Black Diamond Vision Down Parka Review: A Tougher Puffy

New for Black Diamond in 2019, Liquid Crystal Polymer fabric promises better durability in the Vision Down Parka.

Nothing feels better than a lofty down parka when the temperatures bottom out. Wispy shell fabrics are the norm to keep weight down, necessitating extreme care. Nobody wants to see precious feathers floating in the air while wearing a treasured down parka.

For 2019, Black Diamond Equipment releases the Vision Down Parka. It uses the same Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) fabric technology used in the Vision Harness to keep weight down and durability high.

We’ve been testing a pre-production sample this past month for this first look at one of the toughest puffy jackets on the market.

In short: The Liquid Crystal Polymer fabric in the Black Diamond Vision Parka is much more resistant to tearing and punctures than traditional ultralight fabrics used in lightweight down jackets. It keeps the down intact in harsh environments and increases longevity.

And the MSRP of $399 makes it a good buy for an 800-fill-power, water-resistant down parka that’s great for freezing temps with the appropriate layers.

Liquid Crystal Polymer Fabric

Black Diamond’s LCP fabric is so tough to cut and tear that the manufacturer had to engineer a new method to cut it during production. I requested fabric samples. At-home torture testing displayed impressive qualities.

I could not initiate a tear, either with my bare hands or using pliers to grip the fabric and attempt to pull it apart. I could cut the LCP fabric with a high-quality pair of scissors, but I had to angle the scissors just right to produce a clean cut.

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Puncture testing on cedar branches produced impressive results; the wood broke before I could initiate a puncture. I could pierce the fabric with a pushpin, but expanding the hole by force proved futile.

Abrasion testing against sharp, water-pocketed limestone shredded the fabric quickly, but it was direct pressure — and much more than elicited in real-world usage. It is notable that abrasion resistance was low relative to the tear and puncture resistance.

The LCP fabric is not indestructible. But it’s more resistant to tears and punctures than some other ultralight fabrics used in down jackets in this weight class. Our men’s medium sample weighs a verified 1 pound 4 ounces.

Black Diamond Vision: Water-Resistant Down

Black Diamond chose responsibly sourced Allied HyperDRY down for the Vision Down Parka. Allied treats the 800-fill-power down with a natural wax base to resist loss of loft due to water retention. The down is fluorocarbon-free, follows the Responsible Down Standard, and the supply chain is traceable at trackmydown.com.

In addition to the water-resistant down, Black Diamond claims the LCP has been engineered to have a slight amount of air permeability to aid in retaining loft in humid and wet environments. This slight air permeability was perceptible. It’s worth noting that the jacket isn’t 100-percent windproof.

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In the same animal welfare and sustainability spirit as the down, the DWR treatment is PFC-free and C-zero.

The jacket’s baffles felt underfilled compared to similar down jackets in my collection, but the jacket still provided similar warmth, and the jacket compressed to a cantaloupe-sized package.

Vision Down Parka Review: Features and Fit

The Black Diamond Equipment Vision Parka possesses the essentials of a belay parka. It has a double pull on the main zipper, two internal mesh dump pockets, zipped handwarmer pockets, a zipped chest pocket, elasticized cuffs, drawcord adjustment at the lower hem, and a fully insulated, adjustable helmet-compatible hood.

The Vision’s cut is generous; it fit over other layers without feeling billowy. The long torso length, with a drop hem in the back, kept my hips covered while seated. The sleeve length kept wrists covered in all positions, and I never felt any binding across the back or under the arms regardless of arm movements.

Conclusions

Disregarding the LCP fabric, the Black Diamond Vision Parka is an excellent performer at a reasonable price.

Available for men and women, it checks all the boxes: water-resistant and responsibly sourced down, a sound feature set, respectable weight, and the warmth to lounge around camp at near freezing.

The addition of the LCP fabric’s improved tear and puncture resistance alleviates some fragility common to lightweight down parkas.

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Seiji Ishii
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Seiji Ishii has enjoyed a lifetime of outdoor adventure and sports, from participant and competitor to coach and trainer, and finally as an editorial contributor. His interests have spanned cycling, climbing, motorcycling, backpacking, trail running, and training for all of it. He has also designed outdoor and off-road motorcycling gear. He lives in the woods in Wimberley, TX with his wife, daughter and a small herd of pets. Read more of his musings at seijisays.com.

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