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Hands-on Gear Review
Columbia OutDry Ex Gold Down Hooded Review
Cons: Noisy rubbery feeling fabric, poor fit, not very warm, some sewn seams tearing, no compression method
Bottom line: A completely waterproof down jacket is a great idea, but this one has too many other issues to recommend.
Total Weight (Men's size tested): 16.2 oz. (M)
Baffle Construction: Bonded baffle construction
The Columbia Outdry Ex Gold might be the most unique down jacket that we have ever tested. We chose it specifically because it claimed to be entirely waterproof, a claim that seemed too good to be true for a down jacket, and which we couldn't resist trying for ourselves. Columbia wasn't lying, wearing this jacket you can literally stand out in a pouring rain while your heat-trapping down stays dry and lofted on the inside. However, due to a whole heap of problems that we had unrelated to its waterproof outer shell, this jacket ended up rated near the very bottom of our comparative rankings. While we think the idea is a good one, and could serve one well for commuting around the city in rainy but not too cold places, this jacket simply didn't live up to the standard present in the other top of the line down jackets that we tested.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Down Jackets for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
With an entirely waterproof face fabric, one might think that this jacket would be the perfect choice for our Top Pick for Wet Weather. However, we also expect that the rest of the jacket would live up to the standard of performance set by the contenders we compared it against, and that simply wasn't the case. In particular, we found this jacket to be seriously lacking in warmth and were disappointed to find that we experienced the same fit and quality control issues outlined in online customer reviews. In particular, we found that one of the underarm seams was indeed ripping apart and beginning to leak feathers after not a whole lot of time spent wearing the jacket. We also found the fit of our size men's medium to be very tight and constricting, while online reviewers complained that size large was simply gigantic. Finally, while we appreciate the waterproof-ness of this jacket, we have to say that the feel and look of the outer fabric put us off a bit — we would prefer smooth and light nylon any day over wearing what felt like a duffel bag. For these reasons and more, we opted to award the Rab Microlight Alpine our Top Pick for Wet Weather, as it was a far superior jacket overall, despite only being fairly water resistant instead of waterproof.
The Columbia Outdry Ex Gold was one of the lowest scorers in our comparative rankings, which you can see in the table above.
We rated this jacket as the lowest performer in the review when it came to loft, lower than the similarly welded baffle design of the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded. While it uses 700-fill power, responsibly sourced down, it is obvious by the thinness of the baffles that there is not a whole lot of down stuffed into this jacket, and it has a relatively low loft. These baffles are created without using sewn-through construction, a decision that undoubtedly helps with its waterproof-ness (every external seam is taped), but which we think doesn't contribute to the warmth. Despite claims to the contrary, we notice that the welded baffles have a larger area of unstuffed fabric in between each baffle, and this leads to larger and more dead spots where there is no insulation. We also felt that despite having dual draw cords on each side of the face, the seal was fairly poor. While these features point toward a lack of warmth, the proof came during our comparative testing, when it was obvious to us that on a super chilly and windy morning in the shade, this jacket kept us less warm even than the super thin and light Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded, so we gave it a score of 4 out of 10.
Our size men's medium Outdry Ex Gold jacket weighed in at 16.2 ounces. Considering the thick and heavy face fabric used to make this jacket waterproof, this is an impressively light number. It was roughly the same weight as the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody, but lighter than the Marmot Tullus Hoody. We gave it 5 out of 10 for weight.
There is no doubt that this jacket was the most water resistant one that we tested, and it deserved the perfect 10 out of 10 score. We literally stood in the shower with this jacket on for about four minutes (in lieu of a rainstorm that simply never came where these jackets were tested in Colorado), and as far as we could tell, no water whatsoever leaked through the face fabric. For this reason alone this jacket could be worth purchasing.
Columbia calls the fabric used on this jacket Outdry Extreme. They claim that it is completely breathable as well as being waterproof, something we could not very well test or prove due to the interior liner fabric obscuring our view of the interior of the face fabric. What we did notice was that the liner fabric was extremely moisture absorbent, and hydrophobic down was not used, so if one gets super sweaty in this jacket there is the chance of wetting out the down from the inside. While it didn't factor at all into the rating for this metric, we must also point out that we found the Outdry Extreme face fabric to be rather unpleasant to the touch, eye, and to wear. It reminded us of a rubber raft or duffel bag. It doesn't exactly feel all that nice to the touch, is fairly loud and crinkly, and in our opinion, just doesn't look super nice. A plethora of highly visible logos printed on all sides of the jacket further contribute to this sentiment.
For our head tester, this jacket had an awkward fit that was hard to get used to. We tested a men's size medium on the recommendation of the Columbia sizing chart found online. For us the hem length was good and the jacket was plenty spacious through the torso, perhaps a bit too spacious. However, the fit in the shoulders and underarms, and surprisingly the elbows if we chose to bend them, was tight and restricting, and we found the length of the sleeves to be a bit too short when moving our arms about. This tightness was nowhere near as pronounced as we experienced with The North Face Morph Hoodie or even the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown Hooded. We would call the fit a bit small for the size, and would even recommend sizing up, but we have also read lots of customer reviews online that claim the size large is simply gigantic. The best advice is probably to be sure to try it on before purchasing. 5 out of 10.
This jacket does not have a dedicated method of compressing it into its own pocket or stuff sack, like most of the jackets in this review do. When we rolled it up and stuffed it into its own hood it was roughly the same size as the Marmot Tullus Hoody, that is to say, fairly large. Due to its relatively high weight and lack of compression, it would not be our first choice for backpacking missions.
The Oudry Ex Gold has a surprising amount of features. Most notable is the double side of the face drawcords for tightening the hood.
They are easy to tighten and release, but also leave a loop of elastic drawcord resting against the cheeks and face, an annoying fact. Likewise, the dual drawcords found on the hem are also easy to tighten and release, but leave loops of cord dangling below the waistline of the jacket, a feature we don't like because these loops can get hung up on side of the trail branches. We loved the dual interior drop pockets, a great feature for storing larger items like gloves within the warmth envelope of the jacket. We gave it 7 out of 10 points for the performance of its features, on par with the Rab Microlight Alpine, but not as polished by any means as the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody.
Due to its waterproof-ness and its relative lack of warmth compared to the competition, we feel that this jacket is ideally suited to areas where it is rainy and wet but not super cold. We feel like it is a good candidate for commuting around town in the winter, or for day hikes on chilly, rainy days. We don't think it is the ideal choice for cold and dry climates, and due to its relative heaviness and lack of packability, would not lug it around on a backpacking trip.
This jacket retails for $250, which is slightly more affordable than the average lightweight down jacket in this review. For the right person in the right place, this could present a decent value. However, we have experienced quality control concerns in the stitching under the arms coming undone after a fairly short test period, raising some alarm bells. We also feel like if you are going to spend that amount of money, there are many other down jackets, like most of the ones in this review, that offer better performance at a comparable price.
The Columbia Outdry Ex Gold is a unique down jacket that features a fully waterproof outer membrane. We thought this membrane worked very well even in the wettest of conditions but felt that other aspects of the jacket were not up to the quality standards set by the competition. Since it was not super warm, light, or compressible, and has a wonky fit as well, it was one of the lower scoring jackets in our review.
— Andy Wellman
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