Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell
$199, 1 lb. 2 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
We expect more of jackets made for our winter outdoor pursuits because we spend more time in them than in a rain shell in summer (which may not even come out of your pack). Most of all, it has to fend off a wide range of nasty weather while breathing well enough that you don’t wind up creating a nasty storm of sweat on the inside. Black Diamond’s new Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell did just that for me over numerous days of skiing the backcountry of Idaho’s Boise Mountains, in temperatures ranging from single digits with a below-zero wind chill through the high 30s, in falling snow, light rain mixed with wet snow, wind, and just plain calm, sub-freezing air.
The Dawn Patrol accomplishes this by blending stretchy and highly breathable Schoeller StretchWoven soft-shell fabric in the sides, underarms, and back, with a three-layer, waterproof laminate in the front, hood, upper back, and top sides of the sleeves. Both fabrics are treated with NanoSphere Technology to repel dirt, water, and oils. I can rarely wear a shell when skiing uphill because I get hot and sweaty. But I wore this jacket on long, strenuous ski ascents, including one day skiing up for almost an hour, at a pace that had me perspiring, in intermittent rain and wet snow at 37° F; after the 15-minute descent back to my car, the jacket was only slightly damp inside (in the shoulders and upper back). It moves moisture out that well even without pit zips, which can be difficult to deal with when wearing a pack and thick gloves.
I like how the Dawn Patrol incorporates enough key features while remaining low-profile. The fully adjustable, helmet-compatible hood kept the snow off my face, turns with my head, and stays out of the way when it’s down. There are four external, zippered pockets—two at the chest that are accessible with a pack on (though not deep enough for climbing skins), and two hand pockets—plus a stretch media pocket with a port and two drop pockets on the inside. The hook-and-loop cuffs are functional without feeling like handcuffs, and the drawcord hem is similarly unnoticeable. The jacket’s athletic fit accommodates a fleece layer underneath without feeling bulky, and I easily pulled a fat down jacket on over it in frigid temps. Overall, BD’s Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell excels for backcountry skiing, cross-country ski touring, winter climbing, and snowshoeing.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.