Testing an Omni-Heat Jacket

Omni jacket - DannyA couple of weeks ago, Columbia Sportswear asked me if I wanted to test out a new Columbia Reach the Peak Down Jacket.

Of course, I said yes. In return, I’m supposed to fill out a questionnaire.

I haven’t received the questionnaire yet, but I want to put down my thoughts about the jacket.

This past week has been brutally cold in western North Carolina. I couldn’t have asked for better weather to test out a jacket. I didn’t need another hiking jacket but that’s all I’ve worn since I got it.

Omni jacketAccording to their promotional material, Omni-Heat® thermal insulation boasts the highest heat retention in the industry, along with a thermal reflective lining to capture and reflect your body heat. The reflective lining looks like aluminum wrap. Columbia has several jackets with Omni-Heat. They sent me the Women’s Reach the Peak™ Down Jacket in black.

When deciding on an outdoor jacket, I look for comfort, warmth, repellency and last, looks.

So how does it perform?

Comfort – I am 5’2” and wear either a small or a medium size, depending on the cut. I like my outdoor clothes on the loose side. They sent me a small size, which turned out to be perfect. It fits well but there is still room for a heavy base layer and a standard fleece jacket, if needed. I don’t care how warm the jacket is; I still need to layer on a winter day hike. The jacket is lightweight and slim, which takes up less space in my backpack. Yes, I do go hiking in this weather.

Warmth – It has been below freezing for days in Asheville. The last few days, I’ve been out in 12 degree weather and I don’t want to think about the wind chill factor. The jacket has performed well in all weather. In fact, when the sun came out in the middle of the day, I had to zip down the jacket. And that’s fine.

Repellency – Let’s start out with the fact that nothing is going to be waterproof, except for rubber. The jacket’s insulation is 90% down and 10% feathers. In soaking rain, traditional down doesn’t perform as well as synthetic material.

How bad does it have to rain for the water to go through the jacket? It has been so cold that I have not had the chance to test it in the rain. The material does look like it will repel water but it’s not a substitute for a rain jacket. Even if I need to wear a rain jacket over the Reach the Peak jacket, it will be fine. The Columbia jacket is light and thin for its warmth.

Looks – It looks sharp. Its long line goes past the hips and makes me look slimmer.

But in its effort to look good and slim and to keep it light, there are two problems I need to point out.

Problem #1
The pockets on the Women’s Reach the Peak™ Down Jacket close with snaps, not a zipper. The snaps are difficult to open and close with gloves on. They don’t give me the security that zippers would. I wonder how long it will be before I pull the snaps apart impatiently and tear the material.

To make matters worse, I saw the men’s version in a store and the men’s had zippered pockets. Why the difference? This is supposed to be an outdoor jacket. Columbia makes a “Heat Elite” jacket that has zippered pockets. I don’t know why my model doesn’t.

Problem #2
The jacket lacks an inside pocket. Every outdoor jacket that I’ve owned has an inside pocket. This is where I put my hiking map to keep it in reach and out of the element.

Overall, I think that the Women’s Reach the Peak™ Down jacket is a warm, comfortable, good-looking jacket. If Columbia would add zippered pockets and an inside pocket, they would have a dynamite product. 

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