We’re watching Black Diamond very carefully as they launch its new range of apparel. Known for introducing innovative climbing gear such as the Camalot and the HotWire, and some rather good accessories such as walking poles and headtorches, the US company has now launched a mountain clothing range to much industry excitement. The range has been two years in development, and was launched this autumn. We’ve so far seen the Crag Hoody (and the Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell landed on my doorstep a couple of days ago) we’ll run a full First Look review in a couple of months. The range is firmly rooted in Alpine wear, but what I find most reassuring is the limited number of items, some two dozen; like a good restaurant, they do few things and do them well. It also uses an interesting range of materials from Polartec, PrimaLoft, Schoeller and, recently announced, Gore-Tex for next year. Black Diamond seem to be using the best fabrics for the purpose regardless of any brand loyalty. Another refreshing change.
So what of the Crag Hoody, the only item we’ve had for much time? It’s a wonderfully cosy softshell with a brushed fleece lining and made with Polartec Windbloc, with a DWR finish. It has a hood with drawcords around the face (no volume adjuster sadly – important for a helmet-compatible hood), hem drawcords and two handwarmer pockets that are cut off by a hipbelt, and an interior zipped pocket. The cuffs have no Velcro, but can be pulled up fairly easily. It’s an incredibly simple jacket that I’ve worn (a lot) throughout the summer, and now in winter with a lightweight waterproof). It’s probably the least technical garment in the range, and definitely ‘lifestyle’ – it looks as good in the pub as on the mountain, or as Black Diamond say ‘from summer cragging belays to missions to the coffee shop’. It’s also pretty weighty at 767g. So why do I like it so much. Well it just feels quality and is clearly well-constructed. It’s a tasty introduction, but the real test will be with the more technical items. I have high hopes.