Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell Review

dawn patrol hybrid shellThe Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid shell walks the line between highly breathable softshell and waterproof-breathable three-layer jacket. I’m a longtime advocate of ditching full-on waterproof-breathable gear in favor of more breathable softshells, but new hybrid designs like the Dawn Patrol Hybrid let you maintain key storm protection in your bag of tricks. The shell uses highly breathable Schoeller stretch-woven fabric in the body and adds three-layer waterproof/breathable panels in the shoulders, arms and upper back for storm protection where it counts. All in all, it’s about 60/40 three-layer waterproof / softshell.

All of the Dawn Patrol’s materials are top-end Schoeller product and include a proprietary NanoSphere DWR technology with impressive water repellency. Schoeller, a Swiss company,  produces some of highest (if not the highest) quality softshell fabrics on the market. They are durable and effective. Their waterproof-breathable fabric has proven to be excellent as well. I ran the Dawn Patrol as my go-to lift and backcountry shell for a couple months last winter and it exceeded expectations on all fronts. Fit and finish are as good as it performance.

In the big picture, the jacket offers much better breathability than a standard three-layer waterproof/breathable shell and gives you more storm protection than a straight-up softshell. But, like any hybrid situation, there are compromises. Of course, it doesn’t breathe quite as a pure softshell and its feel is more hardshell than soft on your body. I think the place I notice the reduced breathability the most is in the arms. But the obvious bonus is that shoulders and upper back reliably repel what falls from the sky.

Black Diamond maintains a clean design and an athletic fit while still providing a good selection of pockets and attention to small details like cord locks and cuffs. You’ll find generously sized chest pockets that remain accessible while wearing a pack, two standard hand pockets and a pair of drop-in pockets on the inside. The inside pockets aren’t quite big enough to hold today’s wider skins, but they’ll accommodate your gloves, radio, etc. There’s even a built-in phone/media slot inside the left chest pocket, complete with headphone cable port. The hood accommodates helmets, but maintains a nice low-profile shape when not in use. The Dawn Patrol Hybrid delivers on all fronts. You get breathability in key locations and the added storm protection of three-layer construction where it really counts. It’s the one jacket that can do it all and could easily cover you on storm days at the ski hill and breathe with you on the uptrack on touring days.

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