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

Black Diamond Fineline Review

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.
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Price:  $129 List | $128.95 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight and incredibly packable, stretchy fabric and cut allow for some of the best freedom of movement and range of motion, breathable, well-designed hood
Cons:  No closure on the cuffs, only elastic, no ventilation options, not as tear resistant as other models
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 21, 2018
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 17
  • Water Resistance - 30% 7
  • Breathability & Venting - 20% 6
  • Comfort and Mobility - 15% 8
  • Weight - 15% 9
  • Durability - 10% 6
  • Packed Size - 10% 10

Our Verdict

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; it struck 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 gave 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.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Black Diamond Fineline is one 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.

Performance Comparison


Winner of our Top Pick award for its range of motion and performance for technical endeavors. The Fineline is one of the lightest jackets out there but remains extremely functional despite its low weight  and offers some of the best mobility of any model we have ever tested.
Winner of our Top Pick award for its range of motion and performance for technical endeavors. The Fineline is one of the lightest jackets out there but remains extremely functional despite its low weight, and offers some of the best mobility of any model we have ever tested.

Water Resistance


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.

All of our testers were thoroughly impressed with this model's weather protection and long-lasting DWR  which outperformed most similarly priced contenders.
All of our testers were thoroughly impressed with this model's weather protection and long-lasting DWR, which outperformed most similarly priced contenders.

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. The Fineline offered up similar performance to the Marmot PreCip; it was higher performing than the Outdoor Research Helium II and the Patagonia Torrentshell, and lesser performing than the REI Drypoint GTX, Arc'teryx Beta SL, and Outdoor Research Foray.

All of our testers loved the design and fit of the Fineline's hood. It cinched down onto our head nicely and remained secure - without being uncomfortable.
All of our testers loved the design and fit of the Fineline's hood. It cinched down onto our head nicely and remained secure - without being uncomfortable.

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 Beta SL, or the Outdoor Research Foray.

This jacket is geared to be light and does not have any ventilation options. However  its fabric is one of the most breathable models in the $100-$150 price range.
This jacket is geared to be light and does not have any ventilation options. However, its fabric is one of the most breathable models in the $100-$150 price range.

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.

The Fineline sports some of the best range of motion of any model in our review. We could bring our arms straight above our heads or raise them directly forward with hardly any resistance.
The Fineline sports some of the best range of motion of any model in our review. We could bring our arms straight above our heads or raise them directly forward with hardly any resistance.

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 Beta SL and Outdoor Research Foray. The only jacket that was close was the REI Drypoint GTX.

Weight


At eight ounces for our size medium, the Fineline is built with minimal features (only one pocket among other things) and is the second lightest model 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 the Helium II).

Durability


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 a majority of the time, know that this jacket will provide plenty of durability.

Geared with simplicity and low weight in mind  the only pocket featured on the Fineline is a single Napoleon-style chest pocket.
Geared with simplicity and low weight in mind, the only pocket featured on the Fineline is a single Napoleon-style chest pocket.

Packed Size


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.

The Fineline was one of the most compressible jackets in our review. It squeezes into its pocket which  when reversed doubles as a chest pocket. It is seen here in its pocket next to a 1-liter Nalgene bottle for size reference.
The Fineline was one of the most compressible jackets in our review. It squeezes into its pocket which, when reversed doubles as a chest pocket. It is seen here in its pocket next to a 1-liter Nalgene bottle for size reference.

While this might be insignificant for some, it's a big deal if you're someone who most 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.

Fit


This jacket is slim fitting and is one of 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.

With its technically focused design  it's nice that Black Diamond designed the Fineline's hood to fit over most climbing or bike helmets.
With its technically focused design, it's nice that Black Diamond designed the Fineline's hood to fit over most climbing or bike helmets.

Best Applications


The Fineline is perfect for any trip where weight and packed space are at a premium. However, we don't limit its use to these applications. Its fit, range of motion, and freedom of movement make it one of the nicer contenders to wear; as such, it's perfect for most outdoor-oriented activities where it's wet or cold. The Fineline strikes a nice balance of weight AND functionality. When you consider that a majority of climbers, backpackers, and hikers carry their rain jacket in their pack 95+ percent of the time, why not carry this lighter model that performs 95% as well as models twice its weight?

The Fineline's lack of lower pockets allows it to work seamlessly (AKA without pain from pinched zippers) with any pack's waist-belt or climbing harness.
The Fineline's lack of lower pockets allows it to work seamlessly (AKA without pain from pinched zippers) with any pack's waist-belt or climbing harness.

Value


You can certainly buy jackets for less money that also feature priority waterproof fabrics. However, at $130, 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 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.

The Fineline sported one of the best-designed hoods in our review. It cinched down fantastically and adapted to a wide range of headwear. Best of all  it provided some of the best movement and peripheral vision of any model we tested.
The Fineline sported one of the best-designed hoods in our review. It cinched down fantastically and adapted to a wide range of headwear. Best of all, it provided some of the best movement and peripheral vision of any model we tested.

Conclusion


If you are someone who carries their jacket most of the time but doesn't like the idea of a worthless rain jacket, the 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.


Ian Nicholson