Columbia Boundary Bay Long Review
Cons: Unremarkable style, not as warm as other jackets, not fully waterproof
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Boundary Bay is a full-length parka for a fraction of the price of other high-end jackets in our comparison. It doesn't compare with the most expensive products in any one metric, but it performs at an average level across the board. It provides all of the major performance necessities for a winter parka and does so at an attractive price.
A winter jacket's primary function is to keep its user warm in the coldest months of the year. The Boundary Bay does that relatively well, using synthetic insulation that won't lose its insulation capabilities if it gets wet. Furthermore, the long cut helps retain warmth through the trunk and upper thighs, and a neck rib takes up space around the collar, keeping the user cozy. Stretchy wrist cuffs seal in heat through the sleeves.
Unfortunately, this jacket doesn't contain enough insulation to keep users warm on days when the temperatures drop into the single digits. If winters are long, dark, and cold where you live, consider a heavier jacket. But for most users, this jacket will be perfect 95 percent of the time. The chest pockets close with just one button, and as a result, the jacket feels a bit drafty in windy conditions.
Winter is accompanied by rain, snow, sleet, and wind, and a good winter jacket must help fend off these elements. A jacket's weather resistance features also help keep the insulating material dry and performing its duty. The Boundary Bay features Columbia's proprietary OmniTech waterproof/breathable membrane, which does a decent job at keeping liquid water out at a fraction of the price of Gore-Tex garments. The long cut of this parka also provides excellent weather protection through the thighs. The handwarmer pockets feature waterproof zippers, and critical seams are sealed.
The hood provides decent coverage, but it could be a bit larger to cover the sides of the face when the wind and rain are blowing from the side. The shell fabric does a good job at repelling water but seems to wet out relatively easily, making the jacket seem less waterproof. Finally, the chest pockets close with only one button and are vulnerable to water and wind penetration. It seems like a major design oversight to include waterproof zippers on the handwarmer pockets and leave the chest pockets wide open, especially when water streaming down from the shoulders will pour right into them.
Since we spend a lot of time in our winter jackets, day in and day out through the cold months, winter jackets need to be comfortable and easy to wear. The Boundary Bay feels light on the body and lacks the bulk of some high-end winter parkas. The shell fabric is very smooth and comfortable, feeling like felt. The jacket also features stretchy sleeve cuffs that keep your wrists warm. The jacket features a soft flap that prevents your chin from rubbing on the front zipper, which is an appreciated feature.
This jacket has a long cut, going down to the mid-thigh of most users. While there is a two-way zipper that opens from the bottom while the top is zipped up, some users don't like the feel of this long design. But in general, the comfort of this jacket is notable.
Since we wear our winter jackets for months on end, and since many users own just one winter jacket, style is important. Some look athletic like ski jackets, and others are fashioned for the urban environment. The Columbia Boundary Bay Long is styled as a trench-style parka that feels at home on the streets of major cities and less at home in rural areas. Still, the jacket doesn't stand out in a crowd and can be worn anywhere.
Some key style features are the long cut hem, which stretches down to the mid-thigh, and dangling drawstrings, which draw the hood tight against the hood. The front zipper is hidden by a wide button flap, which mimics the trench coat style, and the sleeves are straight cut with buttoned cuffs. The parka has a straight cut from the torso down to the hem.
Winter jackets often come with handy design features that help their performance in the winter climate. Well-placed pockets and protective hood designs are key. The Boundary Bay has two handwarmer pockets with zippered closures placed around the thighs and two higher handwarmer pockets with single-button closures around the bottom of the rib cage. It also has one internal, zippered chest pocket. The hood is removable, leaving a stylish, high collar in its place.
The lower handwarmer pockets are great, but the higher pockets are awkwardly placed and somewhat useless because they don't fully close. The hood could be larger to protect against driving winter storms. Nonetheless, the Boundary Bay has enough features to get the job done. We wish it had internal drop-in pockets for stashing gloves, scarves, or a newspaper.
Winter jackets see a lot of abuse, being worn every day for months on end, getting soaked by rain and snow. They are also generally the bulkiest piece of clothing we wear, which means they tend to get brushed against walls and doorways. They also tend to be one of the more expensive garments we purchase. This parka is relatively durable thanks to its tough outer shell fabric and burly zippers.
We didn't experience any durability issues with the Boundary Bay during our test period. However, synthetic insulation wears out faster than down, and the drawstrings that control the hood closure could get caught and ripped off relatively easily. That said, we have no problem recommending this jacket as an investment that will last for years.
This jacket performs well across the board in all of the metrics that we test, and it does so at a very affordable price, winning our Best Buy award for 2020. It can't compete with the heavy-hitters in the winter jacket market, but the Boundary Bay parka provides the warmth, weather resistance, and feature set that most users need out of their winter garments. We recommend this parka to anyone who needs real protection against the winter climate but doesn't want to break the bank.
While there are warmer and more waterproof options on the market, the Columbia Boundary Bay parka performs well in our testing and can be considered a suitable winter jacket for most winter climates. On the coldest days, users might need to wear an additional layer underneath, but this jacket is a steal for the price.
— Jeff Dobronyi
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