Review: Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Pants

Ski Touring Pants
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Pants
$300, 19.5 oz./553g (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
backcountry.com

We all know the challenge of finding pants that keep you dry, warm, and comfortable when ski touring or riding in the backcountry: You need them to release heat and moisture when you sweat hard going uphill and repel snow and wind when moving through exposed terrain in stormy weather or charging hard downhill. On days of ski touring in Utah’s Wasatch Range that displayed all of winter’s multiple personalities—from temperatures in the teens with dumping snow and the wind blowing hard to warm March sunshine with the temps in the 20s, BD’s Dawn Patrol Hybrid Pants demonstrated why they’ve remained enduringly popular among backcountry users.

The first thing you notice when picking up these pants is how they feel lighter and softer than many backcountry touring pants—an appealing attribute that also hints at their excellent breathability. The “hybrid” in the Dawn Patrol pants’ name describes the combination of Black Diamond’s proprietary, two-way stretch, laminated BD.dry waterproof-breathable solution used in areas that need more protection from snow—the lower legs and seat—and a highly breathable and light, four-way stretch soft-shell fabric where your body produces a lot of heat and moisture, the thighs and front.

That combination of fabrics means the Dawn Patrol pants perform exceptionally well in all winter backcountry conditions. That performance begins with excellent breathability: My under-layers and even the waistband of the pants never got more than damp, despite how hard I sweated skinning uphill under a warm sun reflecting intensely off snow. I only had to open the deep, zippered side vents in the most intense sun of late morning and afternoon.


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I’m slightly curious about why those side vents unzip from the bottom rather than the top—or rather than having a two-way zipper. The vents opening from the bottom exposes your legs more to snow entering while skinning but also has the advantage of keeping your core warmer if you only open them partly from the bottom.

The pants also repelled dry and wet snow whether I was skiing downhill or touring in wind-driven, falling snow—thanks to the water-resistant performance of BD.dry—and their high breathability means the pants dry faster when wet. The pants are treated with GTT’s Empel Breathable Water Protection Technology, a water-free and PFC-free DWR that BD says is superior in performance and more durable than other DWR (durable, water-resistant) treatments.

The fit is comfortably slim without being either too tight or baggy, allowing full freedom of dynamic movement and layering long underwear, as I did on colder days in the backcountry. The men’s small fit my 30-inch waist and inseam perfectly, with the pant legs long enough to cover my ski boots to the ankles and without me having to adjust the integrated belt much. But that low-profile belt is a nice feature—and designed to avoid it getting twisted inside the waistband, from what I can see. The pants do not come with suspenders but have internal loops for attaching suspenders.

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Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Pants pockets.
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Pants pockets.

The one hand pocket and two thigh pockets, all zippered, are deep and spacious, capable of storing lighter gloves and a hat for the uphill track; and the right thigh pocket features a smart, internal sleeve for a beacon, including a long leash.

A durable, stretch internal gaiter on each pant legslipseasily over boots and there’s a zipper and dual snap positions on both cuffs to fit touring or racing boots, plus a reinforced instep patch to protect against sharp ski edges or crampons.

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The Verdict

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Pants deliver the comfort, features, and versatility for backcountry ski touring and riding from early winter through the warm days of spring.

BUY IT NOW

You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the men’s Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Pants at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or blackdiamondequipment.com, or the women’s Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Pants at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or blackdiamondequipment.com.

See all reviews of outdoor apparel that I like, including “The 10 Best Down Jackets,” “The Best Gloves for Winter,” “The Best Mittens for Winter,” The Best Clothing Layers for Winter in the Backcountry,” “How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry,” and “12 Pro Tips for Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter.”

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.

—Michael Lanza

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