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Hands-on Gear Review
Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket - Women's Review
Cons: Bulky, non-compressible, not a performance layer
With its sassy faux fur-lined collar, attractive fabric paneling on the torso, and super flattering fit, it's hard not to love the Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket if you're looking for an insulated jacket to wear around town. This jacket is also warm, has fleece lined pockets, AND elastic thumb loops that keep your hands toasty. Plus, it's only $140, making it one of the most affordable jackets in this review.
All that said, be sure to keep in mind that this is *not at all* a technical piece. It will keep you warm when you head outdoors in chilly weather, but this is not the jacket you want to pack for your next backpacking trip. In comparison to many of the other products in this review, the Kaleidaslope II is quite heavy, less breathable, and does not compress well. This jacket's stylish extras make it great for around-town use and it has several useful features that make it a great piece for activities like late season resort skiing. If you're looking for a stylish jacket with a few more technical attributes check out the Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's or read up on the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody - Women's.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
We loved the Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket's attractive styling and affordable price, but how does it compare to other jackets in terms of our other metrics? Read on to find out!
The Kaleidaslope II features Columbia's Omni-Heat insulation and thermal reflective technology. In addition to its synthetic insulation, this piece uses technology that is designed to mimic the effects of a space blanket. The flashy inner lining of the Kaleidaslope II Jacket is covered in small silver reflective dots. Columbia states that the jacket not only traps heat, but that the dots also help reflect body heat back at the wearer much like a space blanket. If you've ever used a space blanket, you know that they are remarkably adept at providing warmth; however, they can also make you slimy and sweaty since they provide no breathability.
So, how does this apply to the Kaleidaslope? Well, we're not entirely convinced that the reflective dots make that big a difference in this jacket's warmth, although we did notice that the lining significantly decreased breathability. Overall, whether it's thanks to the Omni Heat thermal reflective technology, heavier duty shell, or 100 g/m2 of insulation, this jacket provides adequate warmth. If you want to pair this jacket with a Columbia shell, it is equipped with the company's 3-point interchange system, so it's easy to fasten into a shell. However, if you are looking for a piece to line under a more technical shell, we would recommend a breathable jacket like the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket - Women's. It's also worth noting that the Kaleidaslope does not come in a hooded version.
Compressibility & Weight
As a non-technical piece, this jacket is not meant to compress into a pocket or pouch. When we did try, we were surprised to see that it didn't do too bad of a job, but it was still the least compressible piece of the bunch. This jacket weighs a fair bit more than the other pieces in this review because Columbia did not use the lightest weight shell fabric, inner lining, or insulation. The other thing that weighs down this jacket are features like its faux fur lined collar and the extra fabric on its torso and back. Want to go more minimalist? Check out the lightest jackets in this review: the The Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - Women's and the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's.
The Kaleidaslope II has a thicker outer shell than many of the other jackets in this review, which helped it earn extra points in the water resistance category. Additionally, it has been treated with a water repellent finish and the water droplets that we sprayed onto the jacket beaded up and remained on the surface quite well. Finally, although the inner reflective layer decreases breathability (i.e. it traps sweat inside the jacket), it helps reduce the amount of water that comes into the jacket from rain.
Out in a wind storm and trying not to get blown away? Wondering if this jacket will hold up when it's windy outside? You bet it will. This jacket was one of our top scoring in the wind resistance category - once again attributed to its hefty continuous outer shell. Though once again, this thick shell does decrease breathability, so it's not an ideal piece for any kind of aerobic activity. Looking for one that is? Check out the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody.
Comfort & Coziness
Although some jackets like the Patagonia Nano Air had some comfy features that we really liked, the Kaleidaslope was one of our comfiest and coziest jackets. At the top of the list was its faux fur-lined collar, which zips up to just above the chin and snuggles up against the neck.
We also really liked its long cuffs that come with built-in thumb loops. These not only kept our hands warm, but also anchored the sleeves in place. Its deep hand pockets are lined with fleece and the jacket also features an inner chest pocket for valuables. Oh - and have we mentioned the pockets?! They are gloriously HUGE to stuff your hands into on cold nights. We also noticed that it has a wonderful iPod compatible pocket for when you just want to zone out on the bus, without having your wires every which way. However, unlike most of the other jackets in this review, the Kaleidaslope II did not have a drawcord at its hemline to cinch down and seal in warmth from the bottom.
As we mentioned above, the hefty continuous outer shell paired with its interior lining makes for a fairly non-breathable piece. When taking it out for a morning run in the freezing cold, our tester was sweating on the inside, with legs and hands that were super cold on the outside. After ten minutes of running, she had to take off the jacket, but froze on the way home. As a result, this is not a good choice for aerobic activity. Instead, elect for a warm and breathable jacket like the Outdoor Research Uberlayer - Women's, or the less expensive and lightweight Outdoor Research Cathode.
Style & Fit
This jacket runs just a touch small, especially for those who have broader shoulders or longer arms. Otherwise, the Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket fits true-to-size in the torso and has a very flattering cut. It pinches inwards at the waist, providing you with a very feminine look. The fur lined collar is not only comfortable and warm, but also adds an element of class. As we discussed previously, we thought this was the most stylish jacket in the review, but for this style you sacrifice technical performance. From its feminine fit to its sassy features, this layer will keep you warm and looking great around town or on the slopes.
We used this jacket most often around town while running errands and going out with friends. If you are just going car camping with friends or are looking for a piece to wear on the slopes at the resort, this is a great, stylish, and affordable option. However, it is best to avoid this jacket for any types of aerobic activity or adventures that requires a small, compressible jacket.
At only $140, this product is one of the best deals going in this review for those looking for a non-technical piece. In purchasing this jacket, you are getting a relatively warm, stylish, and non-technical jacket, perfect for wearing around town and on the slopes. If you're seeking a great price on a technical jacket, the Best Buy Award winner, the Outdoor Research Cathode was quite affordable at only $200.
If you want to look downright adorable in your new insulated jacket, then the Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket is the piece for you. Plus, it won't clear out your wallet. Just remember that this is not the layer you want to take out backpacking, climbing, or cross-country skiing.
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