Black Diamond Highline Shell | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Black Diamond Highline Shell | Review

Find out how our gear testers fared with this new award-winning jacket from Black Diamond

Why We Chose The Black Diamond Highline Shell: Eco-friendly aspects, good protection, useful technical features

Alpine equipment specialists Black Diamond have come up with something very interesting here. Their brand new Highline Stretch three-layer waterproof jacket features a technology we’ve not seen before, one that supposedly means the jacket will never need to be re-proofed.

Who Is The Black Diamond Highline Shell For?

With its waterproof and breathable build, as well as its protective hood and technical details, this is one of those jackets that we reckon any alpinists or ski mountaineers are going to love. It’s also just about light enough for lightweight backpackers to consider as well.


Black Diamond’s proprietary BD.Dry waterproof fabric is featured here. It’s a three-layer design with a nice bit of stretch to it and an overall lightweight feel. The hydrostatic head (waterproof rating) is a fairly decent 20,000mm while the moisture vapour transition rate (breathability) measures 20,000g/m2/24hours. That breathability rating is fairly middle of the road on paper, but that doesn’t take into account the big amount of airflow you’ll get with the pit zips fully opened up.

The hood has the volume to cater for a helmet and good adjustment when you need to cinch it right in. Photo: Mike Brindley

The main talking point is the GTT Breathable Waterproof Protection Technology it uses. In other words, the type of durable water repellent treatment (DWR). DWR is the stuff that prevents the outer fabric of a waterproof jacket from getting saturated and losing its breathability. When you see rain beading on the surface, that’s a DWR doing its job. It’s been a bit of a talking point in the outdoor industry for a couple of reasons: first of all because many types of DWR have relied on eco-hazardous PFCs and secondly, because it doesn’t take long before they lose their effectiveness and need to be reapplied. With this jacket however, they claim to have got round those two problems. Made by a company called Green Theme Technologies, the Highline’s DWR is not only PFC-free and made with low water wastage, but it’s also much, much longer lasting than standard DWRs as well.

The secret is in its method of ‘covalent molecular bonding’. This causes the polymers of the DWR to lock to the fibres of a fabric, as opposed to just layering on top and washing away with a few heavy spells of rainfall or after going in the wash. It’s pretty unique stuff; so far we’re only aware of Jack Wolfskin using anything similar.

Opening up the pit zips will bring bucket loads of airflow. Photo: Mike Brindley
YKK Aguaguard water resistant zips feature throughout. Photo: Mike Brindley
The Highline picked up one of the big awards at last winter's ISPO tradeshow. Photo: Mike Brindley


All the right performance features are here on the Black Diamond Highline Stretch. The hood, for instance, is helmet compatible and very protective thanks to its cinch system and wired peak, the zips are all sealed by YKK Aquaguard lamination and there’s those pit zips we mentioned which will open right up without leaving you exposed to rainfall. As for pockets, you have a small one on the chest that’s concealed by a storm flap and then two medium sized zipped handwarmers which are well placed so that they can be accessed even when you’re wearing a harness or a backpack with a hipbelt. The cuffs feature neat Velcro tabs and there’s a toggled hem adjustment.

Tester’s Verdict

Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

“Unfortunately with the UK lockdown restrictions I haven’t been able to test this out in the gnarly mountain conditions it’s made for. I have, however, managed to get out in it during some pretty wet trips to the hills.

“It’s one of the best quality jackets I’ve come across this year actually”

“The breathability with the pit zips closed is OK, but you can really get some airflow going once they’re open. Waterproofness has been spot on. No problems there at all.

“The whole thing looks and feels well made. It’s one of the best quality jackets I’ve come across this year actually. I really like how it balances the level of durability and overall weight. In other words, it’s got a strong reliable build to it but without weighing a ton.

The hood has enough volume for a helment but can be cinched right in for full protection as well. Photo: Mike Brindley

“The length and fit is cut quite similar to a snowboarding jacket. For instance, it has a longer hem that covers the tops of your trouser pockets and drops slightly further down at the back and there’s plenty of volume to it as well – definitely enough to fit a few insulating layers underneath. I tried my usual size, a men’s M and found it spot on. I’m a big fan of jackets with a bit more length to them, though if you like your Rab-style jackets that are cut right at the waist, stick with Rab!

“It’s about time I mentioned the performance of that long-life DWR. First of all, it worked from the get-go, with rainfall beading nicely on it. There hasn’t really been any noticeable degradation after three months either, perhaps maybe just a little at the shoulders and on the back where my backpack straps have been rubbing away. Three months is still too little to be able to give you a proper verdict on the longevity of it however, so I’ll look to come back and give you a more comprehensive assessment in a month or two I’m afraid!”

Black Diamond Highline Shell

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