Black Diamond pitons were the foundation of American aid climbing, and from invention to today, no company makes a better all-around cam. Yet, it’s easy to think of them as a new player in the outdoor softgoods game. They only started making ropes in 2016, and only really leaned into their apparel business around that same time. It’s been about 7 years since Black Diamond started pouring resources into their outerwear line, and the fruit of that tenure is really starting to show. The StormLine Stretch Shell is a prime example of the precise, thoughtful design and quality construction that they’ve come to exemplify over the years.
StormLine Stretch Rain Shell Features:
- BD.dry 2.5L shell
- 10K mm waterproof rating and 10K g/m2/24hr breathability rating
- Stretch fabric increases comfort
- Underarm gussets for added mobility
- Adjustable, climbing-helmet-compatible hood
- YKK® Aquaguard center front zipper
- Packs into right-hand pocket with carabiner clip loop
- Adjustable cuffs and hem
- DWR pit zips for ventilation
- Weight: 320 grams
- MSRP: $170
Looking at the StormLine Stretch Shell, Black Diamond’s FineLine Stretch Shell might come to mind. Reasonable. They have plenty in common. In fact, they use the same shell material, have the same front zipper, and employ the same hood adjustment setup. Nonetheless, they differ in some critical ways. Whereas the FineLine positions itself to be an effective base-package, just-in-case shell, the StormLine is set up to be a more heavily-featured, wear-all-day solution. And, it’s built upon the same space-saving, gram-counting mentality.
Like any rain shell, the StormLine lives and dies by its waterproofing, and there’s hardly a better place to test waterproofing than the rainy town of Bellingham, Washington, which I call home. Over the past 2 months, I’ve put this jacket through the wringer. It’s seen long, exposed days fly-fishing in the downpour, high-output hiking in heavily falling snow, and powerful winds that whisk trash cans away like escape pods to different neighborhoods. Through it all, the BD.dry 2.5L shell fabric has beaded water and never soaked through. In fact, even surface saturation at the wrists (a commonly offending location in many jackets) was minimal after 6 hours out in particularly heavy rain while exploring the Sauk River. I’m impressed with how this shell handles water.
So, as a shell, the StormLine does its primary job of keeping the water out. Its features also allow it to regulate temperature well. A cinch at the waist cuts updrafts, a cinch at the back of the head keeps the hood snug, and velcro cuffs adjust to whatever size glove you may or may not be wearing. All these things helped keep me warm in the wind and rain. For high-output activities, large mesh-less pit zips give glorious breathability. Those pit zips and the velcro cuffs are new to the StormLine, and help make it an all-day layer with the aid of the shell’s spacious fit.
The StormLine has what Black Diamond refers to as a “regular” fit. No secrets or insinuations there – I agree. You can comfortably wear the jacket over a couple insulation layers thanks to the fit, but doesn’t make you look like a child wearing a poncho if you’re only wearing the shell over a base layer. It’s also quite stretchy, so mobility is unhindered, no matter how layered up you are. And the hood fits perfectly over a regular old head or a bulky climbing helmet. On the whole, if you’re looking for an all-day shell capable of dealing with cold mountain environments, I think everything about this jacket’s fit is ideal.
Thus far, I’ve described a very good shell, but here’s where I think the StormLine leaps to outstanding: storage and size. The shell has two large, zippered hand pockets which you can access while wearing a harness (an upgrade from the FineLine’s single chest pocket). Those zippers, and all other zippers on the jacket in fact, have good zipper pulls and smooth action. The shell can be easily packed into the right hand pocket and clipped to a carabiner from a built-in loop. The own-pocket storage is approximately the size of a Nalgene, but can be compressed further to around the size of a large apple with enough gusto. For a high-performing shell, frankly that’s amazing.
I consistently look for a couple things in gear – high performance (of course), low footprint, and low weight. The StormLine performs beautifully, packs into its own pocket with ease, and does all this at a weight of only 320 grams. That’s a mere 40 grams heavier than Black Diamond’s FineLine, but this shell gets hand pockets, lengthy pit zips, and adjustable velcro cuffs. When you consider its features, the StormLine is impressively light.
Fit: At 5’11 and 170lb with a longer than average wingspan, I opted for a size Large. It fit well, and had ample space for layering.
- Quality waterproofing
- Stretchy fabric and accommodating fit allow for easy movement
- Breathable fabric and great big pit zips keep air flowing
- Hood accommodates a helmet and adjusts well
- Zipper pulls are easy, even in gloves
- Easily packs into its own pocket
- Very light
- Competitively priced
- Wrists can get surface saturation after long exposure in downpours
- Would love to see the use of more recycled materials
The Bottom Line: StormLine Stretch Rain Shell
It’s hard to critique Black Diamond’s StormLine Stretch Shell. That’s because it moves well, keeps me dry after unreasonably long days in pouring rain, packs away nice and small, accommodates layers happily, and and and… For a jacket of its weight, the high performance and versatility of the StormLine is truly impressive. That’s why I recommend it to my friends.
Buy Now: Available at REI