March 1, 2017

First Light Hoody

The Black Diamond First Light Hoody is incredible; I regard it as a modern marvel. In all my years using technical jackets and mid-layers, I have found none without caveats. As with any valuable piece of gear there is a trade-off among its attributes; however, with the First Light Hoody, I am only impressed. It wicks extremely well, yet maintains heat like a thin down jacket. Additionally, the water resistance was amazing, allowing me to wear it in light rain without penetrance. There was a moment in Ouray, Colorado, when I simply brushed beads of liquid coffee off the jacket, and after sitting for five minutes, no stain. The fabric both inside and out is next level, offering warmth, comfort, movability, and weather resistance. I can’t stop wearing it!

Although there are waist pockets, they did not add excessive bulk, allowing my harness to fit comfortably over, even with a hardshell over it. I usually don’t like such pockets on athletic jackets, however, they worked well, which made wearing out around town a pleasure. They provided warmth for my hands, and a place to store my phone, wallet, etc.

My favorite features:

  • Cozy hood that lays beautifully on the back when down
  • Collar/hood interface about the mouth, tailored perfectly
  • Pocket lining material
  • Slim fit
  • Perfect sleeve length, ideal proportions and fit
  • Outer fabric: soft, flexible, blocks wind, and water resistant

Alpine Softshell Pants

At first I felt dubious about wearing such thin material while ice climbing on cold days; I became wonderfully surprised how well the Black Diamond  Alpine Softshell Pants repel water, resist abrasions, and block wind. The material’s build made wicking moister a plus, and I never felt wet after heavy exertion. The thin material also made for an incredible amount of stretch, which will be further essential while rock climbing. During dramatic stems and high-steps, I felt no restriction of movement by these pants.

The trade-off was evident though. The thin material’s benefit of stretch and breathability came at the price of warmth. These pants were obviously not meant for mid-winter, but easily accommodate an extra layer if needs be. One legitimate area for improvement would be revising the buckle to a style more in-line with the “B.V.D Pants.” I found the clasp a little bulky over the snap buttons. Also, positioning the two halves to perfectly align, occasionally required more attention than desired. Aside from these minor, potential enhancements, I found the Alpine Softshell Pant to be a rock-star for a large diversity of conditions and activity.

Punisher Gloves

The Black Diamond  Punisher gloves were an ideal choice; my hands stayed warm the entire time. Fitting gloves have always been a tricky thing for me. In the case of the Punishers, I had a bit too much material at the tips of my fingers for quick, nibble use of gear such as unclipping carabiners. The lower size, medium, restricted my movement, yet the large left too much material off the tips of my fingers. Perhaps my hands are oddly shaped. Regardless, these gloves kept my hands warm through snowstorms and also while working on my van at night in Ouray, Colorado. Although the gloves got wet, the moisture never penetrated, and they were quick to dry on the dashboard with the heater on. The thumbs had perfect texture over the thumbs for wiping and the cuffs fit snuggly over every jacket without ever coming undone. The Velcro seemed to stick and hold through everything. I am excited to have such a working-horse glove that is sure to keep my hands warm in the dampest cold, when water is constantly melting and freezing.
Also, it’s rare to have a glove that will warm my hands once they are already cold. By simply pushing my cold hands inside, warmth always returned.

Half Dome Helmet

This helmet fits and feels as good as it looks. I can’t speak for all shapes and sizes of other heads, but the rear adjustment dial brought the Half Dome helmet into a near custom fit. Some helmets feel lose and cheap in the adjustment components. It was nice to use a helmet that was solid and secure all the way around.
Helmets are not an item I give much thought to, so long as it’s not distracting me. On this point, I often forgot I was wearing this helmet and the build suggests it could handle a major impact from falling objects. All my boxes were checked, along with it’s lower profile, covering the sides of my head.
For the price point, style, strong build, and reasonable weight…I honestly can’t suggest room for improvement. It is a great helmet that I will surely recommend to others.

Frontpoint Gaiter

These gators took on a seemingly tailored fit to my boot and calf. I never had the need to adjust them and they worked flawlessly to keep snow and ice out. The stiffness and strength of the Velcro was paramount to the gaiters remaining fastened. Although I used them with the Scarpa Phantom, which lacks exterior laces, there were no issues keeping the gaiters tight to the boot.

The only enhancement I could suggest would be in regards to the elastic drawstring at the top. After tightening the top, the excess elastic string was bouncing around, looking silly. I did manage to trap it in the Velcro, but perhaps there could be a small loop or sleeve for trapping the excess string…making the system more streamline.

There was a moment where my crampon sliced right along the side of my gaiter. While I began thinking, “this is why I can’t have nice things,” I looked down and didn’t even notice a scratch. These gaiters are tough and have a sleek, sexy profile. Thank you for these!


All photos courtesy of Seth Kazmer & Christine Griffith