'The First Light Hoody's ace on the hoof thanks to PrimaLoft Active fill and carefully chosen fabrics, but its narrow technical mountaineering focus limits its all-round mountain versatility '
Outdoors Magic: Decently breathable, very wind resistant, neat, very fitted cut helped by stretch fabric, reasonably warm, nicely detailed, some water resistance too. And a helmet hood.
Outdoors Tragic: Non-adjustable hood doesn't fit well without a helmet. Pockets sit under a harness.
Outdoors Grabbit? It fits beautifully in an uncompromisingly trim way and is neatly specced. Breathable PrimaLoft Active fill works well in damp conditions and is more breathable than standard PrimaLoft, which means you can happily wear the First Light on the move in cold conditions - great for stop/go mountain stuff. The non-adjustable helmet hood limits its general usability though. It flops around without a lid and blows off in windy conditions, so effectively it's a mountaineering or bust option, not a general mountain all-rounder.
First Light Hoody Ratings
Outright Warmth [rating score="2.5"]
Packability [rating score="3.5"]
Damp-proofing [rating score="4"]
Overall: [rating score="4"]
Lightweight synthetic-filled active use jacket / PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Active / Schoeller® face fabric / anosphere® Technology / insulated wind-flap / helmet-compatible hood / single-adjust hem / internal stuff chest-pocket with carabiner loop / concealed-zip hand pockets / primary fabric Bluesign approved.
Full Review Below
Black Diamond First Light Hoody - The Stuffing
The First Light uses a version of the market-leading PrimaLoft synthetic fill called PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Active. Like normal PrimaLoft, it's very water-resistant and retains a claimed 91% of warmth even when wet.
What makes it different to bog standard PrimaLoft is that it doesn't escape as easily through the fabric of the jacket, which in turn means brands can use more breathable fabrics that aren't 100% windproof which in turn makes the whole garment much better for use on the hoof, which is exactly what BD has done here.
Black Diamond First Light Hoody - Performance
We picked up a First Light Hoody from BD back at the 2016 ISPO show in February, so we've had it for a while. It's an interesting jacket, but quite specialised in use. It not super light at just under 500g, but packs down to a ball around the size of a melon, complete with a clip-loop.
The fit is lovely and close, very definitely not traditional US-style barrel cut, which limits its market slightly, but we like it a lot. Unlike conventional insulated jackets, the light, soft-feeling, but tough Schoeller face fabric - also bluesign approved - isn't 100% windproof, but that means you can use the First Light on the move in cold conditions without going into steaming kettle mode.
Great for mountaineering outings and stop / go climbing missions. It's not super warm by any means, but that works for us too, on the move at least. It's also breathable enough to use as a mid-layer under a waterproof shell if conditions really crap out on you.
Hoods You Lose
All that's good, but a couple of tweaks would make for a jacket that's both more all-round versatile and also more functional for the technical user it's aimed at. First, the hood is designed to work with a climbing helmet, which it does nicely. However over a bare head, it's voluminous and floppy and in seriously windy conditions, just blows off.
'Yes, it's a technical mountaineering piece, but climbers don't wear helmets all the time'
Yes, it's a technical mountaineering piece, but climbers don't wear helmets all the time and it also limits the all-round versatility of the jacket.
Why not add adjustability and allow folk to use it for more general use as well as with a helmet for technical climbing? Ot maybe just use an under-helmet hood.
Second, the neat hand-warmer pockets sit directly under a pack-belt or harness, which makes them superfluous actually on the route and potentially during walk-ins. Napoleon-style chest pockets would be more versatile in our experience.
Black Diamond First Light Hoody - Verdict
There's a lot of stuff we really like about the First Light Hoody. It gives a good combination of warmth, weather protection - shrugs off wind and showers - is breathable enough to comfortable use on the move in cold conditions and has a lovely, trim cut too.
No problem if it gets damp either. It still works and dries reasonably quickly too. Finally you can also layer it under a waterproof if necessary.
The hood is pretty uncompromising though, it simply demands that you wear a helmet or risk it blowing off in any sort of strong wind. And while it's not necessarily a deal-breaker, the hand-pocket placement makes them hard to use with a harness or some packs.
A good call if you can cope with the compromises, but a few design tweaks would make it even better.