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Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell - Women's Review

This is a durable and comfortable shell with impressive mobility and breathability, perfectly suited for climbing and skiing
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Price:  $199 List | $125.40 at Amazon
Pros:  Great mobility, large adjustable cuffs, generously sized hood, good sleeve and torso length, durable
Cons:  Fits a bit large, interior pockets do not zip, not as warm as some other contenders
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett  ⋅  May 7, 2020
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62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 14
  • Weather Protection - 30% 7
  • Breathability - 30% 6
  • Mobility - 25% 7
  • Weight - 10% 2
  • Versatility - 5% 6

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is a stretchy, highly mobile, and durable softshell that is perfect for aerobic activities requiring a helmet, harness, or pack. It provides decent weather protection, excellent breathability, and, while on the heavy side, it doesn't feel cumbersome. This layer packs down fairly small and is protective-yet-breathable enough to hike through frigid temperatures and climb in both sun and wind. It has a generous hood, harness/backpack compatible pockets, and excellent sleeve and torso length. The fit is a bit baggy and boxy, but if you require something with a little more material and a whole lot of stretch, this is a great layer.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Dawn Patrol is an excellent active softshell, ideal for backcountry adventures that require natural movement and high breathability. This shell is designed with climbing and skiing in mind — the hood is helmet-compatible, the cuffs are wide and adjustable, and the Napoleon-style hand pockets remain accessible when wearing a pack or harness. While a few other pieces offered better weather protection, this is an overall fantastic layer at a reasonable price for the serious outdoorswoman.

Performance Comparison


The Dawn Patrol is built for movement - no matter what we got into it served us well  though the fit is on the baggier side.
The Dawn Patrol is built for movement - no matter what we got into it served us well, though the fit is on the baggier side.

Weather Protection


This layer is highly breathable, but the trade-off is that it's not quite as warm as other pieces in our review. While it keeps the wind at bay, you will be able to feel the temperature when it's cold more readily than in thicker, more wind-resistant models. But for winter hiking, cross-country skiing, skinning uphill, or other aerobic activities, this shell is great, even in pretty extreme wind and cold. Layering strategically underneath will also make a huge difference in bumping up the warmth factor of this jacket.

Despite high winds and low temps  the Dawn Patrol will keep you well protected and - as long as you're moving - warm enough.
Despite high winds and low temps, the Dawn Patrol will keep you well protected and - as long as you're moving - warm enough.

Regarding water resistance, the Dawn Patrol is a mixed bag. The body seems to keep water out effectively, but the arms and upper chest get saturated more quickly. While this shell will keep moderate moisture out for a bit, it is not going to protect you from any severe rain. But that tends to be pretty typical of a softshell, and this is why it's a good idea to own a hardshell or rain jacket as well.

The Dawn Patrol isn't the best for water resistance - while it keeps moisture out on the torso  the arms and upper chest soak through faster. Here you can see most of the water being repelled and staying on the surface  but if you look closely just below the neck you can see that it's soaked through.
The Dawn Patrol isn't the best for water resistance - while it keeps moisture out on the torso, the arms and upper chest soak through faster. Here you can see most of the water being repelled and staying on the surface, but if you look closely just below the neck you can see that it's soaked through.

Breathability


The Dawn Patrol is quite good for breathability, making it a great layer for high exertion activities. Even when climbing on a mild day in the sun, we didn't feel overheated or stifled. If heart rate-inducing outings are your jam, this shell can keep up.

We could feel more cold penetrating this jacket than some other contenders  but the breathability is top notch and make this an excellent layer for aerobic activities.
We could feel more cold penetrating this jacket than some other contenders, but the breathability is top notch and make this an excellent layer for aerobic activities.

Mobility


Constructed with underarm gussets from four-way stretch fabric, this jacket is very mobile. Combine that with a generous, almost baggy fit (this may be a piece you want to size down if you're between sizes), and you have a pretty winning combination. No matter what you're doing or what other accessories — helmet, harness, backpack — you need along the way, the Dawn Patrol feels like having on a favorite comfy sweatshirt, not a highly technical softshell.

The Dawn Patrol moves and breathes phenomenally  feeling like a favorite stretchy sweatshirt more than the high performing technical jacket it is.
The Dawn Patrol moves and breathes phenomenally, feeling like a favorite stretchy sweatshirt more than the high performing technical jacket it is.

Weight


The Dawn Patrol weighs 20.2 ounces, which is heavy compared to other jackets in this review. The weight is somewhat well-distributed as the jacket does not feel overly bulky. It can also pack down to a manageable size if you need to stash it into your pack.

The Dawn Patrol is heavy  but it's superior mobility and good fit keep it from feeling overly bulky or heavy.
The Dawn Patrol is heavy, but it's superior mobility and good fit keep it from feeling overly bulky or heavy.

Versatility


Despite being rather heavy, this is a versatile layer. It's well-featured, very durable, and appropriate for a lot of different endeavors. Our favorite feature is the combination of four-way stretch material and underarm gussets. This helps provide fantastic mobility for all your active outdoor adventures. In addition to having some of the stretchiest material in our review, this jacket offers zippered harness-compatible hand pockets, two mesh un-zippered internal drop pockets, an adjustable helmet-compatible hood, and nice wide velcro-adjustable cuffs. It also has a very generously-sized hood, one of the easiest to fit over helmets and heads of all shapes and sizes. The one drawback is that, when not wearing a helmet, the extra fabric that gets cinched during tightening creates "wings" on the side that can impede peripheral vision.

This jacket has a larger  roomier fit that is great if you want to layer underneath but it doesn't provide quite as flattering a profile as other pieces in our review.
This jacket has a larger, roomier fit that is great if you want to layer underneath but it doesn't provide quite as flattering a profile as other pieces in our review.

Value


The Dawn Patrol is well-priced for the quality of the jacket. It may not be the warmest layer we tested, but it is sufficiently warm for most aerobic outings — especially if layered correctly. This jacket provides excellent mobility and breathability, and the stretchy fabric is highly durable. The Dawn Patrol should have no problem lasting for years to come.

This jacket kept us protected and moving with ease while on a very windy cold alpine hike.
This jacket kept us protected and moving with ease while on a very windy cold alpine hike.

Conclusion


Overall, we are pretty impressed by the Dawn Patrol, other than the fact that it is on the heavy side. This jacket has an excellent sleeve and torso length, which is great for active endeavors. It offers some of the stretchiest fabric of any softshell in our review, and it features decent breathability. It is slightly less warm than other jackets, especially those of similar weight, and the larger cut gives it a less technical look, but the extra room also means you can easily layer underneath to boost the warmth factor if needed. The internal pockets don't have zippers, which would be a nice addition, but we appreciate having them nonetheless. All in all, we find this to be a very decent jacket and recommend it to anyone looking for a stretchy and roomy softshell.

The Dawn Patrol is an all-around fantastic jacket at a reasonable price point. Recommended.
The Dawn Patrol is an all-around fantastic jacket at a reasonable price point. Recommended.

Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett