'Ugly ducking looks mask beautiful swan performance with consistent breathability thanks to Columbia's radical OutDry Extreme fabric technology.'
Outdoors Magic: Interesting fabric with consistent breathability, pit-zips and venting pockets, deceptively okay hood, comfortable feel.
Outdoors Tragic: Hood could be better for UK use, ugly duckling looks are distinctive, but polarising.
Outdoors Grabbit? If you can get past the distinctive, slightly rubbery looks, the radical 'waterproofing on the outside' fabric is decently breathable and, more importantly, performance stays consistent no matter how long you're out for. The hood turns out to be better than it looks, but could be better for really gnarly use. We'd love to see this fabric in a sleeker fitting, more technical package.
Waterproof trail and walking jacket / OutDry Extreme fabric / external seam tape / bonded visor, cuffs and hem / adjustable storm hood / pit-zips / water-resistant PU front zipper with storm-flap / Light Rail™ zippered chest and hand pockets / drawcord adjustable hem / drop-tail
Full Review Below
Columbia OutDry Ex Platinum Shell - The Tech
Columbia's OutDry Extreme is something a little bit different when it comes to waterproof fabric technology. It's not the prettiest material out there by some way with distinctive vinyl-style, rubbery looks. But if you get beyond the aesthetics, it has a lot going for it. Think of it as being like waterproof jacket version of a custard apple...
Unlike conventional waterproof fabrics which have a layer of chemically treated fabric on the outside of the actual waterproofing layer, OutDry Extreme puts the waterproof layer right on the outside.
The advantage of that is that there's no face fabric to gradually get saturated with water and then impede breathability. And no need to maintain it with reproofing chemicals. Instead you can just wipe water off the rubbery surface and keep going with the same level of breathability maintained.
It's not quite the only fabric to do this, Gore's PBS (Permanent Beading Surface) lightweight material uses broadly similar principles, but it's the only one suitable for general use at an affordable price.
Other stuff to be aware of are the bonded hood visor, cuffs and hem. And the distinctive externally taped seams which look either wrong or futuristic depending on your point of view. They're more subtle on the black test jacket than on yellow, red or blue colour options.
Columbia OutDry Ex Platinum Shell- Performance
Outside called OutDry Extreme the most breathable fabric they've used. We disagree with that, NeoShell, for example, is significantly better. But where the odd upside-down fabric really scores is in consistency of performance.
While conventional fabrics inevitably get soggy on the outside after hours of use in constant rain and lose breathability as a result, OutDry Extreme just keeps on trucking. Water does sort of bead on the surface, almost in puddles, but you can simply brush it away.
So while breathability is good rather than outstanding in our experience, it carries on being good when other fabrics start to struggle. It really does work very well.
The jacket overall is better than we at first thought. The cut is a sort of unexceptional happy medium. All the adjusters work fine. There are two hand-pockets and a chest one with part-mesh linings so they have a basic venting function too. And then there are pit-zips, which only open one way and were slightly sticky in the arm-pit area.
Hug A Hood
Finally, and crucially, there's the hood. We didn't have high expectations of it thanks to a floppy, albeit bonded peak, and basic adjustment, just a Velcro volume tab on the rear of the head.
In reality it turned out to work better than we expected when caught out in a fierce little squall. True there's limited factual protection above neck level and the stealth front adjusters are fiddly to use - we had to turn our back into the wind - but once it was snugged up, it stayed in place and the peak was just about okay.
It could definitely do with a better hood with upgraded peak, slicker adjustment and more protection, but for general lowland to medium walking, it's just about okay as is and somewhat better than it looks.
Columbia OutDry Ex Platinum Shell - Verdict
It's easy to get hung up on OutDry Extreme's looks to the detriment of its performance, but the fabric actually works very well indeed, particularly on longer outings when its ability to deliver consistent breathability is a stand-out feature.
There's no soggy, clammy, wetting out and the breathability generally is competitive and the jacket kept us comfortable unless we really hammered it.
The jacket design does okay. Fit and features all work fine and while the hood could use some upgrades and better adjustment for UK mountain use, it actually turns out to be more capable than you'd think until things get properly gnarly.
It'd be interesting to see the fabric technology used in a more technical all-round mountain jacket, but for less demanding use the jacket performs well.