Columbia Last Tracks Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
This jacket performs adequately in the important metrics of warmth and weather resistance but lags behind the high-end competition when it comes to fit and useful features.
The Columbia Last Tracks provides a decent amount of warmth via synthetic insulation and heat-reflective metallic liner fabric. The insulation isn't very thick or heavy, and as a result, the jacket isn't warm enough for days when the temps dip much below freezing without a warm mid-layer worn underneath it. Still, for beginner skiers, or skiers who only get on the slopes a handful of days a year, the warmth is adequate and can be supplemented by proper layering.
The Last Tracks jacket uses Columbia's proprietary Omni-Tech waterproof and breathable membrane, which works decently well in our experience of using this tech for several years. It isn't as waterproof or as breathable as Gore-Tex, but it generally gets the job done as expected for the price. After a few uses, liquid water started to soak into the external shell fabric, but it never made it through the jacket. The hood fits over a size Large helmet, but we wish the hood extended a bit further around the helmet to provide complete coverage. The jacket is critically seam-sealed, and the chest pocket zipper is waterproof, but we wish more zippers and seams were fully waterproof. The sleeve cuffs have a velcro closure to seal the jacket at the wrists.
Comfort and Fit
The Last Tracks has a boxy and loose fit that doesn't feel like it was well-tailored. The materials are all relatively plasticky, including the metallic interior lining. It doesn't feel as uncomfortable as a stiff shell-only jacket, but our testers preferred to wear thick mid-layers underneath to buffer the interior liner fabric. The sleeves are about the right length, and the hood fits helmets decently, but it could fit better. Overall, there are many more well-tailored jackets out there, but we can't complain too much considering the price.
Ventilation is not a strong suit here. This jacket has no vents, and the insulation is fixed, meaning that the only way air can move through the jacket is through the hem, hood, and neck opening or by opening the front zipper. We have come to expect the best jackets on the market to have armpit vents to ditch heat on warm days or during high-output aerobic activities, like mogul skiing and inbounds hiking. On the upside, the hood is removable, which allows some heat to escape from the neck area. Still, don't expect much ventilation capabilities from this jacket.
The Last Tracks features a middle-of-the-road and straightforward style that doesn't take any chances. It is reminiscent of an urban winter jacket and lacks an athletic look due to its boxy cut. While it doesn't offend the senses, its lack of athletic design implies that the user is on the introductory side of the spectrum. Hardcore skiers will probably want a better fitting jacket and prefer a jacket with a more ski-specific style. It comes in a wide variety of subdued colors, in stark contrast to the neons and bright colors used in more high-end ski apparel. If you want to blend into a crowd, this jacket will help.
The Last Tracks includes many ski-specific features that make life easier on the hill. In addition to two handwarmer pockets, this jacket has an external chest pocket with a waterproof zipper and a ski pass pocket on the left sleeve. The fixed powder skirt keeps out snow on deep days, and the removable hood can be cinched down tight on both sides of the face and in the back with a velcro flap. The right handwarmer pocket has an internal key clip to avoid losing your car keys while accessing the pocket.
Should You Buy the Last Tracks?
This jacket has all the performance attributes that a basic ski jacket needs. It keeps the user relatively warm and dry and has plenty of pockets for storage. While it lacks the refinement of more high-end jackets – like ventilation systems and a stylized and contoured fit – it gets the basic job done at a very affordable price. For skiers who hit the slopes for a week or less every ski season, or for those who want just one jacket for both skiing and other winter use, this jacket is a great value. Just be prepared to layer up underneath when temperatures get frigid.
What Other Ski Jackets Should You Consider?
Overall, we are impressed by how much performance the Columbia Last Tracks jacket brings to the table, given its price point. This jacket is particularly lacking in terms of ventilation and style. Very few insulated jackets provide the same ventilation capabilities as shell jackets, like the award-winning REI Co-op First Chair GTX. For a little bit more money, The North Face ThermoBall ECO Snow Triclimate offers better performance overall, plus the style and fit to keep you out on the slopes all day.
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