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Columbia Compounder Review

Columbia Compounder
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Price:  $300 List | $105.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Cheapest hardshell tested.
Cons:  Pit zips are unnecessary with Omni-Dry, hand pockets are covered by pack waistbelt, front hood adjustments can come loose, heavy for its class, mesh backed pockets let in melting snow and ice, massive interior storage pockets are unnecessary.
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Chris McNamara and Max Neale  ⋅  Jul 15, 2014
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The Skinny

Discontinued
For recommendations on the best hardshells available today, go here.

The Columbia Compounder is the lowest rated hardshell we tested. It weighs more than jackets three times as durable and it has the most illogical feature set of any of the 21 hardshells we tested.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The Compounder is the only shell we tested that uses Columbia's Omni-Dry waterproof breathable technology. We were unable to discern any real world difference between Omni-Dry's breathability and that of Mountain Hardwear's Dry Q Elite, and Gore-Tex Active Shell.

It's important to note that while an air-permeable membrane may be more breathable than a non-porous membrane (Gore-Tex), it won't be as warm. Air passes through the membrane. Like mesh netting, but with much finer holes. There, hot air, which may contain moisture, can exit through the membrane and cold air can enter. Because strong winds can force cold air through the jacket, air-permeable membranes are definitely not as warm as non-porous membranes. We prefer air-permeable membranes for high output activities, but not for low exertion activities in high winds. Any type of Gore-Tex, therefore, is more versatile than Omni-Dry.

The Compounder's features are an odd mix of those found on hiking and expedition hardshells. We believe the jacket was designed more to meet the on paper specification of undereducated consumers than for any specific end use. For example, its hand pockets are set low on the hips and are covered by a backpack's waistbelt, which renders them useless. The Compounder also has large internal mesh storage pockets — a feature occasionally found on bomber mountaineering shells and, more commonly, on heavy duty synthetic insulated jackets (you want to keep things warm, not just dry). Another complaint lies with the Compounder's pit zips. There shouldn't be any! Omni-Dry is "highly breathable" and "extremely air permeable," and therefore doesn't need pit zips. Even worse, it's the only jacket that has storm flaps that cover the pit zips (watertight seals are better). Also, its hood adjustments are rudimentary and unreliable. See below photo.

The Columbia Compounder has an elementary hood closure that pinches the cord. We found this to be unreliable and much prefer a traditional spring loaded closure mechanism.
The Columbia Compounder has an elementary hood closure that pinches the cord. We found this to be unreliable and much prefer a traditional spring loaded closure mechanism.
Another complaint: the pockets all have mesh backing which is bad for winter use because snow and can ice enter the pockets and melt. That then gets you wet on the inside and overwhelms the jacket's ability to breathe (it can only transfer a certain amount of moisture vapor per time). The Compounder is not good for winter use.

The Columbia Compounder has two huge inner mesh pockets and mesh lined hand pockets. Is this a fast and light hiking shell or a bomber mountaineering shell?? It's neither and has an illogical feature set.
The Columbia Compounder has two huge inner mesh pockets and mesh lined hand pockets. Is this a fast and light hiking shell or a bomber mountaineering shell?? It's neither and has an illogical feature set.
And at 17 oz. the shell is not lightweight. Even the fortress-like Arc'teryx Alpha SV (extremely durable with near perfect features) weighs less than the Compounder.

The best thing about the jacket is its low price. At $300 the Compounder is the cheapest shell we tested. We suggest, instead, the L.L. Bean Ascent because it's more durable and has slightly better features.

FROM COLUMBIA'S WEBSITE:

"Big time big mountain protection in a low-profile shell that packs easily and weighs next to nothing."

Did the product copy writer ever use the shell? It weighs almost twice as much as the Mountain Hardwear Quasar!


Chris McNamara and Max Neale