Gear: Columbia Omni Heat Outer Shell

This outer shell is part of an interchangeable system that includes an inner fleece liner. I only have the outer shell. I found it on a clearance rack, and since I knew it would spend most of its life at the bottom of my backpack, its compressibility was the key selling point. Since I bought the jacket. It’s become one of my favorite things.

The coat has Columbia’s OmniHeat inner liner: a shiny material meant to reflect body heat back onto the wearer. I admit, I thought it sounded like a gimmick.

It works. I happily eat humble pie.

The shell I own is so old I can’t find a photo, but it looks most like the current Lhotse Mountain jacket (the outer shell only), which also has OmniHeat and OmniTech, a waterproof, yet breathable material, and underarm vents.

Now on to why it makes my favorites list. My opinion is that if you’re going to carry an extra layer, it should serve many purposes while being packable and light. This shell can be compressed and stuffed into its own zipper compartment of 8 by 8 inches.

For that extra layer in an emergency situation or unexpected change in weather I want three main things: Wind resistance, water resistance, and a hood. This shell has all three. It’s also longer than a jacket- finger tip length, which is important when trying to stay warm. There’s nothing worse than a jacket that rides up when bending over to light that life saving fire, letting the below zero wind blow up your back.

In my experience a good hood can keep you from losing body heat better than a million scarves, gators and hats. The hood can be cinched down around the face, providing lots of protection, and keeping wind from going down the neck. I believe Columbia calls this a storm hood.

Added bonus features make this shell great for use during outdoor activities where you want a little wind or sleet protection but still need ventilation. The zippers along the ribcage open up to allow ventilation. Zippered pockets are sleek, (no flaps) and secure. Final bonus: the material, while wind and water resistant, is quiet.

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