Anyone who frequents the mountains from dawn ’til dusk can appreciate the value of a thin puff jacket. This type of garment layers well with other clothing, providing warmth and versatility, and can stuff easily into a pack. A thin puffy is great for those times when you feel cold as soon as you stop moving and need just a little something extra to stay warm, such as when you’re stuck at a belay.
The Black Diamond Access Hoody has been my go-to jacket this spring. For shoulder-season weather that can range from 30 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the Access Hoody has kept me comfortable.
It’s simple, with only four zippers (three pockets) and no elastic cords. It’s light (330g) and packs down to a very small size relative to how warm it is. The PrimaLoft Gold Insulation stays drier than down feathers when I get caught in the rain and it’s migration-resistant, which means the insulation stays evenly distributed, as opposed to settling into irregular lumps. That’s a good thing for a jacket that is frequently wadded into and out of a pack. It also features a self-contained stuff-pouch with a clipping loop that allows it to hang on a harness.
Like all high-tech outerwear, the Access Hoody is designed to keep you dry by resisting water and venting excess body heat. Of course, this puff jacket is not a rain shell, so its water-resistance qualities only go so far, but it’s kept me dry in a light drizzle.
The outer fabric of the jacket is Schoeller stretch-woven nylon with a Nanosphere Technology finish that helps the fabric stay dry and clean. The liner is made with Pertex Microlight ripstop nylon, which is softer than the Schoeller and complete with a durable water repellant.
Another feature I’ve appreciated is the under-arm gussets that allow unhindered arm movement. This attribute is great for climbing because the elastic cuffs don’t slide up my arms when I reach above my head.
I have one caveat about my Access Hoody–the main zipper. After a month of very light use, it started having issues. Five months later, it still works but zipping the jacket entails fiddling with the alignment to get the tabs just so, and only then will it zip. At least it stays zipped once it clicks into place…so far. If I’m trying to close the jacket in a gusty breeze, I have to invest even more effort to hold the tabs perfectly enough for the zipper to operate.
Lastly, I’m undecided about my feelings regarding the oversize hood, which is designed to fit over a climbing helmet. There is no way to cinch it down around my head, so when I’m not wearing a helmet, the hood tends to slide off and is mostly worthless for adding any warmth. I realize, however, that the lack of a cinch cord is one of the aspects that keep the Access Hoody simple and compact, without extra parts that can get snagged on branches or carabiners. I do like simple, so I guess I’m OK with a hood that only works with a helmet.
As long as the zipper holds out, I’ll keep stuffing the Access Hoody into my climbing kit.
Derek Franz is the digital editor for Alpinist and has been climbing for more than 22 years.
Packs into self-contained pouch
Synthetic insulation stays dry and is migration-resistant
Gusseted sleeves allow plenty of movement for climbing
Zipper started having problems after a few weeks of light use
There is no way to cinch down the hood, which is designed to fit over a helmet