While attending The Kendal Mountain festival we had the opportunity to trial the Columbia’s new jacket offerings – The Outdry Ex Eco series. Columbia have produced a new line of 3 jackets; a shell jacket, an insulated shell, and a down jacket. My curiosity was peaked at the start of the very first film I watched at Kendal, when they showed a short trailer for the new jackets in which they talked about how they had been tested with the Park Rangers in the Lake District.

The jackets are an example of continued commitment to sustainable products by outdoor companies. These jackets contain no perfluorinated compounds, if you aren’t sure what these are and what their environmental impacts are have a quick read of this:

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/perflourinated_chemicals_508.pdf, that should bring you up to date. The jackets also have a striking white appearance, this is because they haven’t dyed the jackets in order to reduce the amount of water used in the process. They are also made from 100% recycled materials. The result being a jacket that looks like it’s more at home in Arctic Warfare units of the military than on the hill! Columbia has this to say about their newest jackets:

 

“TRADITIONAL TECHNOLOGY TURNED INSIDE OUT

 We’ve put the waterproof breathable membrane on the outside where it’s in contact with the rain instead of layering it between another outer fabric and inner liner.

That means no need for any DWR water repellency treatment on the outer fabric that degrades over time and no wet out.

 OutDry Extreme even “looks” waterproof. Yet, the critical difference is the durable breathability it offers over traditional rubber rain jackets.”

Throughout the Kendal Mountain Festival I wore the Insulated version, Emma had the down jacket version. The first thing you notice about these jackets is the feel of them. Unlike other traditional waterproof materials like Goretex, the Outdry material that has the waterproof layer on the top, has a plasticy, rubberised feel. While chatting with Andy Kirkpatrick during the show, his description was the “Condom jacket”, which is a fair description! Onto the fit, the jacket is available in a range of sizes, and has a straight cut, which gives a good freedom of movement. It has an excellent storm hood, and a drawstring bottom. The insulated version of the jacket was warm and comfortable, the combination of waterproofness and insulation was ideal for the Lake District weather, it was cold and wet during the weekend, making this jacket ideal for the weekend.

In terms of waterproofness, Emma tested out the jacket under a shower in the Base Camp tent, and it worked very well, mine also kept me dry throughout the weekend, you can watch a range of “tested tough” videos  that support the functionality of these jackets too.

What about costings? Well £175 for the shell jacket, £263 for the down jacket, and £225 for the insulated shell, so a little cheaper than high end Goretex shells, and about on a par with similar spec jackets from likes of Mountain Equipment and Rab.

Verdict? Well the jacket is good in terms of it’s performance, it’s warm and waterproof, and certainly ideal for changeable British weather. I don’t like the colour, it’s not a suitable colour for Winter use naturally, therefore meaning you would need a different jacket for Winter use. The implications of having an accident wearing a white jacket amongst the snow are very obvious. That said I applaud Columbia’s attempts to be environmentally friendly, increasing steps are being made across the industry to address the lack of sustainable practice in outdoor garments, so this is a great step by Columbia to be both inovative and environmentally friendly.

About The Author

Chris is a Qualified Teacher, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Course Director for a range of Mountain Training courses, and experienced Climber and Mountaineer - in the UK and Abroad.

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