Layering With BD: Black Diamond Clothing Review

Post by blogger | June 29, 2016      

Climbing mountains and skiing down is oh so fun, but only if you aren’t cold, wet, or bogged down by too much weight. To prevent such travails, I am a big fan of the layering system. The more options you have the better you can rework your outfit with changing conditions. To that end, here is a look at some of the backcountry ski touring clothing by Black Diamond.

Clothes always help get us there.

Clothes always help get us there.

Before moving into my review, a few notes. . .my jam in the mountains tends to be something like the following:


  • Synthetic T
  • Mid layer hoody
  • Wind shirt
  • Insulation
  • Hard shell
  • Puffy
  • Bottom:

  • Soft shell pants
  • Hard shell pants
  • Hands:

  • Liner gloves
  • Ski gloves
  • Mittens
  • Head:

  • Buff
  • Hat
  • Helmet
  • In the spring the mittens might get swapped for extra gloves, on an expedition long johns or puffy pants might make an appearance, and depending on temps my insulation layer and puffy might turn into one jacket, three jackets, or vary in weight.

    There are of ton of options out there these days for layers to take in the mountains. I had a chance to take quite a few Black Diamond layers into the mountains this spring and this review is focused on BD clothing options that I think work especially well for ski mountaineering.

    I am 5’11’ 180lbs and BD jackets tend to fit me in a Large and BD pants fit in a Medium.

    The Mid-Layer

    Black Diamond Coefficient Hoody

    Black Diamond Coefficient Hoody

    Okay, so I tend to think synthetic Ts all act pretty much the same, so jumping into the midlayer Black Diamond offers the Coefficient Hoody. This layer is a stretchy Polartec performance layer similar to the ever-popular Patagonia R1.

    What I really like about the Coefficient is that it is a full zip hoody. No pull over needed. The hood also feels very warm to me (I personally like hoods more than hats).

    Possible con is that the neck could go a tad higher. Check out Lou’s review of the Coefficient.

    The Wind Shirt

    Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody

    Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody

    Moving on, the wind shirt. Often in backcountry skiing I think people mistakenly assume the trick with a clothing is staying warm. An equally important task for your gear is to keep you cool. Think about a layer not for warmth but as something to keep sun, wind, and the elements off your back when moving up hill or when it’s hot out. I have been seeing people embrace this layer more and more in the mountains. Black Diamond’s Alpine Start Hoody is a killer option.

    I have been wearing this jacket for a few years and it has done everything for me from Denali to dog walking. It is a great outer layer when its’ hot, part windshirt, part softshell, but light enough to leave on and layer on top of. Just about the only layer I always have with me. 250 grams.

    The Alpine Start in action.

    The Alpine Start in action.

    The Insulation

    Black Diamond Access Lt Hybrid Hoody

    Black Diamond Access Lt Hybrid Hoody

    On to insulation. In addition to the fleece/midlayer a light puffy jacket can be used as a mid layer when things get cold on the move or as an outer layer when hanging out in warmer snow-playing temps. The BD Access Lt Hybrid Hoody is an excellent lightweight synthetic option. Personally I like keeping my big puffy filled with down since it really only comes out when the temps are frigid. Even so, if moisture might be a factor a synthetic insulating layer is perhaps a better option for a lighter smaller jacket, though moisture resistant down can work unless you’re expecting total saturation. Which leads to…

    Soft shell flexibility (lookers left) in the arms gives great range of motion in the kitchen.

    Soft shell flexibility (lookers left) in the arms gives great range of motion in the kitchen.

    The Black Diamond Access Lt has soft shell fabric under the arms (Schoeller) for easy movement, durable enough nylon for exterior use (Pertex Quantum), a big hood, and packable Primaloft Gold insulation. I love carrying things that have a wide range of uses and I have found the Access Lt to be extremely versatile. Thumbs up.

    One possible con with the Access could be the sizing for some. A medium fits me well as a mid layer, or warm weather outer layer, but if you wanted to throw it over lots of other layers the sizing might get a bit too trim.

    395 grams.

    The Hard Shell

    Liquid Point Shell

    Liquid Point Shell

    On to the hard shell. I don’t like hard shells, but alas they do seem necessary. I often find them restrictive, stuffy, and bulky. Solution: Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell. This is a brilliant jacket that’ll bring out the minimalist in anyone. Paclite offers a waterproof breathable option that still vents to at least some degree while still feeling bombproof. It also wads small in the pack. Big cuffs that fit easily over gloves, a big hood tents your helmet, two way pit zips bring in the wind. Not much else is there to bulk things up. Simplicity makes the Liquid Point perfect.

    The size large Liquid Point has also proven big enough to fit over a few layers quite easily for me. That being said, anyone who likes a tighter fit in their shell might find the cut boxy (personally I like this in a shell, but you might get weird looks in Europe.).

    415 grams.

    A go-to skiing down layer.

    A go-to skiing down layer.

    Like I said, I don’t like hard shells — I like the liquid point. How’s that for an internal contradiction?

    The big puffy layer really depends on the mission for me more than any other layer. Do I need an expedition parka? Is it springtime in Colorado where I might not need more than the above? Find the weight that works for the day… on to pants.

    The Pants

    Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT

    Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT

    I generally carry a shell pant but rarely wear them, so I will offer a quick look at a soft shell pant option.

    The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT is lightweight moving softshell machine. I have worn the Dawn Patrol for a few years, they are a heavier burlier soft shell pant. I wore them on the summit of Denali, have used them as my go-to winter climbing pant, and go-to multiday pant. The Dawn Patrol LT offers remarkably similar wind protection and warmth in a much more breathable flexible lightweight package.

    Also they are cozy.

    The waist on BD pants can be on the big side (belt required), but I like the fit. That said, some of the testers here at WildSnow dot com have found the Dawn Patrol inseam to be excessive and that the pants were constructed in such a way as to be difficult for a sewing service to shorten. As always, try before you commit.

    450 grams.

    A simple right side cargo pocket, reinforced cuff, and Schoeller fabric make for a winning design. This spring in AK my usual get up was silk weight long johns and the Dawn Patrol LT.


    The Patrol Glove

    The Patrol Glove

    So, gloves. Liner gloves and lightweight gloves are awesome and there are a bunch of options out there (discuss in our comments?). Mittens are great for cold winter trips and multiday trips (I use a big old overmitt with neoprene inner mitt).

    The layer that I find gets the most use and can be the most finicky is the ski glove. That ‘Goldy Locks’ hand layer, warm but dexterous, breathable but waterproof. The BD Patrol Glove is a great classic everything glove. Warmer and burlier than your $17 Kinkos, light enough that you won’t be pouring sweat on the skin track, great usability. I do think the powder cuff could be a bit bigger. If you can’t fit a cuff over your layers, than what’s the point? On the other hand, if a powder cuff is just right it’ll fit either under or over other layers; perhaps that’s what BD has in mind with this.

    I took the Patrol Glove to AK, granted we had warmer-than-usual weather, but they held up incredibly well and were just about all I wore. I burn through gloves, these seem durable. I never sweat in them, but also managed to rarely put on mittens in AK.

    Overall I really like the BD layers I have had a chance to use. I generally don’t like the ‘euro’ fit and style often paramount in ski mountaineering cloths. BD offers an American alternative.

    The Hat

    BD trucker hat

    BD trucker hat

    With rear mesh ventilation, section construction, 7-stop adjustability, AND an articulated lid, the Black Diamond trucker hat for sun protection rounds out their collection nicely.

    (WildSnow Guest Blogger Alex Lee is attempting to shred all his loaner Black Diamond review clothing so the company doesn’t want it back. We expect that’ll happen, he’s the perfect tester. Please see a variety or our previous Black Diamond clothing reviews.)

    Shop for BD pants, jackets, etc.


    Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


    8 Responses to “Layering With BD: Black Diamond Clothing Review”

    1. Jernej June 30th, 2016 1:04 am

      OK, gloves… I find nearly all gloves much too warm for me so for the past few years have been using Quechua Inuit Dry overglove which, as the name suggests, is mostly just to keep the wind and water out and not provide much of insulation. It’s basically just a membrane with some thin fleece inside to make it comfortably slip on. On the cold days I might slip on a thin liner. Above freezing I don’t even bother with gloves.

      The problem is, Quechua apparently discontinued this model and I’m hitting myself over the head for not buying at least 10 pairs when I still could. They were so cheap a whole box of them would cost the same as just one pair of pretty much any other option. The low price also suggests something about their durability and mine have quite a few holes in them.

      So the question is, what comes close? I just want to keep my hands dry, no need for insulation.

    2. Lou Dawson 2 June 30th, 2016 6:49 am

      Hi Jernej, I’ve had the same issue over the years. Most of the time I just want the thinnest waterproof-breathable glove I can find. Hardly any exist. They’re hard to sell in the store as many if not most shoppers have trouble conceptualizing a glove for skiing with virtually no insulation. Mountain Equipment makes one I like, it’s still a bit thick but gets close, as well as having the annoying velcro closure instead of a simple knit wristlet.

      IMHO where we’re going to find the thin glove that works is probably in the Nordic Ski Racing category.

      Some of those even have a wristlet instead of the snarky velcro flap closure that glove designers seem to worship — probably because they’re all made in the same Chinese factory and the production designs are done by the same group of 7 Chinese production designers.

      Looks like CAMP might make a few, but they have funnel wrist?


    3. See June 30th, 2016 8:37 am

      It’s strange how there are thousands of different hard shell jackets and pants, but (as far as I know) very few uninsulated hard shell gloves. Black Diamond Guide gloves have nice shells, but the Gore tex membrane is in the liner so the shells alone aren’t totally waterproof (I haven’t found that to be a problem). The main advantage of the system, of course, is that the shells or different weight liners can be worn alone or combined to suit conditions.

    4. See June 30th, 2016 7:34 pm

      For what it’s worth, Arc Teryx Alpha SV shells are excellent but were crazy expensive, and Beta’s look good but I have not used them. Both apparently discontinued.

    5. dan July 1st, 2016 2:34 am

      what’s the deal with hardshells? you say they “seem necessary”… when, exactly?


    6. Jernej July 1st, 2016 2:45 am

      If it helps… I contacted Quechua and they recommended I take a look at these:

    7. See July 1st, 2016 3:36 am

      Actually, the Beta gloves are still on the Arc teryx site, so probably not discontinued.

    8. Wookie July 1st, 2016 10:07 am

      Nordic gloves. Been using them for years. Alternatively – having calfskin gloves made custom is a viable and remarkably durable option. Shop gloves cost 100 usd and more – a custom pair will be “only” 150. I have a pair that are ten years old.

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