Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Touring Pant
Color: Spectrum Blue
Stated Average Weight: 640 grams (1 lb 6.6 oz)
Shell Material: Schoeller® stretch-woven with brushed backer (260 g/m2, 91% nylon, 9% elastane) and NanoSphere® Technology
Reviewer Stats: 5’0”, 115 lbs
- Integrated RECCO® technology
- Adjustable, removable suspenders
- Belt loops
- Zippered hand pockets
- Zippered fly
- Expanding thigh cargo pocket with vertical zippered access
- Two-way, 3/4-length side zippers
- Articulated knees
- Keprotec® reinforced kick patches
- Internal snow gaiters with gripper elastic and boot lace hooks
- Drawcord cuffs
Days Worn: 11
Test Locations: Grand Teton National Park, Teton Pass, Crested Butte Backcountry
Last season, Black Diamond released their first line of men’s outerwear. This season, they are introducing a wide range of women’s outerwear, too.
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Touring Pant is a high-performance, water-resistant stretchy soft shell pant meant to be worn for backcountry excursions and alpine objectives.
Fit / Sizing
I generally fall somewhere between a Small and Medium in softshell pants; a Medium will have a looser, more comfortable fit on me and can accommodate more layers, but is usually a little too long. Since the Dawn Patrol Touring pants are (a) made of a softshell material that stretches and gives more than traditional hardshells and (b) I wanted a shorter length for touring, I went with a size Small.
The Small pants fit me perfectly at the waist with room for layering, so run a bit larger than other Smalls I’ve worn. The waist sits right below my belly button, and the legs fall fairly straight, flaring out a bit below the knee.
At 5’, I usually have a tough time finding pants with the correct inseam, but the length is perfect, and I won’t have to worry as much about putting a crampon through the extra material at the bottom of my pants.
The Dawn Patrol Touring pants have what I would call a relaxed, athletic fit; they are comfortable and loose enough without feeling too bulky. Although the fairly stretchy material is a bit more form fitting through the hips than baggier hardshell pants I’ve worn, there’s plenty of space to easily accommodate additional layers without feeling restrictive. The cuffs fit easily over a ski or snowboard boot, with a bit of flare at the bottom.
I will note, though, that as their name suggests, these pants are designed more for touring and days in the alpine. So while the pants are somewhat loose, they don’t have the look of a freeride-oriented pant you often see in the resort. You could certainly wear them in the resort, they will just have a slimmer, more Euro look to them.
The Dawn Patrol Touring pants are well designed for alpine touring and backcountry use. The two-way, 3/4-length zippers down the outside of the legs allow for sufficient venting on the way up, and can be easily closed with mittens for the descent. And since they zip up so high, it’s very easy to remove the pants over your ski or snowboard boots. The side zippers are made with a PU-laminated water resistant zip, which helps with the pants’ weather protection.
The zippered hand pockets are also great for storing small items like chapstick and gel packs, but don’t necessarily hold a cellphone, camera, or goggles comfortably. The thigh pocket is a bit larger, and I typically store my beacon in it on warmer days when I’m not wearing a jacket. With larger items, the pocket’s placement can feel a bit awkward, especially once you get on the skin track.
The Dawn Patrol Touring pants have reinforced cuffs, which provide some added protection from crampons or other sharp objects used in the mountains. The pants’ gators around the foot are smaller and shorter than ones on other pants I’ve worn, and I actually prefer the smaller size since they do better job of insulating my feet by keeping the moisture out completely. I usually feel like I’m struggling with larger gators that have more material than is necessary. And despite the smaller side, they still slide over my boots just fine.
The pants also come with removable suspenders, which I like wearing for long, snowy ascents. However, if suspenders aren’t really your thing, (who are we kidding, suspenders are everyone’s thing) they’re quick and easy to remove and attach with a simple hook in all of the connection points. The attachment hooks have a small tooth at the end to prevent the suspenders from slipping off during use, and sit just above where my waist belt rests on my your pack. This limits any sort of friction when wearing my pack, and keeps the hooks from digging in while skinning.
Although there is no back flap in the pants to “take care of business” in the backcountry, it’s quick and easy to unhook the suspenders from the front without removing any layers.
Fabric / Performance
I currently live in Colorado, which has a pretty dry climate. Since I don’t have to worry about dealing with heavy precipitation on a regular basis and spend a lot of time on the skin track, I’m less willing to sacrifice breathability for waterproof performance. Because breathability is my top priority for my outerwear in the backcountry, a softshell rather than a hardshell was a better choice for me.
The Dawn Patrol Touring pants are made from a highly breathable, Schoeller stretch-woven softshell fabric, and are treated with an effective DWR.
The pants are quite windproof, and so far, have been extremely versatile for any activity I’ve used them in, whether it be a big climb in the Tetons, or skinning quick, early morning laps at the resort.
I’ve been extremely impressed with the Dawn Patrol Touring pants’ breathability, and unsurprisingly, they are far more breathable than any hardshell pants I’ve worn.
I tend to run hot while skinning, and even on the warmest spring days, I never felt like I was overheating in the pants. The pants can unzip 3⁄4 of the length of the leg, so I can get sufficient airflow to keep me cool; I didn’t even feel too sweaty while hiking in just the pants on a 80ºF day in July. The soft, brushed inner lining feels also feels really comfortable next-to-skin.
While the Dawn Patrol Touring pants breathe well, they also kept me plenty warm on really cold days, down to 0ºF with howling winds, paired with my thickest fleece tights. The pants feel a bit thicker and sturdier than some other softshell pants, but offer much more flexibility and stretchiness than hardshells I’ve worn.
While the pants are not waterproof, and of course won’t be as weatherproof as a true hardshell, they are quite water resistant. I had a rather unfortunate incident of falling into a small stream while wearing the Dawn Patrol Touring pants, and walked out with slightly damp pants and soaked boots. Unless you’re getting rained on heavily, the pants have protected me well from fairly heavy, wet snow and the occasional drizzle, along with the occasional misstep which leaves you with your foot in a stream.
So far, I’ve had a tough time getting dirt and other particulates to stick to or stain the Dawn Patrol Touring pants. Even after rubbing up against a dirty car, I can easily brush off any sort of muck with my glove. And if there’s something a little more persistent, a damp cloth will remove anything else that my glove couldn’t.
At $299 USD, the Dawn Patrol Touring pants are priced similarly to comparable softshell pants. The Arc’teryx Gamma MX and Mountain Equipment Arclight softshell pants are also right around $300, but there are a number of decent softshells out there that $100-150 less expensive, too. This is quite a difference in price, but there is also a wide range of softshell fabrics and how well they perform. Given the pants’ versatility and performance, though, I’ve found them to be worth the investment.
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Touring pants are a high-performance, versatile softshell that offers great breathability. The pants will work really well for touring and alpine objectives most days in drier climates like Colorado, and on drier days in climates with more precipitation, like the Pacific Northwest or Alaska.