Black Diamond Crag Clothes for Women Review

From the tough, stretchy Forged Denim Pants to a light softshell jacket, Kate Dean puts a selection of Black Diamond's women's rock clothes through their paces.

Forged Denim Pants (trousers) - £95 (£110 for men)

Giving the Forged Denim Pants a workout on Steep Traverse, Stanage Plantation   © Miriam Dobson
Giving the Forged Denim Pants a workout on Steep Traverse, Stanage Plantation
© Miriam Dobson

Design

Also available for men, the Forged Denim Pants could easily be mistaken for a normal pair of jeans – until you put them on! They're fitted like skinny jeans, which I was initially excited about as I don't particularly like wearing baggy climbing jeans in real life. They are long enough in the leg for someone tall like me for them to not be too short to cover my ankles, which is great. They are also easily rolled up for climbing in.

Performance

These denim pants are ridiculously comfortable stretchy-jeans. As claimed on the website 'slip into a pair and never want to take them off', I have been wearing them pretty much constantly. Over the past few months I have tried them in a variety of situations. I have particularly enjoyed using them on cooler days on the grit and think they suit this style of climbing wonderfully.

They're a fashionable slim fit  © Tom Drysdale
They're a fashionable slim fit
© Tom Drysdale

The brush pocket is well disguised  © Tom Drysdale
The brush pocket is well disguised
© Tom Drysdale

The BD Forged Denim is incredibly stretchy, meaning I don't feel as constricted in my movement as normal denim trousers. The experience is a cross between wearing leggings and climbing trousers. However, I'm quite keen on utilising my flexibility when I'm bouldering or sport climbing and I didn't feel totally uninhibited while wearing them. This may be due to the slim fit, which from an aesthetic perspective I really like. But it does seem that the aim to produce a product so reminiscent of high street jeans has slightly undermined the performance of the pants from a climbing perspective. I find wearing them bouldering very frustrating as not only do they stop me pulling off certain moves because I can't get my feet high enough, but they also keep falling down! The falling down issue can of course be solved by wearing a belt, but this feels even more inhibiting. Having said all that, for less gymnastic styles of climbing, they are fantastic. I have enjoyed wearing them when trad climbing on the grit, as the denim protects me from grazing myself on the rock and I am able to move as much as I need for that style.

I do need to mention the durability of the pants. Their label states, 'wear them out, we dare you' and I decided to take Black Diamond up on this challenge. I've been wearing these jeans for a few months now. In that time they have endured a night out, climbing on grit and a bike crash, yet there still isn't a mark on them. I'm excited to finally find a pair of jeans that can keep up with my clumsiness and I'm certain they will me last me for a long time. The cordura-blend fabric also manages to keep me cool despite its incredible durability.

Features

The jeans have four pockets deep enough to actually put things in – a miracle for women's trousers! There is also a little pocket to fit a brush, which is useful for working routes.

Overall

These jeans are great and if you're prepared to spend some money on them, you'll get a two-in-one pair of everyday jeans and pretty good climbing trousers. They might not be perfect yet, but they are notable for the awesome fabric that combines toughness and stretch.

Black Diamond say:

BD's new Forged Denim uses an innovative combination of best-in-class materials with climbing specific features to create the world's best climbing denim, utilizing Black Diamond's exclusive BD.FORGED design protocol.

  • Sizes: 2-12 (women) 28-38 (men)
  • Weight: 435g
  • Super durable Cordura Denim with unbelievable stretch, light enough to stay cool
  • Harness-compatible low-profile hardware and belt loops
  • Integrated brush pocket
  • Slim, slightly tapered V11 Fit for pure climbing functionality
  • Leg opening: 10 in.
  • Unique 3 piece waistband construction to prevent waistband from stretching out
  • Classic 5-pocket styling

For more info eu.blackdiamondequipment.com

Six Shooter Tank (top) - £55

Design

This is a versatile, comfortable tank top, which has considered the needs of female climbers in its design. I'm a sucker for anything with interesting back straps and even though this tank is simple, it didn't disappoint. The inbuilt bra negates the need to wear a sports bra so it looks great from the back. If you prefer to wear a sports bra, however, its simplicity means you wouldn't be wrestling with hundreds of straps. I'm a massive fan of the colours - the rusty pink version I have is unusual, bright and fun. If you aren't a fan of pink, there are four colours to choose from and I would happily own each of them. I also like the ribbed feature up the sides, which probably doesn't add much to the performance of the top but does make it look great.

Six Shooter Tank and Forged Denim Pants  © Tom Drysdale
Six Shooter Tank and Forged Denim Pants
© Tom Drysdale

Performance

In addition to being a lovely fashion piece, the tank performs really well during activity. Although I'm not always a fan of inbuilt bra systems on tops as they feel a bit strange, the padding being easily removable is a great feature for me as this makes the bra system more comfortable than others I've tried. If you prefer extra support, however, the padding is probably very helpful. I would say that the elastic around the bust can feel a little tight, so if that kind of constriction bothers you, I would recommend getting a size up from your usual dress size.

The simple strap design is comfy and effective, and looks good  © Tom Drysdale
The simple strap design is comfy and effective, and looks good
© Tom Drysdale

The design of the back straps and the low cut under arms make for a top that is great for climbing in. I've been bouldering, trad climbing and sport climbing in it and at no point did I feel at all constricted or have any rubbing or chaffing around my underarms and shoulders. As someone who hates being too hot when climbing, I really appreciate the lightweight fabric that doesn't cling and keeps you as cool as possible while wearing a vest.

Overall

This is a simple, fun tank top, which is great to wear when being active and doesn't restrict your arms when you're climbing.

Black Diamond say:

With a stretchy, sculpted fit that stands out as much as the tower it's named for, the Black Diamond Six Shooter Tank provides ultra-comfortable, uninhibited freedom of movement on or off the rock. A flat-seam construction minimizes chafing on long warm days, and the internal stretch mesh shelf bra with removable pads lends additional support on dynamic outings.

  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Flat-seam construction to minimize friction
  • Integrated sports bra with removable pads
  • Dual-strap racerback
  • Side ruching detail
  • Fit: Slim

For more info eu.blackdiamondequipment.com

Levitation Capris - £55

Design

They may not be particularly cheap for some basic leggings, but these 3/4 length capris are brilliant for wearing when training, climbing, running or doing more or less any sport - and if you want a longer leg they're also available in a full length version. The block colour design means they go with everything (particularly the Six Shooter Tank, of course). Having said that, I don't love the blue as I feel a bit like a smurf when I'm wearing them, but that's just personal taste and there are other colour choices. The high waist band makes them comfortable to be active in without them feeling like they might fall down. I've enjoyed wearing them for climbing, yoga and running as a result of the security the high waist provides.

Levitation Capris on Spurs Traverse, Stanage Plantation   © Miriam Dobson
Levitation Capris on Spurs Traverse, Stanage Plantation
© Miriam Dobson

Performance

The leggings allow me to utilise my flexibility and feel totally uninhibited. I also love the fact that they are slightly thicker than other leggings. This means I can wear them climbing outside without the anxiety of ripping a hole in them on a sharp rock or when I'm climbing on grit. Most of my other leggings are full of holes and I'm confident these will last much longer. The thicker fabric means you don't have to worry about your pants showing either– hurrah!

Features

The fact that these leggings aren't inundated with features is part of their excellence. Apart from having a pocket for your phone in the waist band, they are simple and functional. This pocket is very useful if you want to listen to music while running, but my hefty brick of a phone doesn't quite fit.

Overall

I am a big fan of these versatile, high quality leggings. I'd say they're worth the extra cash as they will last longer than cheaper alternatives and are just so comfortable.

Black Diamond say:

A capri-length version of our go-to stretch leggings, the Levitation Capris are made with a super-soft stretch knit fabric for total comfort while training and climbing.

The Levitation Capris feature a flat-seam construction and gusseted design to reduce friction and improve range of motion on dynamic routes and intense training workouts. The elastic rib-knit waistband and cuffs also have internal power mesh lining for added breathability.

  • Sizes: XS-XL
  • Weight: 210g
  • Flat-seam construction to minimize friction
  • Elastic rib-knit waistband with internal power mesh lining
  • Wide waistband fully lined with mesh for support
  • Internal waistband pocket
  • Gusseted construction
  • Inseam: 21

For more see eu.blackdiamondequipment.com

Levitation Capris prod shot

Cirque Shell - £160

Protected from light showers at the top of Black Crag  © Miriam Dobson
Protected from light showers at the top of Black Crag
© Miriam Dobson

Design

The Cirque Shell is rather more techy and mountain-worthy than the other items in this review, and would equally suit multi pitch mountain rock and fair weather hill walking. Offered in both men's and women's versions, this light softshell jacket ('shell' is a bit of a misnomer since it's not waterproof) is an attractive design, coming in a choice of three block colours. The women's cut is fairly fitted around the waist, so if you want to be able to layer up underneath, go for a bigger size. The slim fit prevents excess material from flapping around in the wind and makes it more comfy when carrying a backpack.

Performance

The Cirque Shell is a brilliant all-round windproof, and slightly showerproof, layer. The stretch fabric allows for ease of movement when climbing. I've particularly enjoyed wearing it when multipitch climbing. The jacket is breathable enough to stop you overheating while moving but keeps the wind off to stop you getting cold on a belay. The DWR finish and quick drying fabric is also helpful in case an unexpected shower hits while on a route. It won't act as a full waterproof in real rain, however, it's only for fair weather.

The jacket packs down to a small size, so can be easily stowed in a bag as an emergency layer. As well as being breathable, the stretchy Nylon blend double weave fabric (composed of 75% Nylon, 14% Polyester and 11% Elastane) is tough enough to be worn while climbing without worrying about it getting damaged.

It keeps off wind and light showers without you overheating on the walk-in  © Miriam Dobson
It keeps off wind and light showers without you overheating on the walk-in
© Miriam Dobson

Tank, Shell and Capris on a Peak Lime day  © Miriam Dobson
Tank, Shell and Capris on a Peak Lime day
© Miriam Dobson

Features

The jacket has plenty of pockets, which I've filled with snacks for my multipitch expeditions, but are secure enough to carry a phone or topo (if, like me, you are prone to getting lost on routes). The chest pockets have been placed so that they are not obstructed when wearing a harness, allowing for maximum snack accessibility at all times. The website suggests that the hand pockets are also harness compatible – I'm not entirely sure what they mean by that as my harness completely obscures them! The inside chest pocket also has a headphone hole, making it perfect for antisocial hiking, or running in adverse weather. The back also boasts a reflective logo, making the wearer more visible in low visibility.

Another feature is that the hood is designed to fit a helmet underneath to keep you as dry and protected as possible. It can also be adjusted using a toggle at the back, but I have found that it is far too large for me when not wearing a helmet, something that seems to be a downfall for many helmet compatible hoods.

Overall

I have found this jacket incredibly useful, far more that I was expecting. I thought the lack of waterproofing would render it unhelpful to take climbing, but the fact that I can move freely while wearing it and also be protected from the wind and light rain means it is a great item to have in your climbing bag. Good for fair weather hillwalking too, or running when it's cold.

Black Diamond say:

A three-season shell built for the send, the Cirque Shell is tailor-made for climbing and trekking in the mountains. With its highly durable, 4-way stretch, double-weave fabric and DWR weather resistance, the Cirque is designed for movement, without sacrificing protection. The shell has an adjustable helmet compatible hood, a chest pocket to store a phone or topo, and hand pockets with a harness friendly placement. And when visibility is poor, the Cirque's reflective logos keep you safe in low-light conditions.

  • Sizes: XS-XL (women) S-XL (men)
  • Weight: 216g
  • Zippered chest and harness compatible hand pockets
  • Adjustable climbing-helmet compatible hood
  • Low profile hypalon zipper pulls and cuff tabs
  • DWR zippers with integrated zipper garages
  • Reflective logos for high visibility in low light conditions
  • Primary fabric is Bluesign approved
  • Fit: Regular

For more see eu.blackdiamondequipment.com

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