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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Columbia Sportswear Slipstream Windshell > Test Report by David Wilkes

Image courtesy of Columbia Sportswear

Image courtesy of Columbia Sportswear

COLUMBIA SLIPSTREAM WINDSHELL
TEST SERIES BY DAVID WILKES

INITIAL REPORT - April 28, 2008
FIELD REPORT -
August 5, 2008
LONG TERM REPORT -
 
October 7, 2008










TESTER INFORMATION

NAME:
David Wilkes
EMAIL: amatbrewer@charterDOTnet
AGE: 42
LOCATION: Yakima, Washington USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)
SLEEVE LENGTH: 20 in (51 cm)
CHEST: 42 in (107 cm)
Biography:
I started backpacking about 13 years ago when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions. I have usually only managed time for 1-3 trips a year averaging 2-5 days, and as many day hikes as I can. I am currently getting into condition to summit some of the higher peaks in Washington, Oregon, California. I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. My current pack is around 30 lbs (14 kg), not including consumables.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Columbia Sportswear Company
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.columbia.com
MSRP: US$ 80.00 (per the label attached to the garment when it arrived)
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 9.2 oz (260 g)

Product Details:

The Columbia Slipstream Full Zip Windshell is a lightweight jacket that is (per the manufacturer) "wind and water resistant for protection in breezy conditions." It is supposed to be lightweight and packable, as well as water and wind resistant but breathable. The manufacturer's web page states that it is "designed primarily for comfort" and "features breathable attributes that allow air to circulate and enable perspiration to escape." This jacket is from their premier product line, "Titanium", designed for "all-weather performance and protection during demanding outdoor action."
The jacket is stated to be "packable" with a built-in compartment intended to be its own stuff sack to make it easy to carry.
The jacket is offered in four colors: Sail Red, Black (what I chose), Curb, and Columbia Navy.
While the manufacturer's web site has a very nice sizing chart (using it I chose XL), it does not include specifications regarding the weight of the jacket.

The web site states the jacket is made from "100% polyester Synthesis Ripstop with 96% nylon/4% elastane Summiteer Lite Stretch Super DWR." I found a reference to "elastane" on the internet as being a synthetic fiber (aka Spandex) invented by DuPont, known for its exceptional elasticity, being stronger and more durable than rubber. I found a reference on the Colombia Sportswear web site about "DWR" being an abbreviation for Durable Water Repellent. It states that they use a high-quality "20/80" water repellent, meaning that it should retain 80% of its water resistance after 20 washings.
I submitted a request for more information regarding the material via the Columbia Sportswear Customer Service link. I received the following reply within 2 hrs of submitting my question:
"The Sumitter Lite Stretch Super DWR Fabric Nylon/elastane woven 2 way stretch Wind, water and abrasion resistant Breathable with Teflon and High performance DWR."

I could not find a manufacturer's suggested price on their web pages, nor could I find any way to purchase directly from them, but they do provide a link to several retailers (3 in the US and 1 in Europe) that carry the product.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The jacket is a very light and thin windbreaker with a full-length front zipper, two external side pockets and a simple collar, no hood.

Zipper Puller
Zipper Puller
My first impression was how light the jacket was and how soft the material is. The second thing I noticed was the zippers. The sliders are rather small but seem to be of high quality, with a relatively oversized zipper puller. The zipper puller is made of some type of rubber and contoured to fit nicely between my two fingers, with a bit of a rough texture that felt like it would not slip even if my fingers were wet and/or cold. The puller easily accommodates the attachment of a third party zipper pull (see photo). The front zipper feels smooth and firm, and extends all the way up to the top of the collar. When fully zipped the collar leaves plenty of room for movement and/or insulation such as a turtleneck. 

The fit was what I was expecting. With my measurements, I could have gone with a Large rather than the XL, but I prefer my jackets to be a little loose. Since the jacket was advertized as having an 'active fit' I chose to go with the larger size so that it would not be too tight and would allow me room to wear a insulating layer under it if I wished, thereby greatly extending the temperature ranges I can use it.

With the jacket on over a tee shirt, the sleeves are long enough to reach to the base of my thumb, which is something I like. This length is probably due to my choosing a size larger than the sizing chart says I need. They are long enough that I am not concerned with them riding up during use or being too short when worn over fleece, but not so long as to be annoying. The cuffs have a half circle piece of stretchy (Lycra like) material. On me, the cuffs are loose enough that I had no trouble pulling them back to look at my watch, and the length allowed the cuffs to reach the base of my thumbs where they look like they will work well keeping drafts out, and should easily fit over light to mid weight gloves.

In Pouch
Stuffed in pouch
The two external (hand warmer) pockets use the same zippers as the front of the jacket, and for me are placed in just the right location and are very roomy. Since they are lined with mesh, it looks like the pockets could be opened to provide ventilation. The pocket liners are sewn into the jacket on the bottom and sides so that the mesh liners form internal pockets that are open on the top. The left side interior pocket has an additional pocket held closed with two oval patches of hook-n-loop fasteners (kind of like a "Napoleon pocket", only at my belly rather than up on my chest). The opening of this pocket has a symbol and the word "PACKABLE."
This is the built-in compartment for storing the jacket as a small pouch. Initially, in looking at the relationship of the jacket and this pocket, it was not entirely clear at first how getting it into the pocket is accomplished. Nevertheless, after a bit of pondering, I was able to turn the pocket inside out and stuff the jacket inside. When I had the jacket packed, I noticed a small loop made out of the same material as the jacket sticking out of one corner of the pouch. I expect I might put a small carabineer through it to make it simple to clip to my pack. The jacket fit much more loosely in the pouch than I had expected and feels like it just might make a small but comfortable pillow measuring around 9.5 X 8 in (24 X 20.5 cm). The pouch is small and flexible enough that I expect I will be able to find a place for it in (or on) my fully stuffed pack, or even in the cargo pockets of my pants.

The material of the jacket is very thin, but feels tough. It has a very faint checked pattern (embossed?) in it. The jacket has no lining. In most of my jackets, I prefer a liner as the material can feel cold against bare skin. The material this jacket is made from did not feel cold against my bare skin at all. I will be interested in how it feels when I put it on over bare arms on a chilly morning. The material under and behind each sleeve is the same stretchy material used in the cuff. This seems to allow quite a bit of freedom of movement.

The stitching and all other details of the jacket look to be of exceptional quality. Examination of the entire jacket, inside and out, revealed no obvious flaws or anything that causes me concern with the quality of the materials or workmanship.

Front DetailColumbia Logo

The word "TITANIUM" is stenciled in gray on the left breast pocket, and the word "Columbia" (along with a logo) is stenciled in the same color near the bottom of the jacket just under the right external pocket. On each side of the jacket near the bottom and just slightly to the rear are stenciled two groups of reflective dots that roughly form a triangular pattern. 

Stenciled under the back of the collar is a stylized capital letter 'T' (their Titanium logo). Finally, the bottom of the jacket is finished with an elastic drawstring, accessible from both sides. Each side has a cord lock unlike any I have seen before. It seems to be a rather ingenious design, and feels very easy to use. On the loop of cord that extends beyond the cord lock is a small rubber loop to make it easier to grip the cord.
Front detail
Note the stretch material inserts in the back of the jacket. The flash of my camera makes these stand out, and are not nearly as visible to the eye as they seem in this picture.
 

Just out of curiosity, I tried the jacket on over a heavy fleece jacket (the insulating layer for my winter shell). It was a bit of a tight fit to get my arms into the sleeves, but once I had the jacket on and zipped up, it was very comfortable. I experienced a bit of resistance below and behind my arms when I reached across my body, but not enough that I was concerned. I then tried Slipstream over my new REI PrimaLoft jacket. It fit as if they were made to be worn that way. With this configuration, I began to overheat before I got half way through typing this paragraph and had to remove them. Unfortunately, I do not have any more snowboard trips planned this year. I would love to see how this combination would handle that. I guess there is always next Fall…

TESTING STRATEGY

I plan to focus my testing on the manufacturer's claims of its versatility, packability, lightweight and water and wind resistance.
Some of the key items I will be looking at will be the quality and dependability of the materials and construction, especially in regards to things like the zippers (do they let wind or rain in, or are they strong enough?) and seams (are they strong enough and/or do they cause chafing?). Also, the manufacturer claims that it is not only water resistant, but also breathable. I am interested as to how well it breathes when worn while active in rapidly changing conditions. After examining the design of the jacket, I will be looking to see how effective the Lycra like material that is under and behind the sleeves is at resisting wind and rain vs. how effective it is at allowing a full range of motion during various outdoor activities and providing ventilation.

Of course being an article of clothing, fit and mobility is very important. I am curious to see if the jacket restricts movement while wearing a pack, especially when reaching overhead such as climbing over an obstacle (tree, rock, etc).

I plan to use it as my primary jacket in most of my outdoor activities (work and personal), including hikes and backpacking. I expect that despite the pending warmer weather, I will have plenty of exposure to chilling winds (possibly below freezing) and some precipitation, especially when I venture out to some of the exposed ridges (3000 ft/900 m and higher) in the area. During the time of this test, besides some local hikes (Washington Cascades) and backpacking, I expect to wear (or at least carry) this jacket on a day hike to Bishop pass (12000 ft/3700 m pass in California's Eastern Sierra's), a climb of Mt. St. Helens, and maybe (weather dependent) even during a summit attempt on Mt. Shasta (14000 ft/4200 m).

With the local weather still getting below freezing at night with chilly and sometimes windy mornings, I am considering wearing the jacket on a morning (3 mi/5 km) run to see just how well it vents and manages perspiration. However, it will have to be an especially cold morning.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

  • When the jacket arrived, we were experiencing unseasonably cold weather. It was dipping below freezing at night with highs of 40-50 F (4-10 C). While most days were calm, we had a few days with considerable wind, and I wore the jacket to and from work. I  wore the jacket on a few evening walks where the weather was calm and temperatures were around 40 F (4 C), and I also wore it while mowing the lawn on two windy days.
  • My first backpacking trip was a 2 night  2 mile (3 km) hike in a canyon at an elevation of around 2000 f (610 m). The temperatures ranged from a high of around 70 F (20 C) to below freezing, and the weather was mostly sunny with light breezes coming down the canyon. There was still around 1 ft (0.3 m) of snow in patches and covering small sections of the trail.
  • I wore the jacket on a weekend shopping trip to Portland Oregon; the weather was 65 F (18 C) and showers.
  • I took the Slipstream on a 3 day trip to climb Mt Shasta (California) with temperatures ranging from around freezing at night to around 90 F (32 C) as well as on a 2 day trip to climb Mt Adams (Washington) with temperatures ranged from below freezing at night to over 90 F (32 C) during the day.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

sweat
Note the moisture
After wearing the jacket to and from work for a few days, I decided to wear it during an evening walk. It was a calm evening, 43 F (6 C) when I left and 39 F (4 C) when I returned. I was wearing a long sleeve cotton tee shirt and a light fleece vest under the jacket. The jacket was zipped half-way up my chest. I walked for about 3 miles. While I was comfortably warm throughout the walk, even building up a little sweat, I could feel a bit of a chill on my arms. My hands remained comfortably warm in the jacket pockets. Upon returning, I removed the jacket and noticed that a considerable amount of moisture had collected on the inside back of the jacket (see photo).

Despite some unseasonably cold weather, my 10-year-old daughter and I went on a spring "warm-up" backpacking trip to a nearby canyon. I chose to pack the Slipstream in my pack for the hike in. As I expected, I had no trouble finding room for it. We hit the trail on a calm and clear Friday afternoon with temperatures approaching 70 F (20 C). After a casual 2 mi (3 km) hike to our camp, the temperatures were dropping and there was a bit of a breeze, so I put the Slipstream on over a light fleece sweater and synthetic long sleeve undershirt. The temperature continued to drop and the breeze continued as we prepared and ate dinner. I did not check my thermometer but estimate the temperature to be around 55 F (13 C), and I was comfortable. After cleaning up for dinner, I decided to refill our water before it got too dark. I was using a new hose and valve configuration on my water pump and forgot to open the valve. I noticed the pump required more effort than normal, but before I realized I forgot to open the valve, the pressure had built up enough to pop the hose off of the outlet of my pump, and I got sprayed with icy water. After I recovered from my embarrassment and my 10 year old stopped giggling, I realized I had just tested the water resistantance of the Columbia Slipstream. The water that hit my arm and sleeve simply beaded up on the jacket, and most of it dripped off. The jacket was dry by the time I finished filling my water bladder and walked back to our camp. 

By the time the sun went down, the temperature had dropped to 40 F (4 C), so I replaced my fleece sweater with a PrimaLoft jacket under the Slipstream. This kept me comfortable until I went to bed, when the temperature was 35 F (2 C) and there was still a bit of a breeze. One thing I did note was thatSlipstream over insulation when sitting with the wind to my back I could feel a slight chill on my back where the stretch material was, indicating that it might be slightly less wind-proof than the rest of the jacket. However, this was barely noticeable, and I suspect I only noticed it because it was something I was thinking about. The next morning was cold with a thick layer of frost covering everything, and the slight breeze quickly cut through my PrimaLoft jacket. The Slipstream did a good job at blocking the breeze while I made breakfast. By lunch the temperature had climbed to 60 (15 C), and the weather was calm and sunny. We spent the afternoon casually exploring the area around our camp and some of the smaller gullies still partially blanketed in snow. For this, I wore the Slipstream over a long sleeve synthetic shirt. When we would venture into areas of direct sun or head up a steep incline, I would partially unzip the jacket to avoid overheating. The second night was a bit warmer than the first, with the temperatures remaining at or just above freezing. Before getting out of the tent, I again donned the Slipstream over my PrimaLoft jacket and wore it till around 10AM. When we started packing up, I started to overheat and removed both jackets leaving only my long sleeve synthetic shirt. By noon, we were packed up, and I put the slipstream over my long sleeve shirt for the short hike back to the trailhead. During the trip back, the temperature again rose to around 70 F (20 C), and we were in and out of sun. I was comfortable the entire time. One factor I wanted to test was how comfortable the jacket is with a pack [I was carrying most of the gear for both of us, so I used an external frame pack with about a 40 lb (18 kg) load]. I had no trouble with the combination. I made it a point to reach, twist and bend in different ways to see if the jacket would bind, rub or snag, but I experienced no difficulties.  The smooth material moved easily under my pack and did not bind pinch or chafe.

I experienced some light showers while wearing the jacket in Portland, Oregon (Rain in Portland? What are the odds? 50:50?). After a short walk across a mall parking lot to the car, I found that the jacket did a very good job at repelling the light rain. I noticed only a single spot where a bit of the water was absorbed rather than beading up. This was on the elastic insert of the cuff.

I spent a few days in Golden Colorado, where I wore the jacket on two morning hikes and carried it with me on a short run. The jacket worked well when I was caught by a brief shower, but the rain was quickly followed by high humidity. The inside of the jacket became clammy, and my arms felt damp. The jacket did not seem to be able to handle perspiration or humidity very well. By this time, I had worn the Slipstream virtually every day for over 3 weeks, and it was becoming a favorite article of clothing. When I have gotten dirt, dust and even freshly cut grass on it, it was easily brushed off, and the jacket still looks new.
I took the Slipstream along on my trips to climb Mt Shasta (California 14179 ft / 4322 m) and Mt Adams (Washington 12,276 ft / 3,742 m). On both trips, I had no trouble finding room to pack the jacket, and it came in handy in the evening around camp.

SUMMARY

I am impressed with the overall workmanship and quality of materials used in this jacket. I keep the jacket with me or close by just about everywhere I go. I take it with me in my vehicle and on walks; if I am not wearing it, I carry it. I expect to continue taking the Slipstream with me in my pack and in my vehicle, wearing it as needed throughout the testing period. The only thing I have found disappointing about the jacket is that it is advertized as having “breathable attributes that allow air to circulate and enable perspiration to escape," but I have found no evidence of this. When I have perspired in the jacket, moisture has built up on the inside, and in humid weather, it has felt clammy.


LONG TERM REPORT

Long Term Usage

Long Term Testing Usage

  •  Two backpacking trips totaling 3 nights in the Washington Cascades.
  •  One camping trip of 2 nights in Central Washington State.
  •  A few half day and shorter hikes in the Eastern Cascades.
  •  Around town.


During most of the Long Term Testing period, it has been very hot in my area. As a result, I have had only a few opportunities to wear the Slipstream. I have taken the jacket with me on a few trips (backpacking and camping) but the only use the jacket received those trips was as a pillow. I have also taken the jacket with me just about everywhere I go (in the car, on walks, etc) as its small size and light weight is a great advantage. As the conclusion of this testing period approaches, the weather has been cooling off and I have again found myself reaching for the Slipstream on my way out the door, and glad to have it on breezy days. When I am not using it, it packs away easily and its light weight is never a burden. During two rather chilly and windy days recently, I spent most of my work day in and out of my vehicle, and the Slipstream was exactly what I needed to keep the chill off. I have also worn it to work the last few mornings as the temperatures have dropped to about 65 F (18 C) and it has been windy.


Continued Use

Despite the quality of this jacket, it is unlikely that I will take this jacket on the majority of my backpacking trips after the completion of this test. I want to stress that this is NOT due to any failure of the jacket. Other than its limited ability to ventilate and handle sweat and humidity, the Slipstream performs exactly as advertised. My decision is entirely based on the conditions (or range of conditions) I may encounter while backpacking and the fact that the Slipstream is not suited for the worst of those conditions. The Slipstream seems to work quite well as a shell for wind and light rain, but I insist upon having a fully waterproof outer layer when there is any chance I might get wet in cold weather. Since most of my backpacking is in the Washington Cascades, cold weather and rain are almost always a possibility that must be considered.

While I may not use the Slipstream for many backpacking trips, I do anticipate wearing it often. As an everyday jacket, and for day hikes, the Slipstream has become my favorite. Because it’s compact and light, I plan to continue to take it with me on walks, hikes, and when I travel. It has also become a habit to have it in my work vehicle with me. While I did not have the opportunity to travel during the testing period, the Slipstream is exactly the kind of garment I prefer to take with me when I fly: lightweight, durable, easy to pack, and functional over a wide range of conditions I encounter while traveling, such as widely ranging temperatures, wind, and light rain, but where getting hypothermia from a downpour is unlikely.


Summary

Over the course of the field and long term testing I have come to appreciate the lightness of this jacket as well as the quality of its construction. During the field testing the jacket withstood dirt, dust, and even freshly cut grass, and during much of the long term testing period it went from hanging on a hook to spending days at a time stuffed in a pack or bouncing around in my work vehicle, and it still looks new. I have not been able to find any snags from the occasional encounters with sharp branches, nor are there any signs of wear from backpack straps or other common wear points such as under the arms. The zippers have functioned perfectly with no separation or snagging, and their operation is still firm but easy. The plastic zipper pulls, something I assumed might be less durable than if they were made completely of metal, also show no signs of wear, despite snagging the zipper puller that I attached to one of them more than a few times while wearing and packing the jacket. I can find no signs of loose threads, frayed material or even strained seams. Overall, the construction and quality of the material is exceptional.


This concludes my Long Term Testing of the Columbia Slipstream Windshell. I want to thank the folks at Columbia Sportswear for the opportunity to test such a well-made garment.

Signature

David Wilkes




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