One of the lightest jackets that doesn't sacrifice almost anything in the way of functionality for weight savings and offers some of the best mobility of any model we tested
Price: $135 List | $135.00 at BackcountryPros: Lightweight and incredibly packable, the stretchy fabric and cut allow for some of the best freedom of movement and range of motion Cons: No closure on the cuffs, only elastic, no ventilation options, not as tear resistant as other models Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
The Black Diamond Fineline is one of the lightest and most packable waterproof jackets currently on the market. While simple, it doesn't sacrifice almost anything in regards to functionality. All of our testers were impressed by how dry this model kept us for how lightweight it is, striking a near-perfect balance between low weight and functionality. Besides low weight, the Fineline is one of the most packable models in our review, compressing into its only pocket, helping it to nearly disappear on our harness or in our pack. The Fineline's stretchy fabric and movement-oriented cut ensured exceptional mobility and was one of the least burdensome models to wear. The bottom line is the Fineline is the lightest weight model that a majority of our testers would actually want to use in the rain.
The Fineline comes in some freshly updated colors, like the fiery red-orange pictured above. None of the technical aspects of the jacket have changed since our test period.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Fineline is one of the lightest rain jackets on the market. It's also far more functional than a majority of superlight contenders. Our testers were impressed by its freedom of movement, weather resistance, and breathability. Its low weight is half that of a majority of models we tested, and you'll hardly notice the minimal space it takes up in your pack, making it perfect for trips where weight and volume are at a premium.
The Fineline uses Black Diamonds Proprietary 2.5 layer "BD.dry", a great name we know. The 100% nylon material proved to be in line with most jackets in its price range. It consistently impressed our testers both in the field and during our various hose and shower tests with how dry it kept us (for how lightweight it is).
The Fineline doesn't have a Velcro closure on its cuff; instead, it just has elastic. This helps to get the Fineline down its impressively low weight but doesn't work as well for any hands-over-the-head type activities where water would regularly run down our sleeves.
Its hood is large, well-designed, and top-notch. Its brim is just stiff enough to cover our foreheads without collapsing, and its rear cinch did a fantastic job of holding it in place.
Breathability & Venting
This jacket is geared to be light; as a result, it features no ventilation options. With that said, its fabric is more breathable than most models in the $100-$150 price range. As we talk about in our best in class review, breathability is more important because when its pouring rain or you're walking up a wet, brushy trail, opening vents isn't an option.
The Fineline is more breathable than the Marmot Phoenix, Marmot PreCip, Outdoor Research Helium II, and the Patagonia Torrentshell but not nearly as breathable as the REI Drypoint GTX, Arc'teryx Zeta SL, or the Outdoor Research Foray.
Comfort and Mobility
The Fineline has some of the best comfort and mobility of any model we tested. Its cut is slightly slimmer than average and is designed with physical activities in mind. This, coupled with it extremely stretchy fabric, gave it some of the best range of motion and mobility ratings in our review.
For tasks that require more mobility, there are few, if any jackets that offer up better performance. In fact, the Fineline outperformed several much more expensive models like the Arc'teryx Zeta SL and Outdoor Research Foray. The only jacket that was close in this metric was the REI Drypoint GTX.
At eight ounces for our size medium, the Fineline is built with minimal features (only one pocket among other things) and is one of the lightest models we tested. It is only 1.5 ounces heavier than our lightest model, the Outdoor Research Helium II. For many applications, light is right, but in the case of the Fineline versus the Helium, you get a LOT. The Fineline offers a higher level of water resistance, breathability, stretchiness, and overall freedom of movement (compared to other lightweight models, like the Helium II).
This jacket is plenty tough enough for most backpacking and hiking, but it isn't near as durable as most other models in our review when it comes to tear resistance and overall longevity. Our testers do want to remind our readers that depending on your use, durability may or may not be a huge factor.
If you are someone who is regularly going to go out in storms, regardless of whether you work in the outdoors, this model might not be the best choice. While tougher than the Outdoor Research Helium II, and similar to the REI Drypoint GTX, it's not quite as robust as heavier models. If you're someone whose rain jacket lives in your pack the majority of the time, know that this jacket will provide plenty of durability.
Weight and packed volume are why you buy this jacket. It offers the second smallest packed volume in our review and is half the size of a majority of the jackets we tested.
While this might be insignificant for some, it's a big deal if you're someone who frequently carries their rain jacket as a "just-in-case" type layer. While the Fineline provides a small, compressed volume (second in our review), it's only a tiny bit larger than our smallest contender, the Outdoor Research Helium II. The Fineline packs tightly into its chest pocket and comes complete with a reversible zipper and a built-in clip-in point.
This jacket is slim fitting and is one of the tighter overall cuts in our review. With typical sizing, it isn't designed to wear a ton of layers underneath, but most people could likely sneak a thin puffy in. Tester Ian Nicholson wears a medium in all the jackets we tested and was happy with a slim fitting medium; if you are typically in between sizes, consider sizing up.
You can certainly buy jackets for less money that also feature priority waterproof fabrics. However, at $135, the Fineline is a decent value. It's less expensive than its closest competition, the Outdoor Research Helium II ($160), which is lighter, but the Fineline generally outperforms otherwise. It is around the same price as the Patagonia Torrentshell, which is tougher, but heavier and less packable. When compared to many less expensive models in the $100 price range, the Fineline is generally lighter, more packable, more breathable, and offers a far better range of motion and freedom of movement. It's a tremendous value as you get so much more for what is often only an extra $30.
If you are someone who carries their jacket most of the time but doesn't like the idea of a worthless rain jacket, the Black Diamond Fineline may be your jacket. Its weight and tiny packed size are some of the best out there; its minimal design is incredibly impressive, especially considering it doesn't give up much in the way of functionality or weather resistance. These pros, coupled with its top of the review range of motion means it isn't a pain to wear if it starts pouring. The Fineline is plenty durable for hiking and backpacking; the only consideration we might ask you to make is if you're hard on your gear or wear it a majority of days out of the year, you may want to take into account finding a new model.
A rain jacket that keeps you dry when the skies let loose...
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