Black Diamond Alpine Start - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Very flexible, flattering fit, long torso, comfortable cuff
Cons: Gets wet very easily, thicker fabric is heavier
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Black Diamond Alpine Start - Women's
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|Pros||Very flexible, flattering fit, long torso, comfortable cuff||Lightweight, very breathable, comfortable fit & feel, flexible, great cuffs||Helmet compatible, lightweight, extremely packable, dries quickly||Many pockets, more waterproof, excellent wind protection, snap to allow unzipping during wear||Decently wind resistant, moderate precipitation protection, lightweight, less expensive|
|Cons||Gets wet very easily, thicker fabric is heavier||Slim fit difficult to layer, not ideal for really cold wind||Not the most waterproof, can see through thin fabric||Elastic cuffs harsh, thin fabric can be seen through, large packed size||Sleeves a bit short, small pockets, sloppy construction|
|Bottom Line||This comfortable jacket will keep you protected and stylish, from climbing with friends to hanging at the coffee shop||A highly breathable, protective, and packable layer that will keep you moving whatever the weather||A true featherweight model that continues to impress, combining excellent performance with great value||A blend of minimalist design and technical features, this jacket offers solid protection from the elements at a reasonable price||A simple, casual jacket that's best for mild days and small budgets|
|Rating Categories||Alpine Start||Houdini Air||Patagonia Houdini -...||Rab Vital Hoody - W...||Waterproof Hooded|
|Wind Resistance (30%)|
|Weight And Packability (20%)|
|Water Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Alpine Start||Houdini Air||Patagonia Houdini -...||Rab Vital Hoody - W...||Waterproof Hooded|
|Weight (oz)||6.2 oz||3.4 oz||3.1 oz||4.3 oz||6.6 oz|
|Material||Schoeller® stretch-woven nylon with Eco-Repel Bio® Technology||90% nylon (51% recycled), 10% polyester double weave with DWR treatment||100% nylon ripstop with DWR (durable water repellent) treatment||Hyperlite and nylon outer||95% polyester, 5% spandex|
|Pockets||1 chest||1 chest||1 chest||2 hand, 1 inner zip and 2 inner open-top||2 hand|
|Cuffs||Elastic||Half elastic||Half elastic||Half elastic||Elastic|
|Stuffs Into Pocket||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Safety Reflective Material||None||Reflective front logo||Reflective logo on front and back||Reflective logo on front and back||None|
|Fit||Slim fit||Slim fit||Slim fit||Regular fit||Relaxed fit|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Alpine Start is a full-zippered, hooded windbreaker made of stretch-woven nylon. It features a single chest pocket and a slim fit in slightly stretchy fabric.
The Alpine Start does a pretty good job of protecting you from the wind. It's constructed of thicker-feeling fabric that blocks out most breezes. A thick storm flap inside the zipper adds extra protection against the elements as well. The Alpine also has a longer torso than most of the other models we tested — not just a drop hem in the back. This helps protect the wearer from breezes and can also be cinched tight to keep out strong gales.
The hood is large and flexible enough to be worn over a helmet, and a cord on the back allows you to adjust its volume, so it's not too big if you're not wearing a helmet or thick hat. But it can feel comically large on a bare head and really begs to be tightened down or worn over a hat or helmet or not at all. The neck also zips up more snuggly than any other model we tested, which doesn't feel claustrophobic because the material is so stretchy. The Alpine Start doesn't feel like any other windbreaker we tested, and its fabric isn't quite as windproof as some of the ripstop jackets we tested. Overall though, the Alpine offers reliable protection and extended coverage against the wind.
The Alpine Start is made of Schoeller stretch-woven fabric, which makes it a thicker feeling, less waterproof jacket with enhanced breathability. The entire jacket stretches as you move. Underarm gussets add to its mobility, and the lack of DWR treatment helps air escape as you exert yourself. This jacket collects less sweat than the more waterproof windbreakers we tested. As a bonus, it's also less swishy sounding when you move, which we love. Another underrated feature of the Alpine Start is its comfortable elastic cuffs. Unlike other jackets' bunched elastic wristbands, the Alpine has smooth cuffs that don't dig painfully into your arms when you push them up.
While this jacket's unique, stretchy fabric allows for better breathability, it's also thicker than most windbreakers on the market. This comes in handy for wind protection but isn't quite as friendly on a warm windy run. We welcomed hilly days and brisk mornings in the slightly warmer-than-average Alpine Start. We weren't as excited to sweat our way up a sunny granite face. So, even though it's more breathable than any other windbreaker we tested, we wouldn't choose the Alpine for a hot day due to its thickness and weight.
Weight and Packability
Like so many of the windbreakers in this review, the Alpine packs neatly into its own chest pocket and features a sturdy loop to attach it to your climbing harness or backpack. While larger than some other windbreakers, it's a nice compact little package. (We also appreciate the large size of the chest pocket it packs into). One of our favorite things about this jacket is that it doesn't wrinkle as easily or hold wrinkles as long as the other, swishier-sounding models do.
Due to the Alpine's thicker fabric, it's on the heavier side of average weight among jackets we reviewed. While a matter of 6.2 ounces may not make a big difference when you're carrying a whole harness of carabiners and climbing paraphernalia, you may feel differently about carrying them 2600+ miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. But if weight is no matter, then we think you'll be pleased with the portability of this hooded windbreaker from Black Diamond.
Truly the shining glory of the Alpine Start is in its impressive versatility. So many of the windbreakers out there, and nearly all the ones in this review, are fairly technical or are tailored to a specific set of circumstances. While many can handle multiple sports, none make the transition from intense outdoor activity to polished urban excursion as seamlessly as the flattering Alpine. Its fabric is thick enough that no one can see through it, and the feminine cut and longer torso give this jacket a chic, polished look. We felt equally at home wearing this jacket to mountain bike and boulder as we did grabbing a coffee or seeing a movie.
In fact, we are so impressed with the crossover ability of the Alpine that we had a hard time finding anything bad to say about its versatility. It does lack hand pockets, if that matters to you, and its slim fit makes it difficult to layer over bulky sweaters or baggy sweatshirts. But pairing it with a form-fitting base layer and a scarf is no problem.
Black Diamond touts this jacket as having Eco-Repel Biotechnology that "repels water, dirt, and oil." Upon feeling the first drops of rain, we noticed they beaded up on the outside of this jacket. However, after only a few minutes of a light sprinkle, the Alpine Start quickly soaked up water and transferred it readily onto our clothes underneath. In our paper towel test, after only a few minutes, all the water had soaked the back of the jacket, the paper towel underneath and left a healthy-sized puddle on the floor below.
We also subjected this jacket to a head-to-head comparison of wind and wave protection while adventuring in the Caribbean. While we recognize it is not a rain jacket, and we weren't expecting to stay dry in the salty spray, we hadn't anticipated getting quite so sopping. Though no windbreaker we tested can withstand serious rain, many others performed far better and kept us far drier during our testing. Once soaked, this jacket also took far longer than almost every other jacket to dry out again. If you expect to encounter rain on your adventures, this isn't the windbreaker we'd recommend.
The Alpine Start is not a cheap purchase and is actually one of the most expensive options we tested. If you're looking for something minimalistic or to protect you from light precipitation, this jacket is unlikely to be worth it for you. However, if you're after a jacket that you can wear cycling or sailing all day and out on the town at night instead of buying and carrying two jackets, we think the price of the Alpine Start is warranted.
The Alpine Start is a deceptively functional jacket. Though Black Diamond markets it mainly to climbers (which is an excellent paring), we are impressed by just how many activities this jacket handles with ease. Its wind resistance and packability are above average, and its breathability and versatility are top-notch. For rainier climates, this jacket is not going to be a crowd-pleaser, but for crisp sunny mountain days and chilly alpine evenings, we found it hard to go wrong with this comfortable, chic little number that is our Top Pick for Versatility.
— Maggie Brandenburg