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Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell Review

Designed for use above treeline, this jacket is a superb choice for backcountry and resort skiing
black diamond dawn patrol shell softshell jacket review
Credit: Black Diamond
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Price:  $200 List | $160.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Good mix of breathability and weather resistance, large internal pockets
Cons:  No internal zippered pocket, large fit makes it less versatile, tight fitting hood with ski helmet
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 20, 2021
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 13
  • Weather Protection - 30% 7.0
  • Breathability - 30% 6.0
  • Mobility - 25% 6.0
  • Weight - 10% 4.0
  • Versatility - 5% 6.0

Our Verdict

Scoring well in most areas, the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol quickly became a favorite among our testers who were heading out on a day skiing at the resort or in the backcountry. Most noticeably, it offers a practical combination of precipitation protection and ventilation. Its breathability is sufficient for chilly alpine hikes and skinning up mountains, keeping you dry and blocking the wind almost completely. While we have no significant complaints about the Dawn Patrol, some of our reviewers wish that the pockets were higher. This is also one of the heaviest softshells we've tested. Still, for the right user, it's a really nice jacket.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $160.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
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Star Rating
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Pros Good mix of breathability and weather resistance, large internal pocketsDurable fabric, great fit, all-around usefulnessExcellent weather protection, great mobilitySuper breathable, durable, inexpensiveIncredibly light, very mobile
Cons No internal zippered pocket, large fit makes it less versatile, tight fitting hood with ski helmetLimited water resistance, fitted cuffsSlightly heavy, larger sizingPoor wet weather protectionLimited weather protection, few features
Bottom Line Designed for use above treeline, this jacket is a superb choice for backcountry and resort skiingThis is a great medium weight softshell jacket that will hold up to rugged use thanks to its durable fabricThis is a softshell ready for the worst weather you can throw at itThis budget-friendly softshell is one of our favorites for summertime rock climbingThis is one of the lightest softshells out there, perfect for cool windy days at the crag
Rating Categories Black Diamond Dawn... Arc'teryx Gamma LT... Marmot ROM Hoody Outdoor Research Fe... Rab Borealis
Weather Protection (30%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
4.0
5.0
Breathability (30%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
8.0
Mobility (25%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
10.0
9.0
Weight (10%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Versatility (5%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
5.0
Specs Black Diamond Dawn... Arc'teryx Gamma LT... Marmot ROM Hoody Outdoor Research Fe... Rab Borealis
Measured Weight (size medium) 21.4 oz 17 oz 16.1 oz 13.4 oz 10.5 oz
Material 63% nylon, 26% polyester, 11% elastane with DWR finish Wee Burly (56% nylon, 34% polyester, 10% elastane) GORE-TEX Infinium: 92% recycled nylon, 8% elastane, plain weave, 170g/sqm 86% nylon (46% recycled), 14% spandex Lightweight Matrix single weave with 2-way stretch and DWR
Type Active Active Active Active Technical
Lined/Insulated? Brushed backing No No Yes, lining 91% nylon, 9% spandex No
Hood? Yes, helmet compatible and adjustable Yes, helmet compatible, adjustable StormHood Yes, hood compatible Yes, climbing helmet compatible, adjustable, stowable Yes, under helmet with lycra binding
Number of Pockets (zippered unless otherwise noted) 5 (2 harness-compatible hand, 2 chest, 1 internal) 3 (2 handwarmer, 1 internal) 2 zippered hand, 1 zippred chest 3 (2 hand, 1 chest) 2 (external chest)
Adjustable Cuffs? Yes, Velcro Stretch cuffs Yes, vecro Elastic cuffs Lycra cuffs
Available Sizes S - XL XS - XXL S - XXL S - XXXL S - XXL

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is an excellent jacket for technical mountain use, explicitly skiing. We love using it in the backcountry, and it performs well when ice climbing, especially in drier climates like Colorado and California. This model excels when you don't need quite as much weather resistance and will benefit from added breathability.

Performance Comparison


black diamond dawn patrol shell softshell jacket review - this heavy-weight softshell is great for climbing and skiing...
This heavy-weight softshell is great for climbing and skiing applications, and is durable and dependable.
Credit: Dakota Robarge

Weather Protection


The Dawn Patrol protects the user against an impressive amount of wind and water. Although it isn't constructed with a water or wind-resistant membrane, we could have been easily fooled when fighting through freezing, 50mph winds above tree-line. Similarly, the NanoSphere DWR coating resists short afternoon showers if you forget or neglect to bring a rain jacket.

In winter conditions, the Dawn Patrol will resist snow almost indefinitely, but snow that melts on your shoulders can eventually seep through. Overall, this is one of the more weather impervious shells we tested and is an excellent pick for any outing where you need an active layer that provides moderate protection from the elements.

black diamond dawn patrol shell softshell jacket review - the dwr treatment on the fabric sheds water, making this a good...
The DWR treatment on the fabric sheds water, making this a good jacket for snowy conditions or winter sports.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Breathability


One great advantage of softshell jackets without wind-resistant membranes is their increased breathability. The Dawn Patrol strikes a wonderful balance between weather resistance and airflow. We never felt clammy inside this jacket like we did while wearing bulkier models, but it still isn't quite as breathable as we'd like for super high output activities, like mountain running or cross-country skiing. This is a good jacket for windy days or inclement weather when you don't want to wear a fully waterproof shell jacket. It is easy to dump heat by opening the zipper up fully, and since it is unlined, it dries quickly.

black diamond dawn patrol shell softshell jacket review - motoring up steep hills with a fleece base layer underneath, we...
Motoring up steep hills with a fleece base layer underneath, we found the Dawn Patrol to be less breathable than lighter weight contenders.
Credit: Dakota Robarge

Mobility


With arms that are cut super long and a technical fit to match, we find the Dawn Patrol highly mobile, even without considering its (very) stretchy material. It's well-suited to ski touring or resort skiing, thanks to a slightly larger fit that allows for more movement as well as for warmer layering underneath. When you have to strain and stretch for those out-of-reach holds and pick placements, you'll be glad you're wearing this jacket that won't expose your wrists to the elements as you're making your move.

black diamond dawn patrol shell softshell jacket review - with an amble fit, we felt that we could freely move in the dawn...
With an amble fit, we felt that we could freely move in the Dawn Patrol, although when climbing the fit felt a little sloppy and we would have preferred a trimmer fit.
Credit: Dakota Robarge

Weight


Our scales measured this jacket at 21.4 ounces for a size medium. It feels neither overly heavy nor bulky, but it is far from the lightest shell in the review and isn't designed to be a piece that you throw in your backpack just in case. The Dawn Patrol is designed for alpine use and abuse and is meant to be worn more continuously (thanks to its solid breathability). The extra few ounces compared with lightweight shells are a negligible disadvantage for most of our reviewers.

black diamond dawn patrol shell softshell jacket review - the heaviest model in our review, it is also one of the largest in...
The heaviest model in our review, it is also one of the largest in fit and one of the most durable wearing fabrics.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

Versatility


We think that simple, well-designed features make a jacket stand out. Our favorite features on the Dawn Patrol are the two internal stash pockets for gloves or small items. Stash pockets are super useful when you need to take your gloves off for a few minutes and want to keep them warm against your body. Many of our reviewers wish these were common on more jackets and were happy to see them on this one. We do, however, wish there was also a zippered internal pocket to keep a phone warm while riding cold ski lifts.

While some helmets might fit underneath the hood of the Dawn Patrol, our Smith Camber helmet was a very tight fit, and it was much less comfortable when fully zipped up. Previous models of this coat have used a fleece patch on the neck and chin, but with only Schoeller fabric now, it is not as cozy as it once was, and we recommend wearing a Buff or similar neck gaiter when needing to zip this up all the way.

black diamond dawn patrol shell softshell jacket review - this is one of the best jackets for use with bulky winter gloves -...
This is one of the best jackets for use with bulky winter gloves - the cuffs fit easily over even the warmest gloves we wore.
Credit: Ryan Huetter

When it comes to style, it depends on what you're going for. If you're going for a super technical alpine look, then this jacket fits the bill. The hem is long, the sleeves feel longer, and the bright color we tested begs for sweet ridgeline shots. If you want other people to know that you climb/ski/adventure, wear this jacket to your next social gathering.

The Dawn Patrol boasts a great balance between breathability and weather resistance, making it a solid choice for alpine uses — it's a great choice for skiing.

black diamond dawn patrol shell softshell jacket review - providing good weather protection for winter sports, the dawn patrol...
Providing good weather protection for winter sports, the Dawn Patrol looks good and performs well.
Credit: Jen Reynolds

Value


This jacket is a fantastic bargain if you're looking for a technical softshell to face a myriad of alpine conditions. If you want something that performs well and doesn't break the bank too much, the Dawn Patrol is an excellent choice.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is a super versatile jacket that we loved skiing in. It maintained an impressive level of breathability for its water resistance and kept us comfortable longer than many other options. If you want a jacket that you can keep on all day during winter adventures, look no further.

Ryan Huetter
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