Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell Review

Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell Review

Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell is a moderately priced, 2.5-layer waterproof/breathable rain jacket that’s lightweight enough for year-round use and for multiple sports from skiing and climbing to hiking and backpacking. It has most of the functionality that hikers and backpackers want, including an adjustable hood with a front brim, pit zips, zippered handwarmer pockets, and rip-and-stick velcro-style cuffs.  The Stormline is also fully seam taped and repels rain and wind nicely. In addition, there is a slight amount of stretch built into the exterior fabric that makes it comfortable and quiet to wear while still providing extra room for layering.

Specs at a glance

  • Waterproof/breathable:  2.5L BD.dry
  • Weight: 11.3 oz (our test jacket is 10.5 oz in a men’s XL)
  • Gender: Men’s (Women’s also available)
  • Pit zips: Yes
  • Adjustable hood w/brim: Yes
  • Climbing compatible hood: Yes
  • Pockets: 2 (handwarmer)
  • Velcro-wrist cuffs: Yes
  • Seam-taped: Yes
  • Hydrostatic head: 10,000 mm
  • MVTR: 10,000 gm/m2/24hr
  • Fit: Runs a bit large.

There are a small set of fit and thermoregulation features that I always look for on rain jackets for hiking and backpacking including pit zips, an adjustable hood, and wrist cuffs regardless of whether the jacket is made with breathable fabric or not. This level of functionality is critical for actively managing your level of warmth and perspiration across a wide range of temperatures, wind speeds, and trail conditions.

The Black Diamond Stormline Stretch has pitzips that run from the biceps down the torso.
The Black Diamond Stormline Stretch has pit zips that run from the biceps down the torso.

Pit Zips

The Stormline Stretch has pit zips in the armpits to vent built-up body heat and reduce perspiration. I view it as a very positive sign when a waterproof/breathable jacket manufacturer includes pit zips. It indicates that they understand the limitations of the technology and aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes. The only truly effective way to regulate body heat when wearing a rain jacket is to crack open some zippers and let it escape. You sweat less and stay drier when you’re cooler. This is particularly important in colder weather when excessive perspiration can compromise your midlayer insulation.

The Stormline’s pit zips are 12 inches long which is pretty average. The zips have a single slider that pulls down from the upper bicep to the upper torso. When you’re ready to close them, the zippers close smoothly without a lot of force, although I’d still recommend that you lubricate them periodically with Gear-Aid Zipper Cleaner and Lubricant to keep them working smoothly.

Adjustable Hood

The Stormline Stretch jacket has a climbing compatible hood which is good if you wear a helmet, but most hikers don’t. Still, the jacket has a rear volume adjuster on the hood that lets your shrink it down to human size. The hood has a waterproof brim, but is obviously designed for use with a climbing helmet or ski helmet and I think you’ll want to wear it with a brimmed hat in rain. The brim has a stiffener routed through it you can use to snug it into place on your hat. But it’s not designed to shrink the face opening like a jacket that has a two-way adjustable hood with neck toggles. Not optimal, but the sad fact is that most rain jacket hoods aren’t designed for hikers and it’s hard to get a decent hood on top of everything else without spending more money. If you hate oversized hoods or you don’t need a multi-sport jacket that has one, the Stormline Stretch Rain Shell is probably not for you.

When the hood is zippered up all the way, you get a good deal of face coverage with it, so your mouth, neck, and upper chest are protected from the wind, and blowing snow and rain. There’s no zipper garage or soft face fabric on the interior of the neck though, which is understandable at this price point. But a high neck like this is a good feature to fend off nasty weather and is a good hedge against having to wear full face protection like a balaclava during the colder months.

Velcro wrist cuffs will fit over gloves letting you seal in the heat at the wrists.
Velcro wrist cuffs will fit over gloves letting you seal in the heat at the wrists.

Wrist Cuffs

I think Black Diamond calls the Stormline Stretch a “rain shell” and not a rain jacket because you really can use it in the fourth season, i.e. winter. You can conclude this by looking at the cuffs, which have rip-and-stick (velcro) style closures instead of the cheap elastic wrists that you find on most warm-weather jackets. These are much more efficient at sealing in body heat at the wrists and for use with insulated gloves. This is a premium feature on a rain jacket.

Pockets

The Stormline has two zippered handwarmer pockets that have rain flaps positioned over the zippers. The pockets are not hipbelt compatible, but that’s a pretty rare feature on US-designed rain jackets anyway. The jacket stuffs into its right-hand pocket for storage and there’s a loop so you can hang it from a harness. These stuff-it pockets are actually an important feature on waterproof-breathable jackets that have an external DWR coating because they help extend its lifetime by reducing friction before DWR reproofing is required.

Black Diamond gets an ‘A’ for transparency since they tell you what the breathability rating is for their proprietary membrane.
Black Diamond gets an ‘A’ for transparency since they tell you what the breathability rating is for their proprietary membrane.

Waterproofing/Breathability

The Stormline is a 2.5 layer jacket, meaning that it has an outer fabric layer (layer 1) that covers a waterproof/breathable membrane (layer 2), with a thin liner (the half layer) on the interior. The thin liner is usually printed or sprayed on the membrane to protect it from wearing out. While 2.5 layer jackets are less durable or breathable than a 3 layer jacket, which has an internal fabric liner, they’re much lighter weight which is a priority for most hikers.

The waterproof/breathable membrane on the Stormline Stretch jacket has an MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate) of 10,000 gm/m2/24hr which is pretty mediocre in terms of breathability, but right in line with the proprietary (non-Gore-tex branded) waterproof/breathable membranes included in other manufacturer’s rain jackets from Marmot, Patagonia, and others. That’s why there are pit-zips on this jacket, to mitigate the heat buildup that will make you perspire and result in sweat. Still, Black Diamond gets an ‘A’ for transparency since they tell you what the breathability rating is for their proprietary membrane. Most companies go to great lengths to obscure that fact.

The Stormline Stretch seams are all taped so they don’t leak when it rains.
The Stormline Stretch seams are all taped so they don’t leak when it rains.

The Stormline Stretch is seam-taped which prevents the jacket from leaking in the rain. It also has a YKK reverse coil PU coated center front zipper, which is effectively waterproof. This eliminates the need for extra fabric flaps to protect the zipper and reduces the jacket’s weight.

Comparison Table – Our Top Rain Jacket Picks

Make / ModelAdj HoodPit ZipsWP/BRAvg Weight
Patagonia Torrentshell 3LYesYesYes12.1 oz
Black Diamond Stormline StretchYesYesYes11.3 oz
REI Rainier Rain JacketYesYesYes13 oz
Outdoor Research Foray IIYesYesYes11.3 oz
Montbell Versalite JacketYesYesYes6.4 oz
The North Face Venture 2YesYesYes11.5 oz
Marmot Precip EcoYesYesYes13.1 oz
Lightheart Gear Rain JacketYesYesNo6.3 oz
Frogg Toggs Xtreme LiteYesNoNo7.6 oz
Columbia Watertight IIYesNoYes13.0 oz
Note: WP/BR stands for waterproof-breathable.

Recommendation

The Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Rain Shell is a good choice if you’re looking for a four-season rain shell that can be used for climbing and skiing, in addition to hiking and backpacking. I think Black Diamond has done a good job at balancing the technical specs and features to create a jacket that is lightweight but still maintains the functionality that is most important to four season-hikers. In terms of fit, I found the Stormline Stretch to run a bit large in a men’s xl and that the amount of stretch in the fabric is actually quite limited, so don’t get your heart set on that feature. But overall, the Stormline Stretch Rain Shell compares quite favorably against slightly less expensive rain jackets and is definitely a step up in utility and performance.

Disclosure: The author purchased this jacket.

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6 comments

  1. This is the jacket I was seriously considering just last year. The cut is generous, good for layering, and fits tall people with long arms very nicely. The only downside was the helmet-compatible hood. I ended up going for the Rab Downpour Eco Jacket that has a similar cut and a regular hood. I’m not sure if I miss the stretch.

  2. Great review. I use this jacket for ice climbing and winter hiking and what you said about the hood is true. I like the fit and feel of the shell fabric which is very lightweight and easy to move around in. For warmer weather I use the LHG jacket which is much lighter weight but also has a pretty big hood.

  3. I find the review very helpful. Thanks for the post!

  4. Excellent review Philip. I actually want a jacket with a hood like this! Clicked on your link. Thanks!

  5. I just love your reviews. I wish I had more time to write such detailed articles and also time to test the gear!

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