We women had been feeling a bit left out. The venerable giant Black Diamond entered the apparel market in 2013 with a line for men but none for us. Now,
though, hello—it’s our turn, as unveiled this year. Here's the spring line available now.
Castle Valley Hoody
As a quick multi-purpose layer, this merino-blend hoody is a great climbing-trip item. Pull it on when you wake up and make coffee in camp—or to go into town for supplies or dinner. In climbing, for me it’s been extremely useful for bouldering. Bouldering activity runs hot and cold, and I get cold easily, while resting … or socializing. Though light, the hoody is warm, and super easy on-off, over and over, while the slim profile lets you resume climbing still wearing it.
At the crag, the item is best suited to belaying in the shade, or to wear between burns and turns. It works for warmup routes or in cool weather, but in roped climbing I don’t love the dangling hoody drawstrings.
The front zip means you don’t have to drag the hoody on and off over a helmet or knock off your sunglasses or hair clips with each change. The fitted bottom panel is snug for warmth and the pockets are set high to fit under a harness. The hood is comfortable rather than stretched tight, and the front zipper reaches clear up to my eyeballs, really nice when temps drop.
The hoody contains an interior front pocket into which you can fit a phone or slim wallet, though that is crying for a safety zipper or even button. Aside from that, my only qualm is price. Wool is spendy, and $149 is a lot for a hoody. If you feel like going for it, though, you’ll use this handy item all the time. 60 percent merino, 40 percent Modal (rayon). Light but warm. Easy on and off, especially for the short bursts of activity of bouldering. Hood fits under a helmet and neck zips up to your eyes, adding much warmth. Lacks zip or other closure for inside pocket.
Ancient Art T
This is a fun, loose piece, with a cutout back and fanciful, slimming asymmetrical bottom hem. The vent, cut horizontally between the shoulders, has a
cooling effect and creates a nice contrast with your sport bra of whatever color. Me, I thought the bottom hem of that cutout was a little gape-y,
but my friends who know about these things assure me it’s the style. The scoop neck is graceful and it, too, is airy. Like the hoody, the piece is
a wool blend, 60 percent merino.
Maybe it was the sassy back feature, but I originally thought the piece was more for around-town use or hiking than climbing. At an alpine crag in changeable
weather, though, it all made sense. The wool dissipated the sweat of the uphill approach, and when we climbed in direct sun, I kept catching nice drafts
though the back vent. When the clouds—of course—rolled in and I pulled on the Castle Valley Hoody (the two items fit well in tandem, and
their colors correspond), I was glad to have a wool base layer as well. This is just a rock shirt, but a very versatile one.
I wash wool very little, because it repels odor and holds its shape well. (And you all know not to put wool in the dryer, right?) I’ve washed this top
and hoody a handful of times so far, and as yet they have not stiffened. They fuzzed very slightly, but also got a little softer.
60 percent merino, 40 percent Modal.
Vented back, scoop neck.
All-around use and functionality.
Rating 4 stars for items as a pair. Both are exceptionally useful but the hoody is a little spendy and is missing an inside-pocket closure.
Southern Sun Pants, $89
After years of climbing in black yoga tights, I found the electric-blue bottoms that I tested to be a welcome change. In addition to a Skittles-inspired palette, Black Diamond has made several smart, climbing-specific upgrades to the ubiquitous stretchy pant, and built them with a durable fabric that has held up well against granite, limestone and trips through the washing machine.
The first time I put on these pants, the bottoms fashionably skimmed the floor, which is a great look for Whole Foods, but not ideal for climbing. Fortunately, BD knows that, and when I looked down to consider a DIY hemming project, I found a brilliant feature—a drawstring. I cinch the bottoms up around my ankles and they’re out of the way for climbing, then I let them out for social hour at the Arsenal, out at Rifle.
I've got a real-deal booty, and the extra-wide fold-over waistband on these pants prevents any unwanted exposure. The smooth, flat waistband and drawstring keep all the junk in the trunk, and sit comfortably under a harness. My spotters are forever grateful.
The final feature that sold me on these pants, and a dead giveaway to my climbing preferences, is kneepad compatibility. I can hike-up the full-length leg all the way to my thigh to pull on the neoprene-duct tape combo pack necessary for working my project. Wide, fold-over waist band. Drawstring bottom hem. Fun color options.
4 stars. These are the best climbing-specific yoga tights I have ever seen, with functional features and a durable fabric. Truly better than your average stretchy pants. Lost a star for the nearly $90 price tag. Buying these would be a true treat-yourself moment.
Liquid Point Shell, $149
minimalist Gore-Tex PacLite rain shell kept me dry and comfortable during the wettest summer I’d ever experienced in Colorado. It’s lightweight and
squishes down nice and small at the bottom of my pack, so I’m inclined to bring it along even when the weather looks promising.
Design-wise, this thing is stripped down to the basics. A roomy, adjustable hood easily slips over a helmet, and pit zips keep you for turning into a human
steam shower, but that’s about all you get.
The real outstanding feature of this jacket, and a theme I’ve recognized in all of the Black Diamond garments I’ve tried, is a really great fit. This jacket accommodates my broad climber shoulders without billowing out around my waist and hips, which isn’t always the case with outdoors clothing. It seems that Black Diamond has actually cut their apparel for athletic women. Packable, minimalist storm protection Quality contruction and athletic cut.
4 stars. Comfortable, lightweight and kept me dry; gets the job done with no fuss. One star off because this is a bit pricey for a basic shell.