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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Columbia Faster and Lighter Shell > Test Report by Kevin Hollingsworth

Columbia - Faster and Lighter Shell
TEST SERIES BY KEVIN HOLLINGSWORTH

 August 14, 2007

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT

Tester Information 

Name: Kevin Hollingsworth
Age: 42
Gender: Male
Height: 6’ 1” (1.9 m)
Weight: 195 lb (88 kg)
Email address: kholling55@yahoo.com
City, State, Country: Williamsburg, Virginia. USA


I started backpacking and camping when I was in the Scouts. I spent 20 years in the military, which curtailed my personal outdoors adventures. While day-hiking, I normally carry a light load, a waist pack with mostly food and water, with a few other things. On three to four day trips, I will carry a pack weighing about 45 to 50 lb (21 to 23 kg). I prefer to hike in the mountain. I have been hiking in Colorado, Korea, Egypt, and most recently Eastern part of the United States.


INITIAL REPORT 
April 8, 2007

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer:  Columbia
Year of Manufacture:   2007
URL: http://www.columbia.com

Listed Specifications:
Waterproofness: 787 in (2,000 cm)
Breathability: 0.5 oz/in2/24 hr (20,000 g/m2/24hr)

Note: All measurements are mine (unless otherwise specified)
Shell weight: 0.6 lb (0.3 kg)
Size: XL
Colors: Jet (also available in Cayenne)

Warranty:  Limited Warranty
MSRP: $ 179.99 US

Faster and Lighter Shell 

The Columbia Faster & Lighter Shell is a hooded lightweight shell that is engineered for high-performance outdoor activities. It is part of Columbia Titanium® line of apparel and incorporates Columbia’s Omni-Tech® Technology. This technology provides optimum waterproof/breathable protection. It incorporates breathable microporous coatings or laminates that combines with different base fabrics to keep water droplets from penetrating, but allows users perspiration vapor to escape. The shell fabric is 100% nylon Omni-Tech® 2.5L 15D 2-way stretch ripstop.

  Sealed Seams

All seams are fully sealed, and the zipper along the front of the shell is fully covered by the Omni-Tech® fabric. The shell is a close fitting, active fit design.

Pocket Tag and Vent

There are two zippered chest pockets. There are vents added near the chest pockets to allow air to circulate freely and to help keep me from overheating. The sleeves narrows as it approaches the wrist area.

Sleeve Adjuster + Waist Strap

On the left sleeve, “TITANIUM” is stenciled around the arm area, and “OMNI-TECH” is stenciled at the wrist area.  Both are reflective type stencils. There is a strap at the wrist area which has a long hook fastener sewn on. On the sleeve itself, there are four small pile fasteners. Along each side of waist area, there is a cord with a plastic adjuster for tightening the hem.

Collar adjuster  Hood Adjuster

The hood has adjuster cords, with plastic adjusters around the jaw area and on the back of the head area. Along the top of the hood there is a small reinforced rain bill. On each side hood, where it touches the face, there are small 2.5 x 3.25 in (6 x 8.5 cm) squares of felt.

On the inside of the shell, there are three white tags, printed in multiple languages, listing the laundering instruction and cautions. The following are cautions associated with the shell fabric:

 “Fabrics are not fire resistant and will melt or burn if exposed to extreme heat. Avoid exposing this garment to high heat, flame, or sparks”

The shell comes with Columbia Sportswear’s Limited Warranty, which according to the website is:

 “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.”

 Also according to the Columbia website, the Faster and Lighter received the National Geographic Adventure award for best value.

 
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I received the Columbia Faster & Lighter Shell on 3 Apr 2007. It was packaged in a plastic bag, with product tags attached on the front zipper and at the sleeve. The product tag lists the key features in multiple languages. There was also a tag listing the product, size, color and the MSRP.

My first impression of the shell was that it is extremely light and that the fabric was very thin feeling.  This makes me wonder how it will stand up. The quality of workmanship seems superb, it seems very well made. All the seams and stitching are fully sealed. All the areas around the adjustment cords are reinforced and the zippers are fully covered by the waterproof fabric. The pockets have zippers and the inside of the pockets are made of a mesh fabric.

My chest is 45.3 in (115.0 cm) and according to the Columbia fitting chart, I fall in between Large and XL.  So based on my personal experience, I picked a XL. The XL fits me well in the chest, shoulder and sleeve area.  The length of the shell falls just level with my hip area.  This makes me wonder about how well the moisture will run off without some sort of rain or will it wet everything below my waist. Even though the shell is an active fit design, the fabric has enough give that my movements do not seem to be restricted in any way.

 SUMMARY

I would like to thank both, BackpackGearTest and Columbia, for the opportunity to test the Faster and Lighter Shell. This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.


FIELD REPORT 
June 15, 2007


FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

 I took a couple of multi-day trips to Shenandoah National Park. The terrain was mountainous with the elevation around 3000 to 4000 ft (900 to 1200 m). The weather on the first trip was cloudy with scattered snow flurries. The normal daytime temperature was 30 to 40 F (-1 to 4 C), with the coldest temperature after sunset of 15 F (-9 C).  The weather conditions on the second trip were initially cloudy with some scattered showers. The weather cleared at midday on the second day and the rest of the trip was sunny. The average daytime temperature was 60 to 75 F (15 to 24 C), with a drop to approximately 55 F (13 C) after sunset.

I used a 3930 cu in (65 L) pack, with a total pack weight of  approximately 50 lb (23 kg).

I took a few day hikes in the local parks. The temperatures were between 45 F (8 C) and 75 F (24 C). The terrain is wooded, with a few small hills with elevations around sea level. I carried a daypack with food and water.

I also wore the shell around town during any type of wet weather. 

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Faster & Lighter Shell was very comfortable to wear. It was so light, that I hardly felt it on. It was stretchy and did not hinder my movement in any way. The sleeves were long enough, and the pile fasteners on the cuff kept the cuffs tight during any type of activity. The zipper worked well and never got snagged on the material.

During any type of wet weather, snow or rain, I did not notice any moisture coming through the fabric, seams or zipper. When I wore the hood, it protected my head and neck from the rain and snow, without any noticeable impairment of my vision. I did notice that the shell was slightly longer at the waist in the back than the front. But during heavy rain, because of the active fit of the shell, I found that the water did drip down the shell and onto the lower portion of my body. 

Wearing the shell, I found that I needed to be careful on what I wore under it. Starting out one day with an outside temperature that was around 30 F (-1 C) and it was a drizzle/snow mix, I was wearing the shell with a fleece and a long sleeve base layer shirt. I found that I quickly started to overheat and start sweating.  When I opened the pocket/vent zippers, it seemed that it helped the shell breathe better. I finally took off the fleece, and wore only the long sleeve base layer shirt; which was not a problem, as long as there wasn’t any wind. As soon as the cold wind started blowing, I would start to get cold. There was no mention of wind protection in the specification, so this was not a surprise. I did not expect the shell to be completely windproof. During cold, windy days, I could feel the cold wind against my skin. This was not a problem on semi warm days, above 50 F (10 C). During warmer weather, I wore only a short sleeve shirt. Overheating was not a problem, as long as I kept the pocket zippers open. The only drawback with keeping the pockets unzipped while wearing a pack is that I found that I was unable to keep anything in the pockets. The pockets seems deep enough, but unless the object is heavy enough, it would just work its way out. It did not seem to be a problem without a pack.

SUMMARY

So far, I am pleased with the performance of the Columbia Faster & Lighter™ Shell.

This concludes my Field Report.  The Long-Term Report should be completed by August 14, 2007.  Please check back then for further information.


LONG TERM REPORT 
August 14, 2007

 

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I  took a multi-day trip to the Smokey Mountains National Park. The terrain was mountainous with the elevation around 2000 to 3000 ft (609 to 900 m). The weather was cloudy with scattered showers, mostly in the late afternoon or evening. The normal daytime temperature was 75 to 85 F (24 to 29 C), with a drop to approximately 65 F (18 C) after sunset.

I took a multi-day trip to Shenandoah National Park. The terrain was mountainous with the elevation around 3000 to 4000 ft (900 to 1200 m). The weather on the first day was cloudy with rain. The rain switched between a light drizzle and heavy showers. The weather cleared at midday on the second day and the rest of the trip was sunny. The average daytime temperature was 75 to 85 F (24 to 29 C), dropping to approximately 75 F (24 C) after sunset.

I also wore the shell a few times around town during any type of wet weather. 
 
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

 I was quite impressed with the Faster & Lighter shell waterproofness, during the long term testing phase.  It kept me dry in all type of rain, from light to heavy. On the trip to the Shenandoah National Park, it rained almost continuously the first day.  The rain would switch from a steady drizzle to showers. At one point, there was a continuous heavy downpour for almost an hour. Even though the shell felt like it was getting waterlogged, no moisture came through the fabric to the inside. The shell kept me dry. Though I was wearing the shell the entire day, I did not overheat.  I was wearing a short sleeve, moisture wicking t-shirt, with the shell’s vents open. This allowed enough air in to keep me somewhat cool, minimizing sweating. That night, I just shook off the water from the shell and let it hang in the tent’s vestibule.  Within a couple of hours, it was completely dry and ready to pack up.

 The shell did not show any sign of wear from washing or use. All the seams are still tight and waterproof, all fasteners are in excellent conditions, and none of the stencils peeled away. The zippers still operates smoothly and all the draw cords plastic tighteners still function normally. During the complete testing phase, I washed the shell at least six times. I machine washed the shell in cold water with another shell. As recommended by the manufacturer, I used powder detergent on the normal cycle.  I dried the shell only by hanging it. The shell does not exhibit any signs of shrinkage and fits just like it did from the start. It is still comfortable and stretchy, allowing for full range of movement.  

SUMMARY

Overall, I am very satisfied with the performance of the Faster & Lighter Shell. It was light, comfortable to wear, held up to the environment and most importantly, kept me dry in bad weather. I plan to continue to wear the Faster & Lighter Shell for my backpacking and outdoor activities.

I would like to thank both, BackpackGearTest and Columbia, for the opportunity to test the Faster & Lighter Shell.

 



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