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Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange Review

A versatile and very affordable jacket for the occasional skier or snowboarder
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Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange Review
Credit: Ross Patton
Price:  $230 List
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Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 3, 2024
54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#16 of 18
  • Warmth - 20% 8.0
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 6.0
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 4.0
  • Ventilation - 20% 4.0
  • Style - 10% 3.0
  • Features - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

Columbia Sportswear is associated with value, and the Whirlibird IV Interchange upholds this reputation as a versatile 3-in-1 insulated ski jacket. This modular jacket is functional and works well for occasional ski resort use, featuring moderate weather resistance and decent warmth. It doesn't have the style or sophisticated features of the more expensive jackets, but if you are looking for a bargain, this jacket will work for skiers who get out on the slopes for a week or two every year. If you are more dedicated than that and have the cash to spend, you will be better served by a more refined jacket. See our full best men's ski jacket review for our top recommendations.
REASONS TO BUY
Versatile
Inexpensive
Warm
REASONS TO AVOID
Bulky
Basic fit and styling
Limited weather protection

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Bottom Line This 3-in-1 jacket is a very affordable and versatile option for the infrequent skierA favorite 3-in-1 jacket with good protection, pockets, and slouchy styleThis shell nearly matches the performance of much more expensive productsThis jacket doesn't excel in any attribute, but it doesn't fall short eitherThis inexpensive and warm jacket ticks all the boxes for a solid ski jacket
Rating Categories Columbia Whirlibird... 686 Smarty 3-in-1 F... REI Co-op First Cha... REI Co-op Powderbou... GEMYSE Men's Mounta...
Warmth (20%)
8.0
8.0
4.0
6.0
7.0
Weather Resistance (20%)
6.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort and Fit (20%)
4.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Ventilation (20%)
4.0
5.0
7.0
5.0
3.0
Style (10%)
3.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
4.0
Features (10%)
7.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Columbia Whirlibird... 686 Smarty 3-in-1 F... REI Co-op First Cha... REI Co-op Powderbou... GEMYSE Men's Mounta...
Main Fabric Nylon Nylon Recycled polyester Nylon Unknown
Insulation Thermarator synthetic Synthetic 160g None 60g polyester sleeves, 80g polyester body Synthetic and faux-fleece
Pockets 2 handwarmer, 1 chest 2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal mesh 2 handwarmer, 2 chest flap, 2 chest zipper, 1 internal zipper, 1 intenal mesh, 1 sleeve 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 sleeve, 1 internal zippered chest, 1 internal mesh 2 handwarmer, 1 chest, 1 internal zip, 1 internal stash
Weight (size large) 3.43 lbs 3,15 lbs 1.73 lbs 1.81 lbs 3.63 lbs
Water Resistance OmniTech infiDRY Gore-Tex 2-layer waterproof breathable laminate Unknown
Hood Adjustable Adjustable Adjustable Adjustable Removable
Pit-Zips Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Cuff construction Velcro Elastic strap with velcro Velcro Interior wide hook-and-loop adjustments and external velcro Stretchy wrist gaiters and external velcro
Powder skirt Yes No Yes Yes No
RECCO No No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

This jacket keeps you warm and dry enough and has features to enhance your day on the slopes. However, it won't provide the same style, features, or comfort as the more advanced options on the market.

Performance Comparison


The Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange is a good option for budget-minded occasional skiers.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Warmth


The Columbia Whirlibird IV is a relatively warm ski jacket compared to other jackets we reviewed. It can't compete with the high-end down or synthetically insulated jackets, but it gets the job done with a burly outer shell jacket with a hanging mesh lining and a synthetically insulated inner sweater layer with an “Omni-Heat” thermal reflective material on the inside of the inner layer. Since this jacket combines multiple layers into one product, there is plenty of room for warm air to be trapped inside.

The synthetic inner layer separates from the hanging-liner shell...
The synthetic inner layer separates from the hanging-liner shell jacket, trapping a good amount of air between the two if they are used in conjunction.
Columbia's Omni-Heat fabric works like aluminum foil, reflecting...
Columbia's Omni-Heat fabric works like aluminum foil, reflecting body heat back to the user. It looks weird, but it works.
The heat-shield interior and exterior of the Whirlibird's synthetic liner layer.

Weather Resistance


The Whirlibird IV is moderately weather resistant. It features Columbia's OmniTech waterproof membrane, which works well. The jacket's zippers are not waterproof, including the long chest pocket zipper, which is located in an area most likely to get wet. The DWR treatment wore off quickly with light rubbing during our shower test, which lead to the outer fabric getting soaked, although the membrane seems to keep water out. The hood is fixed but can be cinched down around the face in bad weather, though it's on the small side. A powder skirt helps keep snow from getting up into the jacket through the hem.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange - the columbia whirlibird iv interchange's hood is small and doesn't...
The Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange's hood is small and doesn't provide good coverage, even for a head without a helmet.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Comfort and Fit


Our testers did not fall in love with the fit of the Whirlibird IV. It feels boxy, unrefined, and generic. Other 3-in-1 jackets are more comfortable and well-tailored, but not much more so. Furthermore, the 3-in-1 construction produces a bulky feel, with friction that leads to restricted movement. A fleece chin guard protects skin from the shell material and zipper closure, which is a nice touch.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange - the whirlibird has a boxy and untailored fit that drapes over the...
The Whirlibird has a boxy and untailored fit that drapes over the body without trying to match its contours.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Ventilation


All 3-in-1 jackets have the ability to adjust to their surroundings with more versatility than single-piece ski jackets. If you get too hot, you can take off one of the layers and voilà. Alternatively, the Whirlibird IV offers average-length pit zips without mesh backing that allows good airflow. The pit zips help, but they do not continue through the inner layer. The outer shell breathes well enough, but if worn with the synthetic sweater layer, it does not breathe all that well, even with the vents open. The culprit may be the Omni-Heat thermal reflective fabric on the inside of the insulated sweater. The fabric traps heat well but does not feel that breathable.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange - small-ish underarm vents provide the only ventilation on the...
Small-ish underarm vents provide the only ventilation on the Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange, and they're not enough to facilitate good airflow.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Style


Style is not this jacket's strong suit. It features a neutral style with a non-specific fit, standard length, and straight cut. One tester mentioned that they felt like a middle-schooler wearing this jacket. The wide, boxy cut even suggests that this jacket is not styled specifically for skiing, and compared to the competition, the Whirlibird IV seems to scream “beginner skier.” The upshot is that the jacket will match the style of a variety of winter situations, from cold trips to town to blustery bus stops and train platforms to the occasional cold day at the ski area. It seems like the style of this jacket takes into account that the user will probably wear the jacket more often on the streets than on the ski slopes.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange - the columbia whirlibird iv interchange doesn't look the best on the...
The Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange doesn't look the best on the slopes, in our opinion.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Features


The 3-in-1 system is a great feature on its own. Additionally, the Whirlibird IV features two fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, a large external chest pocket, a sleeve pass pocket, an adjustable hood, and a powder skirt. These are enough to earn our stamp of approval for ski features. The shell's interior has a mesh pocket for goggles or snacks, and the interior of the insulated sweater has a zippered chest pocket that is accessible when using the jacket in its combined configuration. The jacket also has a drawstring hem and velcro cuff closures.

Other jackets have more refined features, this jacket provides more than enough features to help you have a convenient day while skiing.

Large fleece-lined handwarmer pockets provide most of the storage on...
Large fleece-lined handwarmer pockets provide most of the storage on the Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange.
The Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange has a small internal chest...
The Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange has a small internal chest pocket on the inside of the synthetic sweater, which means you can use this pocket when wearing both layers together.
The Whirlibird IV has plenty of pockets to store personal items when skiing.

Should You Buy the Whrilibird IV Interchange?


The Whirlibird IV is a good value, like most 3-in-1 jackets, as you essentially get three jackets in one. This jacket, in particular, is less expensive than most other 3-in-1 options. It isn't the best option, but it works well enough for those who only make it out skiing a few times per year. If you don't want to spend a lot of money on your ski kit, you should strongly consider this jacket since it's not only one of the cheapest ski jackets you can get, but it also has enough versatility to be used as a winter jacket when you're not on the slopes.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange - the whirlibird also works as a general winter jacket, which means...
The Whirlibird also works as a general winter jacket, which means you can buy one jacket for all your winter needs, from the streets to the slopes.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

What Other Ski Jackets Should You Consider?


If you are intrigued by the 3-in-1 jacket style, we recommend the 686 Smarty 3-in-1 Form Insulated, which costs a bit more but delivers a lot more performance. Other good options for price-sensitive shoppers also include the GEMYSE Men's Mountain Fleece Lining, which is even less expensive but isn't a 3-in-1 jacket, and the Obermeyer Foundation, which is in the middle of the pack in terms of price, but offers above-average performance in an insulated ski jacket. The Helly Hansen Alpha Lifaloft is our overall favorite, providing greater weather resistance, comfort, style, and ventilation, but for a premium price.

Jeff Dobronyi