Delayed but not forgotten. More ski touring pants reviewed. Hey, it’s only a few months before we’ll be clicking in again. Or perhaps you’re in the Southern Hemi? In any case, I tested Black Diamond’s Dawn Patrol pants this past spring. This pant has been around for a while, but is worth a fresh look. Other than a few quibbles — detailed below — they check all the boxes.
The Dawn Patrol ski touring pant follows the common Black Diamond design language of “clean.” In this case that means few pockets, moderatly roomy fit, lightweight fabric. A pet peeve of mine is overstated logos on backcountry clothing. Not a problem here, the only signage you’ll see in those heroic images of your legendary drop is a small BD diamond logo on the left pocket, and a diminutive text based logo above one cuff. If you need larger statements of commercialism, say you’re looking to get sponsored or just show your fan-ness, order up a stencil set from the ‘Zon, grab a can of spray paint, and have at it. Moving on, ahem…
I like the super-breathable non-membrane textile BD chose for this pant. The nylon/polyester soft shell is brushed on the inside, for a soft feel against bare skin. While this is by no means a “waterproof” fabric, it boasts a skif of DWR that did fine during my relatively dry Colorado ski tours. A bit of stretch enhances the experience, especially for skiers with bulky legs. As soft shells go, I’d call the fabric “thin,” meaning it’s perfect for high-output work on colder days, or a good choice for spring.
Nothing revolutionary here, just the basic internal powder cuff and the outside shell cuff.
Regarding the earth-shattering subject of trouser cuffs. I’m seeing more touring pants without the internal cuff. No reason a “mono cuff” can’t be designed that does it all. Looks are a lot of this. Internal cuffs work in concert with the external for a sleek, non-bunched look. I wonder if that’ll change with the whims of style? Perhaps inspired by race pants?
This is where I get particular, perhaps you do as well. Some like lots of pouches, others prefer nearly none. BD attempts compromise. While you only get two pockets located on the upper thigh, slightly lower than a classic hip pocket, they’re pleated and roomy enough for a small book. But maybe too roomy and low. When I carried my beacon in a pocket, it settled in an uncomfortable spot just above my knee and shifted around as I skied. I’d prefer it to carry higher and more firmly located. Note there’s no lanyard attachment inside either pocket. I don’t find lanyards to be essential, but they’re handy for securing a beacon, or for that matter a pocket knife on a string.
One other thing about the pockets. Though the actual pockets are large, the openings resist stuffing a pair of gloves. This appears to be caused by the zipper introducing friction you don’t get with flap covered pockets, as well as the zipper being slightly shorter than the actual width of the pocket.
Suspenders and belt options
This is where Dawn Patrol shines like a new day. You get suspenders, you get a built-in but removable belt, you get wide belt loops that’ll slip over anything from a cowboy strap to a sequin studded Gucci thread. Only one glitch: The rear suspender mount is an open U-hook that slips out too easily. Duct tape to the rescue.
I saw this in the specifications. I’m far from being a tailor or pant designer, so it took me a few minutes to figure out what a “seat gusset” actually was. I got a chuckle from the euphemism — had to break it out in a subhead. I suppose calling this a crotch gusset might attract unsavory website traffic or weird search results. But that’s what it is, and it does enhance the athletic mobility of these trousers.
The usual thigh vents, in this case mesh backed. If you like venting to daylight, scissors will take care of your needs. In the case of thigh vents are you a downie or an uppie? A person who prefers opening by pulling down, then closing by pulling up, or versa? BD has you covered either way with two zipper pulls. Not a huge deal, most pants have this feature. But some do not.
I’m a slender, skinny guy, without extra padding, 180 centimetres tall. The men’s medium fit me beautifully, or so says my wife. I’ve been glowing ever since.
A lightweight pant, suitable for fit skiers who output plenty of heat, or for a springtime garment. No back pocket. Athletic fit. Non-membrane soft-shell fabric with DWR treatment I found adequate, but probably not suited for the wet and scrappy corners of our planet. Recommended.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.