Black Diamond Access Hoody Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Access Hoody is heavier than the Xenon X but still not as warm. It doesn't breathe as well as jackets like the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody or the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody, but it does provide better weather resistance than the breathable options. Its stretchy mesh stowaway pocket makes it easy to pack away. The Access excels where it really counts, and has good wind and water resistance, at a very nice price, earning it our Best Buy Award.
Filled with Primaloft gold insulation, the Access Hoody feels a little on the thin side compared to the lofty Rab Nimbus, a warmer, heavier jacket. It's heavier than the Rab Xenon X, but can't match the Xenon's warmth.
To save weight, the Access Hoody is body mapped; this means that the insulation is concentrated in the torso and lighter in the sleeves and hood. The insulation is a little too light for our tester's tastes, but it makes this jacket a decent mid layer and a bang for the buck.
The breathable Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody is a loftier, warmer insulator at roughly the same weight, and costs around $100 more. We feel this jacket is warmer than the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody and The North Face Summit L3 Ventrix Hybrid Hoody.
Weight & Compressibility
The Access Hoody tipped our scales at a respectably light 12.3 ounces. For those who are counting, that's four ounces more than the super light Patagonia MicroPuff . However, this hoody is way more durable than the MicroPuff. The Tuolumne Search and Rescue Team has used Access hoodies for two seasons now, and they're still holding up nicely. Since they work in alpine conditions, the Access Hoody comes along on almost every mission, no matter what time of year, since it takes up very little space in their packs.
The balance of light weight and durability make for an ideal puffy. As far as compressibility goes, this jacket packs away very small into its chest pocket without much effort. The pocket is constructed of a stretchy mesh material, and it's one of our favorite stowaway pocket designs. A small clip-in loop allows you to secure the jacket to the back of your harness and forget about it.
This hoody is form-fitting without feeling restrictive thanks to the stretchy underarm panels. The cuffs are stretchy, but we'd like them stretchier! A few testers couldn't pull the sleeves up as much as they'd like. We're not huge fans of the hood either.
The hood is large and can fit over a helmet, but there's no cinch cord or elastic to secure it in place; it often gets in your face when you turn your head to the left and right, for instance, when you're riding your bike through a busy intersection. We like the two-way zipper, which makes it easier to belay on multi-pitch rock climbs, a feature sorely lacking on many of the other jackets in this review (we're looking at you, Patagonia HyperPuff). Two zippered handwarmer pockets are there for your cold hands or to secure essential items like headlamps, lighters or maps, plus an internal chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack.
The Access Hoody performs really well in wet conditions. Its durable waterproof repellent (DWR) treatment is very effective, causing water to bead up and roll off the jacket. In our high-pressure shower testing, only the thick Patagonia HyperPuff performed better. After a solid five minutes of simulated heavy precip, water soaked through. DWR treatments are less effective when your jacket it is dirty, and are most likely to fail in the oily spots where the jacket comes in contact with your hair and skin, especially on the back of your neck. Remember, none of the insulated jackets in this review are billed as waterproof. Their advantage is that they can still insulate when wet and dry more quickly than down. This is true for the Access Hoody, and its weather resistance will buy you time, so you can put on a waterproof layer or find some shelter. If you do get soaked, this light hoody will dry out faster than any down jacket.
The stretchy underarm panels offer a little bit extra breathability, but not enough for us to say this is a breathable jacket. Though durable and weather resistant, the Pertex shell fabric doesn't allow for much gas exchange. That being said, breathability is probably not your top priority if you're interested in the Access Hoody.
This jacket is designed for weather resistance and packability so you can whip it out when you're hanging out a belays or ski transitions, and pack it away once you're on the move. If it's breathability you're after, check out the Arc'teyx Proton LT or the Patagonia Nano-Air. Neither of these jackets are as windproof or as easily packable as the Access Hoody.
Sleek. Simple. Black. The Access Hoody follows the time-honored, albeit safe, formula for good style. Maybe not the best choice if you're trying to get noticed or stand out for a photo-op, but the Access Hoody looks nice around town, on route, or on the ski hill. Most of our testers felt this jacket fits a little on the small side. Our tester that usually wears a small felt like a small is too small and a medium is too big.
This jacket occupies the same niche as the Patagonia Nano Puff, the Rab Xenon X and the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket. It lives in your pack or stowed away in its chest pocket until the wind starts to blow, and then comes out to keep you comfortable and take the edge off. While not waterproof, it provides enough protection for summer storms in the alpine, and it's form-fitting design allows it to layer well under a hardshell.
At $200, the Access Hoody is one of the least expensive jackets in our review, and while there are some features we don't like (mainly the hood), it provides good weather protection at a reasonably lightweight for over $100 less than some of the competition. If you want a warmer, lighter jacket and can pony up an extra $35, you can be the proud owner of our Editors' Choice Award Winner, the Rab Xenon X.
For the price, there's no excuse to venture out without a little extra protection from the cold. The Access Hoody is a great value, especially if you can find it on sale. You'll thank yourself the first time you pull it out during an unexpected snow flurry, and will hardly notice it when it's stuffed into a pack or clipped to your harness.
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