Review: Black Diamond Treeline Rain Shell

Rain Jacket
Black Diamond Treeline Rain Shell
$140, 10 oz./283.5g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XXL, women’s XS-XL

High-performance rain jackets for the backcountry cost real money. Cheap rain shells often compromise on quality. Through a rainy, three-day, August backpacking trip in the Wind River Range, including hiking nine miles in wind-driven rain and temps in the 40s Fahrenheit on our last day, this lightweight jacket kept my 20-year-old son dry. If you want a rain shell that delivers good quality at a price that leaves you gas money to reach the trailhead, the Treeline warrants a close look.

My 19-year-old daughter also wore the women’s Treeline for six days trekking Iceland’s 33-mile/54k Laugavegur Trail and 15.5-mile/25k Fimmvörðuháls Trail, where we had cool temps, wind and rain on most days. And I wore this shell while hiking on cool, breezy mornings on a four-day, roughly 45-mile September backpacking trip in Yosemite (although we got no rain).

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The Black Diamond Treeline Rain Shell.
The Black Diamond Treeline Rain Shell.

Featuring the brand’s proprietary, 2.5-layer BD.dry waterproof-breathable and windproof solution and fully seam-sealed fabric with a PFC-free DWR (durable, water-repellent treatment) the Treeline carries ratings of waterproof to 10,000mm and 10,000g/m2/24 hours for breathability—common among rain shell’s made for hikers and backpackers and striking a balance between repelling even severe rain and allowing some moisture from your body to escape. Wearing it walking around town in rain, I noticed it got a bit clammy inside, but it didn’t wet through. As my son experienced in the Winds, in mountains, moderate to cool temps often negate the need for high breathability or ventilation.

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The Black Diamond Treeline Rain Shell.
The Black Diamond Treeline Rain Shell.

The climbing-helmet-compatible hood features a flexible brim and adjusts with a single back drawcord, shielding your face very well and keeping rain off eyeglasses. The water-resistant front zipper keeps moisture out effectively despite no rain flap, and zips up over your chin, giving the Treeline coverage that compares with much-pricier shells. The fit allows wearing a couple of base layers and a light, insulating middle layer and the length nearly covers your butt completely. The hem and cuffs are both adjustable.

As with other bargain rain shells, the Treeline offers limited ventilation. In lieu of pit zips, which would bump up the jacket’s cost significantly, BD relies on a common alternative among competitors at this price point: a large, mesh, upper back vent with an overlapping shell panel. Where pit zips tend to create ventilation through the normal swinging of arms when walking, a back vent doesn’t, and its effectiveness diminishes when wearing a pack.

The two spacious, mesh-lined, zippered hand pockets provide some passive but limited airflow when unzipped. They each hold a warm glove and much more and the jacket stuffs into the right pocket, compressing to the size of a liter bottle, with a carabiner loop for clipping to a climbing harness. One smaller zippered chest pocket (not mesh-lined) keeps a smartphone and map dry.

At a slim 10 ounces, the Treeline ranks among the lightest fully featured rain shells and borders on ultralight, yet still has a relatively durable, 50-denier nylon face fabric.

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Black Diamond Treeline Rain Shell

Weather Protection

The Verdict

Although its breathability and venting don’t compete with high-end rain jackets, the Black Diamond Treeline Rain Shell offers good protection in rain for hikers, backpackers, and other users at a very good value.



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See “The Best Rain Jackets for Hiking and Backpacking,” “5 Pro Tips For Buying the Right Rain Jacket For the Backcountry,” and all of my reviews of rain jackets and outdoor apparel and that I like.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned backpacker, you’ll learn new tricks for making all of your trips go better in my “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking,” and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.” With a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read all of those three stories for free; if you don’t have a subscription, you can download the e-guide versions of “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” the lightweight and ultralight backpacking guide, and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.”

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 my Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all of my reviews and my expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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