Black Diamond takes home our Gear of the Year Award for their innovative Recon Jacket & Pants combo. Designed from the ground up for backcountry skiers, the Recon kit has everything you could ask for and nothing more. Quality, innovation and great design all packed into a breathable, weatherproof, stylish package.
The Backcountry Skiing Canada Team.
Black Diamond got into the soft goods (aka clothing) market a few years ago and have been blazing new terrain ever since. The line has expanded to include jacket and pant shells, insulation, and fleece and hoodies for both men and women. We’ve reviewed a few Black Diamond pieces in the past, namely the Access LT Hoody, Hot Forged Hoody and Dawn Patrol Pants. This review will focus on the Recon Jacket and Pants, our first Black Diamond shell review.
The Recon jacket and pant duo are a hybrid design combining the protection of Windstopper fabric with strategically placed Schoeller stretch woven fabric, increasing breathability where it’s needed most. Schoeller stretch woven fabric is featured on the back of the jacket, under its arms, and on the back of the thigh area of the pants. The rest is comprised of Windstopper fabric for added weather protection. While neither the jacket or pants are 100% waterproof they do repel light moisture, snow, and winds while providing exceptional breathability. On Black Diamond’s scale of breathability versus protection, the Recon jacket and pant rank smack dab in the middle, offering up equal protection and breathability and bridging the gap between hardshell protection and softshell breathability.
The Black Diamond Recon Jacket offers up a long list of features in a relatively small package. In addition to the aforementioned zonal construction the Recon Jacket also sports a large helmet compatible hood complete with integrated Cohaesive cord management. It kind of works like a push-button adjustment and is super handy when fine tuning the adjustment of the hood and also the jackets hem, where this feature is also utilized. One push of the Cohaesive button provides three-way adjustability for the hood. Easy-peasy.
Pockets abound on the Recon Jacket with two zippered hand warmer pockets, two zip chest pockets, one side arm pocket and two internal skin-compatible stretch-mesh drop pockets. While most people store their skins in their pack between climbs it’s recommended to store them inside your jacket to keep the glue warm. This helps the adhesive work better and also makes them slightly less difficult to separate. The final touch on the Recon jacket is its integrated powder skirt which nicely meshes the Recon Jacket to the pants and seals out any drafts and powder on those deep, deep days.
- Fit designed for technical layering
- Brushed microsuede collar lining
- YKK PU-coated Flat Vislon centre front zipper
- One concealed zip chest pocket and one slash zip chest pocket
- Internal Stretch Mesh Pouch with Media Port
- Two concealed zip hand pockets
- Integrated Cohaesive cord-management hardware in the hem
- Hybric fabric design with softshell and Windstopper fabric strategically placed where you need them.
- Ski helmet-compatible hood with Integrated Cohaesive™ cord-management hardware embedded in the hood provides three-way, single-pull adjustment
- Custom-moulded cuff tabs
- Zip sleeve pocket
- Two skin-compatible, internal stretch-mesh drop pockets
- Integrated internal powder skirt
Like the jacket, the pants employ a hybrid design with Windstopper shell fabric and strategically placed Schoeller softshell fabric to accommodate aerobic output and repel foul weather conditions. On the safety side of things, the Recons have a built-in Pieps Pocket which securely stores and protects your avalanche transceiver while providing optimal access. The integrated internal harness is a low-profile alternative to the traditional chest harness. Recco technology is also integrated into the Recon pants for added safety.
Side boot-access zippers found at the cuffs of the pants help you quickly access your boot buckles and ski-walk mode switches without having to lift the pant cuff and built-in gaiters. On the ankle side of each pant leg you’ll find Keprotec instep patches which help guard against ski edges slices and crampon point tears.
The outer thighs feature large two-way zip vents that allow one to easily shed excess heat on the skin track. This feature is key to any ski touring specific pant as increased aerobic activity will quickly make you sweat, and once you get wet you will eventually get cold.
- Fit designed for technical layering
- PIEPS Pocket™ features protective Poron® XRD™ Impact Foam and integrated internal harness for low profile, quick-access beacon storage
- Rear zip pocket
- Articulated knees
- Internal snow gaiters with gripper elastic
- Oversized, expandable zip thigh pocket and accessible side zip thigh pocket
- Offset side venting
- Integrated, removable belt and belt loop waist and two-way zip fly with double snap-button closure
- Boot-access zippers for adjusting buckles and Integrated RECCO® technology
- Keprotec® reinforced instep patches
I’ve been wearing the Black Diamond Recon Jacket and Pants for a solid month now, burning up laps at the local ski hill and, more importantly, piling up the vertical in the backcountry. What I like best about the Recon Jacket and Pants is the combination of durability and breathability: They repel abrasions from trees and normal wear and tear. They offer protection from the wind, and snow, and light rain while providing significantly improved breathability when compared to a typical hardshell. The Schoeller softshell fabric covers most of the back of the jacket and under the arms while on the pants it’s found behind the knees and on the back of the thighs. Improved breathability is important in these locations. The softshell fabric is breathable while not sacrificing protection from the elements and also offers an improved range of motion, since the fabric is quite stretchy. These are important attributes for backcountry skiers and resort skiers alike.
The ability to ski in bounds on a powder day and then chase some turns out of bounds in the afternoon without having to perform a costume change in between is a major benefit of the Recon pants and jacket combo. I am not a fan of ski touring in traditional hardshell pants as they simply do not breath well enough. If I were embarking on an all-day ski tour I would likely opt for a full softshell pant like the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol. But for mixed ski days, the Recon hits the sweet spot.
In addition to the hybrid fabric construction, the Recon Jacket features internal stretch mesh pockets which work nicely for stowing skins. The integrated Cohaesive cord-management hardware located at the hem and in the hood are pretty slick and easy to use. And the built-in powder skirt keeps a tight seal between jacket and pants despite its minimal size.
On the pants, the star of the show has to be the built-in Pieps Pocket. I’ve been carrying my transceiver in my pants pocket for several years now as it provides easy accessibility without having to remove layers, and also keeps your electronics separated when touring with an iPhone or radio. Electronics kept in the vicinity of transceivers have been shown to interfere with their performance. Carrying your transceiver in your pants pocket is a good solution. Black Diamond sells the Pieps line of transceivers so it was only natural that they should integrate a dedicated pocket into the pants of the Recon. There’s a sturdy clip for fastening the transceiver cord, as well as a clasp that ensures the transceiver is secure even if the pocket is open. Poron XRD (which is a protective impact foam) is also used in the pocket for added protection while not increasing the bulk of the overall design. Many ski pant manufacturers add in transceiver pockets as an after though, so it’s great to see Black Diamond take a pro-active approach in designing their transceiver pocket. The Pieps Pocket is ideally located on the outer side of the upper thigh: Many manufacturers annoyingly place the pocket in the centre of the thigh, causing your transceiver to bounce around and weigh down your thigh with every step on a skin track.
I’m 6’1” and 175lbs and the medium sized Recon pants and jacket fit me well. Their design is more on the baggy side, but not so much that you feel like a snowboarder. I am more than pleased with Recon’s design and quality, however, it would be nice to see some alternative colour choices. If you are seeking a jacket and pant combo that’s well designed for backcountry skiing, allowing you to keep cool while working up the skin track, then look no further.
Black Diamond Recon Jacket
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Colour: Octane, Captain
Weight: 700g / 1.5lb
Black Diamond Recon Pants
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Colour: Smoke, Denim
Weight: 700g / 1.5lb
Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in below and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.