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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Columbia Sportswear Snowline Softshell > Test Report by Ryan Lane Christensen

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Columbia Sportswear Company
Snowline™ Softshell

Test Series by Ryan Christensen

Last Update - February 25, 2009

Photos Courtesy of


October 14, 2008
January 6, 2009
February 25, 2009

October 14, 2008

Reviewer Information

Backpacking Background

Name:  Ryan L. Christensen
Age:  44
Gender:  Male
Height:  6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:  235 lb (107 kg)
Chest Girth:  49 in (124 cm)
Email:  bigdawgryan(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country:   Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA

I began backpacking at twelve, continuing until 25. After an extended hiatus, due in part to a bad back, I resumed cycling, hiking, and backpacking several years ago. I also began snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I share my love for backpacking and these sports with my children. I am a midweight backpacker, but carry a full array of necessary gear.

Product Information:

The information below comes from the Columbia website and product tags.

Columbia SnowlineTM Softshell
Manufacturer: Columbia
Manufacturer website:
Place of Manufacture: China
Year Manufactured: 2008
Shell Face
Shell Back

100% Polyester
100% Polyester
100% Polyester
Sizes Available:

S, M, L, XL, XXL
3X, 4X
Colors Available: Black
Columbia Navy
Gypsy (red)
Caper (olive)
Kettle (light grey)
Limited Warranty - Outerwear

What This Warranty Covers.
This Limited Warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship in outerwear manufactured by Columbia Sportswear Company (Outerwear). This includes defects in zipper pulls, zippers, snaps, stitching, dye bleeding, leaking of Columbia's waterproof Outerwear line, and any other Outerwear defects that may occur under normal wear. Columbia does not warranty and is not responsible for damages caused by misuse, abuse, accidents, the natural breakdown of materials over time, or problems that may be reasonably expected with normal wear or failure to follow Outerwear care instructions.

How Long This Warranty Lasts.
This Warranty lasts for as long as you, the original purchaser, own the Outerwear. Coverage ends if you sell or transfer the Outerwear.

How To Get Warranty Service.
You may seek resolution directly through the retailer where you purchased the Outerwear. In many cases, the retailer will be able to assist you. You may also send Outerwear (including any shell, liner, and other components), shipping prepaid, (You pay to ship the item to us, we pay to ship the item back to you) directly to us.

Outerwear must be cleaned prior to shipment according to its care instructions. Please include a cover letter with your name, address, daytime phone number and a brief description of the problem. A copy of your original receipt or proof of purchase may also be required. We suggest that you send the Outerwear via a shipping service such as UPS so that the package can be traced if necessary.

What We Will Do.
The Columbia Sportswear Warranty Department will inspect the Outerwear at no charge to you. If the Warranty Department determines, in its sole discretion, that the Outerwear has a defect covered under this Warranty, we will repair or replace it within approximately four weeks. If the defective Outerwear is not repairable and an identical product is not available, we will replace it with a garment of comparable style and color at our discretion.

MSRP: $115.00 USD

Product Specifications
Manufacturer's Specifications
Weight: Not Listed
Sleeve (for XL)
36 in (91 cm)
Tester's Actual Measurements  
Weight: 29.4 oz (833.5 g)
Sleeve (middle of back to edge of cuff)
Body (front: base of collar to bottom of hem)
Body (tail: base of collar to bottom of hem)
36 in (91 cm)
24 in (61 cm)
28 in (71 cm)
Color: Black

Product Description:

Titanium The Columbia Snowline Softshell (hereafter referred to as the "shell") is part of Columbia's premier product line known as Titanium™, which offers advanced fabrics and technologies for all-weather performance and protection during demanding outdoor action." This jacket is made of Columbia's Omni-Tech® fabric. This is Columbia's version of a 2.5 layer construction. According to the company website, this construction consists of a fabric face, an Omni-Tech membrane, and a liner. Furthermore, each layer has a specific purpose as shown in the table below.


  • Durable Water Resistant finish (DWR)
  • Deflects wind
  • Protects Omni-Tech layer


[Waterproof/Breathable layer]
  • Prevents moisture from entering from the outside
  • Allows water vapor (perspiration) to escape


  • Can contain wicking properties
  • Provides comfort

As with other softshells, the inner membrane is key. The Omni-Tech membrane is a microporous polyurethane coating or laminate, which is applied to the inside of the fabric face. The membrane renders the fabric face waterproof. In addition, the membrane allows moisture vapor (perspiration) to escape.

The shell material stretches. Columbia says it flexes with the wearer "for maximum comfort." The outer material is soft and smooth to the touch.

Shell Front:

SnowlineOn the front of the shell, the word "Titanium" is silk screened on the left breast, and the company logo and name are silk screened along the hem on the right side. Attached to the shell was a product tag with the company and Titanium product logo on it. This product tag contained basic descriptions of the Titanium line, including sizing, in six languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. In the left pocket was a product brochure with an overview of the Omni-Tech waterproof, breathable fabric. The brochure was written in English and French.

The shell has a full-length YKK, closed-end, 5CN coil zipper that extends all the way from the hem to the edge of the collar. The zipper has a non-locking slider with a 1.25 x 0.5 in (3.2 x 1.3 cm) plastic pull attached. At the top of the zipper, there is a little "pocket" to cover the slider. The zipper is approximately 27 in (68.6 cm) in length.

HemThere are two hand-warmer pockets, one on each side of the shell. Each pocket has a YKK, closed-end, 5CN coil zipper with a non-locking slider with a cord pull attached. At the top of the zipper, there is a little "pocket" to cover the slider as well. Each zipper is approximately 8 in (20 cm) in length. The interior of each pocket is lined with the microfiber-like lining material which feels soft and comfortable to the skin.

PocketThere is a Napoleon pocket on the left breast. This pocket has a YKK 3C concealed zipper (elements or "teeth" are concealed), which is approximately 6.5 in (16.5 cm) in length. Like the others, the slide is non-locking. This zipper does not have a "pocket" to cover the slide when fully zipped as the other pockets do. However, the zipper is encircled with a plasticized material which extends 0.625 in (1.6 cm) out from the zipper.

CuffApproximately 3.5 in (9 cm) above the edge of the cuff, the words "Omni-Tech" are silk screened on the left sleeve. Each sleeve has a hook and loop cuff closure. The cloth tab of the closure is approximately 4 in (10 cm) in length. On the underside there is a 3 x 0.75 in (7.6 x 1.9 cm) strip of "hook" material. On the sleeve itself, there is a 5.5 x 0.75 (14 x 1.9 cm) strip of "loop" material. In addition, each cuff has a triangular cloth insert to expand the cuff. The insert is approximately 6 in (15 cm) in length and at its widest point (outer edge of cuff) it is approximately 3 in (7.6 cm) wide. There is also a 1.25 x 0.5 in (3.2 x 1.3 cm) cloth loop on the underside of each sleeve, approximately 1.5 in (3.8 cm) up from the edge of the cuff. These loops have the Columbia Interchange System™ logo on them. These loops are for use when securing this shell inside another shell as a liner.

Shell Back:

On the back of the shell, there is a Columbia "Titanium" logo silk screened on the middle of the collar. Additionally, there is a 2.25 x 0.5 (5.7 x 1.3 cm) cloth loop sewn just below the base of the collar. This loop has the Columbia Interchange System logo on it. This loop is to be used in conjunction with the two similar loops on the sleeves as part of Columbia's three-point interchange system.

Shell Interior:

The lining is constructed of three types of material. The material that lines the sleeves and the front of the shell is very slick to the touch. Whereas the material lining the back of the shell is more like microfiber. The interior collar lining is somewhere in between the other two materials. There are no interior pockets in the shell. There is a hanger loop sewn on the interior back of the shell at the base of the collar. This hanger loop has the word "Titanium" embroidered on it. Just below that loop is a tag with the company logo, name, and website on it. Another small tag sewn along the left of this tag also has "Titanium" on it. Sewn just below the large tag is yet another tag with the company logo, product size, the word "Interchange" and the words "Made in China." Along the hem, there are two cordlocks (on the left and right sides) for securing the drawcord that runs inside the hem. There are three additional tags sewn in an interior seam on the left side of the shell. The first two tags list care instructions (and associate international symbols) and materials in six languages. The English section reads:
  • If present, close hook and loop fasteners
  • Machine wash, cold, gentle, wash separately
  • Do not bleach
  • Tumble dry, low, remove promptly
  • Iron, low
  • Do Not Dry Clean

  • Shell Face: 100% polyester
  • Shell Back: 100% polyester
  • Lining: 100% polyester
  • Exclusive of trimming

The third tag cautions that the fabrics are not fire resistant and will melt or burn if exposed to extreme heat. It further suggests that the shell should not be exposed to high heat, flame, or sparks.

Initial Testing:

SpotsMy initial testing consisted of a thorough examination of the jacket. I did not notice any loose threads or uneven seams. There were no snags or noticeable flaws in the material. However, I did notice what appeared to be wear-spots in several locations. These spots are located where the jacket may have rubbed against the inside packing box along the hanger, which was inside the shell (as shown in the photo to the right). I am hopeful that laundering a time or two will reduce the noticeability of these marks. I tried all zippers and cordlocks and they worked smoothly.

Next, I tried the shell on for size. Columbia states that its Titanium line has an "Active Fit" or "Athletic Fit" for "intense outdoor action." Prior to receiving the shell, I was concerned about how it would fit me, as I am at the upper limit of the XL sizing with a 49 in (124 cm) chest. Nevertheless, I felt the XXL would be way too long for me in the sleeves and would be too baggy, and would therefore be too cold. I pulled the shell on and zipped it 3/4 of the way up. The shell fits me closely in the torso, but not uncomfortable in any way. However, I will pay close attention to the fit to see whether it severely limits my ability to layer clothing beneath the shell (not likely for highly aerobic activities, but possible on colder days when I am less active). In addition, I will also look to see whether the fit inhibits my movement in any way, especially while cross-country skiing. The sleeve length is perfect. I was also able to zip the zipper all the way up the collar without any discomfort. This resolved my earlier fear of the shell not fitting my 18 in (46 cm) neck.

Initial Impression:

The shell arrived on a hanger, inside a plastic bag. As I removed the shell from the bag, the first thing that caught my attention was the feel of the material. If I had not had previous experience with other softshells, It may have been difficult to believe the material was water resistant. I was also impressed with how lightweight the shell is. I like the sizing of the pockets; they should be more than adequate for carrying items such as cell phone, GPS, headlamp, MP3 player, etc. Finally, I really like the look and feel of the jacket when I am wearing it.

Initial Likes:

  • Feel of outer material
  • Feel of lining materials
  • Athletic fit
  • Hook-and-loop cuff closures
  • Pockets to cover zipper sliders

Initial Dislikes:

  • None

I look forward to testing this shell while participating in varied activities and conditions over the next several months. I am anxious to see how well it sheds rain and snow, how well it blocks the wind, and how well it breathes. I am also interested testing the durability of the soft and smooth material.

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January 6, 2009


During the Field Test period, I have worn the jacket approximately forty days. Other than the tight fit under the arms and a loose thread on the interior-side of the front zipper, I am very pleased with this jacket thus far.

Likes Thus Far:

  • moisture repellency
  • breathability

Dislikes Thus Far:

  • trim fit through the chest and under the arms

Field Locations and Test Conditions:

Catamount I have worn the jacket approximately forty days. In late November, a friend, two of my three teenage sons, and I hiked in to the Catamount yurt, which is located in the Portneuf range southeast of Pocatello, Idaho. The hike into this yurt is 2.25 mi (3.62 km) across mostly open, rolling terrain. Total vertical rise is 816 ft (249 m). We began hiking about 8:30 p.m. The skies were clear, winds calm, and the temperature was approximately 27 F (-3 C) when we began. The other days included wearing the jacket to work, kicking about town, and evening walks. Temperatures dipped to about 19 F (-7 C) on my evening walks.


The very first day that I wore this jacket, I was able to test its moisture repellency. It was neither rain nor snow that provided the test, but rather Diet Coke. You see, I spilled my drink on the jacket. Fortunately, the jacket caused the soda to bead up like water on a nicely waxed automobile. The soda literally rolled off without soaking into or staining the jacket.

While wearing the jacket to work, around town, and on my evening walks, the jacket shed the moisture from rain and snow showers equally well. However, I was not in these storms for long stretches of time. I therefore do not know how well the jacket would shed moisture during a protracted downpour.

threadI have worn the jacket with light layers beneath it. These layers included a long-sleeve cotton T-shirt with a fleece vest; a synthetic long-sleeve T-shirt and a 1/2 zip micro-fleece pullover. Despite the trim fit of the jacket, these layers seemed to work quite well for me. In both cases, the jacket seemed to breathe well and wicked moisture away from my body. This was especially evident on my hike into the Catamount yurt. On this occasion, I wore the jacket over a synthetic mid-weight base layer top. I worked up a sweat, but was able to regulate my temperature by using the front zipper. Nevertheless, I wish the jacket had pit zips, which would enhance the core venting ability of the jacket.

The trim fit of the jacket, especially through the chest and the arm pit area, limits the thickness of the layering I can use under the jacket. However, this has not been an issue thus far in terms of reduced mobility. However, during the long term test phase, I will pay particular attention to this while cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in colder temperatures to determine whether this impacts my use of the jacket in any way.

The stitching is coming undone on the interior of the left side of the front zipper as shown in the photo above on the right. The loose thread is approximately 2.5 in (6.4 cm) in length. I will watch this during the long term test phase to see if it worsens.

February 25, 2009


During the long-term test period, I have worn the jacket approximately fifteen more days for an approximate total of fifty five days. Other than the tight fit under the arms and a loose thread on the interior-side of the front zipper, I am very pleased with the comfort and performance of the Columbia Snowline Softshell jacket.


  • moisture repellency
  • breathability
  • overall fit

Minor Dislike:

  • trim fit through the chest and under the arms

Field Locations and Test Conditions:

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the Kelly Canyon Nordic Area, which is located 26 miles (42 km) northeast of Idaho Falls, in the Targhee National Forest. The Nordic Area starts at an elevation of approximately 5,900 ft (1,798 m) and reaches elevations of 6,700 ft (2,042 m). We began skiing around 8:30 pm. The temperature at the time I got out of my vehicle was 8 F (-13 C) and there was a mild wind.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing near my home in Idaho Falls, Idaho, elevation 4,705 ft (1,434 m).


TracksThe Snowline softshell has performed very well during the long-term test period. Although it does not provide much insulation on its own, I was able to wear it on all my cross-country skiing and snowshoeing outings, to work, and simply kicking about on all but the coldest days during this phase of the test.

I wore the Snowline as my outer layer on my all my cross-country ski/snowshoe outings. On my trip to the Kelly Canyon Nordic area the temperatures were in single digits at the time we began. However, the Snowline performed well for me. I wore a mid-weight base layer top and a 1/2 zip technical top made from Polartec® fabric under the softshell. This layering was typical on my other ski and snowshoe outings as well. After skiing for several minutes, I began heating up so I unzipped the softshell approximately half way. After several more minutes, I unzipped the Snowline 3/4 of the way and also unzipped my tech top about 1/2 of the way. This proved sufficient for the balance of my ski into the warming hut. Upon reaching the warming hut, I saw frost on the outside of the softshell. The frost was primarily on my chest and belly, but there was also some along the back of the collar. This frost was actually frozen moisture vapor (sweat) that had passed through the softshell--evidence that the Snowline does indeed allow moisture vapor to pass. When we arrived at the warming hut, where we spent the night, I doffed the Snowline for a warmer down jacket because the temperature had dropped and my activity level was down since I was no longer skiing.

The next morning, while the rest of my group was finishing breakfast and packing their gear, I went for a quick snowshoe hike up Norm's Hill, which is a steep, north-facing, lightly wooded, backcountry ski slope that rises approximately 450 ft (137 m) above the warming hut shown in the upper left of the photo above on the right. I wore the same layering system with the Snowline as my outer layer. I began with the jacket fully zipped, but as I reached the point where I took the photo on the right, I unzipped the jacket about 3/4 of the way. The zipper stayed in that position throughout the balance of my snowshoe hike and skiing. However, upon reaching my vehicle and doffing my skies, I zipped the jacket back up to retain body heat as the temperature was about 14 F (-10 C).

Although the fit is a bit trim for me through the chest and under the arms, in no way did the Snowline impede my arm movements while cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The hook-and-loop cuff closures worked very well over my softshell gloves and they were easy to adjust with gloves on.

Today, I wore the Snowline to work. Much of the day was spent on the desert near Idaho Falls, Idaho as we walked down several buildings to be demolished. The low temperature was 36 F (2 C) however, there were 20 mph (32 kh) winds that made it feel like 20 F (-7 C). I only wore a short-sleeved polo shirt underneath the jacket. After walking around the buildings for a couple of hours, I was cold, but not unbearably so. Although I wished I had worn an extra layer or two and a hat to cover my bald head, I was very impressed with how well the Snowline actually blocked the cold wind.

The loose thread along the zipper mentioned in my field report has not gotten worse and there are no other loose threads. There are no areas where the material appears to be worn. The zippers continue to function smoothly. To date, I have not had a need to launder the jacket. But, I do not anticipate any issues when I do. Should there be any issues when I do launder the jacket, I will submit an amended report at that time.

Overall, I have been very pleased with the look, overall fit, comfort, and especially the performance of this softshell jacket. I like it so well that I plan to wear it until it is completely worn out.

Thanks to Columbia and for allowing me to test the snowline™ softshell.

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