Like any good gear aficionado most of my purchases are well researched, well thought out choices following hours of online comparison and deliberation over weight, construction and how said investment will look on instagram. But every now and again I fall into the impulse buying trap that is "just browsing" at the outlet stores. The latter resulted in my latest acquisition - the Black DIamond Alpine Start Hoody and I feel like it deserves some print space. BD market this piece as an ultra-light softshell for weight conscious climbers providing light weather resistance in a highly packable bundle of awesome (I may have paraphrased). You can read more about the helmet compatible hood and Nanosphere technology on their website but won't you can't read is how magical this jacket feels on.
The fabric is lightweight but not too delicate and has already stood up well to the customary dog claw abrasion quality control in mandatory field tests. It fared well against a small run in with a Matagouri bush but I managed to snag a thread or two on some rose thorns. Just for the record I had no intention of testing the durability so thoroughly but you're welcome anyway. There is a healthy amount of stretch which allows for a close fit and plenty of movement at the same time. I've been running around the Port HIlls in Christchurch all winter in this hoody (layered over a light thermal) and it's super comfortable through the shoulders which is a bonus. The softshell fabric also has fantastic anti-rustle properties which make it easier to ninja around the place - not something you can do in your traditional rain jacket. This is definitely not a replacement for your waterproof, seam sealed deal when heading into the hills on a multi-day excursion but when you're primary need is wind protection it's a great addition to your kit.
The hood gets in the way a little when I have it partially zipped at the front as there is no way of rolling it away but I like the overall no frills approach to the jacket. I've hiked in it a few times and I like that I can barely feel it under my pack but it really cuts the wind on cooler days. Small, lightweight and breathable are big draw cards for light and fast day missions or climbing on clear but cold days. I'm looking forward to having this come spring when we start rock climbing again as it fits neatly under my harness and still lets me use my arms through their full range of motion without pulling up at the back.
FYI - if you like hand pockets this is not the jacket you are looking for.