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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Columbia Hot Shot Shell > Test Report by Larry Kirschner

Columbia Sportswear Hot Shot Shell

TEST SERIES BY LARRY KIRSCHNER
Hot Shot Shell

(image courtesy of Columbia Sportswear)

INITIAL REPORT - April 24, 2008
FIELD REPORT - June 29, 2008
LONG TERM REPORT - September 8, 2008



TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Larry Kirschner
EMAIL: asklarry98 at hotmail dot com
AGE: 43
LOCATION: Columbus, OH
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I've been an intermittent camper/paddler since my teens, but now that my kids are avid Boy Scouts, I've caught the backpacking bug. I typically do a few weekend hikes per year, and have recently spent time over the past 2 years backpacking at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico and canoeing the Atikaki wilderness in Manitoba. I like to travel "in comfort", so I often pack a little heavier than needed, but I'm trying to cut down. With all of my investment into these ventures, I expect my wife and I will continue to trek long after the kids are gone…


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Columbia Sportswear Company
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.columbia.com
Model: Hot Shot Shell
Size: XL
MSRP: USD $185.00
Listed Weight: Not provided
Measured Weight: 11 oz (316 g)


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Hot Shot Shell arrived nicely packed with its own hanger. The only difference between the shell as shipped and the photograph above is that all the cords are black, rather than the yellow shown above.

Looking at the Columbia website, the Hot Shot Shell is part of Columbia's Titanium collection, which is their premier line of gear consisting of "advanced fabrics and technologies for all-weather performance and protection during demanding outdoor action." This includes the use of Columbia's Omni-Tech fabric technology with "microporous membranes"to provide waterproof but breathable outer garments. This garment is apparently classified as "High Performance", which is the middle tier of Omni-Tech performance, and is said to be suitable for "Demanding Weather and Moderate Aerobic Activity". The seams are "Therma welded" as a means of sealing them for leaks. In actuality, the seams are emphasized with white tracing and appear to be completely solid. The photo below shows some of the back seams that join the sections of the sleeve and back of the jacket.
Columbia Hot Shot

The jacket also uses Columbia's 3-point interchange system, which means that it has an extra buttons on the inside which can be used to attach it to a Columbia liner. Of course, it would appear to be suitable for layering over any sweater or fleece layer.

The jacket is a fairly straightforward rain shell, comprised of a straight body and a hood. There is a drawstring around the bottom of the shell which presumably is used to keep the wind from blowing it up. There are also drawstrings around the hood, which are pulled with the assistance of very solid-looking rubber stops to prevent the string from slipping out.
Hot Shot hood

The jacket has two large pockets which run down the front sides, marked with red arrows to make them stand out in the photo. These are actually fairly large on the inside, as shown by the red outline of the appearance of the pocket from the inside. These pockets appear to be suitable for stuffing a large amount of food, a hat, or other useful items. The inside of the pocket is mesh, so that it appears likely that if I were to stick my hands in the pockets while it was raining, the water would run down inside the jacket. Of course, the trade-off is that the pockets will be a handy resting place for my arms when it is not pouring.
Hot Shot Pockets

The sleeves of the Hot Shot have a series of hook and loop closures at the ends, so that the end of the sleeve can be made tighter or looser as desired. There is also a small hook and loop patch on the back of the hood. I initially thought this was to enable the hood to be rolled up, but after playing around with it, I think it is more likely to serve to hold onto an eyeglasses strap or a hat strap or something of that nature.
Hot Shot sleeve and pockets

TRYING IT OUT

Looking at the jacket as a whole, it appears to be a very nice piece of gear. The fabric is flawless and the seams, as mentioned, are tightly sealed. Trying the unlined shell on, it has a bit of a plasticized feel to it, but it is not sticky. The pockets are in the right spot for my hands, and the hood fits comfortably. The shell is very flexible and moves well.

I wanted to say a word about sizing for the Hot Shot Shell. When I was selected for this test, I went to a local sporting good store to try on similar jackets to figure out which would be the best size. As Columbia makes gear with different "fits", I wanted to try to get an idea which was best for me. I was unable to find a Hot Shot shell at the store, so I tried on other Columbia gear from the "Active Fit" line, as well as gear from the "Authentic Fit" line. I found that for the "Authentic" line, the Large size was right, whereas I felt I needed and extra-large for the "Active fit" pieces I tried on. Since the Hot Shot is an unlined shell, I am now thinking that I might have been better off with a Large size, as the extra-large seems rather generous to me. I will keep an eye on this as I go through the test process in order to see how many layers I can put under the XL size before it starts to feel snug (or if it will never feel that way).


EXPECTATIONS FOR THE HOT SHOT SHELL

I expected a high-quality piece of rain gear, but I would say that so far, the Hot Shot has exceeded my expectations. I like the fact that the Hot Shot looks to be extremely well made, with materials and seams that appear rock solid. I also like the fact that this shell is lightweight (11 oz/316 g), which should make it a joy to carry on the trail. So far, I have not found anything about the Hot Shot that I dislike.


TEST PLAN

Over the next few months, I plan to wear the Hot Shot whenever it is windy or rainy, be it on the trail or at home. I am hoping for some chilly weather, so I can get a sense of how much layering I can do underneath before I run out of room. I will clearly be using it on the trail, and I will try wearing even if it is not raining to see how breathable it is with exertion. This will likely include hiking and biking over the next couple of months. I am really looking forward to wearing the Hot Shot a lot and seeing what it can do!


This concludes my Initial Report on the Columbia Hot Shot Shell. Please check back in 2 months for my Field Report on this item.

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FIELD REPORT

June 29, 2008

FIELD CONDITIONS

To date, I have carried the Hot Shot shell with me on a number of trips, but I actually only had reason to wear it on one of them (due to an unfortunate lack of rain). The trek on which I wore the Hot Shot was a weekend hiking trip in April on the Wildcat Hollow Trail in southeast Ohio. Elevations on the trail were between 800 and 1000 ft (245-305 m). The temperature on the trip was between 65-75 F (18-24 C) during the time I was hiking, and somewhat cooler overnight, probably around 60-65 F (16-18 C) while I was in camp. It rained towards the late afternoon while I was on the trail, as well as on and off while in camp during the evening. I have also worn the Hot Shot while biking to/from work on a few occasions. This is an 8-mile trip with a few small hills, and the weather has been hot (80-85 F/26.5-29.5 C) and humid on the afternoons when I have worn the Hot Shot to bike through mild late afternoon showers. In addition to using it for these physical activities, I have carried the Hot Shot with me to/from work for the past 2 months, and have worn it in whenever appropriate.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

From the time I wore the Hot Shot on the trail, I can report that it functioned extremely well to keep me dry. I had stuffed the Hot Shot into my pack and pulled it out at the first few rain drops, and wore it for the rest of the afternoon under my pack. It wasn't raining particularly hard so most of the time I wore it unzipped, but there were a few squalls which made me zip up all the way to the hood. Under these conditions, the Hot Shot kept me very dry, and it was very comfortable to wear with a fully-loaded pack. I did not feel especially hot while wearing the shell, although most of the time it was unzipped. When I got to camp that evening, I took my pack off but left on the Hot Shot because of continued rain. I felt no restriction of my movements while wearing it, and it dried quickly after the rain had ceased. When I got home after the weekend, the Hot Shot did not show any signs of use. I also had a chance to try out the pockets on the Hot Shot. Because they are rather large, I had plenty of room to stow trail mix, matches, a compass, and other items I wanted to keep handy. I also had no problem with water getting in the pockets when I opened them in the rain, although it was not raining hard when this was going on.

In terms of my other use of the Hot Shot, I have only ridden my bicycle with the Hot Shot unzipped. As noted above, it has been quite hot and humid during these times, and I have felt quite hot when riding. Wearing the Hot Shot while riding in these conditions makes me sweat quite heavily as it blocks the wind and prevents evaporation from my arms while riding. One thing that I have noticed is that the hood is big enough to flip over my helmet while riding (although this is usually unnecessary, as the helmet shelters my head adequately). For daily (non-hiking) use, I have found the Hot Shot to be a great thing to have around. It is light and easily stuffed into my bag, or tied around my waist. As noted, it keeps me very dry, although has a tendency to make my pants very wet, as the rain runs off the bottom of the jacket onto them. I don't think this would be a problem on the trail, as I usually wear my rain pants if it is raining that heavily.


WEAR AND TEAR

As noted, I have carried the Hot Shot around on any day with even a hint of rain in the forecast. Usually, it is stuffed into my bag, and taken out when needed. With this type of abuse, in addition to the hiking/biking use described above, I have not noticed any signs of use on the jacket. The Hot Shot looks about the same now as it did when I pulled it out of its box for the first time.


FIELD IMPRESSIONS

Overall, I have been extremely impressed with the performance of the Columbia Hot Shot Shell. Its solid construction has held up without fault over 2 months of testing, which has included some backpacking, some biking, and a lot of wearing around town. It keeps my upper body completely dry, although this can expense of water running onto my pants. I feel that the fabric breathes reasonably well, but because it blocks out the wind, it struggles with activity in the extreme heat/humidity.

Over the final two months of the test, I will continue to use the Hot Shot for biking and walking around town, and currently have 3 camping trips planned which will allow me to use it more on the trail. All of this will be in fairly hot weather, so I will see how I tolerate being hot and dry in my Hot Shot, versus being cooler and wet without it.


This concludes my Field Report on the Columbia Hot Shot Shell. Please check in back in about 2 months for my final report on this item.

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LONG-TERM REPORT
September 8, 2008

FIELD CONDITIONS

The long-term phase of the report was conducted during summer conditions, which were mostly hot and dry. Although I took the Hot Shot shell with me on trips to the Florida Keys, Southwest Pennsylvania, and Gettysburg (Southeast Pennsylvania), the persistently nice weather meant the shell never made it out of my pack. I did have the chance to wear the Hot Shot on 2 different days while biking in Columbus. Both days were warm and humid, with temperatures in the low-to mid 80's F (approx 28 C) with light to moderate rain. I also wore the Hot Shot on my most recent trip to Put in Bay on South Bass Island, OH, located a 30 minute ferry ride from the Southwest corner of Lake Erie. On that trip, the weather continued to be warm, but the last day was rainy and cooler (70 F/21 C). The ferry ride back was quite rainy and windy, as I rode on the top deck of the ferry on the way back.


FIELD EXPERIENCE

The Hot Shot Shell kept me dry in the wind and rain, and I particularly appreciated the drawstring with the rubber stops on the hood. I was able to pull the hood tight so Hot Shot Shell at Put-in-Bay that almost no water or wind was able to get in around my head, and, using the stops, was able to keep it that way. Because it was so windy on the ferry trip, I hooked the drawstring of my hat through the hook/eye closure on the back of the hood, and had no further concerns about losing my hat to the waters of Lake Erie. I also like the way that the sleeves are slightly angled to be longer on the outer edge, making it easy to pull my hands into the sleeve to keep them warm. As noted above, the jacket sheds water very rapidly, so that whatever pants I was wearing rapidly got quite wet below the hem of the jacket. I did not have the chance to wear my rain pants with the jacket, which I presume would have alleviated this problem. The jacket was quite comfortable under my pack, as I found it to be roomy and allowed me full movement, even when wearing the pack over it. (The background of the photo at right is the base of the Perry Peace Monument, at Put-in-Bay).

Although the jacket kept me nice and dry while riding, I found it to be rather hot and somewhat sticky when I wore it with a short-sleeved shirt underneath. When I did this, I found that sweat collected along the inside of the sleeves, giving a rather sticky and wet feeling. When I planned better and wore a long-sleeved shirt (either cotton or a wicking fabric), the jacket felt much more comfortable. In fact, it did not feel nearly as warm when I wore a long-sleeved shirt, typically over a base layer short-sleeved shirt.

In terms of durability, I have packed this jacket around a lot during the course of the test period. Most of the time this involved stuffing the jacket in a corner of my backpack, but I have also carried it in a small stuff-bag. The jacket stuffs quite small, and really doesn't take up much room in my pack. It has tolerated this abuse without any problems, and there are no significant crease marks or other evidence that the jacket has been used.

SUMMARY

Overall, I found the Columbia Hot Shot shell to be a sturdy and lightweight guard against the wind and rain, and it will continue to accompany me on any trip where there is a possibility of rain (i.e., on all trips). The only thing I found to be of concern is the fact that it traps sweat quite nicely. If rain is forecast, I will be sure to have a long-sleeved shirt handy to use as a layer between my skin and the fabric of the Hot Shot.

Things I liked about the Hot Shot Shell:
  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Well-constructed
  • Hood works really well, including the hook/eyelet closure on the back, which holds a hat in place during gusty weather
  • Big pockets a big plus
Things I disliked about the Hot Shot:
  • Gets rather sweaty when worn next to skin

This concludes my report on the Hot Shot Shell. My thanks once again to Columbia for providing this equipment for testing, and to BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in the evaluation process.

-larry kirschner

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