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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Columbia Peak 2 Peak or Peak Power > Test Report by Curt Peterson
Columbia Peak 2 Peak Jacket
Background and Contact
I live in the Cascade foothills, just 20 mi (32 km) from the Pacific Crest Trail via trails leading right from my backyard. My outdoor time in Washington is spent dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, fishing and skiing everywhere from the Olympic coast to rainforests to Cascade volcanoes to dry steppe. I played football in college and often evaluate products from a big guy perspective. My typical pack load ranges from 11 - 20 lbs (5-9 kg) and usually includes plenty of wet weather gear.
Peak 2 Peak Underarm Zippers
USE & CONDITIONS
The Columbia Peak 2 Peak could not have come at a better time. We have had record cool and wet weather in the Pacific Northwest, and for this part of the US, that's saying something. As of late July, the Seattle area had totaled a whopping 78 minutes at 80 F (26 C). There had been just 18 hours and 48 minutes above 75 F (24 C)! In fact, by mid-July we had gone over 300 days without touching 80 F (26 C) and had managed only TWO DAYS where we'd even reached 75 F (24 C) where I live. Washington is not Alaska, so this is far from normal. During the same spell my town has seen 97 inches (246 cm) of precipitation. Well above normal and almost DOUBLE Seattle's famous rainy annual rainfall. To put it mildly, this has been ideal rain jacket testing conditions. The last few weeks have been drier and a little closer to normal, but the bulk of the testing period has been very cool and wet.
I've used the Peak 2 Peak on two trips so far. One was a 2 day trip and one was a 4 day trip. By far the toughest use of the Peak 2 Peak has been on my daily trail walks and climbs, however. This has easily been 50 or more days of rainy use during the testing window so far. Most of those days have ranged from 2 to 6 miles (3-10 km).
The feature set of the Peak 2 Peak has continued to prove itself minimalist, but adequate. While I occasionally wish for a hand pocket, I more often find myself appreciating the streamlined body with almost nowhere for water to get in or tags and flaps to catch on things. The wrist closures are perfect. No hook and loop failures or binding elastic. The zippers - while stiff - work well and so far have kept all water on the outside where it belongs. The jacket is just plain simple. Put it on and go. I don't fuss with the hood adjustments much, but they are not intrusive in the slightest. The waist cinches down quickly and easily with one hand when I need it to and opens up when I want it to. All in all, I have no complaints about the few features present on the Peak 2 Peak.
There are a couple quirks with the Peak 2 Peak that continue to baffle me. The tabs that restrict how far open the underarm openings spread makes no sense to me. I don't yet see the benefit and have found myself wanting to open them further. Particularly when temperatures get up into the 60s F (15-20 C) but it's raining, I'll take all the ventilation I can get. I've never seen them on any other jacket by any manufacturer, so the tabs are definitely a curiosity I have yet to figure out.
The other interesting thing that showed up right away in wet weather testing is how the water beads up on the jacket. In almost all areas it simply beads up and rolls right off. This is what I'd expect of a new jacket with a fresh Durable Water Repellency (DWR), but on the first use I noticed that the areas on the chest where the pockets are taped to the main body seem to wet-out the fabric instead of bead up. The areas are 100% waterproof and this in no way has affected the performance of the jacket, but it is a stark difference from the rest of the jacket (see picture below).
Peak 2 Peak Beading
The Peak 2 Peak is not the most packable jacket out there. It packs plenty small for me to stuff into a corner of my pack, but it's not like some of the coated (and in my opinion not very breathable) rain jackets out there that can cram down to the size of an apple. Without smushing it into a stuff sack or wrapping it in a small bungee cord, it will fold up to a little bigger than a 1 qt (1 l) bottle (see picture below). Not the most compact jacket ever, but certainly not too bulky to do backcountry duty. Given that the stiffness of the jacket seems to play a pretty big part in the excellent water-shedding ability of the Peak 2 Peak, it's a trade off I am more than willing to make.
Peak 2 Peak Rolled into its Own Hood
So far, the Peak 2 Peak has been an excellent rain jacket. In fact, it's probably the best I've used and I've tried easily a dozen over the past decade or so. It is extremely breathable. More so than any fabric I've used. What's even better than that, however, is how it behaves when it does get wet on the inside from perspiration. There is zero clamminess. In fact, it's hard to detect any wetness until it's really steamed up. Taking it off for just a few minutes seems to dry it out completely. As far as I'm concerned there is no fabric that exists that can keep up with high exertion in relatively warm, wet weather. In situations like that, how comfortable it is when damp and how it recovers when the exertion stops is what separates a top jacket from an inferior one in my opinion. Based on this criteria, the Peak 2 Peak is exceptional.
It has been super durable. No loose threads. No wear to speak of. The DWR seems as intact and functional as it did before getting hammered by our wet spring and summer.
Fit has been good. The body is perhaps a tad on the loose side, but the shoulders and sleeves are as good as I've used. This may feel big on most folks as I'm pretty large up top, but for me the sizing has worked out well. I would advise smaller framed backpackers between sizes to go down and big framed hikers to go with the larger size.
There's a lot to like about the Peak 2 Peak. In an ideal world the underarm zipper tabs would be gone. A little headphone portal on the inside of the jacket from a chest pocket would be nice. Of course it could always be lighter and cost less, but that might involve some magic.
Field Report Summary
Despite getting about as thorough a workout as possible - I'm not sure there was a wetter place in the US during the Field Test period - the Peak 2 Peak performed perfectly. It has been 100% waterproof, as breathable as anything I've used, and handles interior wetness better than any jacket I've ever seen. A good fit, minimalist feature set, and conservative styling makes this jacket a big winner so far. Long Term testing will find me on a weeklong backpacking trip in the North Cascades, a couple short overnighters, and of course my daily trail walks. While a lot of rain would be good for testing, I'm actually hoping for a little dry weather :)
Long Term Report
USE & CONDITIONS
A couple of these dayhikes have met my definition for the perfect rain jacket torture test: mild temperatures with nonstop rain. On three successive days, I went on hikes with temperatures right around 60 F (15 C) and continuous rain. Usually rainy weather out here varies between drizzle and actual rain, but these days each saw real rain every minute of the hike. My usual route is 5 miles (8 km) with about 1200 ft (370 m) of elevation gain. It's pretty much straight up for half of that distance and then right back down. All hikes were done fully zipped with pit zips wide open. On all 3 hikes, my glasses just started to steam up as I neared the summit. This is usually my indicator that I'm overheating - and more often than not means that my jacket will be soaked from the inside. On all 3 hikes, however, I felt dry on the inside. I was wearing a synthetic mesh shirt underneath on each trip. I was never clammy in the body of the Peak 2 Peak. When I got indoors and removed the jacket, I did notice a little dampness on the interior of the hood. Other than that, moisture seemed completely absent from the interior of the fabric. For me at least, these were firsts as I typically soak a jacket from the inside in these conditions. Interestingly, there was mist and moisture on my car key dongle that was inside the waterproof upper arm pocket. The inside of the jacket was dry, so it appears that the moisture inside the jacket pushed through the first layer easily enough but did not get through the outer pocket. This was a great opportunity to actually see how breathable the fabric was. I was - and am - completely impressed by how breathable the layer next to me was on these hikes.
As steamy as I got on the way up, the opposite seemed true on the way down. I'm not completely sure of the dynamics going on, but it seemed like heat from me on the way down - still plenty warm but not perspiring - was enough to dry the jacket very quickly. Within just a few minutes of heading downhill the jacket felt bone dry inside. Without a doubt, the Peak 2 Peak has proved to be the most breathable jacket I've ever used in these conditions.CUSTOMER SERVICE
I did email Columbia with two questions I've had during testing: Why the tabs on the pit zips? and What is the best way to restore the DWR? Columbia got back to me in just a couple days. The tabs in the pit zips are apparently there to reduce stress on the fabric and zippers. My experience is that these zippers don't take a lot of stress and these are unnecessary, but there may be some part of their construction that I don't understand. I did find myself wishing I could open them up even further at times, so I still wish they weren't there, but they weren't that annoying and I only really noticed them a few times during the testing period. As to the DWR, Columbia recommended washing with an appropriate cleaner made for outdoor clothing then using a spray-on DWR like Nikwax TX Direct. I followed this advice, and the couple of spots that showed some deterioration of the DWR (see Field Report) came back good as new. Never did the fabric let water inside at any point during the test period - it just didn't bead up as well in the chest pocket area. The spray-on treatment took care of this just fine.
Peak 2 Peak Jacket with Refreshed DWR Treatment
TEST SERIES SUMMARIES
Durability has been one of the bright spots of testing. I'm used to having compromises in lightweight gear - often in the way of durability. The face fabric on the Peak 2 Peak has proven plenty tough. Granted, I haven't been thrashing through thorns for the past 4 months, but I don't worry about it at all. This is not something I can say of other jackets of the same weight that I have owned. The zippers, DWR (except in those small areas mentioned in the Field Report), hook and loop closures on the wrists, and pull tabs all appear and function as new. After a good cleaning and refresh of the DWR, it would be hard to tell this jacket from a new one.
Overall, the sizing has been just about right. The body is a little bit roomy, but that is actually pretty handy if I throw on a fleece layer underneath. Worn with just a t-shirt or thin base layer it's a tad baggy. I'm more than happy to accept this because the shoulders and arms fit better than almost any rain jacket I've used. Freedom of movement, good wrist coverage, and no binding are all aspects I came to appreciate during the test period.
In the end, I must admit that I really appreciate this jacket. Just when I was becoming skeptical that ANY jacket could actually breathe to a degree that it was functional on a high-exertion hike, the Peak 2 Peak comes along and pleasantly surprises me. Time-tested ventilation options like big underarm zips combined with a tough fabric that breathes better than anything I've ever used offers a rain jacket that appears up to the task. For me - at least on dayhikes hiking uphill and working hard in moderate temperatures and constant precipitation - the Peak 2 Peak performed exceptionally well. Better, in fact, than any jacket I've tried over the past decade.
My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Columbia for the opportunity to test this wet weather jacket!
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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Columbia Peak 2 Peak or Peak Power > Test Report by Curt Peterson
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