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Columbia Ascender Review

This casual jacket from Columbia is great for outings around town, day hikes and light activity, though is not designed for climbing or skiing pursuits
Columbia Ascender
Credit: Columbia
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Price:  $115 List | $79.95 at Amazon
Pros:  Warm, stylish, inexpensive, durable
Cons:  Heavy, doesn’t stretch, few pockets, boxy fit, wrist closures are bulky
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 17, 2017
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  • Weather Protection - 30% 7.0
  • Breathability - 30% 5.0
  • Mobility - 20% 5.0
  • Weight - 10% 6.0
  • Features - 5% 3.0
  • Style - 5% 6.0

Our Verdict

The Columbia Ascender is a softshell jacket that is best suited for trips around town, light hikes outdoors, and other low output activities. It is an affordable layer, has a fleece backing that makes it cozy and warm, and looks great paired with jeans, hiking pants, or even slacks on the way to the office on a cold fall morning. Of any of the softshells with casual settings in mind, this is one of the most budget-friendly.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Columbia Ascender jacket is an inexpensive, good-looking coat that is simple and durable. It has relatively few features and is not very mobile, so its usefulness is limited to casual outings that do not demand high performance.

Performance Comparison

Columbia Ascender softshell jacket - the wind kicked up on the approach to go ice climbing. pictured left...
The wind kicked up on the approach to go ice climbing. Pictured left to right: Patagonia Knifeblade Pullover, Ascender, OR Ferrosi.
Credit: TJ Brumme

Weather Protection

This jacket scored a 7/10 for weather protection. The hooded version of this jacket would have scored higher, but for the weight, we were disappointed. We found that the DWR coating adequately shed water and snow, but the wind whipped right through when walking around the neighborhood on chilly days. In less extreme conditions, we found the wind resistance to be adequate. The light fleece backing made this one of the warmer jackets we reviewed. It was warm enough when walking with just a light sweatshirt underneath, but we were chilled when standing around in 30-degree weather. The adjustable cord on the hem easily lost its stretch, making it difficult to get a tight fit around the waist to keep out cold drafts from coming up the back.


The Ascender scored pretty low in breathability tests. The trade-off for high breathability, however, is weather resistance.

For casual softshells, we like jackets that fit somewhere in the middle, like the Ascender. They are weather-resistant enough to block a lot of wind and light precipitation, but breathable enough that you won't sweat your way down Broadway.

Mobility & Fit

This model is the second least mobile softshell jackets that we tested due to the poor cut and lack of stretch. The lack of stretch means that the user's movement feels restricted, so we were more inclined to wear this on walks and other activities where we did not have to move around as much. For activities such as rock or ice climbing, we prefer jackets that stretch have gussets under the arm. The Ascender has neither.

Columbia Ascender softshell jacket - casey shows us the falling cuffs, also notice how much the jacket is...
Casey shows us the falling cuffs, also notice how much the jacket is pulling up at his waist. This is not a very mobile softshell.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman


Lacking a hood, and any useful features aside from three pockets, the lower weight is not necessarily an endorsement. Those wishing for added features and protection would happily accept a small weight increase to get the wind and water resistance offered by a similarly weighted coat.


Compared with top-tier softshell jackets, the Ascender falls behind. Lack of mobility aside, poor quality seams and wrist closures are our biggest complaint about this jacket. That said, we loved the zippered handwarmer pockets while strolling through town in style. Lined with a light fleece material, our hands were cozy inside even without gloves on during chilly walks. The zippered chest pocket is also large enough for a phone or power bar.

Columbia Ascender softshell jacket - when cinched tight, the cuffs are bulky, but they aren't large...
When cinched tight, the cuffs are bulky, but they aren't large enough to fit over many ski gloves.
Credit: Jeremy Bauman


This jacket comes in some neutral colors and has a decent cut. That said, we preferred the look of the Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody.

Columbia Ascender softshell jacket - notice how the jacket is starting to pull out of the harness. this...
Notice how the jacket is starting to pull out of the harness. This was not a very mobile softshell.
Credit: Gentrye Houghton


If you don't need something super technical, this jacket offers decent value for its low price.


The Columbia Ascender is an inexpensive softshell that provides more protection than a heavyweight fleece. It works well around town but lacks the breathability and mobility that we require for serious outdoor ventures.

Ryan Huetter
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