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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Columbia Faster and Lighter Shell > Test Report by Chuck Carnes

Faster and Lighter Shell
Initial Report: April 11, 2007
Field Report: July 17, 2007
Long Term Report: August 14, 2007
Courtesy of Columbia

Name: Chuck Carnes

Age: 37
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft. 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 175 lb (79 kg)
E-mail address: ctcarnes1(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Greenville, South Carolina USA

I love the outdoors – I’ve spent time camping in the outdoors since I was born, and have been actively hiking and backpacking since then. I consider myself a lightweight hiker, usually carrying 20 – 30 pounds (11-13 kg) for hikes up to a week in length. I hike at an easy pace, averaging 2 mph (3 kph). I am a one-man tent camper for now. I like to carry a single trekking pole when I hike to help relieve stress to my legs and knees. I like to get out on the trail as often as I can.


Model: Faster & Lighter Shell (Titanium)
Year of manufacture: 2007
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Actual Weight: 9 oz (255 g)
Size: Large
Color: Cayenne
MSRP: $179.99 USD (online)

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION (taken from web site)

Don’t let this shell’s lightweight fool you. Its sleek, minimalist, waterproof design has just the features necessary for taking on various weather conditions. It’s one of the lightest, breathable jackets on the market that’s ideal for almost any high-energy activity. Received National Geographic Adventure award for best value!

Titanium Line - Engineered for high-performance outdoor activities, the Titanium® line of apparel and footwear represents state-of-the-art outerwear design. Garments in this line also incorporate our Omni-Tech waterproof/breathable protection and are loaded with useful features.

Active Fit - Fits close to the body

Omni-Tech -
Columbia’s Omni-Tech Technology provides optimum waterproof/breathable protection with fabrications used in a wide variety of our outerwear garments. Breathable microporous coatings or laminates combined with different base fabrics keep water droplets from penetrating, yet allow perspiration vapor to escape. Waterproof. Breathable. Seam Sealed. Guaranteed.

Venting Chest Pockets -
Vents added near chest pockets allow air to circulate freely to help keep you from overheating.

Lightweight -
Very lightweight, breathable garments using new technologies.

I N I T I A L    R E P O R T
April 11, 2007

The Columbia Faster and Lighter Shell (phrased as 'shell' the rest of the report) has to be one of the lightest waterproof shells I have ever had in my hand. When the box arrived at my door with the shell inside the box, I truly thought that there was nothing in the box. The shell was the color and size that I preferred. I took the shell from the plastic bag and put it on. The first thing I noticed was that the zipper got caught on the outside storm flap on the first attempt to zip it up. I fiddled with it for a moment and was able to get it unstuck. I'm really not happy when this happens because I am afraid that I am going to rip the material or break the zipper. Fortunately neither one happened.

The shell fit very well and the cuffs are just the right length. The hem of the shell comes just below my belt and can be drawn tight to keep wind and rain from entering in through the hem. The hem on the back of the shell is slightly longer and tapers from the front to the back. This gives extra coverage protection to the lower back when bending or squatting down. After the initial 'try-on' and was happy with the size and room of the shell, I removed it to view the features, construction and fabric of the shell.

Hood (Front and Back)
Front of HoodRear of Hood

As seen above, the attached hood has a semi-stiff bill on the front to keep the rain water from running down into the face. For the hood, there are two pull cords, one on each side of the neck line, to be pulled to cinch the opening of the hood around the face. The cinched cord is held tight by small, sliding, rubber mechanisms that can be operated by one hand.

The back of the hood has a small storm flap over another cord that can be pulled. This pulls the side of the front opening, back, so that the user has peripheral vision while the hood is on. The pulled cord is held in place by the same small, sliding, rubber mechanisms as the front.

Outer and Inner Material
Omni TechInner Taped Seams 2

The outer material of the shell seems to be very thin as does the inner lining material. The outer material is made of 100% nylon Omni-Tech 2.5L 15D stretch rip stop (as explained in the above picture). This is very nice material and seems to be very breathable. The inner lining material seems to be the same stretch rip stop material as the outer material. All zippers on the outside are covered with a storm flap. The inner seams are fully taped and the construction of this process is top notch, very well done. As seen here on the inside at the intersection of the sleeve and hood, the taped seams are very wide and provide adequate protection from leakage through the seams.

Vented Chest Pockets
Vented Chest PocketInner Taped Seams 2

The vented chest pockets are a very nice feature. Some storm shells have pit zips and pockets also. That usually adds weight to the shell because of the zipper mechanism and the material. Columbia's Fast and Lighter Shell has the best of both features. The vented chest pocket gives the user the ability to store items in the pocket while at the same time, venting the main core area of the body that usually builds up heat while hiking. The zippers on the pockets are protected by a storm flap and are provided with zipper pulls for easy access. The inner corner of the mesh pocket and the inner material are very well seam sealed and even has a circular pattern seam tape at the corner to keep the edge of the seam tape from peeling up; very nice job!

Sleeve Cuffs

At the cuffs of the sleeve are three, elliptical pieces of Velcro spaced apart to give a range of adjustment to the tightness needed around the wrist. The cuffs do not have elastic to keep them closed around the wrist.

F I E L D    R E P O R T
July 17, 2007

This Columbia Faster and Lighter Shell has served me well during my wet and rainy outings. Although I have not experienced any rain during my two backpacking trips, I have been in rain showers during two day hiking trips. One was to Paris Mountain State Park which was a 3.8 mile (6.1 km) loop at elevations ranging from 1,200 ft (366 m) to 1,500 ft (457 m). The weather was very cloudy and the temperatures stayed at around 80 F (26 C). The humidity wasn't too bad and it was probably a little bit to warm for this shell but I knew this would be a great opportunity to try it out. I packed the shell at the top in my day pack because I had that weird feeling that I would be using it. I really like the way the shell can compact into very small places which gives me unlimited places to store it at arms reach. Almost half way into the hike it started raining and it came down hard. That's the thing about rain showers in the southeast, it can come down hard at times and in about 5 minutes, it's over. Well, that wasn't the case this time. Right as it started I took the shell from my pack and put it on, zipped it to my neck and put the hood on. After putting my pack back on I continued down the trail. I really thought that I would be taking it off after a few minutes but the rain kept coming. It was fine with me because I then started getting a little warm so I tried out the chest pocket vents. It was little difficult getting to them because of my shoulder straps from my pack were right over the opening. I had enough room to be able to slide the vents back beyond my straps an open them. This put the vents almost under my arm pits which worked out because this is where I needed the ventilation.  I did notice the length of the sleeves were a little bit long for my arms. This was fine while I was walking because it kept the rain off of my hands but when I went to use my hands for something I had to stretch out my arms so the sleeve cuff would slide up over my wrists.

The material was awesome in shedding the water. I wore a short sleeve shirt under the shell so as the sleeve was touching my arm I could feel the cool rain on my skin. I didn't feel the water, just the coolness of it which helped keep my arms cool. As the rain got heavier, I really thought that the water was going to start seeping through but it never did. The coolness of the rain on the material gave me the impression that it was soaking through but after the rain let up, I removed my pack and the shell. My shirt was perfectly dry except for a small area where the straps were across my shoulders and a small area at my lower back. This was due to sweat and not rain water. A few shakes of the shell and it was dry enough to put back in my pack.

On my second hike to Caesars Head the temperatures were around 90 F (32 C) and the humidity had to have been close to 90%. I almost didn't take the shell on this trip because the sun was out and very few clouds were in the sky. The trail was a fairly flat easy, out and back, and was at an elevation of 3,000 ft (914 km). I am glad I took it because a thunder shower rolled in when I was headed back to the car. As we say in the south, "It was a gully washer". I had to dig into the bottom of my pack to get the shell because I didn't think I would need it. Just as I got it out and put it on, the rain started to pour. This was one of those times that I decided to huddle up and sit this one out. I had nowhere to go except under a tree and that didn't help much. I had enough room in the front of the shell to place my pack in front of me and zip the shell over the pack so I could keep it dry as best as I could. I put the hood over my head, squatted down at the base of the tree and waited it out. I kept my head down as the rain rolled off my hood like a roof with no gutters. It was a steady stream right onto my pants leg. Unfortunately I did not have rain pants on but that doesn't bother me as bad as having a wet upper body. Again, the shell performed magnificently. Everything under the shell was completely dry and I stayed cool from the rain on the material. It is really nice having such a thin material but great protection from the rain.

Overall, so far I am very happy with the
Columbia Faster and Lighter Shell. It has exceeded my expectations in a light rain shell. I have been very pleased in how well the material has protected me from the elements. The zippers continue to work well and the storm flaps over them have been a big help keeping the water from entering through the zipper area. I look forward to more rainy days and getting the Columbia Faster and Lighter Shell out in the storms.

L O N G   T E R M   R E P O R T
August 14, 2007

I regret to say that I have not been on any more outings where rain has occured while I was hiking or backpacking. I carry it with me any time that I hit the trail but with the dry season right now, I have seen very, very little rain. I will amend this report as soon as I complete my required usage for this report series.

Stay tuned for my amended Long Term Report which should be completed by the end of fall when we receive more rain. Please check back then for more final thoughts. Thank you Columbia and for this opportunity.

Read more gear reviews by Chuck Carnes

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Columbia Faster and Lighter Shell > Test Report by Chuck Carnes

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