23 November 2017
+ Columbia’s ‘hero product’ in their new range of OutDry waterproof shells, the Eco shell combines radical fabric technology with top-quality environmental credentials. Unlike most membrane-based shells, where the waterproof membrane is bonded to an outer face fabric, OutDry places the waterproof layer on the outside, meaning that there’s no face fabric to gradually ‘wet out’. So it doesn’t need reproofing – water just beads off the surface, no matter how wet it gets. It looks strange – a bit like an old rubber mac or fisherman’s sou’wester – but performance is impressive. The other remarkable feature is the fact that it’s white. You might think this a daft choice for an outdoor garment, but the colour – or rather, absence of colour – is because the fabric is completely dye-free, thereby saving gallons of water and removing the need to use chemical dyes in the garment’s production. The fabric and all components are also made from recycled plastic bottles that contain no PFCs (per fluorinated compounds, which bio-accumulate in nature and have been linked to numerous environmental issues and even human health problems). All that should mean you’ll feel pretty good when wearing it, even if you do attract a fair bit of attention from other walkers. It’s also well-priced given the innovative technology used.
- The overall design of the jacket is not nearly so radical. You get a decent set of features, including zipped hand pockets, adjustable Velcro cuffs and a hem drawcord. Fit in the body and arms is good, creating a trim silhouette, but the hood is not particularly refined – the peak is a bit floppy, particularly in high winds, and face and volume adjustment is basic.
VERDICT: Outlandish looks but impressive performance – if you can get past the squeaky fabric feel and the polarising visual appeal. Overall design and fit is competent but not particularly inspiring. We’d love to see Columbia use the interesting OutDry fabric in a more technical mountaineering jacket. Having said that, you can’t fault the green ethos, and this launch propels the US brand up among the frontrunners in those leading the way in a more environmentally-friendly approach to manufacturing outdoor gear.