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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Columbia Sportswear Snowline Softshell > Test Report by Patrick McNeilly

Columbia Snowline Softshell Jacket
Reviewed By Pat McNeilly

Initial Report: October 19, 2008
Field Report: January 4, 2009

Long-Term Report: February 20, 2009

Name: Pat McNeilly
Age: 45
Gender: Male
Height: 5í 8Ē (1.7 m)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Email address: mcne4752 at yahoo dot com
City, State, Country: Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA

Backpacking Background:
I have been hiking for at least 20 years but backpacking for only the last four years.Most of my backpacking is done as overnight trips and occasional weekend and weeklong trips.My typical pack weight is approximately 18 to 20 lb (8 to 9 kg) before food or water.Most of my backpacking is the three season variety in the mountains of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.In addition to backpacking, I also fish, hunt, and enjoy orienteering.As a result, some of my backpacking equipment gets use in a number of different venues.

Product Information:

Product: Snowline Softshell Jacket
Size: Medium
Manufacturer: Columbia Sportswear
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Color: Columbia Navy
Listed Weight:†† Not listed
Measured Weight: 1 lb 11 oz (770 g)
URL:http://www.columbia.com/.
MSRP: $115.00 USD

Initial Report
Report Date: October 19, 2008

Snowline JacketProduct Description:
The Columbia Snowline Jacket is described by the manufacturer as a 100% polyester bonded softshell jacket with an active cut and a stretch fabric for use in cold weather sports.The jacket outer layer is constructed with Columbiaís Omni-Tech material which described as a breathable waterproof fabric.The inside of the jacket is made of more than one type of material.First, a smooth polyester fabric is found through the sleeves and front, while the back has a microfleece type fabric.The jacket is a solid dark blue color with a roughly rectangular 6 in x 7 in (15 cm x 18 cm) black pocket on the left chest region.The pocket appears to be glued and heat sealed, rather than stitched to the jacket.The chest pocket is constructed with a stretch material which appears different from the rest of the jacket and has a 5.5 in (14 cm) zipper with a 1 in (2.5 cm) rigid plastic zipper pull.

The Snowline Jacket has two front hand warmer style pockets located approximately 3 in (8 cm ) from the bottom hem of the jacket and are angled slightly to help with access to the pockets.These hand warmer pockets each have 8 in (20 cm) zippers fitted with 2 in (5 cm) pulls made from synthetic cord.The jacket has a 25 in (64 cm) black zipper with a 1.5 in (4 cm) rigid plastic, oval shaped zipper pull.The front zipper does not have any backing or cover flap except for the upper 6 in (15 cm) which is backed by a 1 in (2.5 cm) strip offabric made of the same material as rest of the jacket.This strip of backing is also folded over at the upper 1 in (2.5 cm) of the front zipper to prevent the top of the zipper coming in contact with the my chin.The jacket has a collar lined with a soft microfleece-like fabric (Iím not exactly sure what it is made of) and measures 3 in (8 cm) high in the front and 2.75 in (7 cm) in the back.The jacketís front length (size medium) measures 22.5 in (57 cm) from the base of the collar to the bottom Wrist Detailof the jacket, while the back measures 27 in (69 cm).

I measure the sleeve length of the Snowline Jacket as 35 in (89 cm), from the center of the neck to the end of the sleeve.The sleeves of the jacket have a 1.25 in x 4 in (3 cm x 10 cm) tab which has hook-and-loop fasteners sewn to it to secure the wrists.There is also a triangular gusset measuring 6 in long at the wrist made of a lighter stretch material (similar to the fabric of the chest pocket).Each wrist also has a 1 in x 0.5 in (2.5 cm x 1 cm) strip of webbing material sewn on.The manufacturer does not describe what function these pieces of webbing might perform, but may be part of Columbiaís Interchange System (see below).A shock cord has been fed through the hem of the jacket and on the inside of the jacket at each side seam there is a cordlock which allows for one hand adjustment of the hem.

Product Review:
My initial impression of the Snowline Jacket is that it appears to be well-constructed with no problems that I can see with the stitching or the fabric.The outside of the jacket has a smooth and stretchy feel, reminiscent of a wetsuit.I find that the jacket fits a little tighter than I am used to.I donít believe the jacket is too small, rather the cut of the jacket is more form fitting than I typically wear.The one area that does feel a little tight is under the arms.Since the Snowline Jacket is made from a stretch material I presently donít find the form fitting nature to be much of a problem.I will be evaluating whether I can wear other layers under the jacket.The sleeve length is a bit long for me but the hook-and-loop wrist closure helps keep the sleeves from sliding up over my hands.A portion of the jacketís interior is lined with a smooth polyester material which facilitates easy donning and removal of the jacket.†† The jacketís collar is a good size.I was a little surprised to find that the front of the collar was actually slightly taller than the front but it covers the neck and chin well.

The jacket has two hand warmer pockets and a third chest pocket.The hand warmer pockets are quite large and would be able to hold more than just a pair of gloves.These pockets also appear to be lined with a microfleece-like fabric which makes them seem quite warm.The chest pocket is made of a stretch material but is rather small and appears that it will hold small items such as a bandana and lip balm, maybe a map if it folded small enough.

The zippers on the jacket all work smoothly but do not appear to be water resistant.I will want to keep an eye on whether water penetrates through the zippers.The zipper pulls on the main front zipper and the chest pocket are fairly large and rigid.The pulls also have a rough texture which makes them easy to grab; a small but nice detail.As I noted above, the front zipper is backed by a strip of fabric which does interfere with pulling the zipper all the way up.This doesnít seem to be a big deal but something I noticed right from the start.

The information provided with the jacket indicates that it is part of Columbiaís Interchange System which allows for the jacket to be integrated with other Columbia components for flexibility in varying weather conditions.This is only one piece of the system and it is not clear how the jacket would fit with other components.As such, I will not be able to evaluate this aspect of the garment.Additionally, the product information is a little confusing about how water resistant the jacket is.The manufacturerís website indicates that the Snowline Jacket is only water resistant, while the garmentís hang tags clearly indicate that the Omni-Tech fabric is waterproof.I guess I will find out somewhere along the way.

Field Report
January 4, 2009

Field Conditions:
I have had opportunity to wear this jacket on five or six single day hikes, primarily here in central Maryland or northern Virginia.I also wore the jacket on a weekend trip in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland.These hikes covered distances of 4 to 8 miles (6 to 13 km).All the hikes were on maintained trails and temperatures ranged from 12 to 65 F (-11 to 18 C).†† I encountered moderate rain on at least one of these hikes and did see light snow during my weekend trip.

I have also worn the jacket during one orienteering event.This gave me opportunity to evaluate the performance of the jacket while running in off-trail conditions.In addition, I have worn the Snowline Jacket almost every day since the start of the test.This includes just about everything from walking the dog to running errands.As a result, I have had lots of time wearing the garment.

Product Review:
I have been wearing the Snowline Jacket quite a bit over the past couple months and have a love/hate relationship with it.As with all types of gear, there are good things about the jacket and some not so good things.To start with, I have a hard time deciding how this fits into my system of layering in colder weather.The jacket does not have any insulating properties to speak of.In fact, the fabric itself seems to get cold and draws heat away from my body.As a result, I almost always feel cold when wearing the jacket in temperatures below 40 F (4 C), particularly if I am not all that active.The snug fit of the jacket does not allow me to wear adequate layers underneath.So, unless I am actively hiking, I tend to feel cold.

The construction of the jacket is very good and the fabric and the seams appear to be water tight.However, the Snowline Jacket has an important flaw, in that the main zipper and the front pocket zippers are not waterproof.I found during a moderate rain that while my back stayed dry, the front of my shirt was considerably wet.Not only are the zippers not waterproof but it appeared that the jacketís lining wicks moisture away from the zippers and further into the interior of the jacket.The manufacturerís website indicated that the jacket is water resistant and I would have to say that is correct.During wet weather water also seems to saturate the outer portion of the fabric which makes it feel water logged and a bit heavy.This is not something I was used to since I normally use a hard shell for rain protection.

I would have to say that I feel the Snowline Jacket breathes very well, probably better than many other jackets I have worn.I have been on strenuous hikes and running in the jacket and although I could feel myself starting to perspire, but after a short time I did not have a clammy feeling or feel that I was overheating too much.On occasion, I would partially unzip the jacket if I felt myself getting really warm which allowed for greater ventilation but felt the jacket did a good job of allowing moisture to escape.This good breathability may come with a price though.I do not feel that the Snowline Jacket is very windproof.The jacket does not appear to be as useful as a shell as I might have expected during windy conditions.

I mentioned a little bit about the fit of the jacket earlier but want to note that the sleeves are the thing that gives me the most problems.They are tightest in the forearm area and under the armpits.I find that long sleeves on bulkier layers tend to get caught up in the forearms as I put the jacket on.Since the jacket is also a little tight under the arms, it can be a little uncomfortable when sitting down.The main body of the jacket gets pushed upward and into the armpits which is somewhat annoying.Otherwise, I like the fit of the jacket and the stretch in the material is great.I can freely move my arms and reach overhead without binding.

The Snowlineís fabric is also very smooth and doesnít snag on obstacles.I wore the jacket orienteering and found that even briars tended to slide right across the surface of the jacket.That was pretty impressive and a great help not to get hung up in the thick brush.I also like the access to the handwarmer pockets.I found that the bottom portions of the pockets are covered up by my packís hipbelt but I can still get access to the top of the pockets which has been useful.Although the chest pocket is easy to access, I find it useful only for very small items such as a small folded map or a compass.I thought it might be a good place for my eyeglass case but that would not fit into the chest pocket.

Long-Term Report
February 20, 2009

Field Conditions:
Over the past six to seven weeks I have been wearing the Snowline Jacket as much as possible.I brought it along on weekend trip along the Appalachian Trail near Harpers Ferry, WV.Temperatures ranged from 20 to 35 F (-7 to 2 C), along with light snow and winds blowing from 10 to 20 mph (16 to 32 kmph).The daily mileage was approximately 5 miles (8 km) and elevation on the trip ranged from 400 to 1200 ft (122 to 366 m).

I have also worn the jacket on three additional dayhikes here in central Maryland.†† These hikes were all on maintained trails (with some ice and snow covered) and ranged from 5 to 8 miles (8 to 13 km) and elevations from 300 to 900 ft (91 to 274 m).The temperature encountered ranged from 25 to 55 F (-4 to 13 C).I did see some light rain on these hikes but no major downpours or snow.

In addition to hiking the Snowline has also been worn while running at one orienteering meet. I have also worn the jacket around town running errands, walking the dog, and shoveling snow.This did give me opportunity to further evaluate how well the jacket functions during a variety of activities and conditions (particularly snow).

Product Review:
Snowline Jacket on trail in MarylandOver the last couple months my feelings about the Snowline Jacket have not changed all that much.I would have to say that the jacket performs the way the manufacturer describes it.That is, it works well as a water resistant jacket for use during strenuous activities.†† I have been wearing the Snowline Jacket as much as possible doing all types of activities from hiking, running, and walking the dog.I have found that, as long as I am active, the jacket appears to protect from light rain and is breathable.However, if I am only mildly active, I am usually cold while wearing the Snowline Jacket when the temperature drops below 40 F (4 C).

I did wear the jacket during a light snow while hiking and this did not pose any problems.The jacket protected me from the moisture.I did notice that snow could easily be brushed off, but could soak into (but not penetrate) the fabric if allowed to remain on the surface too long.

One thing that I did notice in this phase of testing was how well the cuffs of the jacket work.I typically wear thin gloves while hiking or backpacking.I did have opportunity to wear thicker fleece gloves with the Snowline Jacket and found that I did not have a problem pulling the cuffs over the gloves.The tab on the wrist with the hook and loop closure fastened easily and securely while wearing the thicker gloves.

I have a dog at home and one criterion for good outerwear is whether or not it picks up dog fur.The outside material of the Snowline Jacket does not seem to attract dog hair.However, the microfleece interior does collect dog hair and sometimes is a problem with transferring the hair to other garments.This is really not a performance problem but can be an issue if wearing the jacket in town.

Overall, the jacket looks just about as good as it did when it arrived.†† I havenít seen any particular wear patterns.The exterior doesnít seem to pick up burrs and has held up well to moderate abrasion form rocks and branches.I laundered the jacket according to the garmentís label one time during the testing period.I did not have any problems cleaning the jacket and I didnít notice any issues with seams coming loose or shrinkage.

Summary:
The Columbia Snowline Softshell Jacket is a water-resistant breathable jacket which can be used with other Columbia components (not part of the test).The jacket is made of a stretch material and has a form fitting cut for active sports which may be a little tight for bulky layers.The jacket has two large zippered hand warmer pockets which can be accessed even while wearing a hip belt.The jacket also has a zippered chest pocket which a little on the small side.†† The jacketís collar provides good coverage of the neck and chin but the zipper snags on the area around the collar as the jacket is zipped.The jacketís fabric is waterproof but the zippers on the front and at the pockets allow water to enter during a moderate rain.The Snowline Jackets breathes well during periods of exertion but doesnít work so well as a windbreaker.Overall, the jacket seems to perform reasonably well while actively engaged in strenuous activity but not quite as well suited for less active pastimes during conditions below 40 F (4 C).

Things I like:

1. Breathes well
2. Pockets easy to access
3.
Non-snag stretch material
4. Cuffs accommodate bulky gloves

Things I donít like:

1. Zippers leak
2. Arms too tight
3.
Material ďfeels coldĒ
4. Inside picks up dog hair

This completes my testing to the Columbia Snowline Jacket.I would like to thank Columbia Sportswear and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this item.



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