User Review: Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Jacket
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (sample provided by Black Diamond for testing and review)
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Jacket is a versatile, light-to-midweight softshell that's best for fast-paced activity in cold weather. The Dawn Patrol shows its stuff moving fast above zero and below 40 degrees. Like any softshell, it's not well-suited for pouring rain or frigid cold (there is no hood and very little insulation), but for nearly every aerobic activity I tried in cold weather (running, walking, hiking, snowshoeing, biking, and cross-country skiing), it proved to be a great companion. I would recommend this without hesitation as a general-use garment for aerobic activity of all sorts in cold weather.
- Super water resistant
- Restrained, nifty features
- Slim, athletic fit
- Great style
- Great breathability
- Cuffs soak through easily
- Minor cuff durability issue.
Manufacturer Claim: "This slim soft-shell sacrifices nothing, striking an ideal balance between protection and thermal performance."
Fabric: Schoeller Stretchwoven nylon (260 g/m2, 91% nylon, 9% elastane) with brushed back and NanoSphere Technology
This jacket is cut for “athletic” folks. I'm 5”8”, 145 lbs, and the waist on a men's medium felt a bit tight to me. For cross-country skiing, biking and running, the lack of “extra” material and the inherently stretchy nature of the garment meant that it moved with me well. If you're a bigger person, or want to stuff extra insulation underneath, you'll likely need to go up a size from what you're used to. There's no hood, further emphasizing the sporty, aerobic orientation of this garment.
The Dawn Patrol jacket is simple and functional, without a whole lot of “bells and whistles.” Nonetheless, it does have a few innovative features:
Two big “drop pockets” line the inside of the garment. These should be standard features in every cold-weather coat. If you're not in the mood to fuss with zippers, it's easy to dump a wallet, energy bar or phone into one of these pockets. They're big enough to hold a water bottle too — an important consideration if you're on a winter hike and don't want to drink slush!
A wonderful feature! A slim elastic cord allows you to tighten the neck just enough to keep out spindrift or to keep rain from running down your neck! The gaiter is an important thermoregulatory tool too – while snowshoeing on a blustery day in the 20's, I started chilled, and kept the garter tight. As I got warmer, I opened up the neck gaiter to vent, and it proved so efficient that I didn't have to unzip the jacket.
My two guilty pleasures: Coffee and podcasts. During long jogs, bike rides, and walks in cold weather, these two keep me going. The Dawn Patrol's innovative pocket and headphone port combo allows me to keep my phone in the breast pocket, and feed my headphone wires inside the jacket, up to my ears.
This jacket was “warm enough” for most vigorously aerobic activities down to the teens, with only a long sleeve baselayer underneath. The fuzzy lining seems adept at trapping a layer of warm air near the skin during aerobic activities. The jacket isn't an insulating garment, so for less vigorous activities you'll need to add an insulating layer. During a 6-mile winter hike in a wooded area in the mid-20's, I added a thin, 200-ply fleece over a long sleeve base layer, and this combo kept me warm and toasty.
The lack of insulation makes this garment more versatile through a wider range of temperatures. It's cut very slim though, so if you're planning on using it in temperatures below the 20's, you might consider sizing up so you could fit a more lofty insulation underneath.
If a softshell doesn't breathe well — why not just get a hard shell? The Dawn Patrol breaths exceptionally well. With a just a baselayer underneath, I was able to cross-country ski hard in rainy, snowy, misty weather up to 40 degrees. I sweat, sure, but the fuzzy lining of the Dawn Patrol was adept at wicking it away. Since the Dawn Patrol doesn't have pit zippers, and the pockets don't provide a lot of ventilation, I wouldn't recommend this jacket for humid climates, or weather over 40 degrees.
Even better, the garment strikes a good balance between wind resistance and breathability. On a 6-mile fat-tire ride through howling gusts of wind (up to 36 mph. Serious. Wind-driven ice-crystals cut my face, which I was not aware was even possible!), the jacket wicked my sweat away even as it defended against the penetrating wind.
Overall this jacket is wonderfully water resistant. It repelled the wet, heavy snow that I plunged into while falling down constantly cross country skiing on a 39-degree day. It repelled snow and bursts of rain while mountain biking in a driving snow-storm. It repelled heavy rain while walking around D.C. on a pouring day in the 40's. The DWR on the surface of the coat is robust — so much so that a slick of bird-poo I found deposited on my shoulder had beaded up and was easy (if not pleasant) to wipe off.
One area of improvement: The cuffs, which appear to be made from a slightly different material, lost water resistance barely a month after purchase and soak through easily. Why are the cuffs, which seem to be the first part of a garment to wet out, made from a material that appears to be less water resistant than the rest of the garment?
This coat is durable! It survived regular falls onto snow and ice, impact with sharp branches encrusted with ice, and a brief slide on an icy dirt road with nary a scratch. The zippers don't stick, even when wet, dirty and frozen, and the elastic cords in the waist and neck haven't stretched or frayed.
One quibble: The cuffs close with an amazingly strong piece of “male” Velcro that attaches to a piece of “female” Velcro sewn on to the cuff. The “male” Velcro began to shred the surface of the cuff almost immediately. Even parts of the cuff that aren't roughed up by the Velcro are beginning to pill a bit. This is a minor issue, as the coat is “bomber” overall.
I tested this soft shell for approximately four months:
Cross Country Skiing: About 5 miles of skiing in southern Maine. Temperatures were abysmal, 33-40 degrees, wet snow, mist, fog and rain.
Snowshoe: Two 5-mile snowshoe treks in southern Maine. Temps 25-30 degrees with heavy, damp snow.
Hiking: A 3-mile hike and a 6-mile hike. Both in cold, dry, windy weather in the low 20s.
Winter Biking: A miserable 6-mile ride in the 20s, with driving snow, ice and a few bursts of freezing rain. Wind exceeding 30 MPH.
Running: Regular running in temperatures from the high teens to the low 40s.
Everyday use: January-April in Utah, Maine, and Washington, D.C.
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is an ideal softshell specimen. It resists wind and rain, vents well, and moves with your body through a wide range of activities. It's not for sitting around or for warm weather — it's for moving fast when it's cold outside.