In the past couple of years, the idea of synthetic insulation garments that are breathable enough to move quickly in, without overheating, has really taken hold. It’s a great concept when done right. Garments that use synthetic insulation will always be popular due to their increase weather resistance and lower price than down. They also have more warmth than most fleece or soft shell. They tend to be durable and are super comfortable to wear, full stop. Making them breathable enough to wear all day for an activity like ski touring or splitboarding has been the goal of many product designers recently.
There are many synthetic fill garments out there now claiming to offer increased breathability. They usually come in 1 of 2 forms. The first is via a hybrid construction that uses very air permeable materials (usually fleece) in certain places, thus increasing air flow and comfort. The second is by using a synthetic fill that is itself more air permeable and pairing with a very air permeable shell and liner.
The obvious downside to both techniques is the reduction in wind and weather resistance that should be expected when using more breathable and air permeable materials. Extra breathability almost always comes at the expense of resistance to the elements.
The Black Diamond Deployment Hybrid Hoody is very much one of the new breed of breathable garments. As can be construed from the name of the product, it mainly uses a hybrid construction to achieve its goal. BD aim this garment right at the mountain athlete who needs a layer to wear all day, in a variety of conditions. It’s a key garment in the BD range and one I sense they are proud of, so I’ve always had an eye one trying it out.
MATERIALS & CONSTRUCTION
The Deployment Hybrid Hoody uses a really interesting combination of materials. The back and lower torso is entirely nylon faced Merino Wool. It’s a single layer fabric with Merino fibres on the inside and a smooth outer face to increase durability. Fabric weight is around 300gm/m2.
The hood, shoulders and upper front torso of the Deployment Hybrid Hoody is where BD have placed the synthetic insulation. In this case it’s 80g Primaloft Silver. The shell fabric is a soft, lightweight 80g Schoeller Stretch Woven with Nanosphere treatment and the inner lining is a soft polyester mesh.
Construction details are impressive. Everything is tight, there are no sloppy seams and the whole thing has a real quality feel to it.
The areas covered in Primaloft fit quite close. Not crazy tight or anything – it’s about right for a medium on me – but definitely pretty close. Anyone who has particularly big shoulders or upper arms might have to size up to get enough room.
The lower portion of the jacket is a little roomier however. Plus the Merino fabric has some stretch which also loosens the fit up a touch. Black Diamond designed this piece to be primarily used as a 2nd layer / midlayer within a layering system so a trim-ish fit is to be expected. The Hoody’s length is just about right – certainly long enough to stay tucked in a pack belt, which I like. The arms are long enough to avoid riding up – also a plus. The asymmetric pattern looks cool but as far as I can tell doesn’t really affect the fit one way or the other
The hood on the Deployment is similar in design to some other BD hoods I’ve tried. It doesn’t have any adjustment, front or rear, and is designed to fit over a hat but under a helmet. It has a simple elastic binding. Both the cuffs and the hem have an elastic binding too and the full length reversed front zip has a wind flap behind it to cut out drafts.
Probably the most interesting and unusual feature of the Deployment Hybrid are the pockets. There are no conventional hand pockets – something that signifies the garment is for active use – and two chest pockets. The chest pockets sit quite high on the garment, one having a vertical entry, the other diagonal. Both are of a reasonable size – big enough to stuff thin gloves, a beanie or a phone into.
Although I haven’t had the chance to use the Deployment as much as I would like, I’ve still logged enough hours in various situations to get a pretty decent feel for it. I have to admit that in some ways it’s a little different to what I expected.
Before using the Deployment, I thought it would be considerably warmer and less breathable than turned out to be. I was expecting the combination of Primaloft and Merino to be too warm for me to wear whilst hiking or skinning uphill. Basically, despite BD’s claims, I thought this would be a garment I’d wear for less active stuff like lift served riding. On paper, the Deployment Hybrid Hoody really does make for an awesome under-shell layer for skiing and snowboarding. It still definitely is that, but it’s also way less warm when used an active layer than I expected.
This is due to a couple of things – firstly the Merino lets air flow though it very easily. And since a good portion of the garment is made up of Merino, it makes for a good vent when the wind blows. Secondly, the mesh lining and very air permeable stretch woven shell on the Primaloft areas really does make a massive difference over the conventional nylon / poly lining, nylon face combo that you’d usually find on a synthetic fill jacket.
Primaloft on its own is actually very breathable, it’s the shell and lining that can often make this kind of garment feel sweaty. With the Deployment, the mesh lining doesn’t inhibit air flow at all. It also disperses any moisture that does build up very well. The stretch woven Schoeller shell fabric meanwhile is way more breathable than a ripstop nylon type fabric that would traditionally be used. The end result is a way more breathable, though less wind resistant, fabric + insulation package. Because of this I found I was able to carrying on wearing the hoody long after I presumed I would have to remove it due to overheating. That being said, for me this is still very much a cold weather active piece. It’d make for a great ski touring / splitboarding garment for anyone who regularly tours in cold, dry conditions.
Just a note on the Schoeller shell fabric; basically, its awesome. Schoeller are a Swiss company who specialise in stretch wovens and tend to produce really high quality fabrics. The fabric used here is the same as the on the Alpine Start Hoody. It feels so soft and light yet it sheds moisture incredibly well and is ridiculously durable for its weight. At 80g/m2 it’s a littler heavier than some equivalent textiles out there but as far as I can tell it’s one of the highest performing fabrics I’ve come across.
The fit isn’t perfect for me, but it’s still pretty good. It’s a touch tight across the shoulders with anything more than a baselayer on and the neck area is just a little tight and restrictive too. The fit through the lower torso is spot on, as is the length. The close fit makes for a cosy feel under a shell though and no doubt makes the hoody more efficient when it comes to trapping heat. Fit on the arms is fine and there’s zero pulling or riding up when reaching high.
The hood is great when wearing a beanie underneath but is a little too roomy on its own. A rear drawcord would totally sort the situation out. It’s a similar issue that I found on the Alpine Start Hoody. BD, please put some sort of volume adjustment on your hoods in the future! It would improve them no end.
Onto those usual pockets; well, I quite like them. Accessing the right hand side horizontal zipped pocket takes a little getting used to but in general I do value chest pockets when touring. It makes getting to things on the move so easy and as mentioned earlier, there’s enough room in them to stuff a phone, thin touring gloves, beanie etc. The lack of hand pockets is only an issue when wearing the hoody for everyday type stuff which I did in fact end up doing quite a lot of the time.
One small negative is that the Deployment isn’t as packable or lightweight as a traditional synthetic garment. Although it’s by no means heavy, the Deployment feels like a garment that is designed to be worn rather than carried. Overall weight is around 500g and the pay off for having so much Merino in the garment is that is doesn’t compress as well as a conventional lightweight puffy.
It’s probably fair to say that the Deployment Hybrid Hoody is a little unusual, I’ve come to really enjoy wearing it though. It provides comfort and protection over a surprisingly wide range of temperatures and conditions. The fit and feature set won’t be for everyone but I think it’s a well thought out garment that I will certainly use extensively in the future.
As an all round cool / cold weather midlayer or stand alone piece it’s excellent. The combination of breathability and static warmth also means it’s great as an active layer for cold days splitboarding and a midlayer for in bounds lift served riding too. The combination of high-end materials and tight construction also means the Deployment should survive many years of use.
- Breathable and comfortable
- Good warmth under a shell
- High end materials and construction
- Hood could be better
- Not as light and packable as some