Brand: Black Diamond
Model: Approach Down
For chilly (low 40s) evenings in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, the Approach was our tester’s chosen outer layer (over a T-shirt and fleece) for hanging around camp thanks to 800-fill, hydrophobic down. However, in even a slight breeze the narrow baffles admitted a small draft. On more active days, like a September paddling trip in the Adirondacks, we could only keep it on until temps hit the low 50s, after which it became too warm.
The Approach packs down to an average size for the jackets in this test—slightly larger than a Nalgene in its own pocket—so our tester was able to store it in the brain of his pack for quick deployment. But, due to beefy zippers and adjuster toggles, it’s also the heaviest jacket on this list.
After a season of wear, the Approach’s 10-denier by 7-denier nylon face fabric (par for the course in this test) has succumbed to some superficial scuffing, with one tester noting a couple scratches and feather leakage through the seams. A PFC-free DWR treatment handled paddle splashes in the ’Dacks but rain for more than a few minutes started to dampen (but not flatten) the hydrophobic down.
Where this jacket really shines is the feel of its interior fabric—not a trait low-denier nylons are typically known for—which made it soft rather than slick, a bonus when worn over just a T-shirt. Testers appreciated the helmet-compatible hood (with a drawcord adjustment) and high collar, which easily warmed their chins. The Approach has two zippered hand pockets as well as an insulated chest pocket large enough for an iPhone.
$299; 9.7 oz.; m’s S-XL, w’s XS-XL