Black Diamond steps up the hardshell game with this sleek offering. The Recon Stretch Shell manages to combine a supple, stretchy feel with outstanding weather resistance and breathability, a rare feat for waterproof shells that tend to feel stiff and crinkly. The slightly larger fit allows for plenty of room to layer underneath, letting you adjust your warmth for a wide range of conditions. As it is an uninsulated shell, this jacket is not the best option for you if you are seeking warmth. However, suppose you seek an unflappable outer layer that's fully capable for resort skiing and backcountry use. In that case, we like the Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell for its technical design at a comparatively modest price for a ski shell.Editor's Note: We updated this review for the Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell on March 23, 2022, with a closer look at value and performance, and direct comparisons to similar products.
Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Breathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic look
Cons: No insulation
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Compare to Similar Products
Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell - Women's
|Price||$170.00 at Amazon|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$450 List||$299 List|
Check Price at REI
|Check Price at REI|
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
|Pros||Breathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic look||Warm, lofty insulation, soft, very mobile despite insulation, excellent comfort and fit||Relatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilation||Warm, three jackets in one, well-constructed with thoughtful features, versatile||Inexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable|
|Cons||No insulation||Lackluster ventilation||Non-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiers||Slim fit, heavy, poor ventilation when both layers are worn||Not very stylish, hood not helmet compatible, two layers don't work well when zipped together|
|Bottom Line||A sleek and technical backcountry shell with enough stretch, space, and breathability to be extremely versatile at a fair price||A super warm and soft resort jacket with a cool utilitarian look, this is perfect for someone who runs a little colder||An excellent value for a high performing technical shell that serves inbounds or in the backcountry||This jacket is versatile and has all the necessary ski features for a long day on the hill, all at a reasonable price||A decent deal for two jackets that can be worn in three combinations, this is a great intro ski jacket|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Recon...||Helly Hansen Powder...||Outdoor Research Ca...||The North Face Ther...||Columbia Whirlibird...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Recon...||Helly Hansen Powder...||Outdoor Research Ca...||The North Face Ther...||Columbia Whirlibird...|
|Main Fabric||84% nylon, 16% elastane||70% nylon, 30% polyester||100% Nylon||100% Nylon||Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester.|
|Insulation||None||Body: 60g PrimaLoft Sleeves: 40g PrimaLoft||None||100% Postconsumer recycled polyester||Thermarator|
|Waterproofing||BD.dry||PFC free DWR||3-layer Pertex Shield||2-layer DryVent||Omni-Tech|
|Pockets||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered pass, 1 zippered chest, 2 internal mesh||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve, 2 internal drop-in||2 zippered chest, 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered arm, 1 internal mesh, 1 internal zippered chest||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve, 1 internal goggle Liner: 2 zippered hand||Shell: 5, Liner: 3|
|Weight||1.5 lbs||2.2 lbs||1.2 lbs||2.0 lbs||2.4 lbs|
|Cuff construction||Velcro||Velcro with wrist gaiters||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro|
|Powder skirt?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, behind insulating layer||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Black Diamond manufactures a wide range of quality products for the outdoor world, and we are very impressed by this high-tech hardshell offering. The quality of technical hardshell at a reasonable price also wowed us, earning this jacket our recommendation for those looking for top-notch performance in a ski touring shell without breaking the bank. The stretch in the BD.dry waterproof/breathable fabric is unique for a weatherproof hardshell and greatly improves the comfort and fit of this product. This jacket has a stylish, relaxed, and tapered silhouette that is at home ripping the resort or in the backcountry. We loved how this jacket was comfortable from the outset and had the burl to ride lifts all day in a storm combined with the ventilation to work hard on the way up or down.
The Recon Stretch Shell is made of Black Diamond's proprietary BD.dry material. It is a three-layer hardshell with 4-way stretch integrated and a DWR coating. It has a 20,000mm waterproof rating, more than sufficient for heavy, wet snow and rain. We noticed that water beaded off with ease during our shower test and did not pool or saturate the material. Underneath, the removable powder skirt keeps the elements out from the inside.
The jacket's construction is also strong, with fully taped seams and DWR coated zippers. The front zipper is also taped, not sewn in, providing an extra weather resistance layer. We did not experience any leaking or chilly drafts when skiing at high speeds. The large helmet-compatible hood with two drawstrings and a high collar provides ideal protection on storm days.
Comfort and Fit
This shell fits a little on the large side, which we like for the extra room to bulk up on layers underneath. The 4-way stretch of BD.dry allows for enough movement to be comfortable skiing and riding hard, boot packing, and touring uphill. Additionally, the jacket's construction in this stretchy material means that a fully zipped hood retains enough mobility to turn one's head and maintain visibility comfortably. We love that this jacket is weatherproofed without sacrificing mobility. While fuzzy linings are sparse on this shell, the tricot backing on the zipper allows it to rest softly when you are fully bundled, including in the collar.
The Recon Stretch Shell has slight tapering and a longer cut that is flattering and functional. This design prevents too much bulk around the waist, making it comfortable to wear a pack on storm days. There is still enough room to use the internal drop pockets without crushing their contents. The pockets and features lie smoothly against your frame. Even the powder skirt doesn't pull or bunch awkwardly. We also love removing the powder skirt when we don't need it, providing a more sleek feeling by taking out unnecessary material when the conditions don't require it.
As a shell, this jacket has no insulation and consequently received a lower mark in this metric. Note that this might be what you're looking for if you prefer to layer underneath a shell to fit the current day's temperature. This shell's breathability and supple feel come at a cost to warmth, but if we had adequate layers underneath, we were impressed by its protective and wind-breaking qualities.
We noticed that this model is a touch more permeable to wind than the burliest hardshells out there. Still, we prefer the compromise Black Diamond made here to achieve a flexible, mobile, and more breathable shell. This design helps this model be a great option for the backcountry while still providing sufficient wind blockage to keep you warm at the resort, provided that you wear appropriate layers underneath. It should be noted that maintaining proper temperature and not sweating through your baselayers can help you stay warmer throughout the day.
This jacket shines in this metric. The shell material was extremely breathable, allowing heat to escape and moisture to wick away even with all vents closed. This feature means not as much fussing around with layers and staying dry longer on the inside. This is key for maintaining the appropriate temperature and comfort from first to last chair.
The gaping pit zips with no mesh liners allow for quick heat release to increase airflow when working hard or on warm, slushy days. These zippers are DWR treated to keep snow out and equipped with large rubber grips to let air in easily.
The no-frills design of this shell is sleek and classic. The smooth, taped zippers are on-trend, and the longer, slightly tapered cut is feminine without forcing the issue. The slightly oversized cut and longer hemline have a trendy freeride look. The muted tones and neutral color options will match a wide variety of personal styles and stay relevant for years to come. Our reviewers received many compliments while testing this jacket.
The ski features on the Recon Stretch Shell are geared toward backcountry use but will work well for the resort, too. Two large internal drop pockets work well for storing your goggles or climbing skins. The hand pockets are large. Reaching upward into the jacket's front panels, we have a hard time imagining a ski accessory that wouldn't fit. There is a low-profile pass pocket on the upper left arm, good for a ski pass or small cards and keys that you may not want to risk pulling out when checking your phone. The only pocket this jacket might be missing is an internal pocket with a zipper that keeps its contents warm and extra dry.
We love the removable powder skirt and wish that every jacket had this, as we think it can feel restrictive on anything but the deepest days. Even when it's attached, the powder skirt in this option adds minimal bulk, ready to snap into action. When the powder skirt is not in use, the drawcord on the hem can help keep light snow and drafts from creeping into your base layers. The cuffs have unique rubber grips on the hook and loop closures to allow quick adjustments with gloves on.
Should You Buy the Recon Stretch Shell?
We think that the level of technology Black Diamond offers at this price point is very enticing. This shell is high-performing and versatile with just the right amount of functional features and waterproof, windproof, breathable fabric. This jacket has the potential to work as mainly a resort shell that transitions to backcountry tours if you need it. We haven't been able to put it through multiple seasons of use yet, and admittedly we have some hesitations about the durability of this new, stretchy windproof/waterproof material. But if you are looking for a hardshell that allows you the freedom to insulate as you please and that won't break the bank, we recommend the Recon Stretch Shell.
What Other Women's Ski Jackets Should You Consider?
The Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell is a high-tech, high-performing shell. As far as backcountry jackets go, it is rivaled by the Outdoor Research Carbide, particularly in terms of price. The main downside of the Recon Stretch Shell is the lack of warmth, but this shell is supposed to pair with an additional insulating layer. If dialing in a layering system sounds complicated, The North Face Thermoball Eco Snow Triclimate 3-in-1 comes with a removable liner. If you'd rather have it all-in-one, the award-winning Helly Hansen Powderqueen 3.0 offers top-level warmth and performance.
— Jacqueline Kearney
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