Black Diamond Solution 150 Merino Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Odor resistance, NuYarn technology, thumb loops, all-day comfort
Cons: Expensive, susceptible to abrasion
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Our Analysis and Test Results
NuYarn is an innovative spinning technology aimed at creating the "world's first performance wool." It is also the focal point of the Black Diamond Solution base layer. The goal of NuYarn is to capture the essence (read: superpowers) of wool as it would perform in its natural environment — on the backs of sheep. Blasting traditional spinning techniques of ring or core-spun merino wool, NuYarn has proven through independent testing to offer a 35% improvement on thermoregulation by creating 35% more loft within the wool fibers, and the ability to dry five times faster. Since the wool is not spun or compressed, there are improvements to elasticity without the aid of spandex. Additionally, issues of spirality have all but been eliminated — you know this commonly as the sagging loss of shape many Merino layers succumb to over time.
The first highlight of NuYarn — and thus the Black Diamond Solution base layer, as an exemplary case study of this revolutionary material — is the improved loft within the wool fibers. Opting for a non-twisting technique that "drafts" the Merino fibers along a polyester filament, the two-ply yarn maintains natural air pockets within the fibers.
Air pockets are the best line of defense against convective heat loss. Without impeding breathability, this natural barrier offers a level of thermoregulation on par with much heavier-weight garments at nearly half the fabric weight. That means that you can save your energy for the bootpack rather than spending it trying to maintain your core temperature.
Before we go any further, we would like to address Black Diamond's marketing claims. Our lead tester wore this shirt for a packed, mid-winter work week: long days of ski patrolling which rolled right into a weekend of teaching avalanche courses — going so far as to even sleep in it each night. And after that experience, just like the "consummate ski guide", Mike Barney, expresses in the marketing video, "no, it's not going to smell." We fully concur.
This may seem unbelievable — even by day seven, we couldn't quite believe it ourselves — but the secret lies in the innovative merino wool-polyester blend of NuYarn. The key to unparalleled odor control, and concurrently breathability, is moisture management. Not only do the aforementioned air pockets improve thermoregulation, but the lofted fibers allow for better freedom of airflow. So even though it feels more substantial on your body, the Solution breathes just as well as other, directly comparable lightweight layers.
Comfort and Fit
As we've said before, merino-blend base layers tend to draw out the best of both materials, resulting in a superior piece in terms of both performance and comfort. The Solution is no exception, especially because the NuYarn is drafted in such a way that the merino wool fibers are drawn around the polyester filament. This means that next-to-skin, this top feels just as plush as a 100% merino top. The main exception is, of course, that it holds its shape better over time.
Though they may be at the top of the pile with regard to comfort, 100% merino wool layers tend to lose vigor over the lifespan of the layer. Repeated washings — plus the fact that they cannot safely be tumble dried — means that eventually, that slender-cut shirt slumps into more of a saggy, relaxed fit layer. Since NuYarn does not spin fibers that could eventually become unspun, you can expect that the Solution will maintain its slim, athletic fit for much longer than a full merino wool top.
This is a contentious point in considering the otherwise remarkable performance of the Solution. While both NuYarn and Black Diamond claim that this top "dries [5-times] faster than other Merino wool fabrics," the data from our air dry test would suggest otherwise. While this top took 45 minutes to completely air dry — even in the arid climate of the desert Southwest — a comparable, 100% merino wool top that even weighs 50 g/m² more (with regard to fabric weight) only took 35 minutes to dry in the same test, under the same conditions.
Despite our laboratory results, based on our experience in the field we would still argue for the fast-drying capability of the Solution top. The majority merino component of NuYarn allows for the fabric to quickly wick up sweat and distribute it evenly through the fabric for efficient evaporation. Even when working our hardest while skinning uphill, this base layer never even came close to feeling either damp or even clammy.
Similarly to drying speed, we have good reason to question the durability of the Solution. We do know from experience and time spent in the field that the full flatlock construction makes it much more hearty in resisting damage from stretching or snags. But since our "laboratory" is really just a backyard gear shed, we have no way of verifying the torque tests that qualify NuYarn as "120% stronger than traditional Merino seams."
What we can refute is its resistance to abrasion: in our reliable abrasion test, the weave of this layer wore completely through, which makes it objectively less durable when compared side-by-side with other models in this review. A result of this test is our recommendation of this base layer for skiers, who will wear this under an outer layer, rather than climbers who might wear through this expensive piece hauling up a desert tower.
As we noted before, the improved elasticity of the NuYarn weave results in a top that is slim cut and form-fitting, but not overly tight. As a next-to-skin layer, it is easy to pair the Solution with any matter of mid and outer-layers, without fear of any uncomfortable constrictions. The drop hem makes it easy to tuck into your bottom base layers, and thumb-loops are comfortable to wear under gloves — or simply make it easier to pull on notoriously grabby gridded fleece layers.
Though only some will qualify it as a layer, for those who regularly wear backpacks for extended periods, you will greatly appreciate the individual shoulder panels that pull seams down off the top of your shoulder, alleviating a common pressure point under the backpack strap.
Similar to the progressive design of the fan-favorite Patagonia Capilene Air Crew, the Solution carries a substantial price tag, especially considering that this really only qualifies as a lightweight base layer. But based on its high-level performance — and the fact that you actually can live out of this shirt for weeks at a time — the investment is well worth it, particularly for those who live and work in the mountains.
Despite the price tag, the value of the Black Diamond Solution is undeniable. NuYarn technology might just revolutionize how we look at merino wool-blend base layers, and this top helps lead that charge by offering an amazing blend of all-day performance and all-week comfort. If you live to ski, invest in a base layer that is up to that calling.
— Aaron Rice
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