Review: Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody

Water-Resistant Down Jacket
Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody
$380, 10 oz./284g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL

Sometimes it’s hard to anticipate how much warmth you’ll need from your insulation, especially on a multi-day backcountry trip—and you may be tempted to go with an ultralight puffy jacket and hope for the best. If your choice is BD’s Approach Down Hoody, you’ll achieve the ultralight objective with little risk of feeling under-dressed. Wearing it on cool, very windy evenings and mornings down to the 40s Fahrenheit on a six-day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon in early April and in similar temps on a five-day, late-summer hike in the Wind River Range, I stayed both perfectly warm and happy that I’d avoided adding more ballast to a pack already encumbered with substantial food and water weight.

Stuffed with fluorocarbon-free, RDS-certified, 800-fill power, water-resistant Allied HyperDRY goose down, the Approach Down Hoody not only has high warmth for its low weight, it also won’t lose loft if it gets damp from light rain or sweat—making it useful not only as a campsite puffy for many three-season backpacking trips, but as cold-temps insulation when on the move as well. When high winds made it feel colder than the ambient air temp in the 50s and 40s in the Grand Canyon, I remained comfortable wearing this hoody over just a couple of light base layers—often without having to yank the hood up. Without wind, it’s comfortable in temps down to around 40° F.

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The Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody in the Grand Canyon.

In a sub-category of outdoor apparel—ultralight down jackets—where there are few ways to distinguish between products, minor details can separate the excellent from the very good. The Approach Down Hoody leaves others behind in a few notable ways.

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The Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody.
The Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody in the Grand Canyon.

First of all, like other puffy jackets, the Approach’s hood adjusts with a one-hand drawcord in back; but unlike some competitors, this drawcord is very easy to find and manipulate, even when wearing gloves. And the hood not only snugs neatly and comfortably around your head and is deep enough to extend to your eyebrows, but it stays in place when turning your head side to side even if the front zipper is fully unzipped, thanks to an elasticized face opening that helps keep it on your noggin.

Second, the shell repels light precipitation thanks to its PFC-free and water-free Empel DWR (durable, water-resistant treatment) that’s not just greener but more durable than traditional DWRs. The 10-denier by 7-denier nylon woven shell fabric helps trim grams off this jacket but it’s more susceptible to tears than a heavier fabric.

Third, the two zippered hand pockets are both quite deep—a little unusual in a three-season ultralight puffy—and the zippers smartly stop before the bottom of each pocket, meaning items inside won’t likely fall out if you inadvertently leave the pocket unzipped.

The jacket easily stuffs into the left pocket, which has a carabiner clip loop, compressing to slightly larger than a liter bottle (and it doubles as a comfortable camp pillow). Plus, it has a zippered chest pocket, a welcome convenience not always seen on sub-10-ounce puffy jackets, and elasticized cuffs and an adjustable hem with an internal cordlock.

The regular fit allows for wearing light insulation or a couple of base layers underneath and a shell over it without getting tight, bulky, or inhibiting freedom of movement. The length extends to mid-butt.

At a mere 10 ounces, the Approach Down Hoody ranks among the lightest insulation pieces for three-season backpacking on nights above freezing.

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The Verdict

Ultralight and packable, with a high warmth-to-weight ratio and a smartly designed feature set, the Black Diamond Approach Down Hoody stands out as a great pick for three-season backpacking in moderate temperatures and activities like ski touring and climbing in temps near or below freezing.


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See “The 10 Best Down Jackets,” “How You Can Tell How Warm a Down Jacket Is,” and all reviews of insulated jackets and outdoor apparel that I like at The Big Outside.

And don’t miss my picks for “The Best Backpacking Gear” of the year.

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of gear reviews and expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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