In winter, I like a warm synthetic midlayer between a thin fleece and my shell. It needs to offer superb freedom of movement, be warm but not too warm, breathe well, and have an excellent hood to reduce the need to faff with hats and balaclavas. The Black Diamond First Light Stretch Hoody fulfils this brief almost perfectly.

Alex Roddie Recommends

Overall, I think this is a great choice for Scottish winter backpacking or mountaineering.
  • Warmth for weight
  • Breathability
  • Freedom of movement
  • Hood could be bettter
  • Expensive
Quick specs
Price: £260
Weight: 391g
Materials: 20D nylon stretch ripstop with PFC-free DWR, Primaloft Gold Active insulation (100% polyester), nylon stretch woven lining
Hood: helmet-compatible, single rear adjustment
Front closure: one-way zip with internal flap
Pockets: 2x zipped external handwarmer, 1x zipped external chest
Hem: adjustable drawcord
Cuffs: elastic
Womens/mens version: both
Sizes: XS–XL

Fit is ideal for me, with just enough room for a light fleece underneath. It offers good coverage for the backside, and the low-profile adjustable drawcord adds versatility for the times when you want to use it as a lightweight standalone insulation piece. Freedom of motion is excellent. Although the fabric only has slight stretch, the cut is good, especially around the arms.

The outer face fabric feels soft and has a micro ripstop pattern for durability. It moves well under a shell. Inner fabric is soft and cosy, and it has just the right amount of Primaloft Gold insulation for effective winter use. I’ve found this superb in deep cold on several backpacking trips through the Cairngorms in winter. It’s breathable enough that it never feels clammy, although of course it is possible to overheat if the sun comes out and you’re working hard uphill. The materials used are Bluesign-approved, and the DWR is PFC-free.

It also serves well in place of a light down jacket for spring or summer backpacking. However, due to its high breathability, wind resistance isn’t as good as most dedicated insulated jackets.

The only functional downside for me is the hood. It’s designed to be helmet-compatible, but for me it just doesn’t offer enough coverage for the face and mouth, which can result in cold breezes – sometimes I have to supplement it with a Buff. It does move well with the head, though.

Overall, I think the First Light Stretch Hoody is a great choice for Scottish winter backpacking or mountaineering.