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Black Diamond Sharp End Review

This jacket comes with the standard set of features and it will keep you dry, but our testers didn't like the uncomfortable fit of the collar
Black Diamond Sharp End
Photo: Black Diamond
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Price:  $550 List | $384.26 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Durable, good weather protection
Cons:  Tight, uncomfortable collar, small hood
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 8, 2020
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65
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 15
  • Weather Protection - 30% 7
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Mobility and Fit - 20% 6
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 7
  • Features and Design - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Sharp End is a durable hardshell with an array of functional features, making it a versatile option for ice climbing, skiing in the backcountry, and even storm days at the resort. Our testers, however, don't like the fit as much as some other models — their specific beef is the tight-fitting collar that feels uncomfortable when zipping the jacket all the way up with a few layers and a helmet underneath.

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Pros Durable, good weather protectionLightweight, form fitting, great storm hood, superior construction quality, reasonable priceUnrivaled weather protection, decent venting options, perfect fitAwesome weather protection, fits great, very mobileSturdy, real weather protection, mobile athletic fit, pit zips
Cons Tight, uncomfortable collar, small hoodCrinkly and noisy, very little ventilation, few pockets, short front hemExpensive, not ultralight, mediocre breathabilitySkin pockets a bit too narrow, small ventilation zips, unreliable wrist cuffsHeavy, expensive, mediocre features for the weight
Bottom Line If the fit doesn't bother you, the Sharp End will serve you well for ice climbing and ski touringStands out among some stiff competition with its simple and solid designOur favorite hardshell for serious adventuresTurns out a company known for skis and bindings also makes a great jacket for touringCasual styling and serious weather protection
Rating Categories Black Diamond Sharp End Arc'teryx Alpha FL Mammut Nordwand Advanced Dynafit Radical Outdoor Research Archangel
Weather Protection (30%)
7
9
10
8
9
Weight (20%)
5
9
6
7
4
Mobility And Fit (20%)
6
7
8
8
8
Venting And Breathability (20%)
7
7
8
8
7
Features And Design (10%)
8
7
6
8
7
Specs Black Diamond... Arc'teryx Alpha FL Mammut Nordwand... Dynafit Radical Outdoor Research...
Pit Zips Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Measured Weight (size large) 16.8 oz 11.8 oz 16.0 oz 15.4 oz 19.4 oz
Material Gore-Tex Pro 3L, 70D nylon Gore-Tex with N40p-X face fabric 3-layer 100% nylon Gore-Tex Pro Gore-Tex Pro with C-Knit backer Gore-Tex Pro 3L, 70D nylon
Pockets 2 handwarmer, 1 chest, 1 internal 1 external chest, 1 internal chest 2 front, 1 internal 2 side handwarmer, 1 sleeve, 2 internal stash 2 hand, 1 internal
Helmet Compatible Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hood Draw Cords 1 3 3 1 3
Adjustable Cuffs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Two-Way Front Zipper No No Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

This jacket manages to be super durable with 70D shell fabric yet stay competitive weight wise. Folks who are really counting grams, however, will want something lighter like the Arc'teryx Alpha FL. In terms of weather protection and features, the Shap End is nearly on par with the highest scoring models.

Perormance Comparison


This jacket fits well enough until you zip it all the way up. Then...
This jacket fits well enough until you zip it all the way up. Then the collar feels uncomfortably tight and restrictive, especially you're wearing layers underneath.
Photo: Matt Bento

Weather Protection


Gore-tex Pro, combined with a 70D nylon shell fabric, keeps out precip of all kinds, from driving rain to pelting grapple. The hood on the Sharp End only has a single rear adjustment point — most of its competitors feature drawcords in the rear and the front of the hood to secure it in the optimal spot for comfort and keeping precip out of your face. The single rear adjustment seems adequate for hiking around, and we didn't experience any leaks during our shower testing. However, we prefer hoods with front adjustments for skiing or climbing in the worst conditions.

The 70D shell fabric paired with a Gore-Tex Pro membrane offers...
The 70D shell fabric paired with a Gore-Tex Pro membrane offers uncompromising weather protection, though we felt claustrophobic with the hood up.
Photo: Matt Bento

Weight and Packability


The men's size large Sharp End Shell weighed 16.8 ounces according to our scales. That's right in line with similar models including the stretchy Patagonia Galvanized Jacket. While we don't consider this "ultralight" (check out the stripped-down Arcteryx FL if that's your game), this jacket has plenty of features without being too heavy. The shell fabric isn't especially packable, so we're only likely to carry this jacket if the forecast suggests we'll be wearing it for the majority of the day.

At 16 ounces, we're most likely to use this jacket when conditions...
At 16 ounces, we're most likely to use this jacket when conditions are consistently windy or precipitous. On warmer days (like when this photo was taken) a more packable jacket like the Arc'teryx Alpha FL would be a better choice.
Photo: Matt Bento

Mobility and Fit


This jacket provides plenty of mobility through the shoulders, and the arms are of adequate length. We thankfully never experienced the sleeves riding up when climbing or skiing. The tight fit of the collar is a major flaw in the design of this jacket and results in a low score in this metric. Even without a mid-layer or helmet, the collar pressed uncomfortably into our necks when we zipped the jacket all the way up. Putting the hood up doesn't make it feel any better, and the overall experience is a claustrophobic one. We could size this jacket up to potentially get some more room in the collar, but the shoulders and torso fit well and allowed for plenty of room for a mid-layer - so we think we ordered the right size.

We'd like for the hemline to be a little lower or more articulation...
We'd like for the hemline to be a little lower or more articulation through the shoulders and arms to prevent the dreaded "rideup".
Photo: Matt Bento

Venting and Breathability


Breathability is a challenging metric to measure. Gore-Tex requires the humidity inside the jacket to be greater than the humidity outside the jacket for moisture to diffuse through the membrane. Gore-Tex Pro is on the more durable and less breathable side of the Gore-tex spectrum. To keep you from becoming too sweaty in the first place, the Sharp End features two 15" pit zips. Open them up at the bottom of the hill so you won't be clammy at the top. Opening pit vents negate the moisture diffusion process, but it cools us off in a substantial way we can feel.

Two 15" pit zips up the breathability factor, especially when...
Two 15" pit zips up the breathability factor, especially when conditions aren't ideal for moisture diffusion through the Gore-Tex membrane.
Photo: Matt Bento

Features


The Sharp End has some sweet features for easy operation when it's cold, number one being the large, rigid plastic zipper pulls. These are very easy to grab ahold of while wearing gloves, even when you can't see them because the jacket is zipped up all the way and you're feeling around for the pit zippers. The cuffs also employ a stiff molded plastic tab to operate the velcro closure. They keep the cuffs in place, seal in warmth, and are easy to adjust while wearing gloves or mitts. For pockets, you get two hefty sized handwarmer pockets, an external chest pocket, and an internal chest pocket. BD refers to the internal pocket as a stretch pocket with a cord port, but the version we purchased didn't have a porthole, and it's not at all stretchy. Still, it's nice to have a place to store the small items you need to keep dry.

The tight-fitting collar elicited disappointment across the board...
The tight-fitting collar elicited disappointment across the board. It very restrictive and unusable with a helmet or a layer underneath.
Photo: Matt Bento

Value


A $550 investment gets you a durable weatherproof layer and isn't an insane amount of money for a garment that uses the Gore-Tex Pro membrane considering that there are $600+ offerings from Arc'teryx and The North Face. For a better, less expensive choice for alpine climbing, we suggest the Patagonia Glavanized Jacket.

Conclusion


The tight collar and small-fitting hood are the two big deal breakers for our testers. For this kind of money, you don't want to make many compromises, and even though this jacket provides excellent defense against the elements, the fit is not something we want to compromise. If you have the opportunity to try this model on and the hood and collar don't bother you, then you should feel great about purchasing this tough and functional jacket.

Matt Bento