Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody
This is the best climbing windbreaker I’ve ever owned. It hits the magic balance between minimalist design, low bulk, durability, and weather resistance that make a single piece of clothing cover a vast range of conditions. It’s really light (210 grams), and you can shove it in your pocket or stuff it into its chest pocket and hang it off your harness. But lots of windbreakers do that.
Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody – fit and function
Where this jacket really shines are the fit and the fabric. In size M, this jacket fits just slightly loose over a t-shirt, but also fits over a light puffy, so I can use it in any combination of layers that I might find myself in. The hood fits really well over a helmet and lets me articulate my head up and down, side to side with complete freedom, but the hood also adapts to a bare head with a quick adjustment to the elastic strap and works just as well.
This piece is cut a little longer with rock climbing in mind: the sleeves are long enough to still reach my wrists with my arms extended overhead, and the lower hem is low enough to stay tucked into a harness – not always true for smaller windbreakers.
Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody materials
This jacket really stands out because of the Schoeller Nanosphere fabric, which gives it the weather resistance of a softshell with the lightweight of a windbreaker. It blocks wind and rain like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi softshell (424 grams, $129), but is way more compact. This stretchy fabric is durable like a softshell and can withstand the abrasive nature of scrappy trad climbing much better than light windbreakers. I used to wear my Patagonia Houdini (105 grams, $100) for all kinds of climbing, but I ripped the sleeves too much. I’ve grovelled up off-widths and ground my shoulders against corners in this Alpine Start Hoody and it shows no signs of rough wear.
I don’t know what kind of special sauce they used to make this fabric, but it totally works – it completely blocks wind, and water seems to just bead up on the surface so you can flick it off. I’ve found it has enough water resistance to keep me dry during aerobic activities in light rain, which is better than my other windbreakers.
I took an early morning run in Tacoma, Washington this summer and within minutes the pre-dawn sky was dropping steady showers. After an hour of running in constant rain, I was still generally dry, the fabric of the jacket was barely wet, and my shirt underneath wasn’t even soaked since this jacket is so breathable.
The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody is such a versatile piece, I’m wearing it for everything – climbing, running, mountain biking – and I’m looking forward to touring in it this winter. $165
See Drew’s write up of the Black Diamond Traverse Pant to go along with this!