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Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell Review

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell
Top Pick Award
Price:   $199 List | $198.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Good mix of breathability and weather resistance, cell phone pocket, internal stash pockets, long technical fit
Cons:  Pockets are covered by harness/hip belt
Bottom line:  Designed for technical alpine use, this jacket is a superb choice for backcountry and resort skiing.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Black Diamond

Our Verdict

Scoring well overall, the Dawn Patrol jacket quickly became a favorite among our testers. 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 us dry and blocking the wind almost completely. While not as weather resistant as the Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket, our Editors' Choice Award winner, it has an awesome balance of both these qualities. Coupled with some nice features and a long fit, this model earned our Top Pick for Skiing Award. While we have no major complaints about the Dawn Patrol, some of our reviewers wish that the pockets were higher.

New Version Available - November 2016
The Dawn Patrol LT Shell, the specific model we reviewed, was replaced with a new version. We communicated with the Black Diamond and detailed the differences between the two models below. Keep reading to find out more!

For $199, we consider this jacket a good deal if you're looking for a technical softshell for all-mountain use. It's also a great choice if our $450 Editors' Choice winner is over your budget. If you're looking for an even more affordable softshell, check out the Best Buy winning Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody, which retails for $130 but isn't as impervious to weather.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Softshell Jackets for Men


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jeremy Bauman
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
July 18, 2017

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New Dawn Patrol Shell vs. Original LT Shell


The new jacket from Black Diamond is a significant remodel of the original. Along with a huge price drop from $279 to $199, this jacket has seen a switch from the Schoeller fabric that we tested to a proprietary fabric with similar characteristics. We haven't tested this version yet, but Black Diamond confirmed that this jacket is designed for the same purposes as the original and with stretch, wind protection, and packability in mind. The external pockets are all now higher up on the torso. For a side-by-side comparison, check out the latest Dawn Patrol Shell on the left and the original we tested on the right.
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell
 

Here's a summary of the updates:
  • Fabric — Black Diamond switched the fabric to a proprietary material they claim will have similar characteristics and performance to the previous Schoeller fabric.
  • Price — We certainly won't complain about the $80 drop in price (now $199). The implementation of a proprietary fabric might have influenced the price plunge.
  • Pockets — The two hand pockets are higher up on the new jacket, which will likely increase their accessibility when wearing a backpack hip belt. The Napoleon pocket is also higher up the chest. Our testers found the pocket placement in the previous model inaccessible when wearing a harness, so we're stoked about this potential improvement.

We like to get our hands on all the products we review, and since we haven't been able to test this new version yet, be aware that the rest of this review reflects the Dawn Patrol LT Shell.

Hands-On Review of the Original Dawn Patrol LT Shell


The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT Shell is an excellent jacket for technical mountain use, specifically skiing. We loved using it in the backcountry, and it worked well for ice climbing as well especially in drier climates like Colorado and California where you don't need quite as much weather resistance and benefit from the added breathability that the Dawn Patrol offers.

Performance Comparison


Two generations of the Dawn Patrol. Other than the color  we couldn't tell a major difference between the two.
Two generations of the Dawn Patrol. Other than the color, we couldn't tell a major difference between the two.

Weather Protection


The Dawn Patrol protects the user against an impressive amount of wind and water. Although this jacket isn't constructed with a water- or wind-resistant membrane, we could have been easily fooled when fighting through freezing, 50 mph winds above tree line. Similarly, the NanoSphere DWR coating resisted short afternoon showers when we forgot or neglected to bring a rain jacket. The Dawn Patrol LT uses Schoeller stretch woven softshell fabric that is much more substantial than the Schoeller fabric used in the Black Diamond Alpine Start. The Dawn Patrol LT fabric feels much thicker and resists weather better. Neither of these jackets features any insulation. They are meant to be worn over a light fleece or base layer, which makes them more versatile and more usable for four-season use. By comparison, their fleece insulated counterparts like the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody are too hot to use in warmer weather.


If you are looking for an uninsulated shell that's a little more weather resistant, the Patagonia KnifeRidge (our Editors' Choice winner) is the jacket that fights weather the best of any in the review; however, it doesn't breathe quite as well as the Dawn Patrol.


The Dawn Patrol LT is slightly less weather resistant than the Patagonia Adze Hybrid Hoody. Both jackets are water resistant, but the Adze features a fleece liner that adds significant warmth. In winter conditions, both jackets will resist snow almost indefinitely, but snow that melts on your shoulders can eventually seep through. Overall, the Dawn Patrol LT was one of the more weather impervious shells we tested and is a great pick for any outing where you need an active layer that provides moderate protection from the elements. For backcountry skiing, it worked well.

As highlighted in the photo on the right  the Dawn Patrol wasn't by any means waterproof  but it resisted water really well considering that it lacks a membrane. Our tester emerged fairly dry.
As highlighted in the photo on the right, the Dawn Patrol wasn't by any means waterproof, but it resisted water really well considering that it lacks a membrane. Our tester emerged fairly dry.

Breathability


One great advantage of softshell jackets without wind resistant membranes is their increased breathability. The Dawn Patrol LT strikes a great balance between weather resistance and breathability. We never felt clammy inside this jacket, but it wasn't quite as breathable as we'd like for super high output activities like mountain running or cross-country skiing. But, when you pull the adjustable cuffs up to your elbows and unzip the main zipper, it's easy to cool down and vent.


For ice and rock climbing, the Dawn Patrol LT breathed adequately during the climb. When used for backcountry skiing, the jacket was breathable enough to wear the whole day without overheating. If you tend to run warm and need a super breathable jacket, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi is more breathable but isn't nearly as weather resistant.

The Dawn Patrol is quite breathable and was our favorite contender to use for backcountry skiing.
The Dawn Patrol is quite breathable and was our favorite contender to use for backcountry skiing.

Mobility & Fit


With arms that are cut super long and a technical fit to match, we found this jacket highly mobile even without its stretchy material. 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 doesn't expose your wrists to the elements as you're making your move.


Though the Arc'teryx Gamma MX has been a favorite in the past, our reviewers felt a tad more mobile in the Dawn Patrol LT. That said, the Patagonia Adze was more mobile than either - a surprising feat considering its fleece liner. In all, even lanky reviewers were happy with the Dawn Patrol's fit and mobility.

We have almost no complaints about the mobility of the Dawn Patrol. We loved using it for climbing. The arms are very long but can still be rolled up as seen in this photo.
We have almost no complaints about the mobility of the Dawn Patrol. We loved using it for climbing. The arms are very long but can still be rolled up as seen in this photo.

Weight & Packed Size


Our scales measured this jacket right at 21 ounces. It feels neither heavy or bulky. Still, 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), so the extra few ounces compared with lightweight shells like the Rab Vapor Rise-Lite Alpine was a negligible disadvantage for most of our reviewers.


Features

The Napoleon pockets houses a cell phone cozy. This keeps your phone upright and separate from other items you'd place in the chest pocket.
The Napoleon pockets houses a cell phone cozy. This keeps your phone upright and separate from other items you'd place in the chest pocket.
We think that simple, well-designed features make a jacket stand out…and the features of the Dawn Patrol stand out. Our favorite features 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 they were happy to see them on this one. The chart below shows how this model stood ahead of most other jackets in this metric, tying for second with the Gamma MX Hoody.


The other unique feature of this jacket is the cell phone sleeve inside the chest pocket that is designed to keep your phone upright and cozy warm so you can grab that epic pic. It was large enough for an iPhone 6 and would probably fit nearly any smartphone. The adjustable hood works well over just your noggin or a helmet. Finally, fleece on the chin and back of the neck make this piece feel super cozy when you need to retreat deep into the hood to escape the wind.

Unfortunately  the low pockets on this model will be covered by a harness or hip belt.
Unfortunately, the low pockets on this model will be covered by a harness or hip belt.

Style


When it comes to style, it really depends on what you're going for, and 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 green we tested begs for sweet ridgeline shots but looks out of place in coffee shops around town (depending on the town!). We give this jacket a 6/10. While it looks great mid-adventure, it isn't a softshell that we'd likely wear around. But if you want other people to know that you climb/ski/adventure, wear this jacket to your next social gathering.


Best Applications


The Dawn Patrol wins our Top Pick Award for Skiing and is especially suited to backcountry endeavors. It also excels at ice climbing as long as the conditions are fairly dry. We also recommend using it for ice climbing when you need a jacket that's durable and mobile. It does not excel for mountain running.

The Dawn Patrol boasts a great balance between breathability and weather resistance, making it a solid choice for alpine uses and our Top Pick for Skiing.

Pairing the Vibrant Green with neon pants  this tester was clearly trying to stand out on the mountain.
Pairing the Vibrant Green with neon pants, this tester was clearly trying to stand out on the mountain.

Value


For just $279, this top-scoring jacket is a fantastic bargain if you're looking for a technical softshell to face a myriad of alpine conditions. Many of our reviewers liked it nearly as much as the Editors' Choice winning Patagonia KnifeRidge that retails for $450. If you want a jacket that performs well and doesn't break the bank too much, the Dawn Patrol is an excellent choice. If you're really on a budget, consider the Best Buy winning Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody that retails for $130 and scored slightly higher than the Dawn Patrol. The Ferrosi is more breathable, less water resistant, and slightly less mobile.

You can expect this shell to keep the snow off of you. We found the Dawn Patrol quite a pleasure to wear on the up and the down.
You can expect this shell to keep the snow off of you. We found the Dawn Patrol quite a pleasure to wear on the up and the down.

Conclusion


The 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 jackets. If you want a jacket that you can keep on all day this winter, look no further than this model.
Jeremy Bauman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 18, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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Write a Review on this Gear

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   Apr 25, 2016 - 11:13am
NatD · Climber · WA
I have the heavier version, not the LT. My friend has the LT so I've poked around at it and it is identical in fit, function, etc, just lighter fabric.

The cut and fit is very climbing focused so casual users may not like the long sleeves and generous hood.

The fabric and DWR treatment are fantastic and the jackets weight is solely from the softshell fabric, there aren't useless or excessive features like linings and tons of pockets to weight it down, so pick the weight that is best suited for your activity.

I preferred the higher breathability and lightness of the OR ferrosi jacket for most 3-season activities, so I opted for the heaviest weight of softshell for the Dawn Patrol jacket to be my winter, cold weather soft shell. If you are looking for a single softshell year round for climbing, then the LT is probably a better choice.

All in all this is a pretty stout softshell that will hold up for a long time. Definitely recommended.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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