Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Touring Pants
$199, 1 lb. 11 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s and women’s XS-XL
Finding one pair of pants for all of your backcountry skiing or riding, snowshoeing, and climbing adventures in the mountains, from the frigid days of early winter to corn skiing on sun-blasted slopes in April, is a tall order. But Black Diamond’s Dawn Patrol Touring Pants demonstrated that kind of range for me while backcountry skiing in the Idaho mountains on days ranging from 3° F, to the 20s with falling snow, and the 40s under a thermonuclear sun.
The stretch-woven, soft-shell fabric excels at breathability and repels dry or wet snow and other forms of frozen precipitation—making it ideal for winter and spring in the mountains. Moisture never penetrated the fabric from the outside, whether I was skiing downhill through everything from powder to heavy, mashed-potatoes snow, skinning uphill, or standing in deep pow digging a pit to evaluate avalanche hazard. Although the pants (like any soft shell) would wet through in a steady rain or prolonged immersion in really wet snow, the fabric dries fast, especially from body heat while you’re wearing the pants.
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The fabric also breathes so well that, even on long, sweaty ascents on skis—including carrying a full pack to a backcountry yurt—the pants only got somewhat damp around the waistband in back (below my pack), from perspiration running down my back. In fact, I rarely even bothered to open the side zippers, which extend from the thigh to the cuffs. Still, while the pants were warm enough on a 3° F morning without long underwear (which I rarely wear unless it’s really cold), those side zips deliver needed ventilation for uphill slogs on warm, spring days. I also like having the side zips to quickly access my kneepads while telemark skiing.
Fit is athletic and borderline “Saturday Night Fever,” but with articulated knees and plenty of stretch in the fabric, I had all the freedom of movement needed for tele skiing. These pants are comfortable.
Besides the side zips, the Dawn Patrol pants are fully featured, including adjustable, easily removable suspenders with wide straps that are comfortable over your shoulders; short, sewn-in internal gaiters inside the cuffs, which fit over big boots and have a drawcord to snug them tightly under the top boot buckle; a harness-compatible, two-way front zipper; Keprotec reinforced kick patches on the inside of the cuffs to guard against sharp ski edges and crampons; belt loops (but no belt); and a sewn-in Recco detector in case of an avalanche burial. The two hand pockets and one thigh pocket, all zippered, are adequate for small items, but I wish there was a second thigh pocket.
BD’s Dawn Patrol Touring Pants offer huge versatility through a combination of fabric and design that could make these your go-to outerwear bottoms for all mountain snow sports.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.