Why We Chose The Columbia OutDry Extreme Nanolite Shell: Light, packable, waterproof, durable
The outdoor industry is seemingly obsessed with the pursuit of lightweight performance. And every time a lighter, more packable jacket comes out, there’s a new marketing term coined to describe it. First we had lightweight gear, then we had ultralight gear. But even that wasn’t enough: brands adopted the term ‘featherlight’, and now Columbia have come up with ‘nanolite’.
Whether it’s at all justified, we’re not sure. But it’s certainly true that this waterproof jacket doesn’t weigh very much at all. It also packs away into its own pocket. So, if those are your priorities on the trail or in the mountains, this one is well worth a look – not least because it employs Columbia’s shiny OutDry Extreme technology, an inside-out membrane that promises a high level of consistent weather protection and improved durability over conventional shells.
Who Is The Columbia OutDry Extreme Nanolite Shell For?
It’s best used for hiking and hillwalking, though it’s light and breathable enough that it could conceivably work as a trail running jacket in very wet and cold conditions too.
The main selling point is the use of the OutDry Extreme membrane, a technology that – for jackets at least – is currently exclusive to Columbia. If you’re not convinced by Gore-Tex, eVent or the other big names in waterproofing, give this a go. Similarly, if you are hard on your kit or just can’t be bothered with the hassle of regularly reproofing your waterproof gear, this might be the fuss-free weather protection you’ve been looking for.
We’ve covered OutDry Extreme in some detail before here on Outdoors Magic, but here’s a little primer to refresh your memory. This unusual tech was the first ever waterproof and breathable rainwear that had a durable waterproof layer on the outside, eliminating the need for a DWR-treated face fabric. That ultimately means that OutDry Extreme jackets will never ‘wet out’, so rain will always just continue to bead up and roll right off the shiny, plasticky surface. In turn, this allows for more consistent performance in terms of breathability, so whereas other hardshell jackets can start to get fuggy when the outer fabric is saturated, OutDry Extreme carries on moving moisture vapour through the jacket, whatever the weather. An internal wicking liner also aids next-to-skin comfort by further pulling moisture away from the body.
“The main selling point is the use of the OutDry Extreme membrane.”
To ensure waterproof performance isn’t compromised at the jacket seams, OutDry Extreme jackets are seam-sealed with external taping. This is effective, if a little outlandish when it comes to looks. Similarly, the vinyl-effect surface of the fabric itself puts some people off. But if you can get past the aesthetics, and you should, then there’s no disputing that the tech works.