It’s been a dry summer hereabouts in Colorado, as in most of the American West, which caught fire early in the season and kept on burning, turning the skies a dismal, apocalyptic yellow and making it tough to breathe much less climb on the worst days. But still, there have been spates of rain, which meant I had ample opportunity to test Black Diamond’s new ultra-light (8.1 oz) rain/wind shell, the Fineline Stretch, a climber-fit, hyper-mobile piece that thanks to its diminutive size and weight was a snap to cram into my crag pack or bring up on longer climbs.
From the Flatirons, where storms come in quick off the Divide to pound the Boulder Mountains, to Staunton State Park up at 9,000 feet and prey to sideways-lashing thunderstorms rolling in off Mount Evans, to a secret zone in New Mexico subject to monsoonal thunderheads, the Fineline has been a great, water-repelling companion. It’s an interesting jacket that straddles the middle ground between barely there windbreaker and hard-wearing rain shell, with enough key attributes of each for solid functionality when the weather hits out in the vertical.
The jacket is pared down and minimalist—you only get one pocket, in the chest, which you can cram the jacket into to carry it up on route and clip off with a biner loop. There’s also an adjustable, helmet-compatible hood, front zipper, and underarm gussets for climbing mobility. The shell is 100 percent nylon (Black Diamond’s BD.dry 2.5L with DWR Finish) and has a slick but not slippery feel to it, if that makes sense—in other words, minimal distracting rustle while climbing but a good, water-repellent feel for when it matters. It also has a nice long, form-fitting cut, so fit well under a harness, and stretched well with long reaches and other typical climbing moves.
Most of the storms I weathered in the Fineline were minor squalls, and the jacket kept me 100-percent dry—admirable for such a light piece. In one super-soaker, however, down in New Mexico, I did start to get some beading on the inside, a combination of perspiration from running down out of the hills and some permeation through the membrane. But it was minor, and the jacket, even in this case, ably did its job, which was to keep me from getting soaked to the bone and chilled. The Fineline is also a great little windbreaker, and has made a perfect outer layer on blustery days. Notably, because it’s so thin and light, it’s very easy to carry on long climbs—roll it up and tie it off around your waist, or, as noted above, pack it into its pocket and jam it in a multi-pitch pack or clip it to your harness.
A light, versatile piece, the Fineline offers a killer option for fast-and-light or summer missions when you need a little warmth, some windblocking, and a first line of defense against afternoon rain squalls. It’s so small and light, it’s not a chore to bring at all—you now have no excuse for getting wet.
Comes in four colors and men’s and women’s versions.