Columbia Mission Air II (2012)

The Columbia Mission Air II is a soft and lightweight jacket that is also compact enough to stash in a rucksack, just in case it rains, while being comfortable enough to wear as a windcheater when there’s a breeze. It’s made from Columbia’s Omni-Tech fabric with a mesh lining for added comfort. The style is quite short, so like most jackets here it is not ideal for scrambling in really wet weather as it can ride up easily. The main zip gets a single external stormflap to keep the worst of the rain out. The pockets have a nylon lining and are placed high enough to allow reasonable access while wearing a rucksack. The pockets do extend below a rucksack belt, though, so they are not ideal. There is good movement in the sleeves of the Columbia Mission Air II, so they don’t ride up too badly when scrambling. The hood can be rolled into the collar if not needed, and when on the head it fits reasonably well. But it does not move with the head as well as it could, and the peak has no stiffening, so it does not offer the best protection.

Weight 558g (L)

Fabric Omni-Tech

Lining polyester mesh

Men’s sizes S-XXL

Women’s sizes none

External pockets 2

Wired hood no

Side/pit vents no

Website www.columbia.com

 

Verdict

For the price the Columbia Mission Air II is an excellent jacket for the hillwalker who wants a reasonably light and comfortable jacket, and has no desire to spend extra cash to get better features. It won the ‘Best Value’ award in our test.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine Spring 2012


First test: Columbia Compounder Shell jacket

Omni-Dry is Columbia’s latest waterproof and breathable fabric, and on paper it appears to stand beside the best that money can buy. With the proud claim that it is ‘more air-permeable than Gore-Tex’ and that it is ‘the ultimate in waterproof technology for the outdoors’, Columbia has clearly set out its stall. The question is, does it actually help hillwalkers stay dry and comfortable?

I’ve been using the Columbia Compounder Shell, which features the new Omni-Dry fabric, for a few months to see how it stands up to typical wet and windy weather in the Lake District. It is certainly a very comfortable jacket, with a fabric that has a very soft feel, and it moves effortlessly with the body. The fabric is a 2.5-layer design, which in plain English means there is a thin coating on the inside rather than a full third inner layer to the fabric sandwich, with the outer fabric and waterproof membrane being the other two layers. It is this inner coating coupled with the waterproof and breathable membrane that controls the condensation.

The trouble is, while laboratory results are useful for comparing fabric breathability, they are not so good at mimicking what actually happens when you go for a walk, for numerous reasons. So when I’ve worn the Columbia Compounder Shell it has developed condensation inside, and more than I would experience from a 3-layer fabric, where the inner layer is a full layer of material, such as 3-layer eVent and 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell for example. But if I compare the jacket to other 2.5-layer fabrics, such as Marmot’s Precip, then the Columbia Compounder Shell is a better option.

There’s also more to staying dry and comfortable than just the fabric, as it is often the pockets and hood for example that cause difficulties in the rain. The Compounder Shell has good arm movement and you get pit zips for venting as well as large pockets that are mesh-lined, to further improve venting, while also reducing weight. It has a single water-resistant zip up the front and a third chest pocket that takes a GPS, phone or a Cicerone-style guidebook. 

But the pockets extend below rucksack waistbelts, while the hood design is not ideal as it does not easily turn with the head and it has a floppy peak that does not offer good protection. These design drawbacks are common to many jackets, of course; but when combined with a 2.5-layer fabric they don’t help to increase the comfort. However there is an area where the Columbia Compounder Shell performs very well – and that is when it is placed on the scales, as it tips them at 520g (size men’s L), which is pretty good for a jacket with pit zips, three pockets and a hood. Also the price of £195 is again very good for the overall performance.

Columbia’s new Omni-Dry fabric is a good 2.5-layer fabric, with the advantages of weight, price and softness. But to keep the wearer dry and comfortable when hillwalking, a jacket needs more than this.

 

Material 2.5-layer Omni Dry

Sizes S-XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)

Weight 520g (size men’s L)

Made in China

Stockist details www.columbia.com

 

Verdict

The Columbia Compounder Shell is a reasonable jacket at a good weight for the features, and a great price for the performance; but it is not the promised saviour for those who want to stay dry and comfortable when hillwalking.

 

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine April 2012


Columbia Peak 2 Peak 2011

Columbia are not known for technical mountaineering gear, but for 2011 they have released their own waterproof and breathable fabric called Omni-Dry, and designed the Peak 2 Peak jacket, which is very much biased towards the climber and mountaineer. Design Omni-Dry is a 3-layer laminate that is air-permeable and boasts laboratory figures that place it up there with the best fabrics. It feels pretty robust on the outside, and the inside scrim should soak up any sweat that doesn’t make it through the fabric. I’ve been using it for a few months, and found – while you can overpower it when cooking up a good sweat – it controls condensation as well as the other fabrics here. This jacket weighs a very respectable 456g (size L) and packs down pretty small too. You get Napoleon pockets, pit zips and a hood with a wired peak. On the hill In terms of staying dry and comfy this works as well as the other laminates here. It is waterproof and as breathable as current technology allows. But when walking I did find it a frustrating jacket to wear as it only has those Napoleon pockets, which you cannot warm your hands in. I know they are good for accessing guidebooks but I would still rather have pockets for warming my hands. However I know for some people the Columbia Peak 2 Peak will be ideal. You do get pit zips, which I like for mountaineering while wearing a harness, but seldom use when mountain walking. The hood gets a wired peak, face drawcords and a Velcro volume adjuster at the back. However it did not turn with the head as well as other designs here. The main zip does not get an external stormflap, and although it did not leak for me, I ‘d prefer an external stormflap for long-term protection of the exposed zip. This is a good jacket for mountaineers who prefer Napoleon pockets, but the hood could be slightly better. This jacket highlights that having a good fabric is only part of the buying decision as this design is not ideal for everyone in my view. It also has quite a high price tag, considering the features provided by other jackets at lower prices.

Outer 3-layer Omni-Dry
Inner none
Fabric waterproofness extremely waterproof
Fabric breathability extremely breathable
Sizes S-XXL
Weight 456g (size L)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 1
Stockist details – tel. (01189) 220130; www.columbia.com

The Columbia Peak 2 Peak offers excellent breathability and waterproof performance; reasonable hood; Napoleon pockets, relatively low weight. However, it has a relatively short design; no external stormflap on main zip; no pockets that can be used to warm the hands; high price for feature set. In summary, it’s a reasonable design for climbers and mountaineers, but walkers may prefer a jacket with handwarming pockets and a better hood
 
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine March 2011


Columbia Deep Ghyll Shell

One of the few jackets with a full-stretch fabric, giving it almost soft shell levels of movement. The Omni-Tech fabric performed well on test in rain and wind, with no leaking. The weatherproof zip pulls can be a little annoying, with only short toggles to grasp and a stiff pull action when new. A little toasty in warmer conditions although the large underarm vents do a decent job of releasing heat. The hood works well, with three-cinch adjustment and a wire-reinforced peak.

VITAL STATS
Sizes: S-XXL
Fabric: Omni-Tech
Weight: 850g
Women’s version: No
Contact: 01189 220 130; www.columbia.com 


Columbia Air Shell 2010

The Columbia Air Shell multi-activity jacket uses OmniTech waterproof and breathable fabric; mesh lining improves comfort; long length with two base pockets; additional small chest pocket. But 536g (size L) is a little heavy compared to others; pockets are easily obscured with rucksack belts; hood has floppy peak and does not move well with the head; very long for a multi-sport jacket.

The Columbia Air Shell is a nice enough jacket for general walking, but others have the edge for multi-sport use.

First published in Trail magazine November 2010


Columbia Hot Shot 2010

The Columbia Hot Shot weighs 280g (size L); Omni Tech fabric; front zip gets external stormflap; two map-sized hip pockets; reflective details. But paying a higher price brings higher waterproofness and breathability performance; pocket access is easily obscured with rucksack belts; hood is very basic.

The Columbia Hot Shot is a lightweight and low-priced option, but performance is better in many other jackets.

First published in Trail magazine November 2010


Columbia Aravis II 2010

The Columbia Aravis II general-purpose jacket uses Omni-Tech fabric, which is very waterproof and very breathable; mesh lining adds comfort; two large chest pockets accessible with rucksack belts; removable hood has stiffened peak; front zip gets double stormflap. But 702g (size L) is heavy; pockets are mesh-lined so not totally waterproof; hood adjustment doesn’t bring best fit; more cash buys better fabric.

 

The Columbia Aravis II is a good low-priced jacket, but hood and weight are drawbacks.

First published in Trail magazine November 2010


Columbia Waypoint II/Wildwood 2009

Columbia has a wide range of new outdoor products for 2009, and the Waypoint II/Wildwood sets a good standard. The multi-activity jacket  is made from Omni-Tech – Columbia’s own brand of fabric – which uses a microporous membrane to keep the wearer dry while maintaining breathability to allow sweat to escape. The fabric feels more robust than others, hence the slightly heavier weight. There’s also a stormflap over the front zip to keep rain out. The hood rolls into the collar and has a small but good wired peak to add protection. The two pockets are quite large and the zips allow reasonable access even while wearing a rucksack hipbelt or climbing harness. The two pockets are mesh-lined to aid ventilation and reduce weight while underarm zips provide extra venting. The main fabric also includes 45 per cent recycled polyester to help reduce the effect on the planet. But the Columbia Waypoint II/Wildwood’s hood movement is not as good as some higher-priced jackets. For more cash you can get jackets with better condensation control. There is no reflective material for cycling at night, and a lighter jacket would be better for running. Pockets extend to the hem, so retrieving items from them is not easy if wearing a rucksack hipbelt or climbing harness. The women’s Wildwood pockets are lower and more easily obscured by hipbelts.

 

Outer Omni-Tech coated polyester (45% recycled)
Inner none
Fabric waterproofness waterproof
Fabric breathability breathable
Sizes S-XXL (men’s Waypoint); XS-XL (women’s Wildwood)
Weight 455g (men’s L)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 4

 

Verdict: The Columbia Waypoint II/Wildwood is an excellent jacket for the price, and it provides good performance for walking, biking and general outdoor activity.

 

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine November 2009


Columbia Aravis Long Shell 2009

The Columbia Aravis Long Shell is a good all-round design for generally being outdoors in wet and windy weather. Firstly it uses Columbia’s own Omni-Tech waterproof and breathable fabric. The mesh lining also benefits from being made from recycled material to add to its eco-friendly credibility. As the name suggests this is slightly longer than the similar Aravis Shell (£100). That extra length makes this jacket a little more useful for hill-walkers who are out in all weathers. There are two large chest pockets, and these have nice long zips and can be accessed while wearing rucksack belts. These pockets are mesh-lined, which adds to their value for venting the jacket. There is an additional smaller chest pocket that is good for stashing a GPS receiver for example. The hood, which can be removed completely, benefits from a wired peak, and reasonable fit and movement.  But the pockets of the Columbia Aravis Long Shell are mesh-lined so while being great for adding ventilation they are not so good at keeping the rain out if wet gear is stashed in them for example. A higher price tag would mean you’d get a jacket made from more waterproof and more breathable fabrics. Surprisingly the hood cannot be rolled into the collar, which some people may have preferred.

 

Outer Omni-Tech 2-layer waterproof and breathable fabric
Inner 57% recycled polyester mesh
Fabric waterproofness very waterproof
Fabric breathability very breathable
Sizes XS-XL
Weight 590g (size M)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 5

Verdict: The Columbia Aravis Long Shell is an excellent and low-priced waterproof for general hill-walking.

 

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine November 2009


Columbia Sierra Madre Shell

This general-purpose waterproof jacket weighs 414g (size 12); stylish mesh lining adds comfort; rollaway hood with volume adjuster; waterproof and breathable fabric.
But for this price you can get jackets with better fabric performance ratings; pocket access is easily obscured with rucksack belts; hood is not as good as others in price range; no map-sized pockets.

 

 

Verdict: It’ll keep you dry and looks stylish, but does not have the practical edge of similar-priced jackets.


Columbia Faster and Lighter Shell

The Faster and Lighter Shell is a multi-activity jacket that does exactly what it says on the swing tag. It weighs in at 248g, which is pretty light, and ideal for fast and light action. The fabric is no lightweight though, being rated as good as the best. There is a little bit of stretch in the fabric too, which allows for plenty of freedom of movement without the need for a baggy cut. To keep the weight down and the condensation under control you get mesh pockets that allow a little extra airflow. These pockets are chest-mounted, so they are easily accessible while wearing a pack. They are big too and can swallow an OS map.  The hood is fairly basic, however it fits and moves well with the head. Use this for fast and light action and it is very good. But the hood cannot be rolled down and secured, so it is not ideal for moving fast as it could catch the wind. There is no reflective piping either so this is not the best for night action. Some other hoods are perhaps a little better too in terms of fit and movement. It also seems like a few quid overpriced compared to others.

 

Outer: nylon Omni-Tech Stretch ripstop
Inner: none
Fabric waterproofness: extremely waterproof
Fabric breathability: extremely breathable
Sizes: S-XXL
Weight: 248g (size L)
Made in China
Stores in UK: 15

Verdict: Great for light hiking, and reasonable for biking and adventure racing.


Columbia Grand Goulets

This lightweight waterproof jacket from Columbia benefits from lots of adjustment, with three-way drawcords on the hood, Velcro cuffs and single-hand drawcord adjustment at the waist. Lovely rustle-free fabric too. At 560g, it’s a little too heavy to be truly classed a lightweight waterproof. It’s a great jacket though and performs admirably in some really bad weather, and will last well too.

Verdict: A bombproof jacket that is a little too bulky and heavy to mix it with the best in test. Better suited to those who go out in all weathers and are more likely to wear their waterproof than carry it.

Colours: Jet (grey), gypsy (red) and sulfur (yellow)

Sizes: S-XXL

Fabric: Gore-Tex 2L Paclite Ripstop

Key features: Fully seam sealed, venting chest pockets, pull-out hood, articulated elbows

Weight: 560g

Women’s version: Dunes to Delta

Contact: 00 800 4378 7833; www.columbia.com


Columbia Spring Ridge

This waterproof jacket from Colombia fits really well. It is cut shorter than many, which won’t appeal to everyone. The fully adjustable hood is very good and covers your face well, even though it doesn’t have a wired peak. The snug collar and soft, rustle-free fabric are good too. The Spring Ridge is quite lightweight for all the features it offers. The Gore-Tex fabric breathes well and keeps you dry, and the adjustable Velcro cuffs, drawcord hem and lovely deep chest pocket are all excellent. Slightly bigger handwarmer pockets would be an improvement.

Verdict: A well-featured Gore-Tex jacket for only £100. It’s comfortable, not too heavy and will keep you dry and comfortable in even the worst conditions. At home on the street and in the hills.

Colours: Columbia navy, barn red, black, strata (light blue)

Sizes: XS-XL

Fabric: Gore-Tex Explorer Taffeta

Main features: Fully seam-sealed, radial sleeves, venting chest pocket, drawcord hem, polyester mesh/taffeta lining

Weight: 480g

Men’s version: Shelter Ridge

Contact: 00 800 4378 7833; www.columbia.com


Columbia Ullapool

This waterproof jacket from Columbia is a little on the large side, but with Velcro adjustable cuffs and a drawcord hem, you’ll still be able to get the most out of it out on the hill. It’s a wonderfully comfortable jacket, with a soft face fabric and a nice mesh lining. The zip-off hood is also easy to adjust and plenty big enough to take a hat. Bombproof in a heavy storm, yet light and breathable enough to wear in better conditions, where the vented pockets and pit zips come into their own. The Ullapool has lots of pockets, including a large map-sized one on the chest. The hood is also superb, with a stiffened wired peak and clever adjustment so it moves easily with the head.

Verdict: A wonderful, comfortable jacket that won’t be found wanting in any department. Tough enough to wear in even the worst conditions, yet light enough to carry in a pack when it’s not needed.

Colours: Red rover, black, admiral (blue), sulfur (yellow)

Sizes: S-XXL

Fabric: Gore-Tex XCR

Main features: Taped seams, multiple pockets, wired hood, drawcord hem and waist, ripstop fabric on shoulders, pit zips

Weight: 750g

Women’s version: No

Contact: 00 800 4378 7833; www.columbia.com