Columbia OutDry Extreme Nanolite Shell Jacket | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Waterproof Jackets

Columbia OutDry Extreme Nanolite Shell Jacket | Review

A lightweight shell from the US mega-brand, offering a low weight, packability, streamlined features and Columbia’s unusual OutDry Extreme waterproof-breathable tech

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.

Photo: Chris Johnson

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.

Materials

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.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

Features

This jacket has a bonded hood brim with rear volume adjustment. There are also highly water-resistant PU Vislon front and hand pocket zippers, Velcro-adjustable cuffs, a drawcord adjustable hem, a pronounced drop tail and that’s about it. It’s certainly a simple and streamlined feature set, but that’s appropriate for a featherweight, packable shell.

Conclusion

We’re certainly convinced by OutDry Extreme and remain firm believers in its effectiveness. That’s why a Columbia jacket has made it into the Outdoor 100 for the past two or three years running, and why we felt the Nanolite Shell merited yet another place in this year’s selection.

It perhaps isn’t a significant step up from the Columbia jackets we’ve tested in previous seasons, but the brand seems to be following an outdoor industry trend by attempting to go ever lighter. While they have succeeded here, if we’re honest, we’d actually like to see Columbia move the other way, and attempt to make a burlier OutDry Extreme jacket that felt like a proper fortress, perhaps a truly technical shell designed for seriously gnarly mountain conditions. Now that really would be interesting… 

Tester’s Verdict

Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

“I’ve used OutDry in pretty much all of its iterations since its launch a number of years ago and I’ve always been impressed. The best thing about it is that there’s no saturation point, and therefore, when it stops raining, it’s pretty much going to dry up in an instant.”

Photo: Chris Johnson

“At 210g I think this must be the lightest OutDry jacket Columbia have come up with. As you might expect then, there is a slight fragility to it but I’d say I’ve come across some three layer jackets that feel less durable. This is certainly far tougher than some of the 2.5L options out there.

“Like any membrane-lined jacket, I did find this can get a little bit clammy and wet on the inside on humid days and also while trail running in it – probably no more so than any Gore-tex jacket though. It would, however, be a better jacket if it had pit zips or some other form of ventilation on it I’d say. 

“I’m a size M and tried this in a size M and found it fitted me perfectly, with just about enough room for a down jacket underneath without feeling hemmed in.”

Photo: Chris Johnson

Columbia OutDry Extreme Nanolite Shell

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