Scoring well overall, 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 us dry and blocking the wind almost completely. While we have no major complaints about the Dawn Patrol, some of our reviewers wish that the pockets were higher.
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell Review
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
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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.
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, 50 mph winds above tree-line. Similarly, the NanoSphere DWR coating resists short afternoon showers if you forgot 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.
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 breathability. We never felt clammy inside this jacket like we did while wearing bulky 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. However, when you pull the adjustable cuffs up to your elbows and unzip the main zipper, it's easy to cool down and vent for activities like climbing or backcountry skiing.
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.
Our scales measured this jacket at 22.5 ounces for a size medium. It feels neither overly 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). The extra few ounces compared with lightweight shells are a negligible disadvantage for most of our reviewers.
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 our 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.
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.
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.
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 options. If you want a jacket that you can keep on all day during winter adventures, look no further.
— Ryan Huetter