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Black Diamond Solution 150 Merino Review

Innovative fabric technology help this layer stand out for backcountry skiing use, offering a high-performance value that more than makes up for the investment
Black Diamond Solution 150 Merino
Photo: Black Diamond
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $120 List | $119.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Odor resistance, NuYarn technology, thumb loops, all-day comfort
Cons:  Expensive, susceptible to abrasion
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 27, 2021
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 16
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Breathability - 20% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Drying Speed - 10% 6
  • Durability - 15% 4
  • Layering Ability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

From ski bums to ski guides, there is a nagging question that permeates: "Can I get away with wearing this layer all week?" Well, the Black Diamond Solution lives up to its name with a confident answer to that problem: "Yes." With a fabric weight of 150 g/m², this top straddles the line between light and midweight, making it a versatile option for high-output activity, particularly in the colder seasons. An easily tucked-in drop-seat and garage-style thumb loops keep snow and cold out, but it is the cutting-edge NuYarn technology that really sets this merino wool blend apart from the rest. Though expense may weigh negatively against some durability issues, the Solution is definitively a valuable addition to your ski touring kit.

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Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award 
Price $119.95 at Backcountry
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$59 List$59.99 at Amazon$48.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Odor resistance, NuYarn technology, thumb loops, all-day comfortTemperature regulation, ultra-cozy, balance of warmth and breathabilitySpectra is the strongest fabric material on the market, lightweight, quick-drying, merino wool-like comfortAffordable, fashionable fit, breathableAffordable, tough and ultralight, thoughtful articulation, UPF protection
Cons Expensive, susceptible to abrasionExpensive, recommend special laundering, slow to air-dryEasily picks up odor, stiff collar, lack of articulationFiner thread Merino is not quite as warm, slightly itchy, shoulder top seamsIneffective odor control, warm-weather focused
Bottom Line Innovative fabric technology help this layer stand out for backcountry skiing use, offering a high-performance value that more than makes up for the investmentThis all-around favorite continues to keep us warm, dry, and comfortable in nearly any situationAn ultralight, breathable base layer that incorporates Spectra fiber to make it the most durable on the marketThis top delivers the fine qualities of a merino wool base layer without the extreme costA versatile, lightweight, and affordable layer that protects from the sun and fights off the chill of early adventure mornings
Rating Categories Black Diamond Solut... SmartWool Merino 25... NW Alpine Spectra Meriwool Midweight... Outdoor Research Ec...
Warmth (25%)
7.0
9.0
5.0
8.0
5.0
Breathability (20%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Drying Speed (10%)
6.0
5.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Durability (15%)
4.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Layering Ability (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Black Diamond Solut... SmartWool Merino 25... NW Alpine Spectra Meriwool Midweight... Outdoor Research Ec...
Material NuYarn: 78% merino wool, 22% polyester 100% merino wool 90% polyester, and 10% Spectra 100% merino wool Airvent 100% polyester
Fabric Weight 150 g/m² 250 g/m² 105 g/m² 250g/m² 108 g/m²
Weight (size M) 6.5 oz 9.3 oz 4.8 oz 9.8 oz 3.4 oz
Types available crew crew, 1/4 zip, hoody crew, short sleeve crew crew, 1/4 zip, hoody
Thumb Loops? Yes No No No No
Air Dry Test (minutes) 45 50 40 45 30
Fit Slim fit Slim fit Slim fit Slim fit Slim fit
Stitching Flatlock seams Flatlock seams Flatlock and flat seams Flatlock and flat seams Flatlock seams
Dryer safe? No No No No Yes
Shoulder top seams? No No Yes Yes No
Drop tail hem? No No No Yes No

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.

Performance Comparison


Uphill, downhill, or a lot of both, the BD Solution is a performance...
Uphill, downhill, or a lot of both, the BD Solution is a performance base layer designed for long adventures in the mountains.
Photo: Jill Rice

Warmth


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.

Even as a lightweight base layer, this top provides distinctly more...
Even as a lightweight base layer, this top provides distinctly more warmth than others of comparable fabric weight.
Photo: Jill Rice

Breathability


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.

Late spring ski mountaineering often means spending hours at warmer...
Late spring ski mountaineering often means spending hours at warmer altitudes below snow line. This top excels at thermoregulation, even if you're walking out in what otherwise might be summer.
Photo: Jill Rice

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.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Drying Speed


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.


Related: How We Tested Base Layers

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.

While it may take a few minutes longer than other, similarly...
While it may take a few minutes longer than other, similarly weighted tops to dry out after washing, this top efficiently wicks away moisture to keep you dry even on long, steep approaches.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Durability


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.

An unfortunate casualty of our aggressive abrasion test, this is...
An unfortunate casualty of our aggressive abrasion test, this is best worn as a base layer rather for skiing instead of standalone top for climbing.
Photo: Jill Rice

Layering Ability


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.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Value


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.

Ski patrollers don't make a lot of money. But from one patroller to...
Ski patrollers don't make a lot of money. But from one patroller to another, this base layer is well worth the investment if you are going to plan on working in it every day.
Photo: Jill Rice

Conclusion


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.

If you spend most of your winter out in the elements, this is the...
If you spend most of your winter out in the elements, this is the top for you. Here, our head tester leads a group of students through an avalanche rescue drill.
Photo: Jill Rice

Aaron Rice