The B.D.V. — short for Black Diamond Vertical — jacket and pants are Black Diamond’s most versatile climbing clothing. While the jacket is meant to be a “reincarnation of the legendary Alpine Shirt”, the pants are, according to BD, “equipped for the gamut of mountain terrain”. Both items are made of Schoeller stretch-woven softshell fabric, material which it is promised, offers a breathable, packable and highly weather resistant garment.
The intended uses of the B.D.V. garments are rock climbing and (fair-weather) alpine climbing. Since spring, I’ve been testing both jacket and pants, from midweek evening cragging sessions to longer mountains days in the UK and Europe. The B.D.V jacket and pants have proven to be versatile, hard-wearing, and very comfortable.
BDV uses Schoeller stretch-woven softshell fabric with “NanoSphere technology”. The latter is a kind of non-stick layer — think: teflon — from which water runs off and dirt easily washes off. It won’t make your jacket or pants waterproof, but it stops them from getting too soaked. According to Schoeller’s website, the material requires less frequent washing and it can be washed at lower temperatures. I found the material to be very quick drying and, surprisingly, they really do look like new after a wash.
Given that many soft-shell jackets are now often pitched against hard-shell jackets, it is worth emphasising that the BDV is not in the market to compete with hard-shell jackets. Rather, it is solidly on the “light and stretchy” spectrum of the soft-shell range. The jacket weighs a mere 377g (medium) and may be characterised somewhere between a shirt and a rain jacket. It is as warm as a thin fleece mid layer, but given it is water-resistant—not water-proof—and wind-resistant—not wind-proof—it works well as an outer layer while climbing on your typical Scottish “summer” day, provided you have another belay jacket for when it starts snowing.
Similarly, the pants, while sufficiently robust and warm for a nice summer’s day in high Alpine terrain — say a Midi day trip to climb south facing routes with a bit of snow on the approach — the pants are not meant for long snowy approaches or even ski approaches. For that Black Diamond offers the Dawn Patrol range. In fact, the B.D.V. pants won’t fit over ski boots and they don’t have shock cord fixtures to keep them in place over your mountain boots. Still, they are super versatile and work perfectly as three season climbing pants in the UK and they will work great on most summer climbing routes in the Alps.
The fabric’s most impressive feature is, no doubt, that it is really stretchy yet very robust. I’ve worn the pants the whole summer and they show little sign of use.
The jacket has a tailored fit which is ideal for climbers. Fairly wide at the shoulders/chest and narrow around the hips. I’m 175cm (5’10) and a medium fits perfectly. It is long enough to fit under the harness, and stretchy enough so not restrict movement despite a fairly snug feel. The cuffs maybe a little tight if you like to wear a fancy big watch, but that is maybe not surprising given the intended use is for wear while rock climbing. For that, I much prefer snug cuffs. Most importantly, and unlike other climbing jackets, it isn’t too bulky up front. Thanks to its gusseted underarm panels and the stretchy fabric it offers plenty of movement around shoulders and arms. It also has a drawcord to tighten the jacket around the hips.
Despite my fairly well-proportioned skier’s thighs, a Medium (32’ — my normal waist size) fits me extremely well and because of the stretchy fabric it should accommodate most builds. The brushed waist gives it a real comfy feel and an inbuilt waist belt that offers some (minor) adjustment at the waist. Overall the pants have a distinct carrot shape, and so there is not much flare around the ankle (but not to worry, they’re not in the ‘skinny jeans’ category!). It also feature adjustable drawcord cuffs—which might help to keep the midges out of your pants. The articulated knees and climbing specific gusset guarantee superb freedom of movement for high-stepping moves and also gives a distinct “light” feel (no surprise at less than 400g for size medium).
The jacket has one chest pocket that also features as stow pocket with a loop, so you can easily clip it on your harness as a thin belay jacket. It really packs nice and small.
The fleece-lined neck is comfy, high and fairly snug which I really like on a windy day and when it rains it’s unlikely for water to drip down your back. I like the fact that the jacket is long enough at the back so that it easily fits under the harness and because of the starchy fabric won’t easily pull out from underneath the harness. In case you are a fan of (helmet-compatible) hoods there is also a hoody version of the jacket in a half zip design. The most striking feature of the jacket is likely its not-so-subtle logo, thanks to which I often got called out for “looking like a sponsored climber”—too bad I don’t climb like one.
As noted above the pants feature a harness-compatible internal waistbelt. It has three “settings” and should help to cover some variation in waist size. It also features a two-way zippered fly, in case you got front access problems wearing a harness, which also means there are now two ways to flying low. The pants features two zippered hand pockets, one zippered rear pocket, and a cargo pocket on your right leg which has velcro closure. The zips are very sturdy and of high quality and add to the robust and high quality feel of these pants. The cargo pocket is large enough for phones or a hat/gloves but beware: the velcro only covers parts of the pocket opening — this makes for very easy access but smaller phones, for example, can fall out.
The BDV jacket and pants are a great combo. The jacket offers a great climbing layer. Robust yet flexible with a good degree of wind protection and breathability, it works great in nearly all UK weather conditions. The jacket is not sufficient as a proper belay jacket if the weather turns sour, but it has become my climbing layer of choice this summer and autumn in the Scottish hills.
The pants are hands-down the best climbing pants I’ve ever owned. I’ve really come to love them. I used them extensively this spring in Germany/France and in the summer and autumn in Scotland. They are light, soft, stretchy and hard-wearing. Given their build quality, I’m sure they will be my main rock climbing pants for the next few seasons.
Info From Black Diamond:BDV Jacket:
WEIGHT: 392g (Large)
MORE INFO: Black Diamond WebsiteBDV Pants:
WEIGHT: 430g (Large)
MORE INFO: Black Diamond Website
See this product at the Ellis Brigham shop