Black Diamond are pretty new to the world of apparel but considering how little time they’ve been working on it they’ve done some amazing things with their range do far. Throughout the line there are some really awesome looking pieces across all categories and having seen the ski / snowboard specific stuff for winter 2015 / 2016, I can confidently say that things are only going to get better for BD. I’ve been using the Cold Forge Hoody through the whole of this past winter as insulation both in the mountains and on cold days at home. I wanted an insulation garment for over the top layering during stops whilst splitboarding and for use at camp / overnight stops. On paper the Cold Forge Hoody’s combination of features, materials, weight and packsize make it a good-looking option for this kind of use. This is a full review of the Cold Forge Hoody, you can also check out my initial thoughts on the jacket here.
Materials and Construction
The shell of the Cold Forge Hoody is Pertex Microlight whilst Pertex Quantum is used for the lining. Pertex Microlight is the original windproof nylon used on countless wind shells and down jackets over the years. It is a 30 denier fabric that weighs 49m/2. Pertex Quantum is a softer, lighter fabric at 20 denier and 40g/m2. Sandwiched between is Primaloft Gold Down Blend insulation – a fairly recent addition to Primaloft’s growing line of insulation materials. Gold Down Blend mixes 70% (90/10) hydrophobic goose down with 30% Primaloft Gold synthetic fibre. It’s the first fill that’s made up of a blend of down and synthetic fibres and represents a really interesting development in insulation.
Primaloft are keeping the exact way they construct Down Blend quite close to their chest but it’s clear that the two different fibres are not separate to one another. As the name suggests they are in fact blended together within the baffles. I heard someone from another brand who also use the insulation say that the Primaloft fibres act like ‘scaffolding’ for the down and I think that’s a pretty good way of putting it.
Anyway, the idea is that a down/synthetic mix gives the user the best of both worlds – an insulation that is light and packable like down but resistant to moisture like a synthetic. The claimed clo values of 36.3 dry and 34.8 wet would seem to back up the notion that the insulation functions effectively when wet too. As the insulation is predominantly made up of down, the Cold Forge Hoody has a baffled construction. The baffles are stitched through over the whole garment which isn’t as warm as a box wall construction but is much lighter and more packable.
A lot of work has gone into the fit of the Cold Forge Hoody. It’s fairly long and has a moderate amount of volume inside – somewhere between what you’d expect from a skinny baffle super light down jacket and a big down or synthetic belay parka. The asymmetric baffling across the torso looks great and creates a beautiful fit. Good articulation through the arms provides ample freedom of movement too. The whole things feels refined and tailored. I’m 175cm tall and weigh approx 75kg. I usually take a medium and my size medium Cold Forge Hoody is close to perfect for me.
The fully insulated hood has a rear adjuster and two front adjusters. It’s a big hood that is clearly made to fit over a helmet and just like the rest of the jacket is baffled beautifully. There’s a peak to the hood at the front and the collar zips up high and snug and is lined with a soft micro fleece for extra comfort around the face and neck. The internal draught flap behind the main zip is also lined with a soft micro fleece material. The centre front zip is a chunky molded YKK Vislon that slides nice and smoothly and feels reliable. The metal zip puller has a discrete BD diamond and is textured on the rear to make handling easier.
The cuffs are finished with a stretch woven material that is soft against the skin and expands to fit over gloves. The two front hand warmer pockets are lined on one side with a soft polyester and are of a reasonable size. They are sewn into the jacket in such a way that the pocket zipper remains hidden and the pockets themselves sit flat when zipped up which keeps the front of the jacket looking nice and clean. There’s also a drawcord to seal out draughts at the hem.
The Cold Forge Hoody has lived in my pack during several trips this winter. I’ve also used it as a warm everyday jacket too so I’ve developed a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. First thing to say is that the fit is amazing. I love the over the bum length and trim-ish torso. It feels refined and neat in the kind of way that down jackets of this warmth often don’t. The sleeves are a good length and there is enough room inside to layer the Cold Forge Hoody over a shell but not too much room that the jacket looses efficiency or feels loose or sloppy. A lot of effort has clearly gone into designing the baffling of the jacket – the asymmetric, slanted baffles across the back of the shoulders and down the front look cool and makes the jacket stand out among similar garments.
So far the Primaloft Gold Down Blend insulation also gets the thumbs up. The addition of Primaloft to the down means the jacket doesn’t quite compress as well as a pure down fill would but it certainly feels more ‘substantial’ when first putting it on. Pertex Microlight really is a mega fabric; it’s smooth, resists water really well and feels like it’ll last for years. In fact I was surprised at just how robust the whole thing feels – I don’t think twice about stuffing it in and out of a pack like I might with a jacket made up of lighter fabrics. I’m also confident that the insulation won’t wilt or sag on a soggy day or if it’s exposed to wet snow for long periods, although to be honest I haven’t managed to get it soaked yet.
At approx 580g it’s not exactly heavy but there are many lighter options out there. However, the Cold Forge Hoody isn’t intended to be as light as possible, rather to be an all-purpose, weatherproof piece of insulation primarily for winter activities. I’ve found it makes a great garment for layering over the top of a soft or hard shell during lunch and summit stops when splitboarding. It’s not so bulky that you couldn’t use it as a midlayer either, though it’d have to be pretty frigid to warrant doing that I think. For touring the Cold Forge Hoody might be a little overkill on milder days but on proper winter days when temperatures are below say -5°C (23°F), it’s ideal.
I’ve got just a couple of negative points to make – firstly I reckon the jacket should come with a stuff sack. Yea you can add one of your own and I guess it’s not a massive deal but it’d be cool if BD supplied one all the same. Secondly, I think the hood could be improved upon. The rear adjuster is too low to properly hold onto the back of the head, especially when not wearing a helmet, which for me is most of the time. As a result I have to fully tighten all the draw cords to get the hood to move with my head. A small tweak would solve this problem totally and the hood would be great.
So overall then I’m pretty stoked on the Cold Forge Hoody. It may not be the lightest down jacket out there but it does offer increased weather protection and durability over many other down garments. The awesome fit and thoughtful details make it a pleasure to wear both in the mountains and for everyday winter living.
Great fit, weatherproof, robust. High end fabrics. Primaloft Gold Down Blend insulation works well. Nice design details.
The Not So Good
Hood could be better, no stuff sack.
The Bottom Line
A versatile, well made, mid weight piece of insulation that offers increased weather resistance over your average down jacket.
Fabric → Shell – Pertex Microlight. Lining – Pertex Quantum. Insulation – Primaloft Gold Down Blend.
Weight → Approx 580g (size medium)
RRP → £260