The Black Diamond first light jacket is Black Diamonds competitor to the Nano air. It is a more water resistant, slightly less breathable version of one of the most awarded jackets ever. The problem with both of these garments is that they claim you can wear them while being active. While they perform remarkably well compared to a traditional puffy jacket, both of them are too warm for any normal human to use them while skinning in all but the coldest of temps. As a certified sweat hog, I most often tour in my base layer only, and perhaps a wind shirt. When the temps drop I struggle to stay warm, and even the nano air is not breathable enough for me. I get less wet than in a nano puff or other down puffy, but I am wet nonetheless.
Enter the First Light Hybrid. This jacket strikes the perfect balance between brethability and warmth. It still has to be very cold for me to wear this in the skin track, however when I do put it on, temperature regulation is much better and I remain dry. The secret is the merino wool side and back panels. Who goes ski touring without a backpack? No one. I don't need insulation on my back when wearing a pack that keeps me plenty warm. With this hybrid construction, the days of a huge wet spot on your back while touring are gone. Patagonia makes a hybrid nano air, however it is so thin and light that it is more comparable to an R1. When you are in the back country you need to be prepared for all conditions and I am not comfortable going out with a mid layer as light as the nano air hybrid. If temps drop and I am on top of a windy ridge, I need to have a warm insulating layer under my shell.
This has been the silver bullet touring piece for me, and I think for most people they are going to be able to wear this more often than a nano-air, while sacrificing very little in terms of warmth under a shell. The primaloft active combined with Scholler neoshell is an insanely breathable yet weather resistant combination (way more waterproof than the nano air, just slightly less breathable), and of course the merino-poly blend side and back panels provide ultimate breathability where you need it most. The fit of black diamond garments is also much more tuned to athletic people. Patagonia items can have a fairly boxy fit, which for a long and lean guy like me doesn't always work out. I ordered a size medium and it is a perfect athletic fit on me. The brown is also a beautiful color, but I wish there were more color options on this.
I have also used this for a cold weather bike ride and it was equally awesome, the front blocks wind while the back lets you breathe. A+