Reviews You Can Rely On

Black Diamond First Light Hybrid Hoody - Women's Review

This insulated hybrid hoody is plush and warm with amazing stretch but it's not meant to get wet and the hood is a little odd for some
black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review
Credit: Black Diamond
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $235 List
Pros:  Warm, stretchy, comfortable, good breathability
Cons:  Not as water repellent, takes a long time to dry, hood could be better
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett  ⋅  May 19, 2021
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
62
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Protection - 30% 6.0
  • Breathability - 30% 6.0
  • Mobility - 25% 7.0
  • Weight - 10% 5.0
  • Versatility - 5% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond First Light Hoody is a comfy and cozy hybrid mid-layer perfect for things like swing season camping when it's warm during the day but still chilly at night. While not as warm as a puffy, it's quite insulative, and there are panels of merino wool that aid breathability. Despite the good ventilation, however, those panels are not water resistant in the slightest. You wouldn't want to get caught in a rainstorm with this jacket, as it soaks up water like a sponge and takes a long time to dry. Overall we don't find this to be a particularly serious technical layer (unless you're using it as a base layer for skiing or snowboarding), but it is well-cut, very comfortable, and a pleasure to wear.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The First Light Hybrid is a plush hoody that is excellent as a mid or base layer when it's cold. It is also a great standalone jacket when you want some warmth but you require some breathability.

Performance Comparison


black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review - warm and cozy even in cold temps, the first light is an insulated...
Warm and cozy even in cold temps, the First Light is an insulated piece perfect on its own or layered up under a hardshell.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Weather Protection


This category is a mixed bag for the First Light — it's insulated and quite warm but also not very water-resistant, especially where it has merino wool panels optimized for breathability. We give all our contenders a water test by wearing them in the shower, and this one soaked through almost immediately. It felt more like wearing a sweatshirt into the shower than a jacket. Not only that, but the saturated wool panels became very heavy when waterlogged and took a very long time to dry. While the wool will still insulate when wet, it can be pretty dang uncomfortable to wait around until it dries. If you opt for this jacket and rain is in the forecast, be sure to bring a rain jacket or hardshell to layer on top. However, if your main concerns are wind and snow, you will be fine as long as you keep moving. This is a great mid or base layer as it's insulated while still being light and breathable. Used correctly, it could replace your puffy on the regular.

black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review - this plush hybrid is cozy warm but still breathable - just don't get...
This plush hybrid is cozy warm but still breathable - just don't get caught in a rainstorm!
Credit: Penney Garrett

Breathability


For an insulated layer, the First Light offers great breathability. This is because it features blended merino wool on the back and down the sides to allow great ventilation and give a break from the insulated hood, chest, and arms. While it is not as breathable as an unlined shell, you can still work up a sweat without being totally stifled. Hybrids are tricky because they try to do a lot at once (and softshells are already attempting to cover a ton of bases), but this one is pretty successful. You will be happiest if you consider this a replacement for either a thin fleece or puffy rather than using it like a traditional softshell.

black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review - walking around exploring on a sunny but chilly day was prime...
Walking around exploring on a sunny but chilly day was prime territory for the First Light. Special merino wool panels help keep the body vented despite the plush insulation.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Mobility


Mobility is one of the categories where the First Light performed quite well. This is due to it being both well-tailored and very stretchy, both qualities which are suited to moving the body with ease. Our one issue is with the hood. The hood is an awkward size if you want to be able to wear a helmet. With some effort, you can just barely pull it over a helmet, but there's really not enough fabric at the back of the neck for this, so it renders you pretty immobile. If you try to put it under the hood there's extra material — because it is not fitted enough to wear underneath a helmet without feeling bulky. The insulation in the hood, while cozy, also makes it difficult to hear. Without a helmet, everything is fine, though long-necked individuals may feel constricted. This is a great jacket for long but chilly approaches, hanging at camp, or belaying with the hood off. However, if you often need to pull your hood on to protect from the wind, we suggest trying it on before you buy or choosing something with a hood designed specifically for this purpose.

black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review - we tried the first light hood under a helmet after feeling...
We tried the First Light hood under a helmet after feeling immobilized with it over the top. While this works, you can see all the extra material at the back of the neck and the insulation makes it hard to hear.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Weight


A medium-sized First Light weighs 16.1 ounces, just over a pound. While this hoody could replace a light puffy in your wardrobe, it is somewhat bulky and doesn't compact down very well. If you're car camping or road-tripping, it won't matter in the slightest, but this probably isn't the layer to choose for alpine ascents or backpacking.

black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review - here you can see the various different panels on the first light...
Here you can see the various different panels on the First Light. There are sections of PrimaLoft insulation and others of breathable blended merino wool.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Versatility


Versatility is so-so for this piece. It's warm, stretchy, comfortable, and quite stylish. But it isn't incredibly breathable and it is ideal for fewer activities and climates than other models. While it is breathable for what it is, it's never going to feel like a thin unlined jacket. And even though the hood is fine on its own, if you have a big hat or helmet underneath, it will probably feel tight and restrictive.

black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review - while the first light is great for a lot of things, it's not as...
While the First Light is great for a lot of things, it's not as versatile a piece as others in our review. As a mid or base layer or a puffy alternative this is great, but it's not what you'll grab for ultralight backpacking or trail running.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Value


The First Light is fairly innovative and well-constructed with some premium materials. Because of that, it's a bit pricey. However, if you want something that's like a puffy but with more breathability, this may be worth it — well-made insulation layers aren't cheap, and you tend to get what you pay for. Overall, this hybrid is worth its price if you're in the market for a savvy mid-layer with great stretch, and you prefer merino wool over other breathable insulating materials.

black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review - hanging out on a chilly spring day in the first light is downright...
Hanging out on a chilly spring day in the First Light is downright cozy.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Conclusion


The First Light Hoody is an insulated hybrid hoody with breathable panels of merino wool. It's attractive, stretchy, and pretty lush to wear. While it doesn't have very good water resistance, it's a great jacket to layer under something more protective or for using to keep warm on cold camp nights and chilly belays. We wish the hood was more conducive to pairing with a helmet, but overall this is a wonderfully cozy (if pricey) jacket to rock around the campfire or even around town.

black diamond first light hybrid hoody for women softshell jacket review - this warm and stretchy hoody is best for chilly camp days, casual...
This warm and stretchy hoody is best for chilly camp days, casual hikes, or layered under something more weather protective if moisture is in the forecast.
Credit: Penney Garrett

Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More