The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody Review

The perfect active insulated layer for those who want something slightly warmer
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Price:  $259 List | $229.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Relatively warm, breathable, good water resistance
Cons:  Heavy
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 4, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 13
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 6
  • Breathability - 15% 8
  • Style - 5% 7

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody is a solid active insulated layer that is heavier and warmer than most of its competitors, allowing for more frequent use as an outer layer. It uses PrimaLoft Silver Active insulation, which does a good job of providing both warmth and breathability, while its generous fit stretches down below the waistline for added coverage. This jacket is a bit heavier on the insulation, making it more versatile for colder temperatures or high mountain adventures, but comes with the extra ounces that more insulation entails. If you like stretchy active layers but need more than the minimum in terms of warmth, this is the choice for you.


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Pros Relatively warm, breathable, good water resistanceLightweight, warm, great wind protection, sheds water well, affordableComfortable, very breathable, light, stylishWarm, good water resistance, comfortable, excellent mobility, stylish, durableWarm, affordable, good wind resistance
Cons HeavyDoesn’t breathe well, fit isn’t very athleticHard to get the proper fit, expensive, poor weather resistance, thinExpensive, annoying hem cinching buckles, not the lightestHeavy, not very breathable
Bottom Line The perfect active insulated layer for those who want something slightly warmerThe best lightweight insulated outer layer is highly wind resistant and impressively warm.The most iconic active insulated mid-layer offers great breathability.The top overall performer among the active insulating jackets.A synthetic filled version of a down jacket, designed to optimize warmth.
Rating Categories Black Diamond First Light St... Rab Xenon Hoodie Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody Arc'teryx Proton LT Hoody Rab Nimbus
Warmth (25%)
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7
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5
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6
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10
Weight (20%)
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6
Comfort (20%)
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7
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6
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8
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9
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5
Weather Resistance (15%)
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7
Breathability (15%)
10
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8
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5
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9
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4
Style (5%)
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Specs Black Diamond... Rab Xenon Hoodie Patagonia Nano-Air... Arc'teryx Proton... Rab Nimbus
Measured Weight (size) 19.0 oz (L) 11.0 oz. (L) 12.5 oz (M) 14.5 oz (L) 17.0 oz. (L)
Manufacturer Stated Weight (size) 16.8 oz. (M) 12.7 oz. (L) 12.2 oz. (M) 13.2 oz. (M) 17.8 oz. (L)
Insulation 60g PrimaLoft Silver Active 60g Stratus 60g FullRange insulation Coreloft Compact 80 Cirrus insulation w/ 3M featherless fibre
Outer Fabric 93% nylon 7% elastane Schoeller w/ DWR coating Atmos ripstop 100% nylon ripstop Fortius Air 20 (84% nylon, 16% elastane) Pertex Quantum
Stuffs Into Itself? Yes, clip loop Yes, clip loop Yes, clip loop No Yes, barely, clip loop
Hood Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Number of Pockets 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody is similar in many regards to the other stretch fabric, active insulating synthetic jackets we have reviewed. It receives similar overall scores based on its performance but has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. In particular, it is heavier than any other jacket of this type, but this weight quite obviously comes in the form of added insulation, as it is noticeably thicker and bulkier than the super-thin options we compared it against. This translates directly into more warmth.

The fit of this jacket is a bit more spacious and slightly less body-hugging than those jackets that are designed exclusively as mid-layers, and thus we found it easy to wear over the top as an outer layer as long as the temps weren't too frigid. The hood is helmet-compatible, and also has a drawstring on the back for tightening it up in a wind. The hem rides down below the waist and also features a drawstring with a buckle for sealing up the opening. We found the sleeves to be plenty long enough and the fit overall to be comfortably loose. It has two zippered hand pockets on the front, and a single zippered chest pocket also on the outside.

Performance Comparison


The First Light Stretch Hoody is warmer than many of the similar jackets we compared it to  while its Primaloft insulation still allows for lots of breathing. We enjoyed it as an outer layer on chilly days at the crag  and as an outer active layer on fall hikes  seen here with North Sister and Middle Sister in the background.
The First Light Stretch Hoody is warmer than many of the similar jackets we compared it to, while its Primaloft insulation still allows for lots of breathing. We enjoyed it as an outer layer on chilly days at the crag, and as an outer active layer on fall hikes, seen here with North Sister and Middle Sister in the background.

Warmth


Using 60 g/m2 PrimaLoft Silver Active, the First Light Stretch Hoody is among the warmest active insulated layers in this review. It is noticeably heavier, and as far as we can tell, the majority of the added weight comes in the form of extra insulation, which also can trap more heat. While this jacket is not a substitute for a large puffy in frigid winter temperatures, it can serve nicely as a belay jacket in autumn in the shade and is also perfectly suited for winter skiing, where it can either serve as an outer layer or have a shell thrown over the top. The hood, hem, and cuffs of the sleeves seal in such a way that it is easy to keep out cold air if the temps are frigid, and thus add to the warmth of the jacket.

In rough wintery conditions  this jacket is still a bit thin for providing serious warmth. However  compared to others similar to it  we did find it to be a hair warmer  and it is a decent outer layer for the chilly  but not prohibitive cold  that is found during shoulder seasons.
In rough wintery conditions, this jacket is still a bit thin for providing serious warmth. However, compared to others similar to it, we did find it to be a hair warmer, and it is a decent outer layer for the chilly, but not prohibitive cold, that is found during shoulder seasons.

Pulling this draw string with buckle at the back of the hood helps tighten up the fit around the face  which is handy for trapping in warm air or keeping out cold winds.
Pulling this draw string with buckle at the back of the hood helps tighten up the fit around the face, which is handy for trapping in warm air or keeping out cold winds.

Weight and Compressibility


Our size large test model weighed 19.0 ounces on our independent scale, a fair bit heavier than any other technical insulated jacket we have tested, even ones that manage to be even warmer than it. Black Diamond claims that a size medium will weigh around 16.8 ounces, which is still pretty heavy compared to the competition. One of the main advantages of this style of jacket is its very lightweight, but this jacket unfortunately misses this mark, and wouldn't be our top choice if we were trying to shave ounces.

At 19 ounces for a size large  this jacket is far and away one of the heaviest in our test  and this is noticeable as you wear it. For those who want the absolute lightest clothing and equipment  there are better choices.
At 19 ounces for a size large, this jacket is far and away one of the heaviest in our test, and this is noticeable as you wear it. For those who want the absolute lightest clothing and equipment, there are better choices.

It is capable of stuffing into its hand pocket, which we found to be neither super easy, nor exceedingly tricky. There is a clip in loop for attaching it to a harness, although once again at this weight, we aren't sure we would want to lug it around on a harness all day.

Five jackets that stuff into one of their own pockets for easier transport  as well as a nalgene bottle for size reference. On the top left in black -- BD First Light Stretch  Center Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata  Right -- Patagonia Nano-Air. On the Bottom is the Rab Xenon (blue) and Rab Nimbus (orange).
Five jackets that stuff into one of their own pockets for easier transport, as well as a nalgene bottle for size reference. On the top left in black -- BD First Light Stretch, Center Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata, Right -- Patagonia Nano-Air. On the Bottom is the Rab Xenon (blue) and Rab Nimbus (orange).

Comfort


This is a comfortable jacket, with soft liner fabric that feels great against the skin, and provides no added friction for a great interface with whatever clothing you are wearing underneath. While the fit is rather large and roomy, with a low hem, we took minor offense with the sleeves feeling ever so slightly short for climbing in; we wish they were an inch longer. Other than that complaint, however, we endorse it as very comfortable.

The interior black fabric is stretchy and feels nice against the skin  providing a comfortable contrast to the soft grey Schoeller face fabric  which also stretches as you move.
The interior black fabric is stretchy and feels nice against the skin, providing a comfortable contrast to the soft grey Schoeller face fabric, which also stretches as you move.

One thing we must mention, however, is the weight, which, although we talked about and graded for above, also affects the comfort slightly. Most lightweight jackets are barely noticeable when we put them on, but this jacket is certainly present the moment we put it on, we can literally feel it hanging down off of our shoulders. When experienced in isolation, we doubt this would be something most people would notice or worry about, but as we test multiple top jackets side by side, it is certainly noticeable to us.

This jacket is very comfortable and fits nicely  with appropriate length in the arms and hem for mobility in sports like climbing  although the added weight is noticeable compared to the competition.
This jacket is very comfortable and fits nicely, with appropriate length in the arms and hem for mobility in sports like climbing, although the added weight is noticeable compared to the competition.

Weather Resistance


The First Light Stretch Hoody is more weather resistant than most active stretch layers of its kind. It uses stretchy Schoeller face fabrics that seem to have a slightly better level of wind resistance or its possible that this enhancement comes instead from the added amounts of insulation. The DWR coating also impressed us with its ability to force water to bead up and run off, rather than immediately soak in. While we would still pair it with a heavier shell if the conditions were super windy or raining, we would hesitate less to use this jacket as an outer warmth layer compared to the many other options with similar characteristics.

Testing the water resistance by spraying it with the garden hose  we found that it performed admirably in this department.
Testing the water resistance by spraying it with the garden hose, we found that it performed admirably in this department.

As you can see  the DWR coating is pretty effective at causing water to bead up and run off without soaking in  and the heavier insulation is also a bit more effective at cutting the wind than many of its competitors.
As you can see, the DWR coating is pretty effective at causing water to bead up and run off without soaking in, and the heavier insulation is also a bit more effective at cutting the wind than many of its competitors.

Breathability


This jacket uses a variety of PrimaLoft Active insulation, which we have found to be one of the more breathable choices. We tested it against its competitors by running up a long, steep hill, in full sun on a 70 degree day, and despite its added weight, found that we felt just as cool in this jacket as in any other choice, and also didn't retain as much sweat inside as we would have expected. All this goes to show that it functions well as an active layer, and can be left on and trusted to breathe when you just don't feel like stopping and taking it off.

This jacket uses a version of Primaloft Active insulation  which touts its breathability. We would have to agree  as this one and the other jacket with a version of Primaloft  felt more comfortable and less sweaty during our uphill repeats testing session.
This jacket uses a version of Primaloft Active insulation, which touts its breathability. We would have to agree, as this one and the other jacket with a version of Primaloft, felt more comfortable and less sweaty during our uphill repeats testing session.

Style


While this jacket has a similar subdued mat finish as most of the other jackets that use stretch fabrics, we noticed that the Schoeller seems to wrinkle quite easily, and thus this jacket constantly looks like it was just picked up off the floor. For this reason alone it is slightly less preferable for wearing out when you need to look your sharpest, but everything else about this jacket looks nice.

This jacket features subdued matte finished colors and a casual fit that look mellow no matter where you choose to wear it. Our only complaint is that the face fabric wrinkles easily.
This jacket features subdued matte finished colors and a casual fit that look mellow no matter where you choose to wear it. Our only complaint is that the face fabric wrinkles easily.

Value


While by no means cheap, this jacket retails for a bit less than the highest priced competitors. While it has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, the overall scoring and impression is that it is just as solid as any other, and so presents a relatively good value.

With a comfortable and mobile fit and relatively high amount of warmth provided by the most insulation in an active jacket of this type  the First Light Stretch provides good value for those who want these attributes.
With a comfortable and mobile fit and relatively high amount of warmth provided by the most insulation in an active jacket of this type, the First Light Stretch provides good value for those who want these attributes.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody is a looser fitting, casual feeling stretchy active layer that is a bit warmer and more weather resistant than its competitors. That said, it is also significantly heavier, so it comes with its downsides. It doesn't cost as much as the priciest active layers, so it presents pretty solid value.

This jacket is a great choice for active days when the temperatures are not too cold  like this hike through the pumice and obsidian in the Three Sisters Wilderness  OR.
This jacket is a great choice for active days when the temperatures are not too cold, like this hike through the pumice and obsidian in the Three Sisters Wilderness, OR.


Andy Wellman