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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

Report Series by Curt Peterson

Initial Report - April 2011
Field Report - August 2011
Long Term Report - October 2011

 

Below you will find:

Initial Report Contents
     Tester Background and Contact Information
     Product Specifications
     Initial Impressions
     Initial Report Summary

Field Report Contents
     Field Report Summary

Long Term Report Contents 

   Peak 2 Peak
Peak 2 Peak Jacket (photo courtesy of Columbia)

 



Initial Report

Tester Background and Contact Information

Name: Curt Peterson
Age: 39
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 240 lb (111kg)
Email address: curt<at>backpackgeartest<dot>org
Location: North Bend, Washington, USA

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.


Columbia Sportswear Company Peak 2 Peak Jacket Specifications

  • Size Tested: XXL
  • Weight: 17.2 oz (490 gm) measured on my scale
  • Color: Black (also available in Red Hot and Compass Blue)
  • Manufacturer Website: www.columbia.com
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • MSRP: $350.00 US


Columbia Peak 2 Peak Jacket Initial Impressions

Living in the Pacific Northwest inevitably leads a backpacker on an endless journey to find the perfect rain jacket. It is a quest that seems to never end and almost always becomes a matter of what compromises one is willing to make. The problem is that it is constantly wet, but not so cold that overheating isn't a common challenge on our steep Cascade and Olympic trails. Working up a sweat in temperatures that are well above freezing but still cold enough to end up hypothermic if I am rain soaked create a battle between keeping off the rain from the outside while letting the steam out from the inside that rarely works out well. So the journey continues.....

The Columbia Peak 2 Peak jacket and its Omni-Dry fabric claim to increase the air permeability of the jacket (great for letting the steam out) while stopping the cold rain from getting through. Additional features appear to have the backpacker in mind, so I'm excited to test the Peak 2 Peak and see how it works in our challenging conditions - particularly during the Spring and early Summer that traditionally are the toughest test seasons for rain jackets.

The Peak 2 peak arrived safe and sound with minimal packaging. Nothing but a small hang tag listing the product name accompanied the jacket. The Columbia website, however, has much more information on the Peak 2 Peak, including a short promotional video. The actual jacket appears just as it does on the website. The only curious piece is the description of the "hand pockets". These are really chest pockets, so unless my hands are crossed over in a sort of double-Napoleon pose, using the pockets for hands is not really a way I see myself using them.

From Columbia:
Lightweight and extremely proficient in any high-alpine situation, the Peak 2 Peak sports an innovative 3-layer fabric that’s completely waterproof, windproof, and ultrabreathable. Clean, thoughtfully engineered lines provide a striking framework for the technology inside this jacket: a sleek interior with a bonded liner, fully taped seams, and Omni-DryŽ—an extremely air-permeable waterproof fabric that diffuses the moisture vapors you generate while still shedding water in the worst of conditions. For times when your heart rate is really in the red, zip open the aptly placed underarm vents and let the fresh air flow in. Articulated elbows provide a natural fit and superior mobility. Hand pockets and a security pocket at left shoulder all but disappear thanks to our Invizzip™ technology. 

FEATURES

The hood is nicely cut and fits me well. It's plenty roomy for a beanie or other warm hat, but probably too snug for a climbing helmet. Hoods that are big enough for a helmet almost always frustrate me, so I find this to be a good thing. That is such a niche use for very specific conditions that I'm glad to see it left off of a backpacking-focused jacket. Adjustment points all seem intuitive and straightforward, but it's hard to comment this early in testing on how they actually work on the trail. The brim stiffener seems to have a good balance of lightness and effectiveness. My only picky point on the hood for now is that it is stiff enough that turning my head quickly finds me looking at the interior side of the hood. I usually wear a ball cap with a rain hood on and it tends to force the hood to turn with me, but I haven't given this a test yet. More to come in this area for sure.

The main zipper is a waterproof zipper (see picture below). This means no exterior flaps, which I like. It is stiff to use, but nothing for me to be concerned about at this point. Noting whether it is truly waterproof or if I end up with a long thin line of wet undershirt is something I will follow up on in future reports. There are five other zippers on the Peak 2 Peak. They are not the waterproof type like the main one, but have their own protections from the elements. The two chest pockets and the upper arm zipper have what Columbia calls their Invizzip technology (see picture below). Essentially the fabric surrounding the zipper meets so closely that water should stay out in all but near-submersion scenarios. This is possible because - like almost all attachment points on the Peak 2 Peak - they are welded to the main jacket instead of stitched. Actually, there are almost no visible stitches on this jacket at all. Nearly every part is welded or tucked and taped. The final two zippers are the pit zips. As they are typically not exposed to direct rainfall, they are more traditional zippers with narrow flaps on the interior and exterior to keep water from directly hitting the zippers. Speaking of the pit zips, I'm glad they are included. While more and more high end jackets seem to be leaving them out for weight savings lately, I simply have not found any fabric at any price that can let out hot moist air at a rate that is sufficient to stay dry. Sometimes, yes. But more often than not for me the extra ventilation is more than welcome and I would hesitate to buy any rain jacket without pit zips.

The standard quality rain jacket features are all present. Logos are printed, not sewn, so water can't enter that way. All seams are taped on the interior. Zipper pulls are lightweight but easily grabbable and work as expected. The interior side of the main zipper is lined with a very thin soft fleece. All in all, it's put together nicely and I have little worry about it falling apart or leaking. 

Some of the more unique aspects of the jacket that I'm immediately interested in are the general cleanliness of the jacket, the face fabric, and the two-way pit zips. The jacket has no clutter. No waist pockets. No interior pockets. Just clean, simple, and functional. It's relatively light and has that nice crunchy new rain jacket feel that gives it an almost armor-like quality. Lots of use and rain usually tempers that, so I'll be sure and note how it weathers over time. I'm really glad to see the face fabric is polyester instead of nylon. I find this less common in rain jackets, but I like polyester's inherent water resistance and have found it holds its DWR (Durable Water Repellency) longer. Nylon is supposedly more durable so is often the face fabric of jackets, but it does not handle long term weathering as well in my experience and I've never seen a polyester fabric fall apart on me, so the relative durability difference does not matter to me in the slightest. This jacket seems plenty tough. The pit zips are true two-way zippers, meaning that they can parked together a the top (elbow), the bottom (ribs) and be open in either setup. I like this because I like them in different places depending on what I'm doing.

Hood
Peak 2 Peak Hood Features

Waterproof Zipper

Peak 2 Peak Waterproof Main Zipper and Chest Pockets

FIT
The fit would probably be best described as semi-athletic. It's not fitted for sure, but it's not baggy either. In fact, I was unsure whether to test an XL or an XXL. My last two rain jackets from major manufacturers have been XXL, but they were truly huge. Very baggy and just too much fabric flopping around most of the time. They were great for layering, but I'm rarely wearing insulation under rain gear. The Peak 2 Peak fits me perfectly in an XXL. I expected it to be on the looser side - especially based on the Columbia sizing chart. It fits better than any rain jacket I've ever had when I'm wearing just a base layer. With a thin insulating layer (Patagonia Down Sweater) it's a tad snug. Fine for lounging around camp, but I wouldn't want to be very active in this setup. Fishing, for example, would feel a little binding. Overall, I'm delighted with the sizing as-is because I'll almost always just have a base layer on, but it is more typical of how most XL tops fit me. One of the great surprises in the fit department has been the sleeves. I almost always have exposed wrists in rain jackets, but the Peak 2 Peak has nice long sleeves that keep my wrists covered even when reaching forward with a trekking pole. I have jackets that are sized TALL that do not have sleeves this perfect, so this is a nice surprise and more than welcome.

AESTHETICS
As noted above, this jacket is clean and simple. In black in particular, this jacket should have no trouble going from
backcountry to city. The logos are not overdone and I don't feel like a walking billboard. The black fabric has a grey chest logo and another on the wrist. The jacket won't stand out and that's the way I like it. Neon outdoor wear or super shiny fabrics just don't appeal to me and Columbia got it right with this matte black finish on the Peak 2 Peak.

INITIAL CONCERNS
I haven't used the Peak 2 Peak in the backcountry yet, so I have no concerns that are based on any real outdoor experiences. One of the initial head-scratchers are these tabs that bridge the span of the pit zips (see picture below). I've never had pit zips that open so wide that it's a problem, so I'm not sure about the logic for adding these, but I won't judge them yet as perhaps I haven't discovered an unknown benefit. My only other initial concern - and it's a stretch to call it that - is the lack of pockets. I actually like that the lines are so clean and that there's so little clutter on the Peak 2 Peak, but time will tell if it's actually too frugal in this area. I went for a walk in the rain the other day and didn't know where to put my headphones. A small headphone portal on the interior of a chest pocket would have been perfect, but there are no interior pockets, portals, or anything like that at all. Again, I'm happy with the limited feature set, but it is new to not have an interior pocket somewhere and it may take some adjusting on how I carry things that I like to keep handy.

Pit Zips
Peak 2 Peak Underarm Zippers

Initial Report Summary

Initially, the Columbia Peak 2 Peak makes a great first impression. The clean feature set, great fabric feel, and a near-perfect fit have me pretty excited to test this in our non-stop rain. I'm confident it will keep the rain out, so the big test - as is often the case - will be how it handles moisture from the inside. For that, please check back in August for the Field Report.


Field Report

Field Report

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).

FEATURES
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.


QUIRKS
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).

Taped Wetout
Peak 2 Peak Beading
PACKABILITY
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.

P2P Packed
Peak 2 Peak Rolled into its Own Hood
HIGHLIGHTS
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. 

IMPROVEMENTS
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
Over the past two months I have been on two backpacking trips and at least a dozen dayhikes. Fortunately for me, the backpacking trips involved clear skies and the Peak 2 Peak spent most of the time inside my backpack. The dayhikes have been another story. After a brief respite from the historic wetness of the past spring, the rain returned over the last month or so and I've had at least a few uses in complete downpours. Climatologists are saying we're in for another La Nina, so it looks like this is the norm for awhile. The Peak 2 Peak really is getting used more than any rain jacket I've ever owned.

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.

P2P After TXDirect
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!


Read more reviews of Columbia gear
Read more gear reviews by Curt Peterson

Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Columbia Peak 2 Peak or Peak Power > Test Report by Curt Peterson



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