Primaloft calls this their loftiest insulation and it definitely feels up there with the best synthetic insulation currently available.

Shell

This piece uses Pertex® Classic 40d plain-weave with a DWR finish (65 gsm, 100% nylon). I’ve always found Pertex® to be a solid performer in the breathable water resistent category so I’m happy to see Black Diamond went with this for the shell material. Interestingly the liner also has a DWR finish to it which I suppose is one extra layer of protection, Pertex Microlight 20 d ripstop with DWR finish (40 gsm, 100% nylon)

Weight/Compressability

26 oz. / 730 grams. This is the 2nd lightest model in the line up and packs up to a similar size as the rest.

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the above models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

  • Adjustable, climbing-helmet-compatible hood
  • Lightweight stretch cuffs
  • Two-way front zipper
  • Insulated wind flap
  • Drawcord hem
  • Two zip hand pockets, zip chest pockets, two internal drop pockets and internal stretch media pocket (no internal port though and really small size)

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

outdoor-research-perch
Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

Insulation

The Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka uses industry leading PrimaLoft® Gold 100% polyester insulation 200 g/m2 body, 160 g/m2 lower body and lower sleeves. This is the best performing synthetic insulation in the line up and Outdoor Research definitely stuffed this jacket with more of it than any of the other models being tested.

Shell

This piece uses Pertex® Endurance 2L, 100% nylon 20D melange body and Pertex® Microlight, 100% nylon 22D ripstop lining. This is the highest performing shell material in this line up (also used in next jacket).

Weight/Compressability

30.4 oz. / 860 grams. This is the heaviest model in the line up but is also most likely the warmest of the bunch. It also has a somewhat innovative internal stuff sack design I’ve never seen before. Basically a Velcro “hidden pocket” in the lower back inverts into a stuff sack. Final stuffed size is probably 20-30% larger than others in this line-up with the obvious trade off being more warmth.

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the first two models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

  • Staggered Insulation to Prevent Cold Spots
  • Helmet Compatible Wire-Brimmed Hood
  • Draft Tube Around Face
  • Two Internal Shove- It™ Pockets
  • Zip Chest Pockets, Zip Hand Pockets
  • Internal Pocket Doubles as Stuff Sack
  • Two Carabiner Loops Inside Stuff Sack
  • Internal Front Stormflap
  • Integrated Hood Cordlocks
  • Brushed Tricot-Lined Collar
  • Brushed Tricot Back of Hand Inside Pockets
  • Key Clip

Patagonia DAS Parka

Patagonia DAS Parka
Patagonia DAS Parka

*Disclaimer, when I asked Patagonia for a belay jacket for review they sent me the amazing down insulated Fitz Roy. Comparing down to synthetic belay jackets is like comparing apples to oranges when it comes to cost, weight, and compressability, so I am including the specs on the DAS even though I do not have one to fully review (yet)… the DAS should certainly be represented in this line up!

Insulation

The Patagonia DAS Parka uses 120-g PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Hi-Loft and then adds a layer of 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation Eco in the chest, abdomen and back to offer maximum thermal efficiency and water repellency.

Shell

Like the Outdoor Research Perch Belay Jacket this one uses the lightweight, nylon ripstop Pertex® Endurance shell with PU coating. It is durable, water-resistant, windproof and treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.

Weight/Compressability

23.6 oz. / 669 grams. This is the lightest model in the line up and hardest for me to fairly compare since I have not sourced one yet. Based on what I have researched I’ll say for the weight this one might be the warmest non-down belay jacket out there. However it saves weight by using a little less insulation. When compared side by side with the Outdoor Research Perch Belay jacket the numbers look like this:

Patagonia DAS vs Outdoor Research Perch

180gr/120gr vs 200gr/160gr

Mix of Primaloft Gold & Silver vs 100% Primaloft Gold

Fit

This model fits great over my typical load out and the hood is especially comfortable over my climbing helmet. It also feels an inch or two longer than the first two models which feels like it will provide a little more heat retention.

Features

    • Helmet-compatible hood with visor and single-pull drawcord to adjust overall volume and peripheral vision
    • Full-length 2-way zipper with internal, insulated wind flap and fold-over zipper garage for next-to-skin comfort
    • Pockets: two zippered, insulated handwarmers; two large interior mesh drop-ins; one exterior zippered chest
    • Elasticized cuffs and discreet drawcord at drop hem seal in warmth
    • Stuffsack included

Summary

These are all really nice offerings in the ever growing field of belay jackets. I look forward to getting some field time in each of them to pull out the minutia that sometimes helps one product edge out another. If you’d like to look for other consumer opinions on them or try one out yourself you can purchase directly off Amazon at these links, and doing so helps support this blog:

LaSportiva Latok 2.0 Jacket

Big Agnes Dunkley Hooded Belay Jacket

Black Diamond Stance Belay Parka

Outdoor Research Perch Belay Parka

Patagonia DAS Parka

If you’d like to see some side by side stats:

comparison
Head to head

I hope this info helps you select the right belay jacket for the upcoming winter! If I missed your favorite model or you have any questions or comments please let me know below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Disclaimer: All of the products listed above were provided at no cost for purposes of review. All opinions stated are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

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 blackdiamondequipment.com

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
Pack-ability!

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

Summary

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,

-NEAlpineStart

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