Black Diamond Sharp End Shell

Julia Van Raalte reviews the Black Diamond Sharp End, Blister Gear Review
Black Diamond Sharp End Shell

Black Diamond Sharp End Shell – Women’s

Size: Small

Stated Weight: 395 grams

Fabric: Gore-Tex Pro 3L; 80d plain-weave face with a nylon mini-ripstop backer; DWR treated

Recommended Uses: Alpine objectives, ice climbing, ski mountaineering, ski touring

Reviewer Info: 5’6”, 125lbs


  • Integrated Cohaesive cord management technology
  • Adjustable, helmet-compatible hood
  • YKK Vislon AquaGuard center front zipper
  • Brushed microsuede collar lining
  • Harness-compatible waist pockets
  • Internal stretch media pocket with cord port
  • Two-way zippered armpit vents
  • Velcro cuff tabs
  • Concealed hem drawcord

MSRP: $500

Days Worn: 9

Test Locations: Broken River Ski Area; Craigieburn Valley Ski Area; wilderness around Crested Butte

Last season, Black Diamond introduced their first ever line of men’s outerwear. This season, BD is expanding their men’s line and releasing a wide range of women’s outerwear, too.

The Sharp End is a technical shell that combines a lightweight, minimalist design with a highly durable construction. The Sharp End is intended to be a versatile piece for a range of alpine activities – comfortable and breathable option for going up, while also providing enough protection for descents.


The Sharp End’s is more of an alpine climbing and touring shell than a freeride ski jacket, but I would place it on the looser end of the spectrum for slim cuts. The Sharp End looks more like an mountaineering shell than a freeride jacket, but there are certainly slimmer-fitting shells out there.

For jackets, I am usually in between a size Small and Medium. In Patagonia jackets, I pretty consistently go with a size Small, but recently I’ve worn a Medium in the Helly Hansen Verglas, The North Face Free Thinker, and the Arc’teryx Sentinel, all of which are cut wider than the Sharp End. Given its slimmer cut, I probably could have worn a Medium in the Sharp End, but I am quite happy with how the Small fits. The sleeves are the perfect length, falling to my knuckles, and don’t feel unnecessarily wide or bulky. The bottom of the jacket reaches about halfway down my butt, and has no drop hem.

Julia Van Raalte reviews the Black Diamond Sharp End, Blister Gear Review
Julia Van Raalte in the Black Diamond Sharp End, Broken River Ski Area, New Zealand.

I was able to wear two pairs of long underwear and my Patagonia Nano Puff comfortably under the Sharp End, but is too slim to fit over my Helly Hansen Hooded Down Insulator without feeling restricting. Even so, I’ve been happy using the Sharp End as a resort jacket, though Black Diamond doesn’t market it as one. Except for the coldest days when I wear the Down Insulator, the Sharp End can be worn over most of my resort layering combinations.

I haven’t had the opportunity to ski tour in the Sharp End yet, but there is some incredible hike-to terrain at the Canterbury club fields, and I spent a good bit of time hiking to it in the Sharp End with a pack on.

The jacket’s slimmer profile reduced the bulk under my pack’s straps and made it more comfortable to hike in than the North Face Free Thinker, which has some extra fabric I have to push aside and rearrange while hiking.

Notable Features

The Sharp End is a minimalist shell that’s light on features. It has only two hand pockets which are large but have relatively small zippered openings. This makes it a little more difficult to get larger items inside the pockets. Smaller items like a phone, snacks, or extra camera lenses are not a problem to carry, but I wasn’t able to fit Smith I/OS goggles.

Black Diamond has also included an opening in the inside media pocket for a headphone cord.

The Sharp End has long, 11” pit-zips which are easy to operate with one hand.

The collar is sturdy and doesn’t just flop down under my chin. It can be zipped up to sit under my nose, and has a soft, inner lining.

There are two low-profile buttons on the collar and two on the hem of the jacket that tighten the cord around the hood and bottom hem. It’s a simple, clean-looking system that’s very easy to use with or without gloves; you pull the cord to tighten, and press the button to release.

The Sharp End’s hood is pretty small, and doesn’t fit over my Smith Alure with enough room to let me zip up the collar fully. It does seems large enough to fit over a climbing helmet, however, and isn’t so bulky that it becomes a nuisance when not in use.

Julia Van Raalte reviews the Black Diamond Sharp End, Blister Gear Review
The hood and Cohaesive button adjustment on the Black Diamond Sharp End.

I have no complaints about the velcro or zippers on the Sharp End; everything looks and feels solid.

Fabric / Performance

The Sharp End uses the new Gore-Tex Pro fabric, which tested extensively and discussed in reviews of other jackets. If you’d like to learn how Gore-Tex Pro works and read some comparisons between it and other waterproof / breathable membranes, I would highly recommend reading Sam Shaheen’s Outerwear 201 article, his review of the Mountain Equipment Tupilak, and Paul Forward’s review of the Arc’Teryx Rush jacket.

In the past, Gore products have used a polyurethane (PU) layer as a part of the laminate, which presents a significant barrier to water vapor trying to escape the jacket. Essentially, these laminates were effective in preventing water from diffusing in through a membrane, but didn’t let water vapor (or sweat) diffuse out, so they were not very breathable.

The new Gore Pro’s laminate does not use a polyurethane (PU) protective layer, but instead has a different combination of layers to maintain its waterproofing capabilities, while increasing breathability.

While I still need to get the Sharp End in some more adverse weather conditions, I can say that I’ve been quite impressed with its breathability so far.

3 comments on “Black Diamond Sharp End Shell”

  1. Thanks for the review, one of the first for their new shells and glad to read through it. A minor correction on fabric: listed here as 80d but 40d on the BD website.

    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for reading! You caught on to something interesting there – it seems like BD may have changed some of the specs on their site. Last week, when working on this review, I was in touch with our outerwear expert, Sam Shaheen, to discuss some of the differences between the weaves in the Sharp End (80D), and the North Face Free Thinker jacket I am also testing, which has a stated 70D weave. I am positive the site said 80D for the Sharp End, but now their site says 70D. As for the 40D you saw, Black Diamond has that stated for their men’s Sharp End, not the women’s. My hunch is that this is a mistake on the BD website, but it would be interesting if there is a difference in fabrics between the men’s and women’s versions. We’ll check in with Black Diamond to see what’s going on. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!


  2. You are correct! Received this message from BD. You would think with the same name that they would be made of the same material and features. Just a different cut for the genders.

    “The website tech specs are correct as well as the review. It’s a little confusing but the W’s Sharp End is the 80d GoreTex Pro that the men have in the Front Point Shell. The M’s Sharp End is 40d Gore Pro.”

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