Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody
- Adjustable, helmet-compatible hood
- Highly packable design stows in chest pocket with internal carabiner clip loop
- Climbing-specific gusseted underarm panels
- Lightweight elastic cuffs
- Drawcord hem
Stated Weight: 250 g
Materials : Schoeller® stretch-woven with NanoSphere® Technology (80 g/m2, 93% nylon, 7% elastane)
Days Tested: 80
Test Locations: North Cascades, Mt Rainier, WA; Chugach Range, AK; Wind River Range, WY; Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO; Eldorado Canyon SP, RMNP, CO
[Author’s Note: the Alpine Start hoody is a close competitor to the OR Whirlwind hoody. As such this review will use much of the same terminology when describing the jackets and will present comparisons between the two.]
The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody represents part of a recent resurgence in the popularity of soft-shell jackets. Admittedly though, the term soft-shell encompasses a huge variety of jacket designs and uses. In the spectrum of soft shells, the Alpine Start hoody is high on the breathable, highly mobile, and lightweight side of the spectrum, and low on the weather resistance spectrum.
As a huge proponent of the wind shirt (a la Patagonia Houdini), I’ve long been curious how lightweight soft shells like the Alpine Start hoody and the OR Whirlwind hoody stack up against more traditional nylon wind shirts like the Houdini. While the Houdini packs slightly smaller, lightweight soft shells like the Alpine Start offer a different set of benefits and drawbacks.
The Alpine Start Hoody is an even lighter weight version of the excellent B.D.V. Hoody I reviewed last year and fills a similar (though I believe somewhat larger) niche in the spectrum of outerwear. The hoody has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of clothing and I rarely leave home without it.
The Alpine Start hoody is made from Schoeller Nanoshield fabric similar to that found on the BDV hoody and other Black Diamond soft shells. See my review of the B.D.V. hoody and pants for a more detailed description of what exactly “Nanoshield” is, but the short version is it’s a coating applied to each fabric strand to help repel dirt, water, and oil. Like on the B.D.V. kit, the Nanoshield coating adequately protects the fabric from collecting excessive grime, but there is a limit to the effectiveness and the jacket does still get dirty, just not quite as fast.
The Alpine Start is cut fairly slim to stay out of the way, but is large enough and stretchy enough to layer comfortably. I tested a size Medium and found the fit a touch on the big side at least compared to other lightweight wind shirts and soft shells. The Alpine Start has a little extra fabric in the armpit area and around the chest than a jacket like the Patagonia Houdini. I have mixed feelings about the larger cut; on one hand more fabric means more weight and more fluff to catch on things like rocks or trees, but on the other hand the little bit of extra space makes reaching for high hand holds a breeze. I did not experience any limitation to my range of motion when wearing the Alpine Start.
The sleeves are also cut long, which works well with my personal body type. I’m long and lanky and often have trouble finding jackets with sleeves long enough to stay at my wrists when I reach overhead. No such trouble here. The cuffs are a simple elastic ring, lower profile than the stretch panel on the BDV hoody, and both stay in place on my forearms (whether pulled down or pushed up), and layer easily over gloves.
The Alpine Start hoody is quite minimalist in its feature set. A single chest pocket sits next to a full-length zipper, and apart from two drawstrings, one to cinch the waist and one to cinch the hood, that’s it. No extraneous pockets and not even a small fleece patch on the inside of the chin.
Pocket, Hood and Drawstring, Etc.