The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody is a highly breathable softshell jacket that excels as a wind shirt and protective garment against light precipitation. Ideally suited for cold-weather pursuits, it provides excellent breathability without the weight of a heavier technical shell.
Made entirely with Schoeller stretch fabric, the Alpine Start Hoody is the most breathable jacket that Black Diamond makes: more breathable than any of Black Diamond’s other Gore-Tex, Windstopper, or Softshell jackets. When worn over mid-layer or base-layer insulation, the Alpine Start Hoody is amazingly effective at wicking away your sweat and evaporating it. The only downside to this is that the jacket needs to be washed after a half-dozen outings to get rid of the stink (proof that it is working).
If there’s a downside to the breathability of the Alpine Start Hoody, it’s in heat retention, which is virtually non-existent in cold weather, unlike the vapor barrier benefits of a multi-layer technical hard shell which will help retain some of your warmth. This is most noticeable in very cold weather, but well worth the wicking benefits, which help extend the effectiveness of your mid-layer insulation during a long hike or ski tour.
Weighing just 8.2 ounces, in a men’s XL, the Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody is a minimalist garment with few frills. While the hood is adjustable using neckline cord locks, the fit is a bit large and favors climbers and skiers wearing helmets. Elastic wrist cuffs seal the sleeves, a drawstring hem helps seal out drafts, and the jacket has one zippered chest pocket that serves double duty as a self-stowing stuff sack.
The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody is best used to cut the chill of cold winds during highly aerobic activities such as climbing, skiing, or winter hiking where you want the benefit of a wind shirt but the freedom of movement provided by a stretch garment. It’s also easily layered underneath a hard shell or insulated jacket, providing a nice adjunct to your existing clothing system without a significant weight penalty.
Disclosure: The author paid for this garment with his own funds.