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

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 - Women's
Photo: Black Diamond
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $229 List | $139.94 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Warm, stretchy, comfortable, good breathability
Cons:  Not water repellent, takes a long time to dry, hood could be better
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett  ⋅  May 7, 2020
  • Share this article:
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
67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 14
  • Weather Protection - 30% 7
  • Breathability - 30% 7
  • Mobility - 25% 7
  • Weight - 10% 4
  • Versatility - 5% 6

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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $139.94 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$94.50 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$206.73 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$80.99 at Amazon$95.00 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
67
82
80
78
75
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Warm, stretchy, comfortable, good breathabilityHighly breathable, quick-drying, foam inserts prevent jacket creep, helmet compatible, stowable hood, durableInsulated, highly breathable, moisture-wicking, comfortable, great weather protection, durable, lots of pocketsInexpensive, stellar mobility and breathability, stow-away pocket, harness-friendly pockets, excellent fitUnbeatable weather protection, taped-seams, spacious hood, stretchy, generous drop-hem, adjustable cuffs
Cons Not water repellent, takes a long time to dry, hood could be betterNot very warm, no stow-away pocket for clipping to your harness, cuffs stretch out with heavy useSpendy, no stow-away pocket for clipping to your harness, hood somewhat small, some reviewers feel it runs smallNot very warm, below average water resistanceTight shoulders, runs small, somewhat heavy
Bottom Line This layer has a lot going for it - warm, super stretchy, comfortable - but it doesn't handle water very well and the hood design is strangeIf you're in the market for a lightweight and durable layer that will repel sun and wind with ease and dry super fast, this is a stellar choiceIf you need need good breathability and all-around comfort, this insulated hybrid is a great optionThis jacket is lightweight, breathable, easy to move in, and affordable - a great combination for the active outdoorswomanA fantastically mobile and stretchy technical jacket for alpine conditions, this layer manages to be nearly weather-proof AND breathable
Rating Categories First Light Hybrid Hoody Sigma SL Anorak Pullover Proton FL Hoody Rab Borealis - Women's Marmot ROM - Women's
Weather Protection (30%)
7
8
8
5
9
Breathability (30%)
7
8
7
10
7
Mobility (25%)
7
9
9
9
7
Weight (10%)
4
8
8
8
5
Versatility (5%)
6
7
9
4
8
Specs First Light Hybrid... Sigma SL Anorak... Proton FL Hoody Rab Borealis -... Marmot ROM - Women's
Measured Weight 16.1 oz (size M) 9.5 oz (size S) 9.5 oz (size S) 9 oz (size 10/S) 15 oz (size M)
Material Schoeller stretch-woven nylon with NanoSphere Technology shell (93% nylon, 7% elastane), 100% merino wool body, PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Aequora Airperm (86% nylon, 14% elastane) 84% nylon, 16% elastane Lightweight Matrix single weave with 2-way stretch and DWR GORE Infinium 3L (92% Nylon, 8% Elastane Plain Weave)
Type Technical/Hybrid Active Technical/Hybrid Active Technical
Lined/Insulated? Yes No Yes No Yes
Hood? Yes, stretchy but not adjustable Yes, 2-way adjustable Yes, 1-way adjustable Yes, stretchy but not adjustable Yes, with Peripheral Cord Adjustment
Number of Pockets (zippered unless otherwise noted) 3 (2 hand, 1 chest) 1 chest 4 (2 hand, 2 chest) 2 hand 4 (2 hand, 1 chest, 1 interior)
Adjustable Cuffs? No, Stretch Cuffs No, Stretch Cuffs No, Stretch Cuffs No, Stretch Cuffs Yes, Velcro
Available Sizes XS - XL XS - L XS - XL 8 - 16 XS - XL

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 piece when you want some warmth but you require some breathability.

Performance Comparison


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.
Photo: 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 repellent, 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, waiting around for that to happen. 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 but still light and breathable. Used correctly, it could replace your puffy on the regular.

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!
Photo: Penney Garrett

Breathability


For an insulated layer, the breathability is excellent on this jacket. The jacket 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 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 base or mid-layer puffy-replacement as opposed to a traditional softshell.

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.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Mobility


In most respects, mobility is great on the First Light. It is a well-tailored and very stretchy layer suited to moving the body. Our one issue is with the hood. The hood is an awkward size if you want to be able to wear a helmet. You can pull it over a helmet just barely, 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 — it's not quite that fitted — so it feels 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 anticipate needing to wear your helmet with the hood, we suggest trying it on before you buy or choosing something with a hood designed specifically for this purpose.

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.
Photo: 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 a bit 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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.

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.
Photo: 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 use to keep warm on cold camp nights and chilly belay ledges. 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 camp-fire or even around town.

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.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett