Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond Alpine Start - Women's Review

Price:  $159 List | $119.21 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Versatile, good balance of breathability and wind resistance, fits well under a harness
Cons:  Heavy, lacks superior water resistance
Bottom line:  This model was among our favorites for climbing, and it is one of the more versatile in the review.
Editors' Rating:   
Weight (oz):  6.9
Material:  Schoeller stretch-weave (93% nylon, 7% elastane) with NanoSphere DWR
Pockets:  1 internal chest
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Alpine Start is relatively new on the windbreaker scene, and its already established a niche in the climbing community. This piece performed relatively well across our testing metrics, with admirable breathability and wind resistance; where it absolutely shined was in its versatility qualities. Thanks to a slightly stretchy fabric, this piece is more comfortable than models that outperformed it. And this stretchiness adds to the jacket's ability to move well while making long reaches on alpine granite. Plus, if you're a climber, the jacket's feature set allows you to move well when wearing a harness.

2018 Product Updates
BD has updated the Alpine Start Hoody this year. Read on to see what's new!


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Windbreaker Jacket For Women Review


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Shey Kiester

Last Updated:
Tuesday
May 1, 2018

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The 2018 Alpine Start vs. the 2017 Version


Black Diamond revamped this jacket for 2018, including an external pocket, new colors, and a price increase of $10. See the new version in the first photo below, followed by the version we tested.

  • External Zipper Pocket Added — This incarnation of the Alpine Start includes an external chest pocket. The jacket still stuffs into its internal chest pocket with clip-in loop.
  • New Colors — BD has added some new colors, like the teal shown above.
  • Price Increase — This version is up $10, from $149 to $159.

Since we have only tested the previous version of this hoody, the following review reflects that one. However, as many technical specs remain the same (weight, fabric), we expect this new version to perform similarly.

Hands-On Review of the Alpine Start


The BD Alpine Start is made of Schoeller stretch-weave (which contains 93% nylon and 7% elastane) with NanoSphere DWR (durable water repellent). It has a drawstring hood that cinches in the back, a drop back hem, and elastic cuffs. An external chest pocket is available and the jacket stows into it. There's also a loop that can be utilized, which allows you to clip to your pack or harness. It weighs 6.9 ounces and comes in three different colors.

Value


At $159, this is not the cheapest jacket in our review. If you're pinching pennies, we'd recommend the Patagonia Houdini or Eddie Bauer Uplift. If you're willing to drop a little extra cash and love the brand, we feel that this piece is worth the price and will hold up well (with a few added stains along the way).

Performance Comparison


The Alpine Start performed well when stacked up against our other competitors in nearly every metric, but despite being packable, it is the second heaviest model in our review. If light is right, consider the Patagonia Houdini or Eddie Bauer Uplift, which are half as heavy.

The Alpine Start was a favorite regardless of the activity.
The Alpine Start was a favorite regardless of the activity.

Wind Resistance


When it came to wind resistance, the Alpine Start was well-matched with other jackets like the Outdoor Research Tantrum and Eddie Bauer Uplift that performed in the middle of the pack. These models kept moderate winds from cutting through to your core, but in gale-force gusts, they will allow a bit of cold in. The Alpine Start is significantly more breathable than models that were much more wind resistant, like the Patagonia Houdini and Arc'teryx Squamish.

The Alpine Start is at home on alpine ridgelines
The Alpine Start is at home on alpine ridgelines

Breathability


Because this jacket is a little less wind resistant than some models, it has added breathability. The Alpine Start was able to be used consistently during a long run, when other pieces, like the Patagonia Houdini or Eddie Bauer Uplift, would become saturated relatively quickly on the inside (with sweat). The Alpine Start, on the other hand, rarely actually accumulated perspiration on the inside. One drawback noticed, however, was that during high-output exercise, the jacket would become damp, and dirt was likely to accumulate. Some reviewers noticed pit stains on lighter-colored jackets.

The Alpine Start can handle light winds well.
The Alpine Start can handle light winds well.

Durability


The Alpine Start was among the more durable jackets in our review. Because of its stretchy fabric, we found that it moved well enough to avoid abrasion over months of use. However, as mentioned under breathability, users did notice that this model got dirtier than several other models in our tests. We felt that this was a worthy price to pay to have a more breathable jacket, but if you're looking for more durability (and willing to sacrifice big time on breathability), check out the Patagonia Houdini or Arc'teryx Squamish.

This model was one of our favorites for climbing.
This model was one of our favorites for climbing.

Weight and Packability


The Alpine Start was a bit of a conundrum in this category, as it was relatively packable, fitting well into its own chest pocket (but it was also the second heaviest model in the review). At twice the weight of the Patagonia Houdini and Eddie Bauer Uplift, this model isn't right for you if you're a serious gram counter. However, all of our reviewers felt that it was worth the extra weight while climbing to have the stretchy material and breathability that this model offers.

The jacket stuffs into it's own pocket and features a clip loop so you can attach it to your harness.
The jacket stuffs into it's own pocket and features a clip loop so you can attach it to your harness.

Versatility


The Alpine Start performed well in a variety of sports, largely because of its stretchy fabric and better relative breathability. We found that this model worked best for climbing, thanks to its large chest pocket and no hand pockets along with its climbing-helmet-compatible hood. It also was able to crossover into running and the occasional mountain bike ride.

Keeping the wind—and the bugs—off with the Alpine Start.
Keeping the wind—and the bugs—off with the Alpine Start.

Water Resistance


This metric was a tough one for the Black Diamond contender. It did not stand out incredibly well here, despite its DWR finish. The fabric was apt to become saturated relatively quickly when exposed to moderate precip. However, if you're not expecting more than a quick afternoon shower, this piece will dry out quickly.

The piece's DWR finish helps it repel light precip.
The piece's DWR finish helps it repel light precip.

Best Applications


This jacket is stretchy and breathable, so we liked it best for climbing, as we need our jacket to accommodate some sweat when we're leading while still protecting from the wind at the belay. If you're not a climber but do appreciate stretchy material, the Alpine Start might be a model to consider.

Using the Alpine Start as part of a layering system works well.
Using the Alpine Start as part of a layering system works well.

Conclusion


The BD Alpine Start is our favorite piece for climbing. It also performed well in a variety of other activities, thanks to its stretchy build and breathable performance. It is heavier than almost all of the other models in our review, and we found that it was easily stainable, especially in the armpit area.
Shey Kiester

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