Black Diamond Hot Forge Hoody
Hottest news this winter was the release to the eager public of PrimaLoft® Gold Performance Down Blend, a genuinely innovative hybrid insulation. This combines 70% water-resistant (750 fill power) premium goose down, with 30% PrimaLoft ultrafine synthetic fibre. The materials are bonded together, and claim ‘permanent performance for up to ten machine washes’. The result is the holy grail: warmth, packability and breathability of down, with the water-resistance and washability of synthetic.
Here, this pioneering blend is used in Black Diamond’s Hot Forge Hoody. I have been testing the women’s version (picture shows men's jacket).
The outer shell of the jacket is nylon: windproof, shower-resistant and fast drying, and reasonably tough (no signs yet of snagging or abrasion). It wears like a down jacket, with instant and luxurious warmth, along with noticeably better breathability than 100% synthetic insulation. It’s lighter in weight and bulk than a true synthetic, but heavier than a comparable down jacket (my favourites this winter are Marmot Quasar Hoody at 265g, 900 fill, and Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hoody, 200g, 850 fill).
Black Diamond has given the Women’s Hot Forge Hoody a rather slim cut. Size Medium is snug under the armpits (seemingly a trend this year; I recently tested women’s softshell jackets for TGO magazine and many of them had this fit). This makes it harder to layer garments underneath; I found it comfortable over a base layer but too tight under the arms when a lightweight fleece/mid layer was added. At the same time, it has a very well insulated hood, making it difficult to layer under a hooded outer layer. This dramatically reduces the jacket’s versatility. I fail to understand why garments intended to layer are cut narrow under the arms, which is also where we sweat most and so need more airflow.
Quality of construction and features are exceptional. Insulation is packed into narrow horizontal panels, so stays in place regardless of movement from body or rucksack. Arm length is correctly proportioned, cuffs are gusseted with stretchy elastane. The one-way front zip is backed by a narrow windflap, microfleece lined to create a comfortable chin protector at the top. The same fabric is used around the collar, for real comfort against face and neck (as opposed to nylon or polyester, which feels clammy when damp from sweat). Collar width is perfect: the jacket zips up to just cover my chin, with room to move plus the ability to cinch it closer. The hood is also fantastic – warm, adjustable to fit over a helmet or bare head, with good movement – but too bulky to pack inside most waterproof jacket hoods. The women’s model also has two zipped side pockets, an inside zipped chest pocket and two inside stuff pockets.
I have been testing Hot Forge Hoody ski touring and hiking in winter and spring conditions. I love the principle, of a rugged 'down' jacket that I can wear without fear of getting it mucky. It’s a shame, though, that the narrow underarm cut of the jacket restricts its usage to being a warm outer layer, over little more than a base layer. With more layering flexibility, it would be the most incredible, go-to jacket for any cold weather adventure.
Best for: winter hiking, spring ski touring
Sizes: Men Small - XXL, women Small - XXL
Weight:410g (women's size Medium)
Materials: outer nylon, inner polyester
Insulation: PrimaLoft® Gold Performance Down Blend (70% goose down, 30% synthetic fibres)