Black Diamond Coefficient and First Light Hoodies at Valdez

Post by blogger | March 12, 2018      

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It was partly sunny when we left Valdez, Alaska on our way up Thompson Pass. Wispy high clouds dampened our expectations for the day so we opted for ‘low-hanging fruit’ near the pass summit. I had never skied Valdez before and was excited to get out on a tour, up high to get a sense for the landscape. The eastern Chugach lives up to its reputation — huge.

The Thompson Pass road offers amazing access to the Valdez backcountry

The Thompson Pass road offers amazing access to the Valdez backcountry

More on that in a minute

The tour also offered another chance for me to field test two layers from Black Diamond that I have been quickly wearing out (that way BD can’t ask for them back, though they are gear test loaners…): The Coefficient Hoody and First Light Jacket. I recently wrote a run-down of the BD Helio Collection, and the redesigned Coefficient and First Light compliment those offerings well. I have had a chance to ski with both layers for the last couple of months and they rock.

Coefficient Hoody

The coefficient hoody is a solid lightweight fleece mid-layer.

It has been around for a while but new material and slimmer fit make it a bit lighter and feel a bit more streamlined (plus they added thumb loops!). It is full zip, comfy, and light at only 300 grams. The low profile hood fits under a helmet well (though could be cut a bit higher on the neck). The ‘Polartec Power Dry’ fleece it a breathable weight for mountain travel that is not so warm that you sweat on the up, but still insulating enough to be useful on the down.

The Black Diamond Coefficient Hoody contemplating flat light

The Black Diamond Coefficient Hoody contemplating flat light

Many skiers have a drawer of mid-layers that offer different weights, collar designs, fits, and so on. The Coefficient is a stretchy, motion-minded offering, with a simple cut, and nice degree of insulation—it fits in the drawer quite well.

Coefficient Hoody specs

  • Polartec® Power Dry® fleece (180 gsm, 51% Polyester, 36% Nylon, 13% elastane)
  • Cozy gridded interior
  • Thumb loops and stretch cuffs
  • Full zip
  • Chest pocket
  • Low profile hood
  • First Light Hoody

    The First Light Hoody jacket is a packable, lightweight, synthetic jacket for ski touring and mountain travel that makes me smile. BD found the sweet spot for a minimal insulation layer here -– excellent on the skin track when its cold first thing in the morning, breathable but still warm on the descent, light and small in the pack, and cozy in the car on the way to the trailhead.

    Black Diamond First Light Jacket taking in the scenery in Valdez (photo by Rey Perez)

    Black Diamond First Light Jacket taking in the scenery in Valdez (photo by Rey Perez)

    At 510 grams, the warmth-to-weight ratio of the First Light easily justifies its space in a pack. The cut is fairly slim, which makes it easy to fit under a shell, but hard to fit over too many layers. The design is ideal for on-the-move days, but is not your loose fitting barn jacket.

    First Light Hoody

  • Shell: Schoeller® stretch woven nylon with Nanosphere® Technology (80 gsm, 93% nylon, 7% elastane)
  • Insulation: PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Active (60 gsm, 100% polyester)
  • Lining: Nylon woven mesh (65 gsm, 100% nylon)
  • Nice sized hood (too small for a big ski helmet, but easily compatible with a climbing helmet)
  • Stows into internal chest pocket with carabiner clip loop
  • Two zippered hand pockets
  • A few rocks up high gave a temporary respite from the milky slopes below

    A few rocks up high gave a temporary respite from the milky slopes below

    Our tour on Thompson pass was cut short by flat light and wind effected snow, but was an introduction to a skiers’ paradise: endless peaks, spines, chutes, and faces abound in every direction. Fields of mellow pow blanket the lower stretches of the mountains, and then each peak in the range seems to pop up for an impressive final push into the horizon.

    Lots to do in those Valdez mountains

    Lots to do in those Valdez mountains

    We took a mellow slope up to a ridge about 1800 ft above the road. The wispy clouds gave way to overcast fuzz. Wind took aim at the snow and turned it punchy and variable, but the ski down was still unreal — the toothed horizon in the distance showcasing endless possibilities. Guess I’ll have to head back soon (our quick one-run pass tour was enough to convince us to book an airbnb on the car ride back to town, all set for a proper trip next month).

    I accidentally went ice climbing instead of skiing most of the weekend (the Valdez Ice Fest was our excuse to head that way – it was a lot of fun!) and both the Coefficient and First Light did well as climbing layers too. I know the rest of the ski season these will be heavily used, and when I head back to Valdez they will be with me.

    (WildSnow blogger Dr. Alex Lee lives in Anchorage, Alaska. He is a professor at Alaska Pacific University, or, at least he’s that when he’s not skiing. He recently attended a press trip hosted by Black Diamond, this post covers gear BD provided for review.)


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    4 Responses to “Black Diamond Coefficient and First Light Hoodies at Valdez”

    1. Kristian March 12th, 2018 9:39 am

      Nice review.

      Speaking of Black Diamond… Can you tell us about the skis that you chose for this trip and also the relatively lightweight Syborg boots. Are they your daily drivers, ice climbing, etc.?

    2. Alex March 12th, 2018 10:37 am

      Hi Kristian,

      Syborgs on 105s is certainly an odd combo….

      I was on Helio 105s – there are a couple reviews up here on Wildsnow, I like them a lot – great weight to performance ratio. I split most of my tours between the Helio 105 and Helio 88s these days – the 105s for pow and mid winter, the 88s for ski mountaineering and spring.

      As for the Syborgs, they rock for a race style boot. They have been my goto for smaller skis, really long tours, and the odd skimo races I find myself in. I do not like climbing in them because of the shape of the ski/walk bar (it can get knock on a crampon bail). While the 105/Syborg combo is silly light, I think it is a miss-match. I was on them that day, because after recently selling a pair of boots and breaking a pair of boots, the Syborg was my only functional touring boot that week. My daily driver this season has been the Spitfire 2.0s – still real light, tours great, climb decent, ski well for their weight class.

    3. Kristian March 12th, 2018 11:21 am

      Thanks. Spitfire 2.0s are my go to boots also. Syborgs or Spectres otherwise. Will probably switch to Helios and ATKs based on your excellent reviews.

    4. Skinner March 15th, 2018 9:38 am

      The snow machiners are terrible at Thompson Pass. There are hundreds of them and they roar past you on narrow gully and above you on avalanche days. They are rude and have attitude. Its a bad situation there. I don’t go anymore because of it. They need to regulate them.

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