Columbia Omni-Tech Ampli-Dry Shell | Deep Dive - Outdoors Magic

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Waterproof Jackets

Columbia Omni-Tech Ampli-Dry Shell | Deep Dive

A jacket built for both urban life and outdoor adventures, employing the latest stretch version of Columbia’s proven waterproof-breathable fabric

Having one wardrobe for your hiking adventures and another for daily life can get expensive. If only more outdoor brands made kit that was versatile enough to shrug off the elements in the hills and mountains without looking out of place in the urban jungle. After all, rain is rain, no matter whether it falls on peak or pavement. And let’s be honest, plenty of us outdoorsy types are forced to spend most of our time stuck in towns and cities.

Luckily, Columbia’s Ampli-Dry Shell has been built with multiple environments in mind. The jacket’s contemporary, understated styling won’t raise eyebrows as you stroll into the office on a wet Monday morning, no matter how stuffy and formal your boss is. But what’s under the hood has serious technical performance. It’s based on the brand’s tried and tested Omni-Tech waterproof-breathable membrane, a proven technology that first appeared way back in 1991.

Columbia’s Omni-Tech Ampli-Dry Shell, featuring brand new technology developed by the U.S. brand. Photo: Lucy Gourley

 

Omni-Tech: Dry ‘From The Inside Out’

In fact, Omni-Tech was Columbia’s first patented in-house technology, a progressive step that marked a sea change in the brand’s approach: to take innovation seriously, rather than relying on ingredient brands like Gore-Tex. That philosophy reached its logical evolution in 2007, when Columbia established its own Performance Innovation Team, known as the PIT lab. A flurry of new innovations followed, not least the brand’s game-changing Omni-Heat tech, as well as TurboDown insulation and the genuinely unique OutDry Extreme range of apparel.

Today, Columbia Sportswear holds more than 200 patents for its remarkable range of in-house innovations. But three decades on, Omni-Tech remains a core staple of the product range. In essence, it’s an extremely thin PU (polyurethane) membrane laminated to a tough face fabric to provide the wearer with waterproof and breathable protection.

Technology that keeps you dry ‘from the inside out’. Photo: Lucy Gourley

The membrane allows moisture vapour to pass through it thanks to some clever chemistry. Since PU is hydrophilic (water-loving), individual water vapour molecules chemically bond to the surface and are drawn through it, passing directly through the membrane to the opposite side. There, they can then evaporate away.

Columbia call this keeping you dry ‘from the inside out’: hence, Ampli-Dry. But a major advantage of PU-based membranes over most ePTFE-based rivals – like Gore-Tex – is that it’s much easier to make them stretchy. This has become the basis of the latest generation of Omni-Tech fabrics. As such, the Ampli-Dry jacket has built-in four way stretch, meaning it moves with your body, whatever you’re doing – whether that’s tackling a grade 3 mountain scramble or weaving your way amongst commuters on crowded streets. In either situation, it’s designed to offer a far greater degree of comfort over conventional waterproof jackets, many of which feature stiff, rigid fabrics without the same degree of flex. As such, they may do the job but tend to rustle like a crisp packet.

Adam Parkinson (@roamwithadam) using Ampli-Dry to tackle conditions in the Lake District. Photo: Lucy Gourley

Features

The main body of the jacket features a 2.5-layer construction, consisting of a tough rip-stop nylon face fabric with four-way stretch which is laminated to that Omni-Tech membrane and finished with a dry-touch geometric print backer for next-to-the-skin comfort.

To ensure it offers 100% reliable rain protection, the Ampli-Dry Shell also boasts fully sealed seams and a PU-coated, water-resistant centre-front zipper. The drawcord adjustable hood has a bonded brim to deflect rain away from the face, while the cuffs and hem are similarly adjustable. You also get zipped hand and chest pockets, plus generous pit zips to help you dump excess heat and moisture vapour: a feature that can make a huge difference to comfort but which is typically only found on premium technical shells.

The jacket is available in a wide range of sizes, with an accommodating regular fit in both men’s and women’s versions. The muted, contemporary colourways include no-nonsense black and a smart ‘Collegiate Navy’ for men, plus an outdoors-inspired ‘Stone Green’ and, for those who appreciate a colour pop, a vibrant bright red. Women can choose the same hues in red and black, though the options are completed with a powder blue shade or an on-trend pastel pink.

To finish up, we think this is a great value jacket that offers plenty of versatility thanks to its wear-anywhere styling, all-day stretch comfort and competitive technical performance. It’s a competent all-rounder too, making this a shell that will happily cope with spring showers, sudden summer downpours and damp autumn weather alike. It’s also lightweight and packable, so it’s a solid grab-and-go option for daily wear or a good ‘just in case’ layer that is easy to stash in a rucksack or work bag.

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