The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

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 | $119.40 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Fantastic mobility, large adjustable cuffs, generously sized helmet-compatible 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 Penney Garrett ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 27, 2018
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 11
  • Weather Protection - 30% 7
  • Breathability - 30% 8
  • Mobility - 20% 8
  • Weight - 10% 6
  • Features - 5% 7
  • Style - 5% 6

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is a stretchy, highly mobile and durable softshell that's perfect for aerobic activities requiring a helmet, harness, or pack. It provides decent weather protection, excellent breathability, and, while on the slightly heavier side, doesn't feel cumbersome. It packs down small enough to not be a nuisance in a pack. We had a great time in this shell hiking through frigid temperatures and climbing in both sun and wind. We feel this is an excellent layer for the price point for any swing season adventure. The fit on the Dawn Patrol is a bit baggy and boxy, so it's not as flattering as other more slim cut models in our review. As mentioned above, it's also rather heavy, but if you're in need of something with a little more material and a whole lot of stretch, this is a great layer.

Color Updates
Black Diamond now offers the Dawn Patrol in new colors. Otherwise, the jacket is unchanged.

If you want something more fitted and half the weight, our Editors' Choice for Fast and Light, the Arc'teryx Psiphon FL Hoody is an excellent option for not that much more money. Our Top Pick for Warmth, the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody is also lightweight, insulated, and more fitted.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is an excellent layer for highly active adventures requiring natural movement and excellent breathability. This shell is obviously created with climbing and skiing in mind — the hood is adjustable and helmet-compatible, the cuffs are wide and adjustable, and the hand pockets remain accessible when wearing a pack or harness. While a few other pieces had better weather protection, overall we feel this is a fantastic layer for the serious outdoorswoman at a very reasonable price.

Performance Comparison


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

Weather Protection


The Dawn Patrol is highly breathable, but the trade-off is that it's not quite as warm as other layers 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 when moving and keeping the heart rate up, 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 kept us well protected and - as long as we were moving - warm enough.
Despite high winds and low temps, the Dawn Patrol kept us well protected and - as long as we were moving - warm enough.

Regarding water resistance, the Dawn Patrol was a mixed bag. The body seems to keep water out effectively, but the arms and upper chest became saturated more quickly. We're not sure if this was an anomaly or if those areas are constructed slightly differently to aid in breathability. Bottom line, while this shell will keep moderate moisture out for a bit, it's not going to protect you from any serious rain. But that tends to be pretty typical of a softshell and why it's a good idea to own a hard shell as well.

The Dawn Patrol wasn't the best for water resistance - while it kept moisture out on the torso  the arms and upper chest seemed to 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 wasn't the best for water resistance - while it kept moisture out on the torso, the arms and upper chest seemed to 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 excellent 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.

We could feel a bit more cold penetrating this jacket than some other contenders  but the breathability was top notch and made this an excellent layer for aerobic activites.
We could feel a bit more cold penetrating this jacket than some other contenders, but the breathability was top notch and made this an excellent layer for aerobic activites.

Mobility


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

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

Weight


The Dawn Patrol weighs in at 20.2 ounces, on the heavy side for pieces in this review. We feel like the weight is well-distributed though, as the jacket does not feel overly heavy or bulky and can pack down to a manageable size to fit in a pack or a stuff sack on your harness.

The Dawn Patrol was right in the middle of the pack weight-wise  but it's superior mobility and good fit kept it from feeling bulky or heavy.
The Dawn Patrol was right in the middle of the pack weight-wise, but it's superior mobility and good fit kept it from feeling bulky or heavy.

Features


Our favorite feature of the Dawn Patrol is the combination of four-way stretch material and underarm gussets. This is what helps provide the fantastic mobility for all your active outdoor adventures. In addition to having 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.

We loved that this jacket had harness-compatible pockets and wide adjustable cuffs that could fit either over or under gloves with no problem.
We loved that this jacket had harness-compatible pockets and wide adjustable cuffs that could fit either over or under gloves with no problem.

We also appreciated the generously-sized hood on this jacket, finding it one of the easiest to fit over helmets and heads of all shapes and sizes. It only adjusts one way, from the back, but this is sufficient because of how evenly it gathers everything down around the face. The one drawback of the size of this hood is that, when not wearing a helmet, the extra fabric that gets cinched during tightening creates "wings" on the side that can slightly impede peripheral vision.

The hood on the Dawn Patrol - it's even roomy with a helmet underneath!
The hood on the Dawn Patrol - it's even roomy with a helmet underneath!

Style


We scored style for the Dawn Patrol right about in the middle of the pack. While this is a decently attractive jacket, it's also pretty techy looking and has a bit baggier fit. If you're in between sizes, we would recommend sizing down unless you want the extra room for layering.

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.

Best Application


Because of the amazing stretch and breathability this layer offers, combined with the large hood, harness/backpack compatible pockets, and excellent sleeve and torso length, we feel it is best suited for rock and ice climbing, skiing, skinning, snowshoeing, and all manner of hiking. If you want to move, stay relatively warm, and not get stifled while you do it, this is a perfect layer to consider.

The Dawn Patrol kept us protected and moving with ease while on a very windy cold alpine hike.
The Dawn Patrol kept us protected and moving with ease while on a very windy cold alpine hike.

Value


The Dawn Patrol retails for $199, and we think this is a fantastic price for the quality of the jacket you get. It may not be the warmest layer we tested, but it was adequate. It provides superior mobility and breathability, and the stretchy fabric is highly durable. This jacket should have no problem lasting you for years to come, though a color other than white is recommended to better hide the inevitable dirt and scuffs of an active lifestyle.

Conclusion


We were impressed on almost every level with 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 the stretchiest fabric of any piece in our review and also some of the best breathability. It's slightly less warm than some other pieces, and the larger cut gives it a more 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 appreciated 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 was an all-around fantastic jacket at a reasonable price point. Recommended.
The Dawn Patrol was an all-around fantastic jacket at a reasonable price point. Recommended.


Penney Garrett