Black Diamond Sharp End Jacket and Pants – Reader Gear Review
This is Black Diamond’s third year in the ski outerwear business. BD’s touring-oriented Sharp End shell outerwear uses Gore Pro; GORE-TEX’s highest end waterproof-breathable fabric and is priced accordingly. Both the pants and jacket use a robust fairly tight nylon plain-weave face and have top-notch construction features (such as seam sealed and taped stitching) one would expect out of premium products.
I’ve had 25 days using the BD Sharp End gear almost exclusively in powder (yes – its a hard life). I’ve used Sharp End both on inbounds as well as some slackcountry days (couple of inbounds runs then off to tour) and some pure touring days. As context for this review I an 5′ 11″ weigh 160 pounds (178cms/77kg) and ski mainly in the Coast and Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia. My skiing is usually in high moisture-content snow.
To summarize, the BD Sharp End jackets and pants are well thought out shells that cover a lot of range and weather protection, from inbounds to touring.
Here is the lowdown on the three F’s (Fit, Fabric and Features) of BD Sharp End’s line. I am usually a medium in jackets and pants sizes. Both the Sharp End jacket and pants Fit on the large side. I haven’t tried a small size yet but I bet that would fit me just fine. This does mean that if you wear a puffy under the Sharp End while skiing inbounds this will work just fine. Sizes for both the Sharp End pants and jackets run from S to XL
In terms of Fabric you can’t get any higher end. Gore’s Pro fabric is, according to GORE-TEX, some 35% more breathable than Gore’s Pro-Shell fabric. I’ve skinned with the jacket on a few times while in cold (-20 degrees) conditions in perfect comfort. Having said that, nothing beats a softshell for breathability and decent protection from elements on the uptrack. So most of the times the jacket stays in the pack on the uphills and comes out for downhills. The DWR application on the nylon face fabric of both the Sharp End jacket and pants is especially impressive shedding precip without issue while skiing in classic Wet Coast near freezing winter storm conditions. Combined with the Gore Pro laminate this should be a formidable weather proof micro-climate should I ever get caught in a rain-storm.
The Sharp End pants have a set of features showing that the designers thought things through. They’re fairly simple and have two pockets one of which has a plastic carabiner (for keys or a transceiver). The pockets are cargo style (big enough to carry things like a map or a VHF radio) yet located in a spot where wearing a harness doesn’t interfere with access.
The Sharp End pants have 3/4 length zips allowing you to vent while breaking trail. An integrated belt is another nice feature. So are integrated gaiters, nice big cuffs that play well with touring boots and funky buckles. I haven’t had them long enough to see wear points but there’s nice big Keprotec patches on the inside of pant cuffs often cut by ski edges. Zipper pulls are beefy looking enough that they seem they will endure while being useable with gloves.
The Sharp End pants are substantial enough that I’ve used them inbounds in Wet Coast storm conditions without getting wet through. I suspect that’s a combination of the Gore Pro laminate, the superior DWR and the features such as waterproof zippers, fabric curtains behind the zippers, and taped seams.
There’s not a lot of room for improvement but I will try to pick nits. It’s nice to have cuff zippers so you can avoid the bell bottom look when using these pants sans boots but then I suppose that would add complexity and failure points for vanity. It would also be nice to have some more reinforcement at the ass which is a high wear area. When new the zippers are stiff; I hit them with wax to loosen them up.
The Sharp End jacket is a simple well-built shell. It has 4 pockets; two larg’ish on each side; one chest pocket and one internal pocket. The chest pocket is large enough to accept a VHF radio. None of the pockets are blocked by pack straps.
There are cinch straps at key points such as the hood and the waist to allow for some fit adjustments. The cinches are tightened by drawcords and loosened by using a rather clever push button which BD calls Cohesive. Speaking of the hood it can be tightened to keep it out of the way yet loosened enough to fit over a helmet and then cinched. Other nice features include, pit zips, cuffs with decent velcro to fit over gloves, storm flaps over the front zipper to help windproofness and a nice tall sturdy collar for those storm days. In fact the Sharp End jacket was so weather proof that I had no hesitation in using it for inbounds days.
It would be nice to see some reinforcement at high wear areas such as where pack straps will often bite. Having said that BD uses 70d nylon weave in the jacket (tough stuff) so perhaps my concerns are unwarranted.