Kate: The Dawn Patrol’s hood is big enough for most climbing helmets, but was a little tight to wear with my Pret ski helmet; with the stretchy fabric, it just barely fit. Without a helmet, the hood feels roomy, but not too baggy, and cinches pretty easily from the back with a single cord. A 1.5” brim helps deflect water and sun.
The neck is nice and roomy, and when fully zipped, covers most of my face, reaching the tip of my nose. It is has a soft, thin liner that is comfortable against your skin.
The Dawn Patrol has two zipped hand pockets, a smaller zippered chest pocket, and two open interior stash pockets. None of the pockets are particularly large. The interior stash pockets are handy for quickly storing gloves or goggles, but are not big enough to fit skins. The chest pocket can just barely fit a larger cell phone and also has a headphone port.
There is a simple drawstring on the bottom of the jacket that can be cinched down for a tighter fit. There are no pit zips since the ventilation is meant to happen through the fabric itself.
Andi: The one downside I experienced with the pockets’ design is that under a harness or pack hip belt, you won’t be able to access the zippered hand pockets or the interior drop pockets because they are partially obscured by the harness or hip belt. This leaves you with the one chest pocket for all of your essentials.
The hood easily accommodates my helmet and the adjustable draw strap on the back of the hood allows you to cinch it down when you’re not wearing a helmet. I will say, however, that I had trouble adjusting that cinch in the back of the hood while wearing gloves. I had to pull my gloves off and free both hands to adjust it. So you might want to decide whether you’re going to have your helmet on or not before heading out, and make any adjustments before putting on your pack and gloves.
Andi: At $300, the Dawn Patrol shell is similarly priced to other softshell jackets in its class, such as the Patagonia Dimensions Softshell, or the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Softshell. While there are many softshells out there that are quite a bit less expensive, the Schoeller fabric with the NanoSphere Technology sets this shell ahead of the cheaper options, and makes it worth the investment.
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell is impressively water-resistant for being a soft shell, it’s highly breathable, and it offers great stretch and mobility in a tailored cut. For those ladies who want performance and function with a bit of style, this softshell is for you.