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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Columbia Hot Shot Shell > Test Report by Tim Tessier

COLUMBIA HOT SHOT SHELL
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
INITIAL REPORT
March 21, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Tim Tessier
EMAIL: timothy_tessier@yahoo.com
AGE: 51
LOCATION: Greensboro North Carolina
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 2" (1.88 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

Backpacking Background: I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 16 year old son 8 years ago. We now routinely take 20 mile (32 km) weekend hikes (2 nights) approximately once a month year round. Additionally, we take one, 5 - 7 day extended trip each summer. Most of our hiking is done in North Carolina, southern Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. We go regardless of weather so we have experience in all types of conditions. We do not tend to travel very light, my typical pack weight is 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Field Report Added - May 26, 2008
Long Term Report Added - August 3, 2008

Manufacturer: Columbia Sportswear Company
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.columbia.com
MSRP: US $185.00
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 11 oz (312 g)
Other details:

IMAGE 1

New in Spring 2008, the Hot Shot shell is the newest addition to Columbia's Titanium product lineup. According to the hangtag the Hot Shot is designed for "Extreme Performance" which is defined by Columbia as "Extreme Weather and High Aerobic Activity". The veracity of that statement will be tested.

The shell is made entirely of Columbia's proprietary Omni-Tech fabric. The fabric's microporous membrane is designed to allow the passage of air, but not liquid. This provides a waterproof, breathable garment for active outdoor wear. In order to enhance waterproof performance the garment features welded seams throughout.

The shell features an attached hood and large pockets which are designed with a zippered opening on the outside of the shell that leads to a large mesh pouch. The design is simple as the jacket is missing such features as pit-zips or a bill (visor) on the hood. The jacket does feature reflective piping down the sleeves, down the body of the jacket along the side seam, as well as a reflective "Titanium" logo on the left sleeve and two reflective decals on both the left and right sides of the bottom, back of the jacket.

IMAGE 2
Detail of the reflective Titanium logo


The hood has an adjustment tab on the back which is a simple fabric tab with a hook and loop fastener that is designed to allow the hood to be adjusted. I will be interested to see if this can be accomplished with one hand.

There is a drawcord around the bottom hem of the jacket. The bottom hem is straight, not longer in the back as active outerwear tends to be. I will be interested to see if this affects how the shell wears underneath a backpack. The longer rear hem is typically designed to prevent the hem from riding up under a pack's hipbelt.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Hot-Shot arrived in a plain plastic bag. Attached to the main zipper were a number of hangtags describing the fabric, the usage range of this garment, and a sizing chart. The sizing chart was somewhat useless as it was a sizing chart for pants, but was attached to a jacket.

IMAGE 3

My first impressions were that the fabric was very supple, yet very lightweight. I tried it on and was pleased with the fit. It fit well through my shoulders yet has plenty of room through the chest for a sweater or fleece.

Overall the jacket seems to be extremely well made. The seams are smooth and clean. The reflective piping adds a nice visual appearance as well as being a useful feature. I did notice that the hood does not feature a visor. As I wear glasses this is normally a feature I like to see on a rain shell. A visor keeps the rain off my glasses and helps with visibility. I will be anxious to see how this hood design performs on a rainy day.

TRYING IT OUT

The day it came I wore the jacket out on a rainy night to attend a concert with my wife. She complimented how the jacket looked (which is always a plus). There was a drizzle falling as we walked from the car into the auditorium so I had an opportunity to see how it would perform in damp conditions. All water that hit the jacket immediately beaded up.

When we came out the rain had stopped but the wind was blowing. The jacket performed well as a windproof layer, clearly stopping the wind so that I was comfortable in shirt sleeves underneath it.

I am planning a three-day weekend hiking trip next weekend. There is a 60% chance of showers in both locations we are considering. That should provide us with perfect gear testing weather!

TESTING STRATEGY

Most of our hiking is done in the southern Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Through the spring in this area the weather is certainly unpredictable, but tends to be rainy and cool. As we go farther into the summer months the weather will become hot during the day, with cool evenings at the higher (above 5000 ft. or 1524 m) elevations. Afternoon thunderstorms are a fact of life and in normal weather conditions will happen most afternoons in the mountains.

We hike in all weather, and I will have ample opportunities to test both the waterproof qualities as well as the breathability of this product. I will be interested to see how the soft supple fabric holds up, how small it packs, and how well it cleans up.

SUMMARY

My initial impressions are all very positive. The fabric is supple and comfortable. The jacket is both attractive and functional The construction seems to be first rate.

I am looking forward to an opportunity to put this product through its paces.

This concludes my initial report on the Columbia Hot Shot shell. Please check back here in mid-May for my field report.


Field Report - May 26, 2008

I have used the rain shell for two weekend backpacking trips and one rainy tourist weekend in Charleston SC. In every case it has performed admirably. This totaled 6 days where I had to use the jacket as either a rain or wind shell.

The first weekend we used it was in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area in Virginia. When we arrived it had just stopped raining and the weather was still very threatening. It was approximately 50 F (10 C) and the wind was blowing at an estimated 20 MPH (32 KPH). As rain appeared imminent we got on our rain jackets, pants, and put covers on our packs. We then hiked about 5 miles to our shelter for the night. In this instance the jacket did an outstanding job of breaking the wind and keeping me comfortable without becoming a mobile steam bath. The fabric really does breathe extremely well.

Shortly after we arrived at the shelter the rain started. That night I went out for a short hike in a windy, foggy, rainy mess. The jacket kept me extremely dry througout. There was no leakage around the seams or zipper. The fit was just right, affording me excellent mobility without being baggy or flapping in the wind.

I wore the jacket with the hood up and a headlight on. The lack of visor or bill on the hood was a mixed blessing (or curse). The blessing was that the headlight fit just fine with no bill or visor to obstruct its light or reflect it back into my eyes. The curse was that the lack of any visor allowed the run to simply come down into my face. Since I wear glasses this was a particular problem After a while I had to stop, pull my jacket up and wipe my glasses on the bottom of my shirt. I wasn't wearing a pack but if I had been this would have been a complete nuisance.

The reflective strips are evidently so narrow as to be useless in these conditions. My son reported that when I got more than about six feet away (on a black night in a black jacket) I would be completely out of view, even when he was shining his headlight directly at me. I will investigate this more fully and give a more complete report on this feature using car headlights, etc. as part of my Long Term Report.

The next day we took a couple of longer day hikes in the fog and the rain. The wind was still blowing and the temperature was around 45 F (7.2 C). This was a truly miserable day for a hike but an excellent day to test a rain shell. After a combined 6 hours out in the elements the jacket was still doing its job. I stayed dry throughout, yet never got a clammy sweaty feeling inside the jacket. The fabric in this product is truly amazing with the greatest combination of breathability and water repellence I have seen.


IMAGE 4
Lovely gear testing weather


I wore a broad brimmed hat that I almost always wear while hiking this day due to the visor situation explained above. With the hat the jacket was perfect. On Sunday it was raining when we left camp but dried up soon after. I left the jacket on the rest of the way to the car and it was extremely comfortable. When we got home I simply hung it up to dry and it looks fine. The fabric looks and feels exactly as it did when it came out of its package.

I used it this past weekend on a long weekend trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We had a beautiful weekend weather wise but Monday morning we awoke to 40 F (4.4 C) temperatures and a stiff breeze. I pulled the jacket on over a warm shirt and was quite comfortable as I fixed and ate breakfast, packed up, and attended to morning camp chores. Again, it did a terrific job of blocking the wind so that the shirt could contain my body heat.

Even though it had been tightly wadded into a little ball and stuffed into a pack for two days when I pulled it out on Monday morning I gave it one shake and the wrinkles simply fell out of the fabric. It looked and felt fine that morning. I wore it until we were packed and ready to go and then I removed both the jacket and the warm shirt before we headed out.

Finally, I wear this type of item "in town" as well as on the trail. I don't have separate rain jackets for use on the trail and others for use in town. So, while this is not directly backpacking related, I wore it on a warm spring weekend in Charleston SC. When in Charleston my wife and I love to walk around the historic neighborhoods and shops of downtown Charleston. As it was raining hard this could have been quite uncomfortable. Again, the Columbia shell came through like a champ. It breathed so well that I did not get uncomfortable or sweaty wearing it, yet it kept me bone dry throughout.

I started out wearing the hood up. Again, however, the lack of a bill allows the rain to simply run off the front of the hood, and down across my face. Since I wear glasses this is particularly annoying. I ended up stopping at a local shop and buying a hat to wear to avoid this problem.

Summary

I have say that the Columbia Hot Shot Shell has proven to be a superior product. The fabric is amazing being very soft and supple yet completely water proof. It makes an excellent wind shell as well, allowing me to stay warm on a cool blustery day. It packs small, it is lightweight and yet when you pull it out of your pack you can just give it one good shake and all the wrinkles seem to fall right out of it.

The jacket fits me very well. It fits well through the shoulders and doesn't feel baggy when over just a t-shirt but has proven to be plenty big enough to fit over a thick shirt and even a sweater. It does not have pit zips that you can undo to provide extra ventilation in sweaty conditions but, honestly, the fabric breathes so well that I never missed them or ever felt they were necessary.

The biggest gripe I have with this product is the lack of a visor on the hood. Since I wear glasses this is an important feature to me. I can sort of pull the whole hood forward on my head but if I do I lose all peripheral vision as the sides of the hood pull forward also.

All in all, I believe this to be a superior product. It is not the least expensive rainshell on the market but it certainly provides a terrific value for a serious all-weather hiker.

Things I like about this product:
1. The fabric is wonderful! It provides the best combination of breathability and water repellence I have seen.
2. The fit is very good. It is big enough without being baggy.
3. It packs very small.

Things I don't like about this product:
1. The lack of a bill on the hood is a real problem for me.
2. The reflective piping should work better than it does,.

I wish to thank Columbia and backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this terrific product.

Please check back in late July for my Long Term Report.


Long Term Report - August 3, 2008

Since the Long Term Report I have worn the Hot Shot on a number of occasions around town and one additional backpacking trip. In every instance I have found the Hot Shot to be a superior product.

When wearing it around town I am always pleased with how well it fits and how well the fabric looks. It is never wrinkled, it stays neat and looks great. I took it on a backpacking trip recently to the Shining Rock Wilderness Area in North Carolina. I pulled it out of my pack after it had been wadded in a small ball for approximately 30 hours. I pulled it out, shook it one time and put it on. Within minutes I was being pelted by a heavy thunderstorm.

The jacket stood up to the rain like a champ, keeping me completely dry in pouring rain and winds gusting to at least 20 MPH (32 KPH). I must say that I left my wide brimmed hat on and did not attempt to use the hood on the jacket. The wind propelled rain did not penetrate the jacket and I stayed dry and cozy within.

As the rain continued to fall it became slightly damp to the touch inside, but it was never enough to even allow my shirt to get damp. Later that evening the rain stopped but the wind picked up. I was amazed to find that the jacket continued to shed the wind and kept me comfortable with a long sleeve shirt underneath it.

I have worn the shell on a number of occasions around town and always find it to be comfortable and effective. Water simply beads up when it hits it. It dries quickly and is equally useful as either a rain shell or a wind shell.

As promised I have tested the usefulness of the reflective strips on the sleeves and the reflective patches on the back and the logos on the front and one sleeve. The piping is attractive in daylight but is too thin to be of any value as a reflective feature at night. In full dark with either car headlights or a flashlight it is reported to me that the Columbia logo on the front, the Titanium logo on the left sleeve, and two reflective triangles on the back are large enough to be noticable, and are a useful safety feature. The piping on the sleeves is too thin to be noticable and is of no value at night.



Summary

The Columbia Hot Shot Shell is a very versatile, well made rain shell which can easily do double duty as a wind shell. The jacket has stood up to four months of regular use and looks like it did the first day I had it.

When being used around town the shell looks good and does a terrific job of repelling rain and wind. However, when on the trail this jacket really comes into its own. It is lightweight, very breathable, and provides excellent rain protection.

The jacket could be significantly improved by the addition of a rain bill but that is my only significant complaint regarding this otherwise outstanding item of outerwear. For any warm weather adventure this jacket is an outstanding addition lightweight rain shell.

I want to thank backpackgeartest.org and Columbia Sportswear for the opportunity to test this fine product.

This concludes my review of the the Columbia Hot Shot shell.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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