Black Diamond First Light Hoody
The Black Diamond First Light Hoody keeps me warm…
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Black Diamond for testing and review)
The Black Diamond First Light Hoody keeps me warm and toasty in the great outdoors. However, the PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active synthetic insulation lacks the snuggly comfort of down and even some other PrimaLoft jackets I've worn. For this reason, it doesn’t always make the cut when I’m packing my bag for a full day outdoor adventure.
- Water resistant
- Easy to layer
- Hood and cuffs are lined with elastic
- Synthetic feel
I tested the Black Diamond First Light from late January through April as a member of the Trailspace Review Corps. I wore the First Light while backcountry and front-country skiing, fat biking, hiking, and snowshoeing in and around the White Mountains. During this time I wore the First Light in temperatures ranging from single digits to the upper 40s (Fahrenheit).
Fit & Comfort
The First Light fits true to size. I’m 5'4" with a short, fairly narrow torso (35" hip, 27" waist, 33" chest, 15.5" torso length), and the size small fits perfectly. The arms are long enough to avoid riding up on my wrists when my arms are fully extended.
The fit of the jacket is comfortable and allows for unrestricted movement. During the time I’ve spent testing it, I had no issues with material pilling, fraying, or chafing.
This may sound picky, but I wish the inner liner, a woven nylon mesh (65 gsm, 100% nylon), was more "slippery," for lack of a better term. I notice friction when putting the jacket on, and have to remember to hold the cuffs of my baselayers to prevent them from creeping up on my arms. It’s not a big deal, but is an extra step that I don’t always remember to take when I’m out on the trail.
One of my favorite features of the First Light is the arm openings. I like the simplicity—just a stretchy cuff that flexes to accommodate thick layers, such as mittens, but is also comfortable when the First Light is layered under an outer shell.
The hip opening can be adjusted using a single drawcord. It’s a nice feature for keeping snow and cold air from seeping in.
Drawcord at hip
True to its name, the First Light Hoody has a hood. It’s described on the Black Diamond website as “climbing helmet compatible.” I don’t climb, but here is a photo of me wearing a borrowed climbing helmet, just to give a sense of the fit of the hood.
Hood with climbing helmet front view (above) and side view (below)
In the winter, I often wore the First Light while backcountry skiing. My helmet will fit under the hood, but it’s a bit tight. I certainly won’t ding Black Diamond for this, as the hood is not designed to accommodate a ski helmet.
Ski helmet with hood partially zipped (above) and fully zipped (below)
Side view of hood with ski helmet (below)
The rim of the hood is lined with the same elastic as the cuffs, which allows it to easily accommodate a helmet without the need to mess around with drawcords. That being said, on a really windy day the hood cannot be cinched down around the face with the same snugness that a hood with drawcords would provide.
Water & Wind Resistance
The First Light is not waterproof. The outer shell is composed of a stretch woven Schoeller nylon material (80 gsm, 93% nylon, 7% elastane) that incorporates NanoSphere Technology to maintain water resistance. The result is the shell easily sheds light snow and rain. However, it’s certainly not the jacket to wear out into a heavy rainstorm.
One benefit of the PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active is that it will still keep you warm when wet. This provides a sense of security when out on the trail, especially in New England where the weather is unpredictable.
The jacket also does a nice job of blocking wind. Wind can get in through small gaps in the hood, as there are no drawcords in the hood of the First Light.
Black Diamond advertises the First Light as highly breathable. I find it compares to other insulated hoodies I’ve worn in that there is some breathability, but it certainly has its limits. If I don't take the time to stop and remove the First Light when I really start to heat up, I'm going to be sweaty by the time I reach the summit.
Warmth & Layering
I usually wore the First Light as either an outer layer on relatively warm winter days (temperatures in the high 20s and 30s), or under a shell in colder temperatures or during a ski descent.
The First Light consistently kept me warm and toasty on the trail and the slope. I tend to enjoy fairly high intensity activities in the outdoors, and for this reason appreciate outdoor apparel that plays well with others. I’m constantly shedding layers and piling them back on depending upon the weather conditions and the intensity of what I’m up to while out in the woods. This First Light is great for layering in this regard.
The baffling in the body of the First Light seems to do its job effectively. During my time wearing the First Light, the insulation has stayed in place—no issues with bunching or “bare spots.”
While the PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active in the First Light (60 gsm, 100% polyester) is warm and provides a sense of security in that it can withstand wet conditions, I struggle with the overall feel of the jacket. It’s difficult to explain, but it just feels synthetic. It doesn’t have that same comfy wrap-yourself-up-in-a-feathery-hug feel as a down jacket, or even the other PrimaLoft jacket I own. Despite all the great qualities of the First Light, the feel of it is something I just haven’t been able to get around.
Abrasion, Construction, & Durability
One clear strength of the First Light is abrasion resistance and durability. While the shells of other insulated jackets I’ve worn are susceptible to tearing, the outer of the First Light is a beefy Schoeller stretch-woven nylon. It’s stood up to the abrasion of pack straps, being shoved in and pulled out of my pack, and all the usual outdoor gear wear and tear.
Function & Ease of Use
Zippers: The main zipper on the First Light is lined. This prevents catching and abrasion. The zipper operates as expected—no issues.
Pockets: The First Light consists of two hip pockets and one large internal chest pocket that doubles as the stuff pocket. The chest pocket is good sized and is constructed of flexible mesh, which allows the jacket to be stuffed into this pocket with relative ease.
Interior chest pocket (with iPhone 7 for scale)
Both hip pockets incorporate zipper closures, which are set into the pockets. I like this feature as it keeps the zipper out of the elements so the contents of the pocket remain high and dry. The hip pockets are large enough to carry a phone and/or a small trail map.
Hip pocket unzipped (above) and zipped (below)
Hip pocket again—I'm trying to give a sense of how the zipper is set into the pocket a bit for an extra layer of protection (which is tough to capture on camera)
The First Light is surprisingly packable. Here it is compared to another insulated jacket I own (the Cathode Hooded Jacket by Outdoor Research). It’s heavier than the Cathode, but I was surprised to note that the weight difference is hardly noticeable.
First Light in stuff pocket (below) compared to OR Cathode (above)
The price of an item is such an individual decision. What may be a good deal for one adventurer could break the bank of another. When I consider the price of an item, I think about how it compares to other similar gear I’ve purchased.
The price of the First Light is listed as $249 on Black Diamond’s website. It’s not exorbitant, but is on the higher end compared to other similar items on the market. I’d expect to pay closer to $200 for this jacket, perhaps even a bit less.
I enjoyed testing the First Light for the past three months. It’s a warm, reliable, versatile layer that withstands abrasion and the outdoor elements. However, the First Light has a synthetic feel to it that I just can't seem to get beyond. This may not be an issue for other outdoor enthusiasts. However, if you are someone who really enjoys the snuggly feel of a great down jacket, the First Light may not be the ideal choice for you.