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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Columbia Hot to Trot Softshell > Test Report by Andrea Murland

Columbia Women's Hot To Trot Softshell
Test Series by Andrea Murland

Initial Report - February 15, 2011
Field Report - April 26, 2011
Long Term Report - June 21, 2011

Tester Information

Name: Andrea Murland
Email: amurland AT shaw DOT ca
Age: 25
Location: Elkford, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Weight: 125 lb (57 kg)

I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.


Initial Report – February 15, 2011

Image Courtesy of Columbia Sportswear
Columbia Hot to Trot Softshell

Product Information

Manufacturer: Columbia Sportswear
Manufacturer's URL: www.columbia.com
Year of Manufacture: 2010
MSRP: US $130.00
Colour Reviewed: Sea Salt
Other Colours Available: Oxide Blue, Black
Size Reviewed: Medium
Other Sizes Available: XS, S, L, XL
Listed Weight: None
Measured Weight: 430 g (15.2 oz)
Material: 92% Polyester, 8% Lycra elastane jersey 3L Butter softshell
Guarantee: "Limited Lifetime Warranty, so if something fails to perform we’re here for you.”
Care Instructions: If present close hook and loop fastener, machine wash cold permanent press,
powdered detergent, rinse thoroughly, wash separately, do not bleach, tumble dry
permanent press low, iron low, do not use fabric softener, if present
do not iron decal, do not dry clean.

Hot to Trot details

Description & Initial Impressions

The Columbia Hot To Trot Softshell is a windproof jacket featuring Columbia’s Omni-Shield advanced repellency and Omni-Heat thermal reflective material. Omni-Shield repellency is intended to resist light precipitation and stains and dry faster than untreated fabric. The Omni-Heat thermal reflective material is a lining of small silver dots to reflect heat back towards me when I’m wearing the jacket. The exterior fabric of the jacket is pliable, soft, and smooth to the touch; the Omni-Heat lining is also soft and pliable. The Sea Salt colour is just on the grey side of white – not too bright. It will be interesting to see how the fabric and light colour resist the inevitable encounters with coal that will occur in Elkford over the next few months (I live in a coal-mining town). The jacket has a small Columbia logo on the left hemline, the Columbia Titanium logo and text on the upper left sleeve, and the text “Omni-Heat” on the lower left sleeve.
Pocket lining showing in the seams
pockets in seams

The jacket has a full front zipper and two zippered, fleece-lined hand pockets which are low on the jacket (not harness-compatible). The zippers are nylon with plastic and metal zipper pulls. The front zipper has a storm flap inside the zipper to keep out drafts as well as a chin guard which covers the top of the zipper so that it doesn’t rest against my chin. The collar is 8.5 cm (3.4 in) high, and the jacket measures 72 cm (28.4 in) from the top of the collar to the hemline at the back. The jacket has a dropped hemline with a drawcord which can be tightened from toggles next to the front zipper or inside the hand pockets. Inside the jacket are two open pockets which are created from the jacket material and the sewn-in pockets. Some material from the pockets shows through the seams to the front side of the jacket. The Hot to Trot has “comfort cuffs”, which are made from a soft, stretchy material, and are tighter than the cuff of the jacket proper.

Trying It Out

The Hot to Trot is a tad bigger than I would usually wear a jacket of this weight as a stand-alone piece; it’s definitely not fitted! However, I can comfortably fit a somewhat puffy jacket or several mid-layers under the jacket, and I can put my shell on top, so for the backcountry when I’m pretending to be a snowman it should be fine. Columbia’s size chart puts me on the brink between small and medium, which seems pretty accurate based on how the medium fits.

The comfort cuffs are comfortable against my wrists; they are snug but don’t bind. Actually, so far I really like them! I have worn the jacket a few times around town so far and am still working out what temperatures and activity levels it’s comfortable for, so stay tuned for that in the Field Report!

Summary

The Columbia Hot to Trot Softshell is a windproof softshell that features Omni-Shield and Omni-Heat technology. It is soft and comfortable, and looks like it will be a good layering piece. I can’t wait to try it out on the trail!

Field Report – April 26, 2011

Field Conditions

Field Use During the Field Testing stage, I have worn the Hot to Trot Softshell for general around-town use as well as for activities. A brief summary of my use follows:
  • 8 days of resort skiing, worn mostly as my outer layer and for one afternoon under my hardshell. I wore a variety of layers under the jacket, generally a combination of a wool baselayer, a wool mid-layer, and a light down pullover. Temperatures ranged from -10 C (14 F) to about freezing, and the weather was anything from clear and sunny to dry snow to wet snow.
  • 2 days of skate skiing, both times at around freezing, and once in the rain. Both times I was wearing only a baselayer under the jacket.
  • 4 search & rescue practices, which involved hiking, operating rope systems, and hanging on-rope waiting to be rescued (it was a practice!).
  • 1 hike, at around freezing, that was 6 km (3.7 mi) long with some elevation gain. I was wearing a baselayer and putting a mid-layer on and off throughout the hike.
  • 2 days of ski touring, both days at around freezing, wearing the jacket as my outer layer. There was no precipitation on either of those days.
  • Several trail runs on local trails in Elkford.
I have washed the jacket twice in the washing machine. Once was with another piece of technical clothing using Nikwax Tech Wash and a low-heat dryer cycle. The other time was using powdered detergent in a load of white laundry, and hanging the jacket to dry.

Observations

I have enjoyed wearing the Hot to Trot softshell over the past two months. It seems to be a very functional softshell jacket.

The jacket is bigger than I would usually wear. I think a size small would be a better fit for me. However, I could very comfortably fit my lightweight down pullover underneath, and I could also wear my hardshell jacket over the top, so functionally the jacket size is fine. It just looks pretty big on me. The jacket has been comfortable to wear. I really like the comfort cuffs. I haven’t found them to be too tight or to get in my way, but I have noticed that they help to keep the too-long sleeves out of my way and seal out drafts. The drawcord in the hem has also done well, allowing me to tighten the hem slightly while skiing, but not being so tight that the jacket starts to ride up.

Water Resistance
water resistance
The wind and water resistance of the softshell is very good. The second day that I wore the softshell for ski touring it was very windy at the top (I thought I was going to lose my skins or something else!). I didn’t feel any wind through the jacket, which was awesome! The water resistance has also been very good. Cross country skiing in mixed snow and rain, I stayed dry and water was beading on the jacket. After the first time I washed the jacket, I went out “spring” skiing in wet snow blowing sideways and although I had soaked mittens and a wet face, I was dry inside the jacket. The fabric wetted out but didn’t bleed through. I haven’t had a chance to test the water resistance after the second washing yet.

The breathability of the softshell also seems to be quite good. When hiking uphill I removed my mid-layer but found that moisture could escape adequately except where my pack was sitting against my back. When ski touring, I was content to keep the softshell on over my baselayer, even when sweating, since it wasn’t making me too damp. One afternoon when the sun was blazing down I did remove it, and was almost hotter in my dark-coloured baselayer than I had been in the jacket. I haven’t used the jacket with short sleeves or a sleeveless top yet, so I’m interested to see how it does as I get into warmer weather.

As far as durability goes, the jacket is showing a tiny bit of wear. There is a loose thread under one of the arms, though it doesn’t appear to be getting any worse. There is a line of broken stitching at the hem near the left side of the jacket. The threads poking through the seams don’t appear to have changed, which is good. There is a bit of pilling starting where the waistband of my pack sits and on the collar as well. Overall, though, it’s standing up pretty well. Colour-wise, I can say that white is not a colour that I get along with in outerwear. Stains from backcountry use and coal stains from around-town use appear quite quickly. They didn’t come out very well in the first washing using Tech Wash, even with pretreating, but came out somewhat better using powdered detergent (especially with pretreating).

Summary

So far the Columbia Hot to Trot Softshell has been a pleasure to test. I’m looking forward to seeing how the breathability fares as I get into warmer weather and how the water resistance holds up to more washing and spring rains. Maybe the rain will help keep it clean?

Long Term Report – June 21, 2011

Field Conditions

During the Long Term testing period I’ve continued to wear the Hot to Trot around town and just about any time I’m outside. Around town use has included a few trail runs and short hikes or walks. Otherwise, I’ve used it on two days of rock climbing, a weekend of geocaching and hiking in Alberta’s badlands, another weekend of geocaching and camping in the pouring rain not too far from home, two Search & Rescue practices, and a full-day Search & Rescue training day.

I have washed the jacket four more times in the washing machine, always using powdered detergent with other light-coloured clothing, and hanging the jacket to air-dry.

Observations

I have continued to really enjoy testing the functionality of the Hot to Trot Softshell. I haven’t used the drawcord in the hem at all now that I’m not skiing, but I think it was an excellent feature in the winter. I still really like the comfort cuffs on the jacket. They are comfortable and do an excellent job of sealing out drafts and rain. Now that I’ve moved to summer layers and I’m not wearing the jacket on top of puffy coats anymore, it really is too big on me. However, it does fit under my hardshell jacket so in the pouring rain I can leave it on and throw my jacket on top.

I haven’t had any issues at all with wind coming through the jacket. The water resistance is also very good. Even after washing 6 times, the jacket has not soaked through. The fabric wets out faster than it did originally, but I’ve stayed dry. The breathability has been quite good, though I have found the jacket to be quite warm as the weather has warmed up. This spring has been wet and cold, so I haven’t had the chance to test the jacket in really warm weather. I found that wearing the Hot To Trot while trail running leaves me too hot and sticky at this time of year, though it was great during the winter. I have worn the jacket with short sleeves, and found it to be comfortable. The fabric didn’t stick to me much as I sweated, and it didn’t feel clammy while I had it on. The white colour did help keep me cooler while wearing the jacket in the sun than other darker-coloured jackets I have worn. I have noticed that my use of this jacket has dropped off a bit in the last couple of weeks, as I often either decide to reach for a lighter jacket or take the Hot To Trot off when I reach the trailhead or shortly after. To me, it feels more like a three-season jacket.

The condition of the jacket is about the same as at the end of the Field Testing stage. None of the issues I noted then have gotten any worse, so the jacket is showing only one loose thread, the threads poking through the seams that were there originally, and a little bit of pilling. White continues to be a difficult colour to keep clean for me. The stains don’t completely come out anymore, and I’m washing the jacket every time I do light-coloured laundry.
The final test: Search & Rescue
SAR

I think I’ll sum up by giving an example of a situation in which the Hot to Trot excelled. The last day that I used the jacket during the testing period was a full-day Search & Rescue event. The weather forecast was for cloud, sun, and rain with a high of 19 C (66 F). My team’s task was to search an area of bush in a grid, so we spent 4.5 hours walking a total of 4.6 km (2.9 mi) in a line, about 10 m (33 ft) apart, in rolling terrain, back and forth across the area. The weather conditions called for a lot of clothing changes, but the task called for as few as possible, since each time someone had to change clothes the whole team had to stop, and changing a layer while wearing a pack and a vest isn’t all that quick. I also needed to be wearing long sleeves to repel mosquitoes and the tree branches that I was frequently ploughing through in my line of travel. I started the day in long sleeves under the Hot to Trot, and switched to short sleeves at our first break. The jacket repelled the showers that came through perfectly, and when the sun came out the light colour meant that I didn’t bake. At the end of the day I was soaked in sweat but had never become too uncomfortably warm under the jacket. I was very happy with my choice of jacket for the day.

Summary

The Columbia Hot to Trot Softshell is a highly-functional windproof and water-resistant softshell jacket. I have no concerns about the performance of the jacket; for me the downfalls are purely cosmetic and easily rectified by a different size and colour.

Thumbs Up:
Windproof
Water resistant
Breathable
Warm but not TOO warm

Thumbs Down:
White in the backcountry!
Size too big for me

Thanks to Columbia Sportswear and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test this jacket! I’ve really enjoyed the addition to my closet over the past few months.



Read more reviews of Columbia gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Columbia Hot to Trot Softshell > Test Report by Andrea Murland



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